Famous Last Words: What You Own
From Lawrence Van Gelder’s article in The New York Times, Dec. 28, 2007:
Egypt plans to copyright the Pyramids, the Sphinx and various museum pieces and use the royalties from copies to pay for the upkeep of its historic monuments and sites, The Guardian of London reported.
Quite simply, 4,000-year-old edifices are in public domain. How could Egypt enforce the copyright? It cannot. The entire concept is preposterous.
What is not preposterous is what you can copyright. Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution states that Congress has the power “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”
This boils down to the fact that you own everything in your head, every word or piece of artwork that you put on paper or create electronically. If someone steals your work, you can sue to stop it. A couple of caveats:
• If you work for a company and are on salary and benefits, the company owns everything you create for the company.
• If you sign a “Work for Hire” agreement, the person or company hiring you owns everything you do to fulfill that agreement.
• You can stop the use of your original material by someone who is pirating it. However, you cannot sue for damages unless you have registered your work with the U.S. Copyright Office.
What This Means to Direct Marketers
Many years ago I was hired to write and design a mailing for a regular client who marketed continuity series to consumers. I already had four control packages that were generating orders at nice profits. The marketing manager—for whom I had done many successful jobs over the years when he was at various companies—left and was quickly replaced by a new guy who I had known many years back in the world of book publishing. This clown did not know how to work with freelancers.