Copyright Adventures

Posted by ADAM

I’m sending three stories I wrote to publications this month and two of them weren’t protected by copyright. I’ve registered a number of copyrights in the past but I’ve always done it by mail. However, recently, the Copyright Office has been taking longer and longer to get back — the first time I registered a copyright, in 2004, they replied in four months, but for my latest copyright registration, in 2008, it took 19 months to receive my certificate (I just got it last month, in fact).

So I decided to get out of the dark ages and register my copyrights electronically. I created an account at, a pretty standard online form — except that for some reason I couldn’t create a password that it would accept. I accessed the site’s help menu and found some information that I think should have been displayed a bit more prominently…

– Minimum password length must be 8 characters and consist of at least 2 alpha characters, 1 number and 1 special character [$, %, &, *, #] (but not an ampersand – &).
– A password must have no consecutive repeated characters.
– A password must not include your user name or any part thereof.
– A password must not include the names of a spouse, children, pets or one’s own name.
– A password must not include any regional sports teams or players.
– A password must not include any office symbols.
– A password must not include your social security number or any subset of your social security number that is more than a single number.
A password must not include words that can be found in any dictionary, whether English or any language.
– A password must not be any of the 11 most recently used passwords for the account.

First of all, who designed this list of requirements and have they sought psychiatric treatment for their raging paranoia? In addition to this list of rules which will surely result in a password that can’t be cracked by anyone — including the person who thought it up but will be completely unable to remember it — the system periodically e-mails you and requires you to change your password.

Also, who writes a list of requirements like this and puts the teeny, tiny requirement that you can’t use any word from any language at the very end, after having first taken the time to mentioned the names of pets and professional athletes?

Finally, if your system is going to have so many disqualifying requirements, it would be really nice if it didn’t make you fill in two more pages of forms before letting you know your password isn’t sufficient. It would also be nice if it told you WHY your password wasn’t good enough, because I tried ten more times but couldn’t figure it out until it suddenly dawned on me — it was the vowels!

“A” and “I” are words in English. “E” and “O” are words in Italian. “Y” is a word in Spanish. You can’t use these letters at all in your password. I thought that solved it for sure, but I still had to try three more times to come up with a password — eliminating all the vowels had created one case of repeating consonants and put together a pair of letters that appeared in my user name.

Finally I came up with a completely incomprehensible string of more than eight characters that includes more than two letters and numbers, a special symbol ($, %, &, *, #, but not & after all), no words in any language (with all those consonants, I was worried about Welsh), no family, pet or sports names, no consecutive repeating characters, no consecutive numerals that appear in my social security number, no consecutive characters that appear in my user name, and no office symbols (whatever those are).  And then I immediately wrote it down and put it in a prominent location because that was the only way in hell I was going to be able to remember it when I needed it. Now my account at the Copyright Office is impervious to high tech computer pirates but totally vulnerable to anybody who spends five minutes going through my desk.

God bless computers.  They make our lives so much easier.  How did we ever live without them?

Published in: on October 18, 2009 at 1:44 PM  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This is without a doubt one of the most useful pieces of information I’ve EVER picked up on the Internet…

  2. This is why I’m glad Adam posted this. I had the same problems registering The Pack. Took me three hours over two days, because I didn’t have the time to sit there and do it. Also, I think my password is in my desk drawer at work somewhere, but I’m not sure. God forbid I want to visit my Copyright Office profile or something…

    This is why you read our blog (and everyone else SHOULD)! We actively persist in getting our stuff out there and go through all this crap so you don’t have to! 🙂

  3. On the plus side, nobody who goes through your desk for five minutes will remember it very long, either. …Unless they master the espionage arts of copying. Clearly, you should hide all of your pens and pencils and crayons.

    In the meantime, I don’t think you can totally blame the internet: Most websites are less inane than the government’s. The government had the special power to drive people nuts with stupid forms long before the internet came around. Without it, you could always wait 19 months. Or I could start telling Cook County courthouse stories again, because they don’t believe in computers either, and they have a consistent habit of losing paper.

  4. Just register stuff with Creative Commons. Way faster.

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