Worried About Plagiarism? Copyright Your Original Work

 By: Melissa Gordon
When you have finished a piece of work there is always a sense of achievement. You sit back and look over it and think “this is as good as it can be, and I have worked at it until it is finished”. But in some ways, finishing the work is only the beginning of the end because if you want the piece to be watertight you need to make sure that it is identifiable as being your work. The crime of plagiarism is worryingly prevalent – one has only to look at the world of music to see examples of bands having a huge hit that turns out to have been ripped off from a less well-known act who never really got the attention their hard work deserved.

To avoid falling victim to plagiarism it is often necessary to register your work for copyright. The “blogosphere” – a world where people from all over the world can put their writing in the public sphere for reaction, credit and criticism – has its own way of copyrighting work via “time stamping”. A blog “client” – generally the medium through which you put your writing into a domain – will put a date and time on the work, so that if someone decides that your writing is so good that they want it for themselves, they can easily be identified as having stolen it.

Other fields of work are less automatic in terms of avoiding plagiarism, however. An author who finishes a book will be well advised to send it for copyrighting before submitting it for publication, as there have been unsavory stories of publishing houses liking people’s work so much that they decide to send them a rejection letter but keep their work and amend it, publishing it under a different name. Anyone who has fallen victim to the act of plagiarism without having recourse to a method of proving this will be able to confirm that there are few things more frustrating and galling than being ripped off and not being able to prove it.

The reason that it is important to register for copyright even if you have largely incontrovertible proof of the originality of your work is that it gives you rights under the law to bring a case in a civil lawsuit. This is important in terms of claiming damages and protecting the legal integrity of your work. It will also enable you to claim your legal fees if any are accrued in the course of pursuing your case. As time goes on, the more successful you become in your chosen field, you will not have to register the work yourself, as the publisher will do it for you. But early on, it is important to make sure you are doing everything you can to protect yourself, as no-one is going to go to the bother of doing it for you.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational and entertainment purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter.
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Getting copyright for your own original work is something that is advised under the law, particularly if there is something about your work that makes it likely to be either copied or used for any purpose against your will. Being the creator of a piece of work is something that can provide both financial riches and personal kudos. If, however, you have not copyrighted this work, you will have problems trying to prove ownership further down the line.
The creators of Superman sold their copyright during the Great Depression for $130. Their heirs are now in the process of reclaiming that valuable copyright. Their tale is a graphic demonstration of the important copyright reversion rules under the Copyright Act. Under the Act, artists who sold their works many years ago are entitled to recover them, even if they signed contracts that said otherwise.
The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (The Act) runs to more than 330 pages so one must accept the risks of a brief overview. In essence it gives certain right to the creators of certain material. These rights limit the freedom of others to copy, adapt, distribute, communicate to the public by electronic means, rent or lend to the public, perform in public, distort and mutilate matter subject to copyright. There is an additional right in many cases for the copyright owner to be acknowledged.
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