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Copyrighting Origami

Author: David Lister

Every now and then someone asks how one obtains copyright in Origami.

The answer for all nations subscribing to the Berne Copyright Convention (which includes most industrial nations) is that you do not have to do anything at all to secure copyright. Copyright is automatic in any created work falling within the copyright laws of each particular country.

Certainly, diagrams are subject to copyright, copyrighted and also the actual folded model as a work of art (sculpture). However, there is less certainty that the folding sequence of a model in the abstract itself benefits by copyright law. The lawyers of OUSA in particular have argued that the folding sequence of a model is an invention and can only be protected if at all by obtaining a patent.

Some nations do not subscribe to the Berne Convention, and in those countries there may be particular requirements for copyrighting a model. In the case of countries subscribing to the International Copyright Convention, it is sufficient to put a letter C within a circle followed by the name of the author and the number of the year of creation. That is why you so often see the C within a circle. It is not necessary for protection in (say) the USA and the UK.

There are one or two coutries where there is no copyright law. Unless new legislation has been passed recently, this applies to Hong Kong, where (in particular) Japanese origami books have been flagrantly plagiarised.

In the case of any dispute it will be necessary to show that you are the creator of a model or set of diagrams. For this reason a few people still register their material. In England registration is with the City of London Stationers Company and I believe there is also an office providing this service in the United States. Regstration will establish beyond doubt who is the originator of a work. But exceptionally few people take this step nowadys. It was used more often in the past before the modern copyright laws were passed. That is why some people still think that regeistration in some way for copyright purposes is still obligatory,

A better approach would be to consult the publications of OUSA, where their policy on copyright is clearly stated.

Last update: 09 March 2000

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