Updated: October 28, 2021
Creating blog content takes hard work and creativity. The last thing you want to worry about is someone republishing your material without permission. While the U.S. Copyright Act provides some federal protection the moment your work is published online, copyright registration is necessary to ensure you can enforce your rights in court. Without a copyright registration, you would not be able to ask the courts to stop an infringer or obtain damages with a copyright infringement lawsuit. To minimize the risk of someone profiting from your blogging, follow this guide to secure your legal rights.
What is a copyright?
Copyright is an intellectual property right that grants the creator of a work exclusive ownership over their work, such as the rights to reproduce, distribute, perform, and create derivative works. A copyright owner also has the power to transfer any of these rights or give permission to others to use the work.
Should you register your copyright?
Under the Copyright Act, the moment your blog content is published, you automatically have a copyright in that work. While you are not required to register your copyright to get some baseline protections, there are a variety of benefits to registering a copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. Among the most important is that it enables you to file a claim of copyright infringement in court.
How can you register your blog?
Theoretically, you can register a copyright for your blog in its entirety. However, the problem is that the registration will only cover the content present at the time you registered. In order to ensure all of your published work (present and future) is fully protected, you will need to continue to register new content on a rolling basis. This means you will need to register each post as soon as it is published. Understandably, you may not want to go through that process on a regular basis especially if you publish frequently. Depending on your individual circumstances, there are three options for registering your ongoing work:
- Post-By-Post. Registering your content post-by-post means regularly sending in registrations for your blog. The best practice for this would be to file the registration immediately following a click on the “publish” button. While this may seem bothersome at first, it is an efficient and effective way to have all your work protected. This is particularly important if your work is prone to being infringed. Applications for copyright registrations can be submitted onlinethrough a simple process.
- In a Group (monthly or yearly). If you do not believe your work is likely to be infringed, it may be more efficient to wait to register your individual posts and then register periodically as a collective group rather than as individual posts. Depending on how often you create and post content, the best practice for this would be to register your work monthly or, if applicable, yearly. Note that effective August 2020, the U.S. Copyright Office has added an option for registration of short, online literary works (ex. blog posts, social media posts, short articles, etc.) known as Group Registration for Short Online Literary Works (GRTX). Owners can register up to 50 such works in one application for a single filing fee. However, works must meet certain criteria to qualify.
- Two Folder System. Some of your content may need copyright protection more than other content. Accordingly, you can categorize blog posts as “Important” and “Other” and save them in folders. Content in the “Important” folder should be registered immediately, while the “Other” content should be registered post-by-post at a later time or in groups on a monthly or yearly basis.
Can you protect your work without registration?
While you may be able to put off registration as discussed above, we recommend registering all of your work to ensure you can enforce your rights. If you choose not to take this path, there are some ways to protect your work and deter infringers. These include:
- Add a reposting policy statement on each page or create a separate page with a reposting policy statement. This statement sets forth your policies on third-party reposting and use of your content. Including such a statement on your website is recommended even if you do register your copyright to put site visitors on notice of your copyright ownership and policies regarding the distribution and reproduction of your work.
- Add watermarks to visual content that includes your name and your brand to prevent people from resharing your photos. A watermark has an added bonus in that anyone using your content without permission has just promoted your brand.
- Sign up for a Creative Commons License. Such a licenseenables you to protect your copyright while allowing others to copy, distribute, and make some uses of your work. You set the rules when providing your content to Creative Commons.
- Issue a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice. The DMCA protects digital copyrights. Among the remedies it provides is a takedown notice mechanism that allows a copyright owner to legally notify an online service provider (or content host) to remove content that infringes on the owner’s copyright. The receiving party must promptly remove or disable access to the claimed infringing content. Any grounds to contest the takedown notice must be sent to the OSP or content host in a counter notice by the party who posted the content. If you have found infringing content on a website, you must meet the DMCA requirementsto send a takedown notice and enforce your rights.
You should protect your content by registering your copyright. If you believe someone has stolen your content, contact a lawyer to have them guide you on the steps to take to enforce your rights.
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