Poor Man's Copyright
Q: My friend and I have a bet. I say mailing myself a copy of my songs is a valid copyright. He says it's not. Who's right?
A: Start writing the check; your friend is right, and mailing yourself a copy of your songs is not valid legal protection against copyright infringement.
Although technically a "copyright" takes place the moment the songs are created, mailing your songs to yourself unopened--sometimes called a "poor man's copyright"--provides absolutely no protection in the event of a lawsuit. In fact, according to several entertainment attorneys we spoke with, if you have not registered your copyright with the US Copyright Office, no court will hear your case. So, in order to protect and enforce your copyright if someone tries to steal your songs or sue you for infringement, you must register your songs. In the Court's eyes, if you haven't bothered to register the copyright with the US Copyright Office it's just not worth their time.
Forms and information are available at the Copyright Office. (We especially like Circulars 50 and 56.)
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