RE: Is your documentation copyrighted?

Subject: RE: Is your documentation copyrighted?
From: Brent L Jones <brent -dot- jones -at- jadesolutions -dot- com>
To: "'Backer, Corinne'" <CBacker -at- glhec -dot- org>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 25 Jan 2000 14:21:35 -0700

Backer, Corinne [mailto:CBacker -at- glhec -dot- org]
wrote on 25 January 2000 12:39:


> Questions:
> 1. In your opinion, do I need to worry about officially applying for
> copyrights? (I'm in the US)
> 2. If I don't go through the official gov't process, would
> Trish's method
> cover us in a dispute?
> 3. Also, if I don't complete the official process, can I
> include copyright
> information in my manuals?

I can speak to #2, as to whether or not Trish's method (sending a copy of
the document to yourself via snailmail to get it postmarked and then filing
it, unopened) will protect you.

No. This method provides no definitive proof of authorship at all if it
comes to a court case. It has the same weight as other types of evidence you
might present to prove authorship, such as dated computer files, progressive
series of draft versions, eyewitness testimony, etc. In other words, it's
not very persuasive and doesn't have much legal "weight." And, as a previous
poster noted, it limits the damages you can claim in an infringement suit
because it doesn't count as "registering" it in any legal sense.

WRT question #3, yes. The manual *is* copyrighted as soon as you write it,
so you can state as much. Registering it simply nails the date and ownership
down, protecting you in the event of an infringement suit (either instigated
by you or filed against you) down the road.

I've never worked for a company that registered its copyrights for software
documentation, although I'm sure that they exist (companies that sell
popular desktop software, such as Microsoft, for example). Most companies
don't. I think the vast majority of user guides, etc. aren't worth the time
and minimal expense it would take to register them, as they are so specific
to one company's product. Who would want to rip it off, and for what
purpose? And if they do, how would you ever know and what would the damages


Brent Jones, Documentation Manager
bjones -at- JadeSolutions -dot- com
JADE Solutions
Office: 303 448 1019 x 40
FAX: 303 449 1548

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