Some basic information about copyrights: Part I

Glenn W. Peterson

There’s no denying the fact that the Internet has fundamentally changed the way information is created, stored and shared. Creative work can be disseminated to a worldwide audience, immediately, with little need for publishers or other middlemen. Talents can be discovered, ideas can be shared and fortunes can be made like never before.

But the free-for-all nature of the Internet has led to a sharp divide in how we think about ownership of intellectual property. Some believe that copyrights are outdated and cannot be enforced in cyberspace. Others believe that the wild-west attitude that still defines much of the Internet makes copyrights even more important than they once were. Which side is right?

It is worth noting that most original work is automatically copyrighted as soon as it is created. This is something many people don’t know about copyrights. If your work exists in a tangible form (written down, recorded audio or video, etc.) it is essentially copyrighted (assuming it is sufficiently original).

That being said, protecting your work is a lot easier and more reliable if you take the time to register your copyrighted work. This creates a public record of your work and gives you much better standing to sue for copyright infringement if your work is plagiarized or credit is otherwise stolen.

To return to the question posed above, is (registered) copyrighting worth it? In short, the answer is yes. Let’s use copyrighted written works as an example. With so much written work available online, plagiarizing has never been faster or easier to do. However, with the use of special software, detecting plagiarism has also never been easier or faster. Indeed, most plagiarism can be detected through a simple Google search.

We’ve just scratched the surface of the importance of copyrights. Please check back next week as we continue this conversation.