When does Copyright Protection begin, and what is required?
Copyright protection begins when any of the above described work is actually created and fixed in a tangible form. If you write a poem, your copyright over that poem begins as soon as you set it in tangible form by writing the poem down on paper. Your copyright does not begin when you register it. It began when you wrote the poem on paper. Registering a copyright is just taking the protection a step further so as to leave no room for doubt that one is the creator of a work. My brother is a poet and musician. When he writes a new lyric, he immediately prints it out on paper, signs his name at the bottom with the © symbol to establish himself as the author, places it in an envelope and mails it to himself without opening it. His copyright begins when he prints it out on paper and sets his lyric in a tangible form. He creates proof as soon as he mails it to himself - the postmark establishes the date of creation. He then registers his copyright to further establish himself as the author, and because he happens to live in the United States and that is required for him to be able to sue for monetary damages. However, if somebody copies his lyric without permission before his copyright is registered, he still has the right to assert his copyright claim. The same applies to digital art and graphics...open a gif or jpg file that you created and look at the properties. It states the date that you saved it to your hard drive as the date of creation. If somebody copies a graphic from your web site I assure you that the date of creation on your copy of the file is earlier than the copy taken off your web site. Still doesn't feel safe enough to you? How about saving everything to a floppy and mailing it to yourself via certified mail? Keep the envelope sealed, wrap it in protective plastic and stash it in a safe place.
Somebody once asked if it was "illegal" to place the copyright © symbol next to your name if you have not registered your copyright. Unless you have stolen the work from somebody else and you are not the true author of the work, it is not illegal to place the copyright © symbol next to your name - it is your right to do so.