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Topic: Privatize Copyright Registration: Should They Or Shouldn't They?

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  1. #1

    Privatize Copyright Registration: Should They Or Shouldn't They?

    There has been talk off and on about privatizing certain government agencies, such as Social Security and The US Postal Service. I'm wondering if copyright registration can and should be privatized. The two reasons at the top of my list are:

    1. Private registration would undoubtedly be cheaper.

    2. Private registration would take far less time than a registration through the Copyright Office.

    I'm aware that registrations through private agencies do not offer the same degree of protection as a registration through the Copyright Office. As long as private copyright agencies adhere to the same criteria used by the Copyright Office, registrants should enjoy the same full protection under the law.

    Has anyone attempted to lobby Congress on this idea?
    "The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese." -Steven Wright, comedian

  2. #2

    Re: Privatize Copyright Registration: Should They Or Shouldn't They?

    I think a big issue would be how private copyright registrars would take part in court cases; after all, that's the entire purpose behind registering a copyright: in case you need to sue someone. These private copyright registrars would then have legal powers, in a sense, being the ones who might prove or disprove a claim. Could we trust them? Could they be bribed, could they take part in scandals? How would we prevent that?

    By the way, nowadays you can create an online account on the US Copyright website and get stuff registered pretty fast by uploading it. Well, it still takes them time to process, but if you had to go to court, I'm sure they could use your records from your upload info. I don't know if there are any court cases about copyright lost because the US Copyright office took to long to process a registration.

    Fortunately, I've yet to have the need to sue (or threaten to sue) anyone, so I'm not sure what those legal procedures are like. I think I would need to understand that procedure better before knowing whether or not privatizing copyright would help at all.
    Sean Patrick Hannifin
    My MP3s | My Melody Generator | my album
    "serious music" ... as if the rest of us are just kidding

  3. #3

    Re: Privatize Copyright Registration: Should They Or Shouldn't They?

    I agree with Sean. In the US (maybe all Berne Convention signatories?) one may put a copyright notice on one's work without registration and it is legally protected. If there is a dispute, however, the additional evidence provided by a registered copyright will help one's case before a judge - who weighs evidence on both sides of the dispute.

    Privatization of the copyright office seems pointless to me. Since, under law, the work is protected as soon as the notice is applied, waiting for the paperwork to go through (which is faster now than in the old days) is not that big of a deal.
    In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

    http://reberclark.blogspot.com http://reberclark.bandcamp.com http://www.youtube.com/reberclark

  4. #4
    Senior Member Frank D's Avatar
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    Re: Privatize Copyright Registration: Should They Or Shouldn't They?

    Hi Everyone,

    First off, if you have never been to the US Copyright Office site, here's a link to it:

    US COPYRIGHT OFFICE

    It is really a great site with tons of useful info and is very well organized (it's worth a peek if only to see "How do I protect my sighting of Elvis?" in the FAQ section. Through their answer, they actually drive home a few basics of what is and what isn't eligible for copyright. Go figure ... a government agency with a touch of a sense of humor! )

    As has been mentioned, as soon as an artist fixes a work in some tangible copy/media, it has a common law copyright. Registering the copyright is an added layer of protection to the artist, but in no way insures his claim to copyright ... that is always determined in the courts. If you have registered, you can recoup your legal fees if you win your case, an added benefit, especially for the big players.

    Conversely, there is no such thing as a "Poor Man's Copyright ('Registration')" ... I.E., mailing a copy of your music (scores, CD's, etc.) to yourself and keeping it sealed and un-opened until your big day in copyright court. It is not recognized as proof of anything.

    Lastly, I have been registering for copyright songs for a musical that my collaborator and I have been working on over the past several years. About every six to nine months, we take whatever we have written since the last package, and register the new material as a collection. This is a great way to save money ... you just can't index the material as separate songs, but there is a way to break them down later on (say, when the show is complete) for a reasonable fee. The packages I have submitted prior to E-filing, have taken at least five months and the last snail-mail registration I did took 15 months to receive my letter of registration!!! E-filing my last package only took about 3-4 months to get the letter. However, it's very important to realize that your material IS officially registered usually within a week of them receiving it ... I can't imagine what goes wrong from that point where it takes all that time to get the bloody confirmation letter!

    I think the E-filing will eventually speed things up (remember, they WERE receiving thousands of pounds of hard copy weekly before the days of E-filing!) ... I would fear privatized offices dropping the ball on my protections. I would hope the current system can be optimized a bit better though.

    Regards,

    Frank

  5. #5

    Re: Privatize Copyright Registration: Should They Or Shouldn't They?

