At this point I have lost track how many times I have been given inaccurate counsel from other well-meaning people, such as, “Make sure you copyright that so nobody can steal it,” or “If you put it online then you give up your rights and it becomes public property.” Such advice will only ever come from people who don’t actually understand copyright laws. When it comes to copyright issues and navigating them, the only advice worth following is advice that can be backed up by law. If you receive advice that can’t be backed up by legitimate copyright law then the advice is simply someone’s opinion.
In this particular realm, it will likely be in your best interest to simply do your own research and understand, for yourself, what the copyright laws are for where you live. For the purposes of this article we will be looking at, and linking to, the copyright laws specific to the United States of America. For individuals both in the U.S. and outside of it, in order to understand what laws protect your works in other countries you will have to look up the laws for the specific country in which you need copyright protection.