• Poulson Law, PLLC

An Urban Legal Legend: "Poor Man's Copyright"



There is a common misconception shared by some entrepreneurs, writers, songwriters, artists and film makers on how to protect their intellectual property rights. Many mistakenly believe in a sort of urban legal legend known as a "Poor Man's Copyright" and due to this myth are certain that they don't need to obtain a copyright to protect their creative works.


A Poor Man’s Copyright is simply the sending a copy of your own original works of authorship to yourself to show ownership of the work as of the shipment date. I've looked but have found no provision in the U.S Copyright law regarding any such protection, and it is not a substitute for proper copyright registration.


Copyright protection is grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. It covers both published and unpublished works. Your work has copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is detectable either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. That means a copyright exists from the moment the work is created and put on a transferable medium. However, you have to register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. Without the ability to bring a lawsuit concerning your work, are your protected?


In general, registration of your work with the U.S. Copyright Office is voluntary. Nevertheless, in addition to the ability to bring a lawsuit, registration is recommended for a number of reasons including to have the facts of the copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration both of which show the public your ownership. In addition, registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney's fees in successful litigation and, if registration occurs within five years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a Court of law. Therefore, if you've already relied on a Poor Man's Copyright within the past five years, now is the time to act.


If you are in need of protection of your original work, contact Poulson Law, PLLC for further consultation.

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