How to Copyright a Webcomic

By Michael Butler

To have a copyright in your webcomic, you don't need to do anything beyond drawing the comic. However, you can formally register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office for additional legal protection. Because of the online and community aspects of webcomics, you might also consider a Creative Commons license for your work.

Copyright

Copyright attaches to an original creative work the moment it is fixed in a tangible form. Depending upon your work process, you might have a copyright in your webcomic after you first sketch it out on paper or after finishing it in a software program. You don't have a copyright in the webcomic when it is just an idea in your head. The copyright gives you the exclusive right to distribute, display, copy, sell and make derivative works based on your webcomic. You can license any or all of your exclusive rights to other people.

Registration

If you want to be able to sue someone for infringing on the copyright in your webcomic, you must register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office. You can register on the Copyright Office’s website or by submitting paper forms. As of the date of publication, the registration fee varies, depending on what and how you register. Online registration of a single work is $35. If you register your webcomic prior to someone infringing your copyright, or within three months of obtaining the original copyright, you can sue the infringer for statutory damages. Otherwise, you can only sue for your actual damages.

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Creative Commons

Many online users like to share and modify the works they find on the Internet. This sometimes allows communities to grow. If you opt for a Creative Commons license, you can set standard terms by which others can share and use your webcomic. You have many options from which to choose, including not allowing anyone to modify your comic and not allowing distribution of your comic for commercial purposes. A Creative Commons license does not modify your underlying copyright; it only grants other people a license to use your work under the limited circumstances you have determined are acceptable to you.

Considerations

You own the copyright in your webcomic for your lifetime. After you pass away, your heirs will own the copyright for an additional 70 years. At the end of that time, your webcomic passes into the public domain for anyone to use. Under current law, this protection for the full-length of the copyright term is automatic and requires no action on your part. You don't have to use a Creative Commons license for your webcomic or grant anyone the right to use your webcomic for any purpose. Because your copyright is exclusive, the choices are entirely yours to make.

Protect against infringement by registering a copyright. Get Started Now
How to Copyright my Sermon
 

References

Related articles

How to Copyright a Quotation

Quotations are not typically copyrighted; rather, the work of which the quotation is a part of is the copyrighted work. It can be difficult to ensure that a quotation receives copyright protection because "fair use" permits excerpts of a copyrighted work to be used for limited scholarly and educational purposes. However, there are several steps authors can take to protect their quotations and, depending on the length of quotation and how it is published, they may be able to enforce their copyrights.

How to Copyright a Screenplay

A screenplay is technically copyrighted the moment that you place it in a tangible format, such as saving it to your hard drive or writing it down on paper. However, in order to further protect your screenplay you may wish to register your copyright through the U.S. Copyright Office so that you can sue anyone who might violate your rights. In addition, you may wish to consider taking some extra precautions such as placing a copyright notice on your screenplay before you distribute it to others.

How to Copyright a Documentary

Copyright is a form of protection that is available for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Your documentary film is entitled to automatic copyright protection from the moment it is recorded; however, you also have the option to formally register the work. Registration is beneficial because it creates a public record and allows you to recover monetary damages in the event that someone infringes on your documentary film. You can register in three ways: online through the U.S. Copyright Office, online using a document preparation and filing service such as LegalZoom.com or by mailing in paper forms.

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