Dulynoted.co.uk: Proof of Copyright or Snake Oil?

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One of the most difficult elements of combating plagiarism is proving that you own the work being infringed. On the Internet, with content being passed around literally at the speed of light, it can be a grave challenge to prove that a work is yours, especially if it has been copied and distributed under other names.

DulyNoted claims to have a potential answer to the problem.

DN, fundamentally, is a copyright registration service. Though no registration requirement exists in British law, where DulyNoted is based, the idea is that having a third party timestamp on your work will help provide proof of ownership. That’s why, upon submitting your work to their system, you receive a certificate that you filed it at the date and time your registration went through. As the logic goes, any work infringing work that comes after the date on the certificate is an act of plagiarism or some other copyright violation.

It’s a nice logic and having a third party vouch for your work can definitely be a part of an anti-plagiarism strategy. However, there are several problems that limit DN’s potential usefulness.

First and foremost is the quirk in American copyright law that requires registration of copyrighted works before taking legal action. This registration, which costs about as much as DN’s service, not only fulfills a legal requirement, but serves many of the same functions that DN’s service. Registration with the Library of Congress is easy, usually involving less than ten questions, and provides a similar timestamp and third-party acknowledgement.

The only major advantage of DN’s service over traditional copyright registration is the fact that DN’s is nearly instant where the copyright office can take up to two months to send back a certificate (though the work is timestamped by the day the application arrived).

Second is that DN’s service can be somewhat cost prohibitive. Though the 15-20 British pound registration fee (roughly equal to between 27 and 36 American dollars) is comparable to other services, DN doesn’t allow very large collections of works to be submitted. Where traditional copyright registration allows for collections of almost unlimited size, only ten poems can be covered by a single registration and one of most other items. If you have a large volume of works you want to register, it could wind up being very expensive.

For example, for me to register the poetry section on Raven’s Rants (approx. 130 poems), it would, theoretically, cost me 195 pounds (13 registrations x 15 pounds) or roughly 350 American dollars. Meanwhile, through traditional copyright registration, I was able to protect the entire site, including all major sections, for only 30 dollars or roughly 17 pounds. When you combine that with the fact DN’s registration is only good for ten years, where formal copyright registration is good for as long as you hold the copyright, the cost can wind up going even higher.

However, as DN’s staff explained, their service isn’t targeted at Americans who require official registration but residents of other nations that have no such requirements but still desire proof of ownership. Even though citizens of other nations can still register with the U.S. Library of Congress, and are required to do so to file legal action in the United States, this service can provide some clear benefits to those not under U.S. copyright law.

Still, with it’s price structure, it seems best suited for protecting small collections or single works of great potential importance. If you’re preparing to send a novel off to publishers or have a small collection of songs you want to guard against theft, it can provide an extra layer of protection at a modest price. However, content creators with a large volume of work would probably be better off filing with the Library of Congress and waiting the extra few weeks.

Finally, anyone in the United States is going to find DN’s service to be at least somewhat redundant. Since you’re more or less required to register your work with the LOC and receive the same benefits anyway, it doesn’t make much sense to pay twice and receive the same protection.

Because, while DN definitely provides faster registration, that doesn’t always mean it’s better, at least in many cases. Though it can have a place in several artists’ copyright strategy, that place is limited. However, a different price structure could greatly improve its potential usefulness, especially as a readily-available supplement to traditional registration.

In the meantime though, it should probably only used in specific cases where both the laws and finances can justify it.

Miscellaneous Notes:

  1. I have a small worry about the potential for the certificates to be forged. Though it’s not likely since a quick check of the computer files will spot the forgery, the printable certificates, that I saw anyway, had no watermark or any way to confirm authenticity.
  2. The actual process to upload and file a work is very easy. It takes only a couple of seconds and is very well thought out. It can probably handle almost any kind of registration.
  3. To date, DN’s registration certificates have not been tested in a court of law. Though not surprising considering the relatively small number of copyright lawsuits (outside of the RIAA and MPAA), but still a source for worry.
  4. The staff at DN are very helpful and responsive. They will take the time to answer your questions, something I definitely appreciate.
  5. To retrieve the registration from DN normally costs 15 pounds or approximately 27 dollars. Certificates of registration can be printed for free.

For more information:

Visit DulyNoted’s Website at: http://www.dulynoted.co.uk

[tags]Plagiarism, Copyright Infringement, Content Theft, Copyright, Copyright Law[/tags]

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