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Epiphany
05-29-2009, 07:40 AM
Okay, so I look for a thread similar to this to answer my question but didn't find one due to my inadequate searching skills or the simply fact that this thread hasn't been made yet. My question is this.

I've read on several sites that copyrighting your own work before publishing is like stamping your forehead with the word AMATEUR. Publishers and agents alike do not like when writers do this for multiple reasons, one being that agents then have to hassle with two copyright dates instead of just theirs. How do you authors who have finished, unpublished works protect your stuff from being stolen? (Mail interception, a bad agent intern, etc.) I seriously didn't think it was a big deal to protect my work. I mean, I'm an unpublished author, who is going to want to steal my stuff? However, my entire family is freaking out, saying that I would be stupid to not somehow verify that my novel is, in fact, mine.

What I am doing is sending the manuscript to myself to get a time stamp and proof that it was mine as of tomorrow, but I think that's as far as I'll go.

(If there is a thread already like this, please post a link! Thanks!)

Cyia
05-29-2009, 07:47 AM
Okay, so I look for a thread similar to this to answer my question but didn't find one due to my inadequate searching skills or the simply fact that this thread hasn't been made yet. My question is this.

I've read on several sites that copyrighting your own work before publishing is like stamping your forehead with the word AMATEUR. Publishers and agents alike do not like when writers do this for multiple reasons, one being that agents then have to hassle with two copyright dates instead of just theirs. How do you authors who have finished, unpublished works protect your stuff from being stolen? (Mail interception, a bad agent intern, etc.) I seriously didn't think it was a big deal to protect my work. I mean, I'm an unpublished author, who is going to want to steal my stuff? However, my entire family is freaking out, saying that I would be stupid to not somehow verify that my novel is, in fact, mine.

What I am doing is sending the manuscript to myself to get a time stamp and proof that it was mine as of tomorrow, but I think that's as far as I'll go.

(If there is a thread already like this, please post a link! Thanks!)


What you're doing is called the Poor Man's Copyright, and it's worthless. The fact is you don't have to do anything other than write your work for the copyright to belong to you. As soon as it's in a fixed medium (as in on a page or in a file) it's yours. (not registered, but yours)

Most people seem to think they have to "protect" their stuff when they send it out, but they don't. The best protection you can give yourself is the research you do to find reputable agents to send to.

Legit agents won't "steal" your work because it's not worth their reputation if they get caught. And there's no guarantee it would be worth the effort. The book still has to be shopped, picked-up and published -- which means they'd be stealing an unknown's words for the possibility of publication 2 years down the road.

Phony agents won't "steal" your work, because selling to publishers isn't how they make their money (nor do they have the contacts to do so if they wanted to).

You're good as is. Once it's polished, send it out. There's nothing a "poor man" time stamp will give you that an email record won't.

icerose
05-29-2009, 07:50 AM
Okay, so I look for a thread similar to this to answer my question but didn't find one due to my inadequate searching skills or the simply fact that this thread hasn't been made yet. My question is this.

I've read on several sites that copyrighting your own work before publishing is like stamping your forehead with the word AMATEUR. Publishers and agents alike do not like when writers do this for multiple reasons, one being that agents then have to hassle with two copyright dates instead of just theirs. How do you authors who have finished, unpublished works protect your stuff from being stolen? (Mail interception, a bad agent intern, etc.) I seriously didn't think it was a big deal to protect my work. I mean, I'm an unpublished author, who is going to want to steal my stuff? However, my entire family is freaking out, saying that I would be stupid to not somehow verify that my novel is, in fact, mine.

What I am doing is sending the manuscript to myself to get a time stamp and proof that it was mine as of tomorrow, but I think that's as far as I'll go.

(If there is a thread already like this, please post a link! Thanks!)

This is a common myth called the Poor Man's Copyright and it'll do you jack in court.

Honestly outside of my scripts I don't do anything. I'm not really worried about anyone stealing my novels or my scripts for that matter, but it's required for most script submissions. If you're that worried you can register it with the WGA it's like 20 bucks and can be done online. Or if you're super worried copyright it, just don't send the number with the manuscript, it's not like anyone will know you copyrighted it until you actually say "Oh, I copyrighted it."

