If you are launching a new site, especially a new blog, there are several things that you can do to make sure that your copyright is as protected as possible.
Simply put, when you are starting from scratch, you have a rare opportunity to get things right from the start and many of the best tools to protect your work function at their best when you use them from day one.
So, if you’re preparing to launch a new site, whether it is a static one or a blog, here are the steps you need to take today to protect your work or, if you’re not interested in enforcement, track it and encourage its sharing.
1. Register with the U.S.Copyright Office
Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is both slow and expensive. It’s also hopelessly out of date with the current Web and can take some nine months get your certificate.
Still, the fact remains that, if you want execute your full rights in the U.S., you need that registration. You need it both to file suit in a Federal Court and you need to have either registered before the infringement or within three months of publication to be able to collect statutory damages.
If you think you might ever want to sue for copyright infringement, you will want to register your work promptly. It’s a pain and it costs $35 but it can be invaluable down the road.
Likewise, as you add content to your site, you will likely want to re-register every 3 months to ensure that the registration is up to date and all content is protected.
2. Register with FairShare or Use Google Alerts
If you have a site where most of the content will be in an RSS feed, set up an account with FairShare so it can begin tracking the content in your feed from the first post. The service is free and only requires you to subscribe to the provided RSS feed where it will list where matches of your work were discovered along with some basic information.
If your content is largely static, you can use Google Alerts. I’ve covered Google Alerts before, but basically you just find good, unique phrases within your content and have Google search for those phrases and email you with any results it finds.
3. Set up an RSS Footer
If your site will put a large part of its content into an RSS feed, add a footer to the feed. You can use a simple WordPress plugin to do that if you’re a self-hosted WordPress user or, Blogger users can simply use the option in their admin panel.
Ideally, it should include a copyright statement, a link back to your site and, possibly, a digital fingerprint to make the tracking of your content even easier.
Since RSS scraping is one of the biggest problems content creators face, this can make sure that such use is at least attributed and trackable, even if it won’t put a stop to it.
4. Set Up Your Site’s Footer
Though you don’t technically need to include any copyright information for your work to be protected, it is a very good idea to do so as many have the misconception that, if it is not marked, it is free to use.
Make sure your footer includes all the basic copyright information including the year, which you can configure to update automatically, the copyright symbol, your name and the license information for the work (All Rights Reserved, Creative Commons, etc.)
5. Add Contact Information for Permissions
Finally, as you’re setting up how people will contact you, make sure to have a means for people to contact you to ask permission to use your work.
This is a good idea even if you use some form of blanket licensing, such as Creative Commons, as people will still contact you about these issues. This happens both because they don’t understand or see the license and because they want to use the work in a way that goes beyond it.
If you offer a clear path to contact you about these issues, even if it is just through your regular contact page, you’ll find people to be much more likely to ask permission than they would otherwise.
When starting a new site, whether your first or your hundredth, it is a chance to get things right and avoid mistakes that you made with the other efforts. Copyright is no different in that regard.
If you value your content, its worth taking some time before launching to make some adjustments and make sure that your work is protected. Doing so will not only help you enforce your copyright, but also track where it appears on the Web, legitimately and unlawfully, letting you better understand your audience and reach.
So take the opportunity and spend a few minutes making sure your work is adequately protected.