Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Should I Use Digital Time Stamp Service?

Have the nattering nabobs
of negativism
 got ahold
of one of our readers?
Dear Rich: I'm a writer and illustrator who would like to be able to write some text, or draw a picture and immediately post it on my blog, but also retain a strong copyright position, all without paying $35 per posting to the U.S. Copyright Office. Would you recommend use of a copyright "timestamp" service (e.g., such as digistamp.com) to establish proof of authorship? Or would you just let the slimy scum scurrilous scribes of plagiaristic perfidy despoil the purity of your title to the children of your pen? If you're posting material to your blog, we can't see much use for digital time stamping. Your blog software records the date of publication (and probably even records history of uploads), and even if there are doubts about that, the pub date can easily be verified by online services such as Way Back Machine. The bigger question is why is dating the material so important?
Being first is overrated. We recently saw an ad for a casino that said "Understated is overrated." That was depressing but the truth is that in intellectual property, being first is really overrated. For example, it rarely matters in patent law because the U.S. has joined the rest of the world with its first-to-file system (and ditched the first-to-invent requirement). And being first is rarely an issue in copyright law, too. Like the quote goes, "if by some magic a man who had never known it were to compose anew Keats’s Ode on a Grecian Urn, he would [acquire copyright]." In other words, copyright protects independent creation, not being first. Timing only matters if, for example, you were an unknown songwriter claiming Britney Spears stole your song and her lawyers argued she couldn't have copied your song because your song didn't exist at the time she wrote hers.
Copyright registration? As you probably know, copyright protection is automatic. Registration before infringement helps determine how much you will recover (and ultimately is required for filing a lawsuit). But you should be able to maintain reasonable copyright protection without doing anything. How existential is that?

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