Poor Man’s Copyright

One of the few urban legends floating around in the world of intellectual property is that mailing yourself a copy of your song, book, or other original creation will act as informal copyright or patent. This technique is sometimes called a poor man’s copyright.

It seems logical enough right? You write a song, mail it to yourself, and, since the Post Office gives every piece of mail a dated postmark, you get proof from federal agency verifying the date of creation.

So if you turn on the radio a few weeks later and hear your song playing, you can use that timestamp to prove that you wrote the song first.

This rumor gets passed around a lot, but it’s sadly false. United States copyright law offers no official protection for a poor man’s copyright.

While you might be able to prove that you created it first, you need to be the first to file in order to get full protection.

One big problem with mailing yourself copyrights is that you actually need a federally registered copyright to sue anyone in federal court for copyright infringement. So even if the date on your envelope is dated years before the infringement took place, you won’t be able to take any legal action without a registered copyright.

This kind of misinformation can leave you vulnerable and helpless in the event of copyright infringement. It will also cost you a fair share in postage.

If you need to get your work copyrighted it’s best to not waste money on postage and save it to work with a qualified copyright lawyer like Parsons & Goltry.

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