Copyright law has changed a lot over the years. Generally, when you create artistic or intellectual material (photos, songs, music, articles,etc.), you automatically and instantly create a copyright. You may put the copyright symbol by your creation, but since 1989, this is not a requirement.. However, it is good practice to include it to inform people that the work is copyrighted.
As far as registering your material, it is $35 for a basic copyright. The fee increases depending on what is involved; up to $215. It may not seem that much, but if you have hundreds or even thousands of items, you can see how it could add up. You can register a copyright yourself on line at the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
There are a lot of people who choose not to register a copyright, since they own the copyright outright. The only time it becomes an issue is if someone uses your material without your permission, and they copy, reproduce or try to get financial gain from your work. Then, before pursuing legal action, you must copyright the material in question. Copyright law does not follow a consistent standard practice...much of it is on a case by case basis. There are many exceptions and exclusions.
So, there are two sides to copyrighting. Some people put out their work without registering for a copyright. Some people think you should register a copyright for everything. A lot has to do with how you choose to display your work. Will it be on the Internet? Newspaper? Art Gallery? Is it just for your personal collection?
Some say copyright only if you are able to back it up with legal action. This can be very expensive and take years to resolve. If you discover that someone has used a photograph or other content without your permission, you can have your lawyer send a cease and desist order, and sometimes that is all it takes. You can find all the information you need on the website of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. It is also recommended that you consult a copyright and trademark attorney for further information.
Mike Hodge is the owner of ComputerProductsUnlimited.com He specializes in Website Development, Search Engine Optimization>, and Internet Marketing.