Why was the Writers’ Guild recently encouraging its members to be very wary of ‘copyright registration’ websites? We look at how to copyright protects material and the myth of registration.
Who: The Writers' Guild and the Writers' Copyright Association UK
When: May 2003
The Press Gazette reported the issuing of advice by the Writers' Guild to its members that they should be very wary of internet "Copyright Registers." One example is the "Writers' Copyright Association UK". This encourages authors to "copyright" their work by filling in a form with their contact details, selecting the duration of copyright protection they would like, paying the required fee and uploading a file of the relevant copyright material.
The Writers' Guild points out that contrary to the beliefs of many, there is no requirement under UK law to register in order to obtain copyright protection for creative material. Copyright arises automatically on the material coming into existence. The period of protection for literary, dramatic and artistic works is automatically the life of the author plus 70 years starting with the end of the year in which the author dies. Confusion sometimes arises because in America there has historically been a system for registration of copyright works with the Central Copyright Office. However this is no longer necessary in order to obtain copyright protection in the US, although it can sometimes make maximum damages recovery easier.
However in the UK, to repeat, there is no requirement for registration in order for copyright protection to arise.
Why this matters:
The Writers' Copyright Association UK says that since it launched in 2002 "hundreds" have sent in their screenplays, novels and poetry with a £25 fee for five years' protection. They quite rightly point out that having evidence of the date upon which creative material came into existence and by whom it was created can be helpful when it comes to suing a third party for infringement.
It is for this reason that creatives often consider putting their newly originated material in the post to themselves so that the postmark and the name on the envelope will stand as proof of when and by whom it was originated. This is no bad thing, but this is not a legal requirement and since there is no UK or EU obligation to register with any central register of any kind, the advice from the Writers' Guild is absolutely correct.