What is an alternative to copyright?

One popular "alternative" to a copyright is the 'Poor Man's Copyright.' This entails placing a copyrightable work in a sealed envelope and mailing it to oneself. The idea is that the work will thus be post marked with a date and sealed giving a record of having the work first. However, it does not prove authorship, which is essential in copyright law.

There are no "good" alternatives to copyrights. Copyrights give their owners so many more rights than any other means of intellectual property protection. The next best thing is keeping a work in a safe and never publishing it. It is better to just pay the $35-$45 dollar fee to have a work copyrighted with the US Copyright Office.