Ladies and gentlemen,
Copyright has become complex in some regards and simple in another. The easiest way to copyright something is to have a tangible medium of expression. Yep, that means written or recorded on paper, tape, computer disk, etc. Even a scrap of paper is automatically protected as copyrighted under the Berne Convention 2(2). You can indicate copyright by means of the well-known © or lesser known—not even in my special character chart—p within a circle.
The problem is not having copyright, but proving it. To be honest, the other problem is respecting copyright.
Do you know that some publishers intend to charge for things like quotations in blogs? Yep. I think most people have no idea how far copyright extends into our own lives, whether we are professionals in some way or not. Legally, one should inquire or at least visit the publisher’s website to look for policies listed under Permissions. Inquire about quotations, photocopies, and, I don’t know, maybe even photos of covers. (Anyone know about that last one?)
My biggest copyright question right now is to what degree is the English Standard Version of Scripture free of charge. I should look into it, because I’ve publicly quoted something that is now self-published: a blog post. Yep, that’s a form of self-publishing. Sermons online? Self-publishing. Facebook memes? Maybe they are self-publishing, too, of an anonymous variety.
Oh, look, a super easy-to-read webpage to answer all my ESV copyright questions: https://www.crossway.org/support/esv-bible-permissions/
Back to intellectual property rights in general, to prove copyright one is supposed to have evidence of the time and authorship of something. Some will tell you to mail yourself a copy and never open in, in hopes that the postmark proves time and authorship, but frankly couldn’t my second-grader fake that? Or mail herself something she had nothing to do with? The “Poor Man’s Copyright” probably won’t have a stellar legal record.
My advice is this: know whether you are self-publishing. Date your work, and be very, very aware of influences on you, lest you stray into disrespecting someone else’s copyrighted work (taking an idea or wording when not freely given). Cite! Or, don’t worry about what is, in a copyrighted sense, yours. Say your piece and never go to court to fight over payment.
Am I missing anything? Oh, yeah . . . write! And, dare I say, give me an education in the form of a comment if you’d like to help spread word about respecting or proving copyright.