Friday, August 13, 2010

More ways to waste money on a copyright

(left-click to enlarge image for easier reading)

A copyright determines who has the right to copy what you write. It is commonly believed that a creative work must be registered with the government to be protected by copyright. That’s not true. Your precious work is legally protected from copycats from the moment of creation without your having to fill out any forms or having to pay even one penny to the Feds. Your work is copyrighted even if you don’t put the © copyright symbol on it.

However, there are still advantages to going through a formal copyright registration, particularly if you end up suing for copyright infringement. is a widely advertised website which tries to help people create their own legal documents. It can handle wills, divorces, incorporations, name changes, bankruptcies, prenups and copyrights. One of the founders is Robert Shapiro, who helped get O.J. Simpson acquitted of murdering his ex-wife and Ron Goldman. Shapiro has also represented Darryl Strawberry, Johnny Carson,  Linda Lovelace and the Kardashians.

Radio talk show hosts Howard Stern and Sean Hannity have been touting the company. Howard wants us to believe that LegalZoom can save "bundles of money" and "tons of hours." Howard is a funny guy but doesn't know much about filing for a copyright.

Using the "eCO" electronic copyright office provided by the Libriary of COngress, anyone can register a book for copyright for $35. Self-publishing companies often charge much more to get a copyright. CrossBooks charges $204. Schiel & Denver charges $250!

It took me six minutes to register to use LegalZoom, enter the information about one of my books and use a credit card. For $149, LegalZoom would submit my information to the Feds ($35 for the Fed fee, $114 for LegalZoom's service).

For comparison, I went right to the government's eCO page, and set up an account and provided the information on one book in 12 minutes. The Feds require some information to be typed on multiple screens, and asked for information--such as the ISBN--which LegalZoom strangely did not ask for. it worth $114 to save six minutes by having LegalZoom handle the copyright registration? NO WAY.

Is it worth $250 to save six minutes by having Schiel & Denver handle the copyright registration? NO WAY.

LegalZoom says, "You save $661 with LegalZoom! A lawyer would charge you approximately $780 to create and file a copyright application" (based on average rate of $266 per hour).

Is it worth an estimated $780 to have a typical lawyer handle the copyright registration? NO WAY.

It's interesting to consider that I, a non-lawyer with no previous copyright experience, was able to handle the registration in 12 minutes, but LegalZoom estimates that a lawyer would need nearly three hours to do the work--at $265 per hour.

Based on the $780 estimate, LegalZoom's copywriters apparently think that real lawyers are slow, stupid or dishonest. Bob Shapiro is neither stupid nor slow.


  1. LegalZoom is defendant in a class-action suit for providing legal services without a license.

  2. I've been very satisfied with Shyster, Shyster & Flywheel...Dewey, Cheatham & Howe...McKenzie Brackman...and Crane, Poole & Schmidt.