While looking for something completely different, the IPKat stumbled across the website of an organisation calling itself Copyrightvault.com. This enterprise offers, for a fee, to register receipt of works and to store them for five years so that they can be said to be in existence at a specific point of time. As the site says:
"Difficulties arise where each party claims to have produced the work before the other and thereby be the originator of the work. Attempting to resolve such disputes may involve legal proceedings. It is ultimately a matter for the courts to decide. Without independent evidence a court will have to rely upon the rather more subjective evidence of the parties.The FAQs concede that registration of a work is not a prerequisite for copyright protection:
This is where copyright registration is important. The registration of copyright provides independent witness as to the existence of the work, at a clear point in time. A Certificate of Registration is usually sufficient evidence. However, in the event that further evidence is required, copyright registration should, once again be able to provide this, in the form of a sworn affidavit.
At Copyrightvault.com, we would recommend withdrawing a copy of your registered work from the vault and arranging for a Director of Copyrightvault Ltd to swear an affidavit in front of a solicitor, at the time of withdrawal, confirming the date of registration, and the date of withdrawal of the work, and exhibiting the Certificate of Registration".
This answer does not make the IPKat very happy. This is partly because the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 contains a number of presumptions (see e.g. sections 104, 105) that are very rarely challenged and partly because the deposit or registration of a work does not in any event constitute "proving ownership", or indeed authorship.
"Does copyright have to be registered?
No, copyright does not have to be registered. However in the event of a dispute, a successful outcome will depend on proving ownership and content of the work at a particular point in time. Registration proves that on a certain date you deposited the registered item with an independent witness agent, Copyrightvault.com, who specialise in the secure storage of copyright material, and who are willing to swear an affidavit that the item cannot have been interfered with by any interested party".
The website also offers to put users in touch with a member of its panel of (unnamed) solicitors, each of whom will apparently provide ten minutes advice free of charge if you complete the enquiry form and send it back to Copyrightvault.com (if you click any of the zones into which a map of the British Isles is divided, in the hope of obtaining a list of names of local solicitors, you will receive a "coming soon" message - but nothing more).
The Copyrightvault.com site is linked from the Department of Trade and Industry's Businesslink pages, which suggests that it has some official approval. It's also linked to a site called Copy Right Notice that bears the bizarre kitty-lit message:
"Definition of a copy right notice is the patents are concerned with the technical and functional aspects of products and processes".The IPKat wonders, have any of his readers had any experiences of Copyrightvault.com that they can share with him? He can't help being a little suspicious and would welcome anything that puts his mind to rest. Merpel adds, Coyprightvault.com would probably need to receive quite a volume of business to make the whole exercise worthwhile. And if it's profitable, she'd expect some serious competition.