Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Wants Copyright for eZine

Dear Rich: I am starting an online magazine (a quarterly) that will have both submission based content as well as contributors. Since this online magazine (e-zine) will not be in print to start, is it necessary to copyright it? As a writer myself I want to have a copyright in order to protect the submitted content as well as my columnists. When I contacted the Copyright Office for help they were a little confused about my question. Wow, we loved this crazy little zine back in the day! (We're so old we remember when social networking required a Xerox machine!)
Right, you had a question. We think the Copyright Office punted because you're actually posing several questions (not one):

  1. Do you need copyright protection for your eZine?  
  2. How do you get copyright protection for your eZine?  
  3. Who owns the copyright on contributions and submissions to your eZine? 
  4. If you don't own copyright on contributions and submissions, how do you get the right to reproduce them?

The answers.

  1.  Copyright protection works the same for print or digital publications. If you want to stop others from unauthorized copying you need to acquire rights under copyright law. Copyright is automatic and you don't need to register with the Copyright Office ... but it provides some advantages. This article explains the basics.
  2. You get copyright ownership for stuff in your zine by (a) creating it yourself, (b) hiring employees to create it, (c) hiring contractors under work made for hire agreements, or (d) getting the contributors to assign copyright to you. Also, you can get a collective works copyright on all of the articles in each ish. (Here's a recent entry on registering online periodicals.)
  3. The contributor owns the copyright in the submission unless the contributor is an employee, or  a contractor under a work made for hire agreement.
  4. You get the right to reproduce submissions and contributions by entering into agreements to transfer rights -- that is, either getting the author to assign all copyright to you or to grant you the limited permission to reproduce the submission in your digital zine.  You can find basic permission forms in our Getting Permission book.