Postal proof of copyright

Advice for those new to the concepts of copyright
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Endless Nites
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Postal proof of copyright

Post by Endless Nites » Mon Aug 24, 2015 6:03 pm

Hi,

Can anyone tell me if posting photos of a piece of work to yourself, via signed for post is still considered proof of copyright ownership?

I was told this was sufficient in the past, provided it remains unopened upon receipt of the package and is dated by the post office but it's been awhile since I've needed to obtain copyright.

Thanks,

Sal.

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Mon Aug 24, 2015 7:53 pm

Hi Sal,
This is a fairly old practice which is one way of (cheaply) establishing that a work existed at a certain point in time, but unfortunately it doesn't prove ownership. However if there was a dispute over the ownership of a particular work then having the evidence of a sealed, postmarked work would mean that the other party to the dispute would need to provide equally substantive evidence of earlier ownership.

This is contrast to, say, the US system of copyright registration with the US Copyright Office, where a valid registration is taken to be prima facie evidence of ownership.

However a similar result can be obtained by having a friend, relative or indeed a complete stranger, provide an affidavit to the effect that they witnessed you either making the work, or they were shown the work by you shortly after its creation. A friend or family member is preferable because you might have to call on the person to later testify on oath that their statement was true.

The modern equivalent of a postal letter is the email, but these can have much less evidential value since they are so easily forged. There was a recent court case where two of the witnesses faced contempt of court proceedings when it was discovered that they had concocted emails which purported to relate to a date when a particular design had been created, when at that time it could not, on the facts, be true. Although this was a case about design right rather than copyright, the need to establish a priority date was the same.

As a precaution when using the postal method, be sure to send the package by recorded delivery or 'signed for', as dates just printed on the gold Post Office labels are not always legible.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007

Endless Nites
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Post by Endless Nites » Mon Aug 24, 2015 8:52 pm

Hi Andy,

Many thanks for your reply, I sent it signed for, included photos of me creating the piece and step by step photos from the creation through to the casting and finishing. I also have plenty of witnesses so think I should be covered if ever an issue arises. I've seen my work copied before (but I was employed so wasn't the copyright owner) but now I'm starting out freelance I wanted to cover myself.

Thanks again,
Sal.

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