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I like to make video games and I figured I might as well make some money off of it. The problem with it is I have no idea how to get a copyright on my games before I start selling them. How would I do this? (Just comment if I need to specify anything else or if this is the wrong site.)

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US based answer, I don't know foreign markets.

As others have stated, Copyright is granted the moment you create something. In most cases, you do not need to do anything specific in order to obtain copyright over your original creations.

Prof William Fisher gave a series of lectures in 2013 covering copyrights. These lectures are all available to watch or download at CopyX.org In his lectures, Prof. Fisher details the 10, well 11 ways, you may not have copyright over your work, specifically in section 5.3. They are as follows:

  1. Contribution to a collective work
  2. Part of a motion picture or audiovisual work
  3. translations
  4. Supplementary work
  5. Compilations
  6. Instructional Text
  7. Tests
  8. Answers to Tests
  9. Atlas
  10. Work-for-hire

And the 11th is simply, forfeiting your copyright voluntarily.

If your work does not fall within these 11 areas, you own the copyrights automatically.

In order to aid in any future disputes over copyright, you should retain some data or information which can assist you in proving when and how the work was created. Detailed notes, back up files, original artwork, etc. In this respect, it can be advantageous to register your copyright in the US with the Library of Congress. There is a nominal fee to register something. Registration is not mandatory. However after doing so -- if there's ever a legal dispute over your copyright and your copyright is on file first at the Library of Congress, the LOC will assist you in defending your copyright.

Much more information can be gained by reviewing Copyright.gov and CopyX.org

If I were creating an original item (art/game/etc) for sale. I would register the item prior to beginning any sales avenues, for my own protection.

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You don't have to do anything, except being able to prove in a court of law that you wrote the game.

If you actually make significant money, you can look at registering it, but at the point you are now, there is no need to do that.

Its a good idea to put a copyright notice in each source code page and maybe have an about screen that names you as the copyright holder.

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  • How would you prove it when you don't have the copyright registered? – cplusplusman Jan 22 '16 at 2:54
  • What? What do you mean "register copyright?" Any jurisdiction that has ratified the Berne convention would assign copyright automatically to the creator of the content. – Zizouz212 Jan 22 '16 at 3:01
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    @Zizouz212 In the US and Canada, you can register your copyright (US registration, Canada registration). It isn't required, but it creates prima facie evidence of your copyright in a work. In the US, registration is required in order to collect statutory damages. – user3851 Jan 22 '16 at 3:11
  • @Dawn Interesting, I never knew that. I learned something new today :) – Zizouz212 Jan 22 '16 at 3:14
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Copyright is automatic.

If you would like to assert copyright, you can include something like this at the top of your source code:

(c) 2016 [your name]. All Rights Reserved.

For any country that has ratified the Berne Convention, copyright is granted automatically - you don't have to apply, or pay anything to get it. You may be conflating copyright with trademarks. You have to apply to get a trademark (such as a name, logo), but in this case, it shouldn't really apply.

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  • Trade marks are also automatic – Dale M Jan 22 '16 at 3:43

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