How to protect your Copyright

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Copyright attorneys will tell you that copyright in South Africa, as in many other countries, does not need to be registered. Unlike patents, trademarks and designs, the rights associated with copyright rest in the author of a work once the work is created in a material form. The following works, if original, are eligible for copyright protection: Literary works, Musical works, Artistic works, Cinematograph films, Sound recordings, Broadcasts, Programme-carrying signals, Published editions of books, and Computer programs.

Protect your Copyright:

  1. Ensure your work is properly marked and dated.
    Some people might even post or courier their own work to themselves, to record the date of creation.
  2. A copyright notice stating that the work is protected under law.
    a copyright notice is not required, but displaying it shows that you are aware of copyright law.
  3. Keep supporting evidence.
    Evolution: The progression of the work. Early drafts, sketches, synopsis, rough recordings, etc. are all evidence that the work progressed over time, rather than being copied from elsewhere.
    Footprints / Watermarks: This is evidence inserted into finished documents that will identify the author in some way, such as deliberate mistakes or watermarked logos.
  4. Agreement between co-authors.
    If your work is a joint venture, be sure who will own what rights, and what happens when someone leaves.

The authorship of copyright is frequently disputed and the Copyright Act provides very clear guidelines to copyright attorneys as to who shall be considered authors of any particular types of copyright.

Broadcasts – the first broadcaster.
Published editions – the publisher of the edition.
Literary, musical or artistic works – the person who first makes or creates the work.
Photographs – the person responsible for the composition of the photograph.
Sound recordings – the person who made arrangements for the making of the recording.
Films – the person who made arrangements for the making of the film.
Programme-carrying signals – the first person emitting the signal to a satellite.
Computer programs – the person who exercised control over the making of the program.

The author is usually regarded as the first owner of the work. However, there are exceptions to this. Literary or artistic works made by an author when employed by a newspaper, magazine or the like. In this case, authorship vests in the publisher, however, authorship vests in the author for the unused sections. If someone commissions and pays for the taking of a photograph, painting or drawing of a portrait; the making of a film or sound recording; or was created in the course of an author’s employment, the authorship vests in the employer.