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The “Poor Man’s Copyright” is a myth that has been circulating around the Intellectual Property world for a while now. A simple, easy to pull off way to circumvent the legal fees and attorney fees is obviously alluring, but is it legally binding?

That’s what we’re here to discuss.

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A poor man’s copyright is a method of trying to prove that you created a work before a certain date. It starts by putting your work into an envelope with the proper stamps and info and mailing it to yourself via the United States Postal Service. 

Once it goes through the mail with the tracking info placed on it, and it arrives at your house/office, you must NOT open it. If you keep the seal on the package, you can theoretically prove that you created that work by/on the date that you mailed it (assuming you don’t break the seal on the envelope). If anyone attempts to pilfer your idea, if a book, film, or movie script, that sealed envelope is your ticket into a successful copyright litigation.

In short, to obtain a federal copyright protection in your creative effort, the narrative goes, all you have to do is stick the work into an envelope and mail it to yourself via the United States Postal Service.

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Long story short, likely none.

The moment you create something, you already have inherent rights to it as it’s creator. It’s yours, and no one can steal it from you as long as you can show that you were the original creator.

So no, mailing your work to yourself does not give you any bulletproof rights.

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If you’d like to gain the rights to stop someone who is infringing your rights, I recommend that you actually have a legitimate copyright that's registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.

This will give you the rights to ensure that others don't infringe on your natural rights as the owner of the work. This empowers you in a court of law to have a greater chance to get what you deserve for your work.

Fees charged by the government for a registration may change each year, and depend on the character of your intended enrollment, but typically run between $50 and $100. As of the time of this writing (in April of 2021), fees are $35 for a single work, and $55 for multiple works (up to 10).

However, copyrighting your work yourself EFFECTIVELY can be a difficult task. If you plan to make a living through your copyrighted work, we’d recommend talking to an attorney FIRST. That way, you don’t accidentally miss out on any rights you could have given yourself.

In Conclusion

Is A Poor Man’s Copyright Legally Binding? What It Is & How It Works.
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A Poor Man's Copyright does NOT provide you any significant additional rights. A Poor Man's Copyright involves mailing your work (that you wish to copyright) to yourself & then leaving the package sealed. This stamps a date on the sealed package from the US Postal Service, thereby "proving" that you created the work on or before that date. However, this does not afford you ANY significant rights that you don't already have as the creator of that work. If you want additional rights, you will need to formally apply for a copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office.
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