ETA: The reason why poor man's copyright doesn't work is you could easily send yourself an unsealed envelope and simply put whatever you wanted into it and then seal it and say "See, here's the postmark, it's sealed, I'm right, they're wrong."

Cyia
05-29-2009, 07:53 AM
ETA: The reason why poor man's copyright doesn't work is you could easily send yourself an unsealed envelope and simply put whatever you wanted into it and then seal it and say "See, here's the postmark, it's sealed, I'm right, they're wrong."


I'm sure that's not the only reason, as the people who tried to explain this method to me way back when included the advice that you have the PO seal it with postal tape and put the stamp over the tape.

Epiphany
05-29-2009, 07:57 AM
Yeah, I'm not really worried, it's simply my entire family was freaking out that I wasn't worried... and that's when I started questioning myself. I thought the poor man's patent was a dumb idea too but my dad convinced me to do something, and that was the one thing I thought of that wasn't time and money consuming that would shut him up.

Well, it's good to know that I don't have to bother with anything. I just love living in a house with a bunch of paranoid freaks. :rolleyes:

C.bronco
05-29-2009, 07:58 AM
I copyrighted because it made my Dad feel better, and it didn't cost much.

suki
05-29-2009, 08:01 AM
I'll second that in my understanding there is no need to copyright your work. Keep your electronic files, and the metadata will show date of creation, etc. Or email yourself a copy, if you feel the need to have some proof of date (though I would assume you may do this anyway to backup).

But I will add that in my understanding, you don't want to copyright your manuscript for several reasons, including that for some awards and grants, the eligibility is tied to copyright year. So, while that may seem far off your radar right now, if copyrighting could effect award eligibility, I'd wonder what other unforeseen negative consequences it could have.

~suki

Cyia
05-29-2009, 08:02 AM
Yeah, I'm not really worried, it's simply my entire family was freaking out that I wasn't worried... and that's when I started questioning myself. I thought the poor man's patent was a dumb idea too but my dad convinced me to do something, and that was the one thing I thought of that wasn't time and money consuming that would shut him up.

Well, it's good to know that I don't have to bother with anything. I just love living in a house with a bunch of paranoid freaks. :rolleyes:


Don't feel bad, I think they'd be more qualified as freaks if they DIDN'T worry about things like that. :D They believe you have something worth stealing, hopefully that's an indication that you have something worth publishing. :)

ETA: what suki said -- EMAIL YOURSELF A BACKUP. When the computer decides to eat all 115,000 words of your novel, e-mail will save you from pulling your hair out to braid a noose. ;)

Epiphany
05-29-2009, 08:17 AM
Already done! :)

mario_c
05-29-2009, 08:25 AM
Your WIP, your dream is worth the $40, isn't it? ;)
Is there a Novelist's Guild kind of organization that you have to register with as well? Like the Writers Guild which is more for script writers - they are supposed to assist with legal representation and provide resources such as agency listings and whatnot.

Epiphany
05-29-2009, 08:27 AM
I'm just worried about actually copyrighting it cause I heard publishers get super annoyed with you when you do it before publication.

icerose
05-29-2009, 08:39 AM
Your WIP, your dream is worth the $40, isn't it? ;)
Is there a Novelist's Guild kind of organization that you have to register with as well? Like the Writers Guild which is more for script writers - they are supposed to assist with legal representation and provide resources such as agency listings and whatnot.

You can do books through the WGA. Here's the linky https://www.wgawregistry.org/webrss/dataentry.asp
You just pick book or manuscript instead of screenplay and literary instead of film or tv.


I'm just worried about actually copyrighting it cause I heard publishers get super annoyed with you when you do it before publication.

WGA isn't an actual copyright, it's just registered proof that it's yours and if you are sucked into court they send a certified copy of the manuscript along with the date and everything else to court so you have that outside verification, it lasts for like 6 years.

Epiphany
05-29-2009, 08:54 AM
WGA isn't an actual copyright, it's just registered proof that it's yours and if you are sucked into court they send a certified copy of the manuscript along with the date and everything else to court so you have that outside verification, it lasts for like 6 years.

