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How safe is anything you write from internet thieves?

Updated on June 17, 2013
Thieves are everywhere!
Thieves are everywhere! | Source

How to prepare against plagiarism

You spend ages crafting that perfect short story, article or blog post and post it to the internet only to find a few months later that some unscrupulous person has copied it and called it their own. Do you have any recourse? Can you have them hung, drawn and quartered? Well, maybe that is a little medieval but you sure feel like it when your hard work has been stolen.

There is (annoyingly) very little you can do about it once it has happened but you can prepare yourself in advance for the event that someone will rip you off. Strictly speaking, copyright is valid from the moment you publish your work but if you are thinking of bringing a lawsuit against anyone for stealing it, lawyers generally won’t take your case unless you actually have proof of a registered copyright.

How to protect yourself

So, what is copyright and how do you go about getting it? Firstly, copyright is different from patents or trademarks in that it is registering you as the author of an original literary work. A patent on the other hand is for inventions or discoveries while a trademark is for words, phrases or symbols.

Once you have decided you want to copyright something, you can apply to the US copyright office at www.copyright.gov and follow their procedures to register your work, this can be done online or by post. Unfortunately registering a copyright here can take anything up to 12 months depending on their workload and costs $35.

Copyright or register your articles
Copyright or register your articles | Source

Copyright and registering your work

There are other ways to prove original ownership however with online registries that will archive your work and give you an electronic proof of creation. These include The Creator’s Vault at www.creatorsvault.com, The Writer’s Guild at www.wga.org and Protectrite at www.protectrite.com

which all seem pretty similar. They are all much faster and a bit cheaper than the government offices and will usually send you confirmation of your copyright in a few days. It isn’t a binding legal copyright as for the official government one but I believe has been used successfully in court.

It is of course worth establishing this with an attorney first just to double check if you are interested in this course of action.

Once you have registered with these agencies, they will give you a registration number that you can display with your work. This then gives prospective thieves a bit of pause for thought hopefully and may make them think twice before stealing your work.

Additionally, if you want to protect photos from being stolen and used without your permission, you could add a watermark. This is quite easy to do in Photoshop (see here for how to do this)

So all in all, it’s a scary world out there, plagiarizing is illegal and your property is never totally your own once it is published on the net. But on the bright side, at least there are some ways you can protect yourself, good luck and keep safe!

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