What is “Poor Man’s Copyright”?

When proving copyright on a work, it is important to document the date the work was created. “Poor Man’s Copyright” is when an author mails himself a copy of his work and keeps the envelope sealed. The date of the postmark is intended to prove copyright.

However, Poor Man’s Copyright is not recognized as a legal method of proving authorship. Therefore, if authors are looking for protection that can be used in court, registering their work with the U.S. Copyright Office is recommended.

It should be noted, however, that an author’s work “is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device,” according to the U.S. Copyright Office. In other words, the work is “copyrighted” from the moment it is created. Registering a work with the U.S. Copyright Office is only needed if an author wishes to bring suit at some point for copyright infringement.

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