Saturday, May 11, 2013

About Copyrights

I'm sure this must have happened to you at least once: You were scared that someone might take your work and sell it for profit.

First of all, regarding copyright laws in the United States, everything that you create is considered your intellectual property. The current law says that it is yours for your whole lifetime and seventy years after. You don't need to do anything except be the original owner, and you don't even need to include a copyright symbol anywhere in your manuscript. (Don't do it by the way, it looks amateurish.)

Also, your publishing company will apply for a formal copyright later on. There's no need for you to bother. Now, some of you may still be sceptical about this, so let's consider two scenarios.

The first is that you think that you sold your work to a con artist and then you think the guy's going to sell it somewhere as original work. Not going to happen. I mean, for the con to be successful, the person would have to invite a large number of writers for one to be good. (By the way, most con agents/publishers don't read your work anyway.) How is that person supposed to realize that your book is good among a thousand submissions, when not even real publishers get it right sometimes? That's right, he or she won't. A con artist makes a living off of scamming writers, not actually publishing something.

Furthermore, remember, if your work was so good that someone wanted to steal it, then it'll probably become super famous. And you'd find out eventually.

Now, suppose the other thing you're worried about is a real publisher taking off with your work. Also the craziest thing in the world.

For one, there's no way that anyone can guarantee that your work will sell enough to bother stealing it. Two, if they steal your work, they would be alienating you and any other future books that you might right, and so they would lose a lot of money. Three, the moment they'd be caught doing this, no one would ever submit to them again.

And also, do remember that there's no reason at all for someone to take your work. After all, they do have to include an author's name, and if they have a group of pet authors who they keep attributing stolen work to, then they'd be caught. If a publisher out there was infringing on countless copyrights, they would do it again and again, and they would be caught.

But I suppose that won't convince the more paranoid of you people. I can understand that because the above argument didn't totally convince me, as I kept thinking, "But what if it does happen, even if the odds are less than 0.001%?"

Well, don't bother applying for a formal copyright. (I have to note here that if you want to sue someone for copyright infringement, you'll need to formally register.) It will cost a small fee, but writers don't make much anyway, and it will also come out as amateurish if a publisher finds out. And they will find out eventually, since they will know when they try to apply for a copyright themselves.

What I would suggest would be keeping enough evidence so that, if need be, you can prove that your book is yours. Some examples are:

1. Get someone you trust to read it, and they can testify if need be that they saw your work before it hit shelves. You'll do this because you want someone to critique your work anyway.

2. Keep a sort of development diary on your manuscript. This is great for editing and ideas anyway, but as it shows the process of how the book was developed, no one can say that it wasn't yours.

3. Keep the e-mails and other devices in which you save some earlier copies of your work. You can send e-mails to yourself, and the dates on them are more than enough. You'll do this because you want backup copies of your manuscript.

Most of this is stuff you probably do anyway for various reasons. But, I'd just say to forget about the idea of someone stealing your work and get writing.

On a final note, some may point out that there have been lawsuits filed against some major publishing houses. Well, the thing is, once your book gets famous, there are going to be a lot of people who are going to have eyes on all the money and fame that you've earned. I haven't seen all the cases, but I'd say that most of them are just from jealous writers who see a few points of similarities in their work and the stuff that gets published. Go figure.

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