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copyright law misconceptions

updated sun 15 jan 06


Jessica A. Magaldi on sat 14 jan 06

Pottery is my avocation but law is my vocation - I'm a lawyer specializing in intellecutal property, including copyright issues. I'd be happy to answer individual questions if I can but, in the meantime, I thought I'd send a quick post to clear up some of the misconceptions people have been posting about copyright law.

As fas as mailing yourself a letter with your designs as a way to protect your copyright, save yourself the postage! It won't be worth anything in court and, think about it, you couldn't open it in the case of a controversy because then you could never again prove that it wasn't opened.

The good news: If you do want to register a copyright, it is quick, cheap and easy. They Copyright process is designed for artists who aren't expected to know the law. Go here and download the forms you need and follow the easy instructions.

The better news: You don't have to register your copyright for it to be effective. The law grants you copyright at the moment your work is created. It's a good idea to register if it's important to you - and there are some advantages to it in that you are the assumed owner if you do. But, it is not necessary to register in order to sue someone down the line for stealing your work. Just keep good notes and records of your stuff in case you need to prove it later.

The bottom line: You can't copyright the idea of something - only the execution of it - so it might be difficult to make a case that someone stole your design of a teabowl, for example, or that they just made a teabowl of their own that looks like yours, which the law can't stop them from doing.

Hope this helps someone out there.

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