    Thanks for your feedback, guys. If the Copyright Office's e-filing service is quicker and I can start plugging my tunes to publishers soon without waiting for my certificate of registration, great! I was just wondering if a private registration would be sufficient protection. I'm mainly concerned with proof of authorship (aren't we all?), but in the area of usage of my works without authorization and due compensation, I wasn't sure if a private registration would afford me the same level of necessary protection.
    "The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese." -Steven Wright, comedian

  6. #6

    Re: Privatize Copyright Registration: Should They Or Shouldn't They?

    The advice I was given, many long years ago, about publishers was that if they are reputable you can submit stuff without worrying too much about a certificate of copyright - just your notice will do. This advice always bothered me a bit and I still register my stuff religiously - but...I have found, after being published quite a few times, that the advice is a good general guideline.

    The question becomes "who is a reputable publisher?" I suppose. The ones that have been in business for many years (in my case Southern, Columbia Pictures, Belwin, Warner Bros., C. Alan, Wingert/Jones) know they can't afford to rip people off - their reputation would be irreparably damaged and people would stop submitting.

    So my advice is to go with a publisher who publishes stuff along the lines of your own and that has been in the business for many years. Then you can feel somewhat confident in submitting a piece whose application for registration has been filed but not executed.

    As a beginning composer I was suspicious of this and I understand the insecurity - but I have found music publishing (with an outside company - you can publish yourself ya know!) to be a personal business conducted between people - and once you are comfortable with your publisher trust becomes much easier.

    Best of luck!
    In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

    http://reberclark.blogspot.com http://reberclark.bandcamp.com http://www.youtube.com/reberclark

  7. #7

    Re: Privatize Copyright Registration: Should They Or Shouldn't They?

    Getting a copyright for music or drama (Form PA) now takes a minimum of 23 months -- and that's if you use the new electronically scanable form form the US Copyright Office web site.

    In the last two years it has twice taken the personal intervention of my former rock star congressman to get my paperwork processed at all. The people in the Copyright Office have told me, frankly, that huge sums of money were wasted on an automated system that was supposed to speed things up. It actually slowed the processing down to worse than it has ever been and the situation is deteriorating daily. Apparently, one bad decision was made after another at a fairly high level in that agency and nobody wants to hold the individuals responsible accountable.

    Maybe if more artists made a stink about this something would be done, but given what I have seen I am not optimistic. If you write screenplays the writers guild will register your work for a limited number of years. You can also mail yourself a certified letter. The last time I consulted a copyright lawyer, he said that obtaining a copyright is not necessary to protect your work. Being able to prove you wrote and when is more important if you ever have to litigate. Perhaps someone on this forum with a legal background could chime in with more detail.

    As for pressuring Congress and/or the White House to clean up the mess that is the Copyright Office, if anyone wants to organize a petition, I'd be happy to sign and lend my support. (But the only advice I would offer is, when you submit it to the feds, send copies to the media, and try to get some big names on the petition, as these seem to be the only things that get the government's attention these days.)

    Allegro Data Solutions

  8. #8

    Re: Privatize Copyright Registration: Should They Or Shouldn't They?

    Thanks, ejr. That precisely the reason I suggested the idea of privatizing copyright registration. If the Copyright Office is too swamped with registration apps that they take longer, and if proof of authorship is the minimum required to protect my work, then private registration should be all any of us need.
    "The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese." -Steven Wright, comedian

  9. #9

    Re: Privatize Copyright Registration: Should They Or Shouldn't They?

    Quote Originally Posted by ejr View Post
    The last time I consulted a copyright lawyer, he said that obtaining a copyright is not necessary to protect your work. Being able to prove you wrote and when is more important if you ever have to litigate.
    If by "obtaining a copyright" you mean registering the work then this is true - BUT - in the US the work is protected as soon as you affix a copyright notice to it. YOU have claimed the right thereby. It's like an old-fashioned gold mine claim - you "stake" the claim then register it with the powers that be. BUT you do have to "stake" the thing first - that is, post a notice.

    You do have to put your notice of copyright on the title page of the work. This seems weak, I know, but is easy to do - will be apparent to any eyes that view the thing and is more defensible than "I mailed it to myself and here's the postmark."
    In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

    http://reberclark.blogspot.com http://reberclark.bandcamp.com http://www.youtube.com/reberclark

  10. #10

    Re: Privatize Copyright Registration: Should They Or Shouldn't They?

    Placing a notice on your work used to be the standard, but if I am not mistaken, even this was shot down. What makes the work yours is you creating and fixing it in a tangible form, In other words, if you write the music or just play it for your friends, you don't have a copyright. But if you burn a CD or post it on your web site you do.

    Again, I am not an attorney or up on the latest changes to the law. I have a copyright lawyer and I copyright everything before I show it to anyone. But for screenplays and play scripts I am seriously considering registering my work the appropriate unions first, so I don't have to wait two years before I can send it out.

    Allegro Data Solutions

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