Copyrighted work

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Brydar
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Copyrighted work

Postby Brydar » Wed Feb 11, 2015 3:17 am

Whenever I write something that I have a feeling may be marketable or is good enough to submit to a contest I copyright it. Is this the same procedure others on here follow before submissions? Has anyone ever just written a story or novella and sent it in without copyrighting the work?
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ThomasKCarpenter
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Re: Copyrighted work

Postby ThomasKCarpenter » Wed Feb 11, 2015 3:50 am

Brydar wrote:Whenever I write something that I have a feeling may be marketable or is good enough to submit to a contest I copyright it. Is this the same procedure others on here follow before submissions? Has anyone ever just written a story or novella and sent it in without copyrighting the work?


You might want to read The Copyright Handbook by Nolo press.

And no, I don't copyright any of my works before I send them in, publish them, or send them the the markets.
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Re: Copyrighted work

Postby s_c_baker » Wed Feb 11, 2015 7:47 am

I am not a lawyer. Just to state that and state it clearly.

But I am a librarian, and part of what I do deals with copyright.

brydar wrote:Whenever I write something that I have a feeling may be marketable or is good enough to submit to a contest I copyright it. Is this the same procedure others on here follow before submissions? Has anyone ever just written a story or novella and sent it in without copyrighting the work?

This is almost a meaningless question, for the simple fact that what you write is copyrighted to you as soon as you write it. That is what copyright means.

US Copyright Office wrote: When is my work protected?

Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.


Assuming that, instead of "copyrighting the work," you mean "registering the copyright with the US Copyright Office," it's largely unnecessary most of the time to be honest.

The only time you absolutely need to register your copyright is if you're expecting (for some reason) to be bringing a lawsuit against somebody about infringement of your copyright.

US Copyright Office wrote: Why should I register my work if copyright protection is automatic?

Registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney's fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within 5 years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law.


Some links on Copyright:

FAQs from the US Copyright Office

"Copyright Basics", again from the US Copyright Office

SFWA on Copyright

Notably in the last one:
For unpublished book-length manuscripts being submitted to agencies and publishers, registration is not necessary. Contrary to what many authors believe, registering copyright provides no additional protection beyond what you already have by law. Registration does given you additional legal rights, which are important if your work is infringed–but you don’t need to worry about infringement at the submission stage. Theft of unpublished work is vanishingly rare.

I’ll repeat that, with emphasis: Your unpublished manuscript will not be stolen.


SFWA recommends registering for published novels ("essential") and published short stories and articles ("wise"). I've never registered the copyright for any of my published stories, though. I'd be surprised if many authors do--especially on the lower rungs of the "authorial fame" ladder, which is definitely where I am right now. Probably if I were a mega-famous NYT Bestseller (e.g. GRRM) I would register the copyright.

But I'm at a point in my SF career where having my work stolen is probably more of a compliment than anything. wotf001

Reminder: I am not a lawyer.

Admission: I am a librarian and we tend to take a way laxer view on things like copyright. At least I do.
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Martin L. Shoemaker
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Re: Copyrighted work

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Wed Feb 11, 2015 7:49 am

ThomasKCarpenter wrote:
Brydar wrote:Whenever I write something that I have a feeling may be marketable or is good enough to submit to a contest I copyright it. Is this the same procedure others on here follow before submissions? Has anyone ever just written a story or novella and sent it in without copyrighting the work?


You might want to read The Copyright Handbook by Nolo press.

And no, I don't copyright any of my works before I send them in, publish them, or send them the the markets.


And part of the reason to read The Copyright Handbook is to learn this: everything you write is already copyrighted. Including that email you just wrote. Under copyright law, as soon as you put an idea into a fixed form, it's copyrighted.

So I assume what you're asking about is copyright registration. That gives you a measure of added protection: it firmly establishes a copyright date, and it lets you sue for more damages in case of an infringement.

But it's also an expense. So you have to balance that expense against the potential value of the work. In my case, I haven't done so with any work.

It's also possible that you're talking about simply adding a copyright notice? You can do that, but it gives you no added protection other than alerting honest people who happen not to know copyright law. Those who know copyright don't need the notice. Those who aren't honest won't care. So you can add the notice when submitting, but I never do. I feel like it sends a message: "I think you don't know copyright, or I think you might try to rip me off." Neither is a message that I want to send to an editor. (I do, of course, put a copyright notice in anything I self-publish.)