Okay. Thank you :)

mario_c
05-29-2009, 09:25 AM
Essential link, Icerose! Of course I already have it ;) Anyway, the WGA registration is controversial - I've heard one major copyright lawyer (Larry Zerner) decry it as a scam. But most studios and agencies insist it be registered before you submit. So do it.
I am befuddled as to who would tell you not to copyright and register your finished work. Just to be clear: an agent / publisher / studio / whatever knows it's more cost effective to buy your work for peanuts, even if it's going on a shelf, than to face a infringement lawsuit and the higher costs and reputation damage that comes with it. But there are frivolous lawsuits out there and hordes of idiots ready to steal what little glory you claim for yourself. So CYA like a beast!

benbradley
05-29-2009, 11:38 AM
What do you guys do to protect your finished unpublished work? Burn a copy to CD, make a copy on SD cards (I added a "backup" directory to the SC cards I use to move pics and videos between my camera and computer), copy it to a flash/"thumb" USB drive, print out a copy, take some of these to an alternate location (so if I die in a house fire my manuscript will still live on, if anyone finds it and cares). But I hope to do that anyway WHILE writing The Next Great Worldwide Bestseller. The things I've written so far are in the FF archives as well as my own hard disks.

Okay, so I look for a thread similar to this to answer my question but didn't find one due to my inadequate searching skills or the simply fact that this thread hasn't been made yet. My question is this.

I've read on several sites that copyrighting your own work before publishing is like stamping your forehead with the word AMATEUR. Publishers and agents alike do not like when writers do this for multiple reasons, one being that agents then have to hassle with two copyright dates instead of just theirs. How do you authors who have finished, unpublished works protect your stuff from being stolen? (Mail interception, a bad agent intern, etc.) I seriously didn't think it was a big deal to protect my work. I mean, I'm an unpublished author, who is going to want to steal my stuff? However, my entire family is freaking out, saying that I would be stupid to not somehow verify that my novel is, in fact, mine.

What I am doing is sending the manuscript to myself to get a time stamp and proof that it was mine as of tomorrow, but I think that's as far as I'll go.

(If there is a thread already like this, please post a link! Thanks!)
Oh, you mean protecting as in Intellectual Property protection...

Here's one thread - post 24 appears especially informative:
http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=21309

Here's another:
http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=28303


I copyrighted because it made my Dad feel better, and it didn't cost much.


I'll second that in my understanding there is no need to copyright your work. Keep your electronic files, and the metadata will show date of creation, etc. Or email yourself a copy, if you feel the need to have some proof of date (though I would assume you may do this anyway to backup).

But I will add that in my understanding, you don't want to copyright your manuscript for several reasons, including that for some awards and grants, the eligibility is tied to copyright year. So, while that may seem far off your radar right now, if copyrighting could effect award eligibility, I'd wonder what other unforeseen negative consequences it could have.

~suki
But the copyright on a book is the year it's PUBLISHED (or even the year it's PLANNED to be published. I think it was Scully's then-brand-new "Pepsi to Apple" that I saw in a bookstore late in December, and I was surprised to see the year on the copyright page was the next year).

Maestrowork discussed this in post 14 of the first thread I linked to above, but I'm not convinced it's a problem. Even if the publisher finds out the manuscript was already registered years before, the publisher will put the year on it they want to, and let their lawyers sort it out.

If you've registered your copyright with the US Copyright Office (or "registered" it with any other entity), I can't think of a reason to ever tell an agent or publisher that you've done so. I suspect the copyright date is the publication date, regardless of when it was written. That detail may well be buried somewhere it http:/copyright.gov (the whole website makes excellent reading if you're have any interest whatsoever in copyright, and hope oneday to sell your work in the USA).


Don't feel bad, I think they'd be more qualified as freaks if they DIDN'T worry about things like that. :D They believe you have something worth stealing, hopefully that's an indication that you have something worth publishing. :)

ETA: what suki said -- EMAIL YOURSELF A BACKUP. When the computer decides to eat all 115,000 words of your novel, e-mail will save you from pulling your hair out to braid a noose. ;)
So will CD-R's DVD's and various flash memory devices. Use 'em all, as it greatly enhances the chance that you'll find a backup medium that still works when you need it.

You can do books through the WGA. Here's the linky https://www.wgawregistry.org/webrss/dataentry.asp
You just pick book or manuscript instead of screenplay and literary instead of film or tv.



