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Don’t fall victim to the legend of the poor man’s copyright

On Behalf of | May 11, 2023 | Intellectual Property |

Intellectual property rights can make or break a company. If an organization has invested in purchasing licensing rights or hiring creative professionals to produce original works, then protecting their interest in and control over those works will be of the utmost importance. 

Unfortunately, small businesses and entrepreneurs often fall victim to a common myth shared about copyright protections in the United States. People may think they have protected their intellectual property when it is still technically vulnerable to infringement. 

Those who attempt to obtain a so-called “poor man’s copyright” may do themselves a disservice by creating a false sense of security. 

What is a poor man’s copyright? 

For decades, photographers, artists and writers have told one another to mail their original works to themselves as a way of establishing when they created or finished the work. That way, if someone steals their idea in the future, they have proof of when they created it. 

Despite its popularity, the idea that mailing an item secures copyright protection has no basis in established copyright statutes or precedents from court cases. Publishing an original work or sending a copy to someone else could potentially give someone copyright in general protections. For example, submitting a manuscript to a publisher via mail could put someone in an actionable position if that publisher then used their writing or concept in the future without consent.

For most businesses and creative professionals, formally registering for copyright protection will be necessary if they want to actually enforce their rights to a creation. Learning about intellectual property issues can help creative professionals and businesses protect their investments and brands.