FAQ: Questions And Answers About Copyrights by Sue Ford

Got questions about protecting your work? Check out this great article by Sue Ford, full of answers and resources.

At our recent quarterly meeting the issue of “poor man’s copyright” was raised as a means to protect your works.  Basically the idea is to put your work in an envelope, seal it, mail it and the postmark will “prove” when you wrote it protecting your copyright.

I did some research on this topic and one of the biggest flaws of this idea is that the postmark and seal prove something.

  • What is to prevent someone from mailing an UNsealed envelope to themselves?  It has a postmark.  But since it is unsealed, material can be placed in it at any time—2 months later, 2 years later, 10 years later, then sealed.
  • Sealed envelopes can be steamed open (and probably opened by many other methods that I don’t know), the material replaced with something else, then resealed.

Here are some links to some articles on this topic:





 Intellectual property lawyer Linda Joy Kattwinkel talked a lot about copyright in this chat:  http://www.institutechildrenslit.com/rx/tr01/kattwinkel.shtml

Read what the copyright office itself has to say at www.copyright.gov.  The Frequently Asked Questions page is a helpful place to go once you’re there.

A book with info on this topic listed at the Author’s Guild website is The Writer’s Legal Guide by Tad Crawford & Kay Murray.

Sue Ford, Co-Regional Advisor Oregon SCBWI



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