What's mine is mine.

In school we learned the meaning of plagiarism and copyright laws when writing term papers. Citing the source and giving credit were tedious yet necessary if you wanted to pass the class.

Today, lines might be blurred for some individuals given the countless online resources as mentioned in this article by the New York Times. As professionals, if we have to think once – let alone twice whether or not something can be reused, reTweeted, or reposted – give credit were credit is due.

When creating work, the best way to ensure protection is to register with the Federal Government. You will need to choose Copyright ©, Trademark ™ or Servicemark SM, how it will be used, and where. The cost can be substantial depending on how many items you register, but will be worthwhile should you need it in the end. With respect to copyright, “first use” can take precedence which means from the time the work is created in fixed use such as a printed brochure, advertising, or posted to a website, it becomes the property of the author, designer, or musician. In the case of works made for hire, the employer and not the employee is considered to be the author.

Remember the mail it to yourself rule? That was the “poor man’s copyright” – no longer recommended since a two year old could fake that these days. When in doubt, consult a professional or attorney.

In a business likes ours the creative process demands new, different, and original ideas. Although some say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, when it comes to plagiarism – it’s just illegal. Be original.

Source: U.S. Copyright Office