There are lots of benefits to Copyright Registration with the US Copyright Office; however, keeping your work a secret is generally not one of them. Part of the process for registering a work for copyright protection is submitting a deposit copy of the work (newsletter, photo, document, manuscript) to the US Copyright Office. These deposit copies are generally available to the public at the Library of Congress and can be copied with the assistance of staff members.
What does this mean? If your work product contains secret information that you do not want to disclose, then do not register the work for copyright protection until you are ready to disclose it. (An exception is made for computer programs… see below) However, even if you do not register a work for copyright registration to protect secret information contained in the work… using a copyright registration notice on any copies of your work product that you distribute is smart. [Remember that a copyright notice can be used even if you do not register your work with the US Copyright Office… and using a copyright notice gives you extra rights in your work if it is misappropriated.] A sample copyright notice is: © 2011 Your Name. All rights reserved.
One important exception to this deposit copy rule is made for computer programs. When a computer program is registered for copyright protection only a small portion of the source code is submitted as a deposit copy and any trade secret material can be blocked out.
For more info on:
- using a copyright notice: http://t.co/iDEzsXY
- deposit copies: http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ06.pdf
- computer program deposit copies: http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ61.pdf
BY: Vanessa Kaster, Esq., LL.M.