Note also that this contest is judged anonymously, as are many others. How would you add a copyright notice to an anonymous story?

And no, I am not a lawyer.
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Re: Copyrighted work

Postby Muri McCage » Wed Feb 11, 2015 8:26 am

Also not a lawyer....

An added note, for anyone considering writing screenplays. That's a whole different kind of thing. It's always highly recommended that screenwriters register their scripts with the copyright office and/or the WGA or both. I register with the WGA, as is common practice. They keep a copy of the registered script on file that can be used as proof of authorship in case of legal trouble. Each script registration lasts five years and can be renewed every five years. It gets expensive when you have multiple scripts, but it's a necessary evil. Unfortunately, past events have created a sometimes legitimate atmosphere of mistrust on both sides of Hollywoodland
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Mike Resnick
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Re: Copyrighted work

Postby Mike Resnick » Fri Feb 13, 2015 1:12 am

Just came across this. I've sold more than 75 novels, close to 300 stories, maybe a couple of hundred articles, and have never copyrighted any of them before selling them.

Screenplays are different. Producers make rapacious publishers look like milquetoasts, and I register
everything I do -- outlines, treatments, actual screenplays -- with Writers Guild West.

-- Mike Resnick
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Re: Copyrighted work

Postby Brydar » Fri Feb 13, 2015 2:56 am

Mike Resnick wrote:Just came across this. I've sold more than 75 novels, close to 300 stories, maybe a couple of hundred articles, and have never copyrighted any of them before selling them.

Screenplays are different. Producers make rapacious publishers look like milquetoasts, and I register
everything I do -- outlines, treatments, actual screenplays -- with Writers Guild West.

-- Mike Resnick

Thank you all for the replies concerning our preciousss <caresses most recent print out of story> works. wotf007 I did not expect one of the judges to reply and thank you Mr. Resnick for the interest and for also answering my question. I must say that many of the authors on here who are veterans have been most helpful to me and I wish to thank you all.
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Martin L. Shoemaker
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Re: Copyrighted work

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Fri Feb 13, 2015 3:20 am

Brydar wrote:
Mike Resnick wrote:Just came across this. I've sold more than 75 novels, close to 300 stories, maybe a couple of hundred articles, and have never copyrighted any of them before selling them.

Screenplays are different. Producers make rapacious publishers look like milquetoasts, and I register
everything I do -- outlines, treatments, actual screenplays -- with Writers Guild West.

-- Mike Resnick

Thank you all for the replies concerning our preciousss <caresses most recent print out of story> works. wotf007 I did not expect one of the judges to reply and thank you Mr. Resnick for the interest and for also answering my question. I must say that many of the authors on here who are veterans have been most helpful to me and I wish to thank you all.


Yes, thanks as always, Mike!

Brydar, you'll find that the judges really care about helping us new writers to learn and grow, and Mike especially does. He finds time in his very busy schedule to drop in now and then, and we always learn something from him. That's one more reason why this forum is an incredible resource.
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FictionMuse
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Re: Copyrighted work

Postby FictionMuse » Wed Feb 18, 2015 2:44 pm

Producers make rapacious publishers look like milquetoasts, and I register
everything I do -- outlines, treatments, actual screenplays -- with Writers Guild West.


Only costs $20 and you don't need to be a member. Good thing - membership is a staggering $3000 per year.

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Re: Copyrighted work

Postby FictionMuse » Wed Feb 18, 2015 2:52 pm

Producers make rapacious publishers look like milquetoasts, and I register
everything I do -- outlines, treatments, actual screenplays -- with Writers Guild West.


But they'll steal from you even if you register:

Hollywood’s latest “you stole my idea” case, a pair of screenwriters have filed a lawsuit claiming the Zooey Deschanel sitcom was based on their work. Stephanie Counts and Shari Gold claim that Fox’s New Girl and their 2006 pilot Square One contain similarities so numerous and specific that independent creation was obviously impossible.


laundry list of “similarities between the shows’ themes, structure, setting, overall story and plot arcs, specific plot devices, interpersonal twists, dialogue, sequence of events, tenor, specific scenes and elements of scenes, character identities, character personalities, character relationships, character interaction, character development, character idiosyncrasies, and character names

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Re: Copyrighted work

Postby Muri McCage » Wed Feb 18, 2015 5:14 pm

All of the above. Plus the infamous Jingle All the Way case. And don't even get me started about releases screenwriters have to sign before a screenplay will be looked at by most anybody, including prestigious competitions. The wording is like an anvil dropped on your head.
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Re: Copyrighted work

