As writers in the information age copyright is a serious concern. But fear not, the Copyright Act of 1976 (enacted in 1978) gives the creator full power over their work despite the publication method or location. Publication, of course, only requires the author to show it to one other person. And thus, by placing it on the internet the item is immediately protected by the government. For a little extra piece of mind the author or poet can send two copies to the government with a small sum (thirty dollars I believe) and they will keep your work–photos, poetry, stories, websites etc.–safe from infringement. Only creative work can be copyrighted, not ideas, but otherwise, if it’s yours, it’s yours whether you put your copyright stamp on it or not.
You may copyright whole groups of poems or chapbooks, and make small changes even after the copyright has been placed. Keep in mind, you can save your money and just rely on the law unless you are very worried about someone taking your concepts. Getting it certified with the government is just a formality. Especially now with the internet, there will be a time stamp associated with your work and you will be able to prove it was your creative use of the idea first.
Copyright gets a little complicated on the internet because there is so much information. As we all know, never pass off ideas as your own!! Allusions in your poetry can call upon other poets but should be careful not to take too much from their work. The rule of thumb is using less than 10 percent and making sure that specific 10 percent does not include the quintessential part of the other work. Using key phrases over and over again might infringe on the other work unless you do something new and creative with it.
Working at a desk? Be careful!! Most of the lawsuits concerning great ideas and creative works involve the use of a company computer. Those creative works BELONG TO THE COMPANY, not to you. If you use their resources on their time it is their product, plain and simple. That includes using company cameras for photojournalism or company software to design a website. So don’t work on your creative projects on the company clock unless you are willing to part with them if you get caught.
Finally, copyright will cover you for life plus seventy years. Your copyright may be willed away once you die, but it will only last 70 years and cannot be elongated. If there are two or more people on the copyright the seventy years starts after the death of the last person involved.
To find out more about copyright law check out these government websites.