American flagA lot has been made about Myows’ role (or potential lack thereof) in the lives of our American users. This is partly because US copyright law works slightly differently from the rest of the world and partly as a result of the availability of USCO (The US Copyright Office) to those stateside. Of course, the two are linked. For those who are confused, allow me to clarify:

The question essentially is this: because USCO is available to US users and certain rights are exclusively granted to parties that register their work with this authority, what is the point of using Myows? Here’s my opinion on the matter.

Myows was started as an effective response to the problem of growing copyright infringement globally – especially due to increased internet penetration and the resulting ease with which work can be stolen, copied and sold online.

In most countries, copyright is automatically assumed by the author when an original work is created. When two parties dispute copyright in a particular work, the arbitrator or judge looks at the evidence provided by both and decides accordingly to whom the copyright belongs.

The US is the only country, to my knowledge, that allows for the registration of copyrightable material but this does not require the registration thereof in order to claim copyright in the US – a common misconception.

Parties who have not registered their work with USCO still have the same essential rights as those who do so but with a two key exceptions:

– If your case lands up in a US court, you will be presumed to be the owner of the work if it was registered with USCO and the burden of proof would then rest with the other party to show that the copyright does, in fact, not lie with you.If the other party can prove that they were the original creator, then your rights – even as an USCO registered creator – will fall away, unless you could prove that the other party ceded their rights to you.

– Should they win their case, users of USCO will be able to claim punitive damages in addition to other damages. However, a non-USCO user would still be able to issue an injunction against unauthorized infringement and claim for loss of income if commercial loss can be established.

Bear in mind that these differences only become relevant if a dispute is escalated to full-blown litigation which is both expensive and time consuming and is not really feasible for many creators (especially those who consistently produce larger quantities of work).

USCO registration will likely have no bearing on cases involving cross-border copyright theft where at least one party is not a citizen of (or registered in) the US.

Myows is primarily a management app.

The protection facility is a very important part of the offering presented to the Myows community but it forms part of a wider management function.

Sure, Myows creates valid and valuable evidence for you, but it also stores and arranges your evidence along with the original files (of all kinds). The service goes way beyond registration.

Myows allows you to organize all of your copyrightable material along with associated licenses, releases and cases past and present.

Myows also gives you access to legal templates, provides you with sound legal information and helps you follow the correct procedural steps when dealing with infringements, assisting in ensuring that you are in compliance with the law.

The scope of the app will eventually extend beyond even this (for example: suggesting dispute resolution options and putting you in touch with legal advice in your area). These functions are clearly outside the ambit of USCO, they are also not at odds with USCO’s services.

Myows is free and instant.

Basic USCO registration takes a while to process and costs $35 minimum. You could also end up paying for other sundry items thereafter (Issuance of a receipt for a sec 407 deposit = $30).

If you write 3 blog articles a day or take 50 new pics a month and you want to register them with the government office, it’s going to cost you serious time and money. Myows saves you both and it is easy and enjoyable to use, whilst still creating genuine and useful evidence.

Essentially, USCO and Myows are not mutually exclusive

To be honest, if I were based in the US I would upload all my work to my Myows account. Then, when I created something very unique and valuable with an imminent and high threat of theft, I would also register that work with USCO.

And what would I do with my proof of USCO registration? I’d save it with the corresponding work on Myows of course.

Find out more about USCO at: http://www.copyright.gov/

* Footnote: Myows has been designed, in part, to represent a global copyright savvy community.

It is an app as well as a movement and we need as much support as possible if we are to achieve our goal of empowering creators and reducing the incidence of online copyright. Strength in numbers is also something to think about here if the idea appeals to you too!