Dear Rich: A colleague of mine is getting ready to submit an article for publication. While finalizing things, she came across her own PowerPoint presentation on the internet that she and some other staff had created together for educational purposes. When she found it, someone else had slightly altered the presentation (although not much) and attached their name to her work. My colleague had not copyrighted the work so we were wondering how to proceed. Your friend has a copyright on her PowerPoint regardless of whether she has done anything affirmative -- for example, registering with the Copyright Office. The government graced her with copyright once she completed her presentation and saved it to a server or hard drive. That's because in most countries, including the U.S. and Canada, all that is required for a work to acquire copyright protection is that it be "original" and "fixed." "Original" means that the presentation is original to your colleague and that it was not copied from another source. A work is "fixed" when it exists in some tangible manner such as saved onto a computer disk. You can register it and registration has some benefits.
What can do you about the stolen presentation? You can write to the Internet Service Provider (ISP, or network service provider hosting the site) that has posted the infringing PowerPoint online and ask them to take it down. This can be accomplished using the DMCA procedures outlined in this video. That should deal with removing the illegal posting. Assuming it does, your colleague can also pursue the interloper with other federal copyright remedies.