For independent creators, every hour spent working on one’s copyright is an hour not spent on creating new work or running their business. As such, many creators either neglect their work’s copyright protection or pay someone else to handle it, often at great cost.
The reason for this is simple, the systems for organizing, registering and enforcing copyrights were, by in large, designed for large copyright holders. What works well for a large movie studio or record label doesn’t work well for independent creators.
However, one company is hoping to change that. Rightsclick aims to provide a simple and affordable solution for organizing one’s work, registering it with the U.S. Copyright Office, tracking alleged infringements and responding to those infringements.
The idea, according to co-founder David Newhoff, is to create “TurboTax for copyright”, to find a way to make the complicated world of copyright protection approachable to regular creators.
To that end, they’ve created a unique product that, while not fully complete, may already be of great use to many creators, in particular photographers and musicians.
How RightsClick Works
The easiest way to think of RightClick is as a workflow. To that end, there are four steps in a potential work’s lifecycle.
- Uploading and Organizing
- Registering with the U.S. Copyright Office
- Assessing Potential Infringements
- Enforcing Rights Against Infringements
The first step is the most straightforward. Users simply upload their work to RighsClick with all the relevant information about them, including the title of the work, the date it was created, whether it is published or unpublished and who the author is.
The goal at this phase is to get all the necessary information about the work for any of the steps that may be wanted or needed after. RightsClick also makes it easy to bulk edit a large number of works. For example, if you publish a collection of photographs at once you only have to input one change for all the works.
The next phase, ideally, is to register the work with the U.S. Copyright Office. RightsClick makes this process easy. Users simply choose the works they want to register, hit the register button, answer a few questions and RightsClick handles the rest.
RightsClick does charge for this service. However, the fee for most registrations is just $15 over the U.S. Copyright Office fees. For example, a registration of a single work would be $60, $45 of which goes to the Copyright Office. LegalZoom, for example, charges $114 over the filing fees, meaning that same registration would cot $159.
If you locate an infringement of your work, RightClick makes it easy to assess that infringement. It enables you to enter all the relevant details about the infringement, including whom the infringer is, where it was and when it took place, as well as upload evidence of the infringement.
The Assess Tool also provides a basic fair use analysis and helps to make sure that the use isn’t covered under any other exceptions to copyright law.
If it is an infringement and you wish to take action, RightsClick offers three different enforcement options at this time. The first is sending a cease and desist letter. However, this is something of a misnomer as the letter can be customized to send demands for payment, offer a license for legitimate use or a demand to remove the work.
In addition to the cease and desist letter, users can also send a DMCA takedown notice or can reach out to an attorney in their network for additional help. If you contact an attorney, Rightsclick will provide all the information gathered, both on the work and the alleged infringement, saving everyone time.
One planned feature is to enable users to file a claim with the Copyright Claims Board (CCB). Newholff and fellow co-founder Steven Tapp have been working on this feature for many months, but are currently trying to resolve technical issues in setting this service up.
Though the process sounds long and arduous, the forms RightsClick uses are well-designed and use easy-to-understand language. Anything that isn’t clear is likely explained in the “Learn” section, which provides definitions for key terms.
Finally, RightsClick also has a calendar feature to help users stay on top of when to follow up on various enforcement actions and registrations. This results in users being greeted with a to-do list upon signing in to their accounts.
In the end, the goal of the system is to minimize the amount of time creators have to spend managing their works and, to that end, it does a good job.
However, before you jump in, there are a few limitations you probably want to be aware of, even if they aren’t likely to be dealbreakers for most creators.
As interesting as the system is, there are a few caveats, at least at this time, that you should be aware of.
First, the system is not set up well for bloggers or others that write directly online. The system is designed to work with files that are uploaded to it. So, if you want to register a blog post, you’ll first have to either export it or save it as a file on your computer.
However, even if you do upload your works, it currently doesn’t work with the (relatively) new procedure for registering online works. As such, RightsClick is not a shortcut for bloggers and online journalists to quickly register and protect their articles.
Beyond that, the biggest limitations center around the assessment and enforcement features.
Currently, RightsClick doesn’t provide any assistance in locating infringements. Instead, it encourages users to take advantage of third-party services. Though they plan to provide integrations in the future, they don’t plan to offer this service directly.
Similarly, RightsClick doesn’t provide any assistance in collecting the evidence and information surrounding an infringement, just in recording and organizing it. You will need to perform your own research, including grabbing screenshots and identifying the infringer.
Likewise, the help that RightsClick provides in finding out whom to send a DMCA notice to is limited. Though they provide a link to the U.S. Copyright Office’s Designated Agent Directory, it doesn’t help the user figure out who the host is in cases where that isn’t immediately clear.
Also, as mentioned above, the feature for filing with the CCB is not available, though that feature is under active work.
To be clear, these are all areas that RightsClick has said they are working on and plan to address, either directly or through integrations, but they are not available right now, and it’s impossible to know when or if they will be completed.
Limitations aside, RightsClick is still a very powerful tool. It provides plenty of value just through its organization and registration features.
Those alone are worth the price, which is $11.95 per month for independent creators and $25.95 per month for small businesses (Note: Their site currently has a coupon code to get $5.95 for the first three months.). Between the monthly fee and $15 additional cost per registration, RightsClick is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to register works with the U.S. Copyright Office.
Though the assessment and enforcement features definitely need some fleshing out, the case tracking and evidence organization will likely be very useful to anyone who is dealing with multiple cases at the same time.
Right now, this is a great service for photographers and musicians in particular. If nothing else, finding an easy, inexpensive and streamlined way to register works with the U.S. Copyright Office is potentially very important.
It’s an already-compelling tool that, despite its holes, offers a great value to its users and aims to only get better as time goes on.