Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Poor Man's Copyright Myth

I've written about this before, but we're getting a new batch of questions/arguments about it, so it bears writing again:

If I could set just one music industry myth straight in my lifetime, it's the myth of Poor Man's Copyright (mailing or emailing yourself a copy of your work). Unfortunately, it's something that many musicians, even famous ones, believe. (But famous musicians don't administer their own copyrights; they hire someone to do it for them. So they get a partial pass. :) )

As we have said many times on the website (see the Q&A's, and the opening page of, center column)...

Despite what you may have heard, been told by musician friends, or even read elsewhere on the Internet, a Poor Man's Copyright is not valid in a court of law. Not even if it's timestamped, wrapped in plastic, hermetically sealed, and buried in a safe for a decade.

The Court's position is, if your copyright was important to you, you'd go through the formal registration process to protect it. Thus, if you have not registered your copyright through the U.S. Library of Congress Copyright Office and someone steals your song, you cannot sue for infringement, because the Court will not hear the case. Not ever, no exceptions, nada, nyet.
Please trust me on this. I'm not an attorney, don't work for the Copyright office, and have nothing to gain by lying to you.

But I have had a lot of clients whose past copyright ownership messes cost a lot of $$$ in legal fees to be straightened out because they believed the myth of Poor Man's Copyright. So don't let it happen to you!

Feel free to pass this along, spread the word, shout it out, yell it from the rooftops if you like. (They'll probably argue with you. But it's the truth.)

Thanks for reading!
Randi Reed
Founder / Editor in Chief,