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7Robots Fantastically Terrible Podcast ep21: Copyright Basics for Artists & Writers

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Episode 21: Copyright Basics for Artists & Writers

So you want to create something. Maybe a comic, write a book or a song, create a Star Base that can destroy planets. Great, let’s do it!

But wait…how do you begin? To copyright or not to copyright? Here’s some real, hands on, practical information that we hope provides you with a good start.  

We’ll cover the basics of US Copyright Law and review why it’s a good idea to register your work.

The basic differences between copyright, trademark and patent are:
– Copyright: Protects original artistic and literary works
– Trademark: A brand for goods and services. It is not required, but it enhances your rights.
– Patent: Protects inventions

Is your work automatically copyrighted?

Yes. All original works of authorship (not ideas) that are created for the first time are protected.

What does copyright protect?

Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.

The reason to do it?

If you don’t register, you can’t sue for infringement. Because hey, you never know.

What is not protected?

Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation.

When is my work protected?

Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. This means that whether you wrote it on a computer or with pen and ink it is protected.

I’ve heard about a “poor man’s copyright.” What is it?

The practice of sending a copy of your own work to yourself is sometimes called a “poor man’s copyright.” There is no provision in the copyright law regarding any such type of protection, and it is not a substitute for registration.

How much does it cost to register with the US Copyright Office?

Check with for all the most recent fees and to see all of the types of copyright they offer. Here are the two examples:

• Online registration of a basic claim in an original work of authorship):
As of 2020 it’s $45 for an electronic filing and $125 for paper filing

• Registration of a claim in a group of serials (per issue, minimum two issues):
As of 2020 it’s $35 for an electronic filing and $70 for paper filing

Other questions we discuss include:

☆ Why should I register my work if copyright protection is automatic?

☆ Can I sue someone if I am not registered?

☆ What is Prima Facie evidence?

☆ How do I prove infringement?

☆ Is there a difference in damages awarded for registered vs. unregistered works?

☆ Where in the world is US copyright accepted?

☆ If I’m in Europe, can I Copyright my work?

◙▒◙♫  Listen to the full podcast to get all of the information.

Fantastically Terrible Character or Creature

This week’s Fantastically Terrible Character or Creature is Disney’s Pluto. Did Walt purposefully muzzle this artist genius? You be the judge.

Pluto began his life in 1930 in “The Chain Gang”. As Walt Disney explained, “We needed a bloodhound. Pluto got the part and turned out so well, we used him twice.” Yes, there were two bloodhounds in what is considered to be Pluto’s first film, but Pluto was only paid for 1 part. This set the stage for how Pluto would be treated for the rest of his career at Walt Disney Studios.

In the same year he starred in “The Picnic”. Here we get a glimpse of the real dog. His name was Rover and he lived with Minnie, not Mickey. In 1931, Mickey used his power to take Pluto away from Minnie and forced the heartbroken pooch to play his pet in, “The Moose Hunt”. This power play forever damaged the relationship between Minnie and Mickey and explains why they never legally married.

Even though Walt tried to put Pluto under Mickey’s foot, he fought to be given some dialogue and treated with respect. All he got was saying, “Kiss me!” to Mickey. Even though audiences liked the gag, Walt was not pleased. Pluto was forever cast as a purely pantomime character. His dialogue and place in the pecking order was sealed. He was forced to play simple-minded gags as a mute.

As veteran animator Nick Nichols admitted, “We’ve generally kept Pluto all dog…. He doesn’t speak, except for a breathy ‘Yeah! Yeah!’ and a panting, raspy kind of laugh”…

◙▒◙♫ Listen to the full podcast to get the full (satirical) Hollywood story!

( ˘˘з)♬♪ The song used in the podcast is “Hot Mittens” by The Bucktown Five (from the Internet Archive)

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