I haven’t written here in awhile because as some may know, I am busy selling my first book, “Amalfi Blue, lost & found in the south of Italy,” Over on Kickstarter. (Just 4 days left over there so run now). Also, with so many irons in the writing well, to cross-pollinate puns, the lines often blur between ex-rock journalist, network reporter, travel concierge, author and entertainment attorney, whew! How do I sleep?
Anyway, while thinking about the book while driving this AM (there is no law against thinking while driving yet!), it dawned on me that the old school method of “poor man’s copyright” for a creative work may actually be obsolete when it comes to protecting intellectual property.
Back in the day, my musician and writer friends would send a tape/disc or printout of their creation to themselves by registered mail, return receipt. All of the post clerks knew what to do. They would even direct the novice artists who used the wrong envelopes, etc.
Well, when I went to mail a copy of “Amalfi Blue” to myself last week, the postal clerk didn’t know what to do and I had to instruct her. Then it dawned on me that every thing we do on our computers, EVERYTHING, has a digital fingerprint, so is the “poor man’s copyright” necessary any longer?
It was called such because it was a way to “prove” you created something at some point in time without actually registering it at the U.S. copyright office, thereby saving the fees for the “poor man.” In actuality, even registering something at the Copyright Office doesn’t prove date of creation in a court of law. It only proves who was smart enough to document it first.
Therefore, if every digital file is date-stamped by your computer and every transaction can be digitally traced across the ethers, perhaps the new “poor man” copyright is even more economical. Maybe it’s as easy, and as free, as simply emailing your creative file to yourself and saving a copy of the email. True, there is no date stamp from a governmental agency but when the governmental workers no longer recognize the process once used to protect artistic works. Maybe it’s time for poor artists to rest their faith in the ethers.
I haven’t researched case law on this issue but it would be interesting to see if this has been used in a copyright challenge in court? Anyone know?
NOTE: Writer here would truly appreciate any comments here from digital forensic experts.