Postby Brydar » Sun Feb 22, 2015 1:38 am

I have a book written from late in 1989 into the early 90's, I have dusted it off and am in the midst of rewriting and cutting down from the 600+ pages. I decided to look up the title because it dawned on me that I never had. I found the exact same title for a non-fiction book written back in the 60's! Both weird and funny since my book is a fantasy adventure. Guess I need to look over the guidelines on copyrighting again... LOL
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Re: Copyrighted work

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Sun Feb 22, 2015 5:32 am

Brydar wrote:I have a book written from late in 1989 into the early 90's, I have dusted it off and am in the midst of rewriting and cutting down from the 600+ pages. I decided to look up the title because it dawned on me that I never had. I found the exact same title for a non-fiction book written back in the 60's! Both weird and funny since my book is a fantasy adventure. Guess I need to look over the guidelines on copyrighting again... LOL


Titles cannot be copyrighted. In extreme cases, they MIGHT be trademarked, but that's too rare to worry about. Legally you are free to use the exact same title, but it's not a good idea if you think there's a chance you might confuse readers.
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Re: Copyrighted work

Postby Brydar » Thu Mar 19, 2015 3:34 am

I recently read in the Smashwords style guide that authors should not worry about individuals pirating their works. These individuals who do not pay for our stories and pass them on to other readers should be viewed as providers of free marketing for our products. I also read that some authors purposely post their work on pirated sites to have them read and for exposure of books. It might be a good idea to do that especially in the case of writing trilogies or a series of books. Do you all agree with this Q&A from Smashwords?
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Re: Copyrighted work

Postby Ishmael » Thu Mar 19, 2015 8:13 am

Brydar wrote:I recently read in the Smashwords style guide that authors should not worry about individuals pirating their works. These individuals who do not pay for our stories and pass them on to other readers should be viewed as providers of free marketing for our products. I also read that some authors purposely post their work on pirated sites to have them read and for exposure of books. It might be a good idea to do that especially in the case of writing trilogies or a series of books. Do you all agree with this Q&A from Smashwords?


There is an important distinction between pirating and plagiarism.

In principle the former might produce more exposure than you could buy with the sacrificed revenue. When you have effectively no exposure at all then that is worth considering. I have no DRM on my book for this reason.

Comes the day I am so famous that I am losing oodles of money by piracy I might change my mind.
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Re: Copyrighted work

Postby Brydar » Tue Mar 24, 2015 2:28 am

I was not sure where to post this. Not long ago I read someones posting who wanted to include some lyrics from a song in their story. They obviously could not because of copyright issues. However it was suggested they could have the character say, "<Character name here> began humming the tune to a <band name here> song called <song name here>" without including the lyrics that was acceptable. Within my story I was thinking of including a ring tone in the same manner to identify characters contacting other characters. Later the ring tones would be used as issues, conflicts further on in the story. Has anyone else ever used ring tone type identifiers in their stories?
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Martin L. Shoemaker
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Re: Copyrighted work

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Tue Mar 24, 2015 4:23 am

Brydar wrote:I was not sure where to post this. Not long ago I read someones posting who wanted to include some lyrics from a song in their story. They obviously could not because of copyright issues. However it was suggested they could have the character say, "<Character name here> began humming the tune to a <band name here> song called <song name here>" without including the lyrics that was acceptable. Within my story I was thinking of including a ring tone in the same manner to identify characters contacting other characters. Later the ring tones would be used as issues, conflicts further on in the story. Has anyone else ever used ring tone type identifiers in their stories?


Lyrics are copyrighted. (For that matter, so are notes, but who wants to include those in a story?) ONE test for infringement is how much of they copyrighted material was reproduced. Since songs are relatively short, a single verse or chorus is a significant percentage of the song. Even a single line can be a lot. Since negotiating a license for the lyrics can be complicated, publishers generally avoid them.

Titles cannot be copyrighted. Use them as metaphors or cues to your heart's content. My second Analog story, "Murder on the Aldrin Express", references a number of Brazilian songs to reflect the moods of scenes. My third, "Brigas Nunca Mais", is named for another Brazilian song.

Ring tones would follow the same rules: name them, refer to them, but don't quote them.
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WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!
SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT!
REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT!
Patience. Patience. Patience. Patience. Patience.
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