Despite the availability of other options, standard copyright remains the best choice for most freelance writers. It is the easiest to use, and offers the most protection for a creative work. Literally, it guarantees that the creator of a work is the only person with the right to copy that work, but protected actions also include creating derivative works, displaying the work publicly and sell or assign rights to the work. Currently, a copyright lasts seventy years.
In most cases, a writer does not need to do anything to copyright her work, at least in the U.S. Copyright is effectually automatic, as long as some element of originality is present. However, it can be easier to prove damages in an infringement case if either your work bears a copyright notice, or you have registered your copyright through the U.S. Copyright Office. Furthermore, unlike some other options, copyright has been thoroughly tested in court. Its extent is clear and if you must deal with a case of infringement, there is a clear procedure for responding to and remedying the issue.
However, a new ruling could create a problem for freelance writers relying on that ‘automatic’ copyright. Judge John M. Walker ruled against a group of freelance writers who had filed a suit against publishers who had posted their work in electronic databases after purchasing only first rights, on the grounds that the freelancers had not registered their copyrights on the works in question. (Businessweek’s article) Copyright law is still evolving and, for their own good, freelance writers should keep tabs on the changing nature of their primary protection.
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