Copyright Alternatives

by Howard Richman

Copyrighting your material is always preferred, but sometimes, it is necessary to prove ownership of your intellectual property in other ways. If you have one of your creations out there in cyberspace and for whatever reason, you have not copyrighted it, you can STILL prove that you are the author of your work.

In lieu of a copyright, some of the following suggestions can be very helpful to verify ownership of your material. This will be an important element to convince offending websites take down the illegally-posted material.

Establish Ownership

  • Use the Wayback Machine. This tool is just amazing. It literally archives various previous dates of billions of web pages.  Try to establish precedence, meaning if you can find a DATE where your material is posted PRIOR to any other publication or website, then this will be very useful proof to establish ownership of your material.
  • Look in your email or physical correspondence for any documentation of early versions of your work, showing references with dates to your work.
  • If you have previous formats of your posted work, then that can be very helpful. For example, if you posted an article on the internet, but PREVIOUSLY, you had written it in the form of a word document (.doc) then THAT document’s file date would be very helpful. (Don’t open and re-close the document!!!!!!!! — That would just change it today’s date and would defeat the point.)
  • Have others testify on your behalf that your work is YOURS and have them sign their testimony. It is even better if they can have their testimony notarized.
  • Old versions of your website can be helpful. If you have old backups from previous dates. This would apply if you have an html-based website.
  • If you have a CMS-style website (like WordPress) then see if you can get a MySQL record showing the earliest posting of your data.
  • Google keeps a cache of the time it originally searches through your website to find the page that the material is posted on (“spidering.”) Try finding this cache and print it out with the original date on it.
  • Submit original content to an ARCHIVING site to establish your ownership. WebCite and Internet Archive are two sources for this.