In order to sue for copyright infringement in a United States federal court, one must first register their copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. This makes registration an essential step for anyone who is serious about protecting their copyright.
The process for doing so is, generally, very simple but doing it correctly is imperative. An improperly filled out form or registered copyright can greatly hinder even the simplest of cases. This, combined with a more general fear of official forms, causes many people to seek out services that will do the work for them, much like millions of Americans do at tax time.
One company, Essential Software, has created software to enable even the most legally inept to fill out and send off their own copyright forms. Their package, Essential Copyright, is a powerful piece of software that will, undoubtedly, make many copyright holders very happy.
Essential Copyright is, at once, both incredibly deep and insanely simple. It can create registration forms for nearly every kind of work imaginable, including many I had never even heard of before, and it does it all within a simple wizard-like interface that does most of the dirty work for you.
All you have to do is set up a profile, which stores most of your personal information, then answer a series of questions about the work that you’re trying to register. If you are unsure how to answer a question, there’s a guide on the left hand side of the window that offers advice and sample answers.
When you’re done, you simply print out the form, sign it and mail it with your registration fee to the copyright office. From there, the wheels of justice turn slowly and you should get your confirmation within six weeks.
The whole process takes only a few moments for most works and is easily done by someone who has never even seen a copyright form before. If you have any questions, it has circulars and copyright information directly from the Library of Congress built into the application and lots of great information in the help pane of the wizard.
In short, it’s a complete solution that is almost impossible to get intimidated by or to get lost in. You don’t even have to be very good with computers to handle this package.
However, possessing typing skills will certainly make answering the questions a quicker process.
My main concern with the application centers around its price. At fifty dollars, it’s far cheaper than most registration services, but well above GoDaddy’s C-Site service, which charges less than seventeen to do a registration for you online (and ten dollars more for an “expedited” service that, when accompanied with the filing fee, will eliminate the need for a check, speeding up the process).
For Webmasters seeking to do a single site registration, it makes much more sense to use the C-Site service and let someone else do all of the dirty work, including the mailing, for you. It’s faster, cheaper and gives another set of eyeballs the chance to review your application. Since C-Site can also do single literary and music works, almost anyone looking to do a quick “one off” copyright application will likely find it more useful.
I am also concerned that there was no clear update feature of the software. Copyright law, though not a rapidly changing field, is still far from static. As issues surrounding preregistration of unfinished works are resolved and other changes are made to the code, it is very likely that the registration process will change. How and if this software will keep up is unclear at best and how much said updates would cost is another unanswered question.
Finally, it is very unnerving to me that I was unable to reach anyone at Essential Software to ask questions about the software. The phone number provided is invalid and I received no reply at the email address, even after several business days. While it’s true that this is the holiday season, this is still not the type of behavior that you expect from a company that is serious about your business.
Still, this software is ideal for just about anyone who has to do more than a few copyright applications. It’s a great idea for lawyers that might be asked to do copyright applications but might not truly be an intellectual property attorney. It also makes sense for small and medium sized companies, those without their own legal departments, that handle a decent number of copyright claims.
Finally, it’s a great piece of software for anyone who either needs to do several copyright registrations at once, anyone who will be doing a series of them as time goes on and anyone with unusual types of material to register.
For those people, the power of Essential Copyright will be well worth the cost.
If you’re unsure if it will fit your needs though, you’re free to download their demo, which is limited to ten days and will not print off any completed forms. It’s a great way to see the software in action.
Update 01/11/06: Two days ago I received a letter from Anthony Bressi of Essential Software Inc. In the letter, he cleared up many of the questions I had regarding, in particular the issue with updates. He said that “We currently do provide updates for our software that reacts to changes that the Copyright Office makes,” and went on to explain that, should a change in copyright law require it, updates will be made available to all registered users of the software. This is great news and certainly should be taken into consideration.[tags]Plagiarism, Copyright, Copyright Law, Content Theft, Software, Reviews[/tags]