by Jessica Jordan
A poor man’s copyright is the act of sending your creative work to yourself in the mail. The idea behind it is that there will be a date stamp on your mail indicating that you created the work before anyone else. Doing this really gives the creative artist a sense of ownership and security that no one else can take their invention and pass it off as their own. What most people don’t know about the poor man’s copyright is that…IT DOES NOT EXIST!
This can be very shocking to those artists that really felt that security and sense of ownership. I know. I am one of them. I wrote a song for my personal project in the 10thgrade. I knew that my song needed protection, but I wasn’t sure how to get that protection. So, I asked around and was told about the poor man’s copyright. I burned my song onto a CD (as this was 2005), bought my stamp, and put my CD in the mail. When it came to my house, I remember feeling so legit! I kept this feeling for about 14 years until I sat in Prof. Wilkins’ class, and he told us that the poor man’s copyright was a myth!
Although I felt bamboozled, I also felt enlightened because I learned, that day, that copyright protection is established in the U.S. Constitution. In Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, the “Copyright Clause” states that: “[the United States Congress shall have power] To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Writings and Discoveries.” Because this right is in the Constitution, it is a right that we automatically own. Your work is under copyright protection the second it is created and fixed in a tangible medium of expression that is observable either directly or with the help of a machine or device.
Now, I know it felt great to open the mail and see something you created, but doesn’t it feel so much better to know that all you have to do to protect your work is create it?