Yeah, hi, it’s me.
I thought I had been clever a few minutes ago in coining the phrase “Schrodinger’s copyright” to describe “poor man’s copyright”. You know the folk alternative to copyright registration where you put your work in an envelope, and mail it to yourself using registered mail (or your country’s post office’s equivalent), then keep the sealed, postmarked envelope in your files until such time that you need to prove you were the copyright owner, at which point you would produce the envelope with a flourish and open it in court?
The fallacy of poor man’s copyright, of course, is that it is not actually proof of copyright; it is proof that somebody, presumably you, stuffed an envelope with the work in question on a given date. It might prove the date at which something existed and was in your possession, but it doesn’t automatically follow that you are the author or copyright owner (it’s probably more convincing evidence of non-infringement of somebody else’s work in some circumstances).
The drawback of poor man’s copyright, though, is that while the envelope is sealed, no one (except you) knows what’s in there. And once you’ve broken the seal to produce the contents, you can’t use that same method of proof again. Just like a maybe-dead, maybe-alive, cat caught in a thought experiment.
Then I did a bit of searching, and found somebody else started using the phrase first. Damn.
However, on reflection, that applies to a contemplated situation of infringement as a consequence of the DMCA. So it’s not actually Schrodinger’s copyright… it’s Schrodinger’s infringement, and henceforth I shall refer to poor man’s copyright as Schrodinger’s copyright, which will necessitate a five-minute explanation about cats, poison and an aside about Dirk Gently.