So part of this copyright law class I’m taking in grad school sends me surfing the web regularly in search of answers to various finer points of the law. What better place to find what you’re looking for than seeking it out from the source, right?
So I’ve already been a time or twelve to the U.S. Copyright Office’s official website (www.copyright.gov) as part my coursework. Before you web surfing yourself, I warn it’s pretty dull, about what you would expect for some government hack trying to put together an overview of his or her respective duties and provide the necessary documentation one might need regarding the subject.
I will say this: I’m basically in Week 5 of my studies in this class and know only one sure fact, so far. Despite having written for most of my life in newspapers and such, I don’t know Jack Shit (or his cousin George, for the that matter) about copyrights. It’s a damn complicated subject. Plus, it keeps changing. We’ve already covered at least three cases specifically that are barely days out of the courtrooms and have offered some new interpretation of how the law applies in given situations. Pretty fascinating stuff, actually, if you’re in to that sort of thing.
Even if you’re not, though, this next part is a gem. I was browsing the copyright website’s Frequently Asked Questions and stumbled across the following:
How do I protect my sighting of Elvis?
Copyright law does not protect sightings. However, copyright law will protect your photo (or other depiction) of your sighting of Elvis. File your claim to copyright online by means of the electronic Copyright Office (eCO). Pay the fee online and attach a copy of your photo. For more information on registering a copyright, see SL-35. No one can lawfully use your photo of your sighting, although someone else may file his own photo of his sighting. Copyright law protects the original photograph, not the subject of the photograph
That these poor bastards have fielded this question enough times to include it in their FAQs list speaks volumes to the caliber of folk they must deal with in a given day. That they gave such an informative yet flip answer, I think, also tells us quite a lot about the kind of people they have working there.
Hat’s off, Mr. FAQ Answerer. (I know, sounds like beer commercial. I’m OK with it.) Maybe, just maybe, the government is not all bad after all. Besides, I think I just saw Bigfoot…