Copyrights are automatic. Anything you create is automatically yours: Art, Code, Architecture, Clothing design, House design, Music, Graffiti, Photographs (for example, of nature), Writing, and alot more besides. Even forum posts. You own the post you just made. But you gave GameDev.net permission to share it with others by the nature of your agreement with GameDev.net (depending on the Terms of Service, you might've given them ownership of the post, but I haven't read their terms of service).
You can register your copyrights with the government as an added precaution, but it's not necessary.
Just because it's yours doesn't mean people won't steal it anyway.
But because it's yours companies in the United States and other 1st world non-Chinese nations won't risk getting sued.
Other companies in other countries you can't do anything about, regardless of what legal precautions you take.
Perhaps you mean "licensing"? Licensing is a way to allow others to use your copyrights as long as they follow certain conditions. Licensing is basically a contract permitting others to use what you own.
I like to say, 'copyright is implicit in creation'. The second you create it, it's copyrighted. Automaticly.
If you used someone else's work and modified it to make your work, then you only have a copyright on the changes made, but they still own the original work, and your work is a 'derivative work' of their work - and unless you have permission to use their original work, then you can't use your derived work (but neither can they, because you still own the changed parts).
Works are copyrighted whether they have a message attached to them or not, and regardless of whether they have a name written on them or not. If I paint a picture, I don't have to write on the back of it, "SotL ownz this workz - 2013". It's copyrighted whether I say it is or not. Only if I explicitly release ownership of the copyright into the public domain, or if the copyright expires (What is it currently? My entire life plus 80 more years? Something stupid like that), only then is it no longer copyrighted.
But again, just because it is copyrighted doesn't mean some random kid online won't copy it. It only means it's illegal for them to (civil law, not criminal law, afaik).
Copyrights are different than Patents. Patents and copyrights are both different than Trademarks.
Trademarks and patents need to be registered, copyrights are optionally registered.
Copyrights are designed for the benefit of the creators and, indirectly, the public.
Patents are designed for the benefit of inventors to permit sharing of technology so everyone benefits and civilization advances. It benefits the public indirectly, but majorly.
Trademarks are designed directly for the benefit of the public, but can be beneficial to companies as well.
All are man-made ideas that are relatively recent in history (within the past 400 years), and that some nations ignore.
Copyrights and Patents can be abused; Copyrights by being way too long, and patents by some of the issued patents being too vague or too obvious.
But overall the ideas of all three are great ideas that benefit everyone in the long-term, except for the cases where they are abused.
Leastwise, that's my opinion.
Edited by Servant of the Lord, 12 December 2013 - 08:44 PM.