WGA isn't an actual copyright, it's just registered proof that it's yours and if you are sucked into court they send a certified copy of the manuscript along with the date and everything else to court so you have that outside verification, it lasts for like 6 years.
I understand that's one of the reasons the main US Copyright Office, http://copyright.gov, has registration available. And I think they keep stuff for longer than six years...


Essential link, Icerose! Of course I already have it ;) Anyway, the WGA registration is controversial - I've heard one major copyright lawyer (Larry Zerner) decry it as a scam. But most studios and agencies insist it be registered before you submit.
So that's the motion picture industry? That may well be different from novels and the publishing industry.

And do they insist on using WGA, or is registering with the Official United States Copyright Office good enough??? It wouldn't surprise me if money travels in weird directions in Hollywood.

NeuroFizz
05-29-2009, 04:16 PM
I have a special manuscript chastity belt that keeps other authors from diddling with it. Unfortunately, I have to give the key to beta readers, but I make sure they tell me how it was for them. And I make them wash the sheets...

icerose
05-29-2009, 04:52 PM
So that's the motion picture industry? That may well be different from novels and the publishing industry.

And do they insist on using WGA, or is registering with the Official United States Copyright Office good enough??? It wouldn't surprise me if money travels in weird directions in Hollywood.

It can be either or with the industry. But many places will not look at your piece without the minimum WGA registration.

And yes, once you've registered it with the copyright office, it's registered for life.

Phaeal
05-29-2009, 06:30 PM
Keep all the documents that will help prove YOU are the one who sweated blood over this finished manuscript. That includes all your notes, digital and handwritten, all your earlier drafts, the more scribbled over the better, any correspondence about the work.

Not that I think you'll need them because your work was stolen. However, all this stuff is also manna for the literary scholars of the next century, who will be writing critical treatises on your oeuvre.

MacAllister
05-29-2009, 08:07 PM
The AW FAQ on copyright (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=58845)

ideagirl
05-30-2009, 10:12 PM
Legit agents won't "steal" your work because it's not worth their reputation if they get caught.

Not to mention, what the heck is an agent going to do with a manuscript and no author? Agents represent authors, they get authors signed to publishing deals--that's how they make their money. What use to them is a manuscript by itself? The agent makes no money unless THE AUTHOR is signed to a deal. An agent can't do anything with an authorless manuscript.

And it's just crazy-talk to think that an agent is going to get a great manuscript in the mail, find some other writer to pretend they wrote that manuscript, and get the manuscript published that way. Quite aside from the total destruction of their reputation and their finances if they're caught, what's the point? Why would they do that? The agent makes no more money doing that than they would by just representing the writer who sent them the great manuscript in the first place.

ideagirl
05-30-2009, 10:18 PM
I'll second that in my understanding there is no need to copyright your work. Keep your electronic files, and the metadata will show date of creation, etc. Or email yourself a copy, if you feel the need to have some proof of date (though I would assume you may do this anyway to backup).

I agree about keeping the backups/notes/drafts etc. as evidence. But just to be clear, there is no longer any such thing as "copyrighting your work." What you're talking about is "REGISTERING the copyright on your work." Since we signed onto the Berne Convention, back in 1989, you copyright your work merely by writing it. As soon as it's fixed in tangible form, it is copyrighted. You can use the (C) symbol if you want to (though you shouldn't use it on copies that you submit to magazines/agents/publishers/etc., because that's the sign of an amateur). All the copyright office does is REGISTER your copyright, which gives you (1) proof that it's yours and (2) the right to sue for damages, as opposed to just suing for injunctive relief (e.g. suing to make someone stop printing unauthorized copies of your book).



But I will add that in my understanding, you don't want to copyright your manuscript for several reasons, including that for some awards and grants, the eligibility is tied to copyright year.

I've certainly seen contests based on year where the work in question was published (e.g. contests for the best poetry chapbook published this year, etc.), but I've never seen one based on copyright year for unpublished works, and that wouldn't make sense for the reason mentioned above: legally, a work is copyrighted as soon as it's written down. What year you put on it is up to you. If you register it yourself this year and then sell it to a publisher, when the book comes out two years from now it'll say (C) 2011.

aadams73
05-30-2009, 11:21 PM
I back it up then start submitting. Chances are slim to none that anyone would steal it. Chances are slim enough that someone would want to publish it(in regards to my own work).