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Does mailing something to yourself grant you a copyright?

On Behalf of | May 27, 2022 | Articles |

Copyright protections are crucial for those who create original works like photographs, essays or songs. For decades, writers have shared what they consider a way to get copyright protection without paying to register it with the United States Copyright Office.

Writers and other creators will frequently tell others to send their original works to themselves in the mail if they finished creating them but aren’t yet ready to release them online or start looking for an agent. People refer to this practice as a poor man’s copyright, and the goal is to prevent other people from stealing or duplicating an original idea.

Will you actually have copyright protection because you mailed something to yourself?

Postal service stamps are not adequate for a copyright

Despite the practice of mailing a manuscript to yourself going back decades, since well before the internet was commonplace, it does not have a foundation in domestic copyright law. In fact, the U.S. Copyright Office specifically warns people about the practice on its website.

If you want to copyright and protect your creation, you must either register it formally with the government or publish it to receive general copyright protection.

What if you tried to mail something and now faced infringement?

If someone has infringed on your copyright by stealing crucial details or plagiarizing entire passages, then you might have to take them to court. If you only mailed the manuscript to yourself, you may need to register your work with the copyright office now before initiating proceedings against the party who infringed on your creative rights.

Learning more about intellectual property laws can help you protect the time and money invested in your creations.