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Keyboard Hound
03-01-2007, 06:42 PM
I'm considering copyrighting some of my stories. Does anyone know if they have to be submitted to the copyright office as printed pages? Is a computer disc acceptable? Thanks for any input. Does anyone have any information or thoughts on this?

Keyboard Hound

scarletpeaches
03-01-2007, 06:57 PM
You don't need to copyright anything; people rarely do as theft of intellectual property is so rare; writers have enough of their own ideas to be going on with.

But if you insist on it, put your identifying details on whatever you want to copyright and seal it in an envelope and post it to yourself, snail mail, and make sure it's post-dated. And don't open it!

Marlys
03-01-2007, 07:15 PM
But if you insist on it, put your identifying details on whatever you want to copyright and seal it in an envelope and post it to yourself, snail mail, and make sure it's post-dated. And don't open it!Depends on where you live. "Poor man's copyright" might still be recognized in the U.K., but it is utterly useless in America.

Siddow
03-01-2007, 07:18 PM
http://www.copyright.gov/

Anything and everything you ever wanted to know about US copyright.

Del
03-01-2007, 10:34 PM
You don't need to copyright anything; people rarely do as theft of intellectual property is so rare; writers have enough of their own ideas to be going on with.

But if you insist on it, put your identifying details on whatever you want to copyright and seal it in an envelope and post it to yourself, snail mail, and make sure it's post-dated. And don't open it!

This is not viable in court. Ask any attorney. If not for the sake of dispute why would you do it? So it is a waste of a stamp. It doesn't hurt anything either. It is a null effort.

You can obtain copyright forms online and print them yourself. I saw many sites just by Googling copyright forms. I think I used the short form: http://www.copyright.gov/forms/formtxs.pdf Fill it out, send it in with your printed work and a check. You’ll get a receipt in about a month.

As for the ongoing argument as to whether you should or not: it cost $35 to copyright a novel. If you copyright your work and there are revisions upon publication it will cost another $35 to resubmit but there is no penalty for submitting the same material twice. At worst you have spent $35 you might not have needed to.

There is no need to tell anyone that you’ve registered your work. I will tell my publisher so he can examine my forms. If I didn’t do it the way he wants it can be done again.

It is unlikely that you will ever need to prove your copyright but the fact that a copyright exist says there is an absolute chance that someone will have to prove their copyright. Will it be you?

A copyright is automatic when you put your words to the page. This has absolutely no validity in a courtroom without evidence that those words were yours. The strongest evidence is the receipt from the copyright office.

I will not submit electronically without having first applied to the copyright office. I do not fear the recipient of my submission. I fear the fact that anything sent through the internet can be intercepted either unintentionally or deliberatively and easily reproduced, edited, or publicly displayed. I fear the opportunist that might happen upon my unprotected labors. Across the months or years you will spend submitting, how often will your work cross within reach of someone that is capable of benefiting from your effort?

If I acquire your unprotected work, I can send it to the copyright office under my name and you would have a hard and expensive battle to reacquire your rights. The odds of me getting hold of your work is so small but if I wanted to get hold of unprotected work it would be easy, and though it likely wouldn’t be yours, it would be someone’s.

I am not familiar with anyone on AW disputing a copyright but I am familiar with some that have found unauthorized sales and display of their work. The copyright office receipt is your license to kill.


I find the idea that “your work is yours” a little foolish. There is occasionally plagiarism but I don’t worry about another writer stealing my idea. Their book won’t be my book. Sure, there are lots of ideas and some are even similar. A copyright is no help in that. I worry about the non-writer that is too lazy to earn his own living, the thief, the predator, the immoral, the opportunist. These people are not in our business and they don’t care about you. If you want to go with “the chance is so slim…” than you might as well throw out the smoke detector, stop using your seatbelt and cancel your home owner’s insurance.

For the price of a daily cup of coffee for a month I have peace of mind. There is no detriment to having that receipt. Am I paranoid? Maybe, but there are writers who don’t have it and wish they did. I will not be one of them.

Del
03-01-2007, 10:36 PM
http://www.copyright.gov/

Anything and everything you ever wanted to know about US copyright.


They wouldn't display when I went to the site to link to a form. But the web is full of information here and elsewhere.

Cathy C
03-02-2007, 01:39 AM
This is a reasonable position, Delarege. If it gives you peace of mind, that's fine. But the important thing to remember in any discussion of copyright is what it WILL and WILL NOT do. Copyright registration is a snapshot. It's a moment in time that is frozen in storage. So, if someone uses phraseology in the order you wrote it, you have the right to seek damages if the taker later receives money based on the order of words. That's what it will do. If the taker hasn't benefitted financially, there's little the court can do, even if a suit is started. It's "no harm, no foul" and they'll just make the taker stop promoting the work as their own, submitting it to publishers, or the like. Whether the author is "made whole," i.e., had their costs of suit and time/effort reimbursed depends on the case and circumstances.

But . . . registration can be a detriment to an aspiring author, because it's a snapshot. One of the reasons publishers often register the copyright is that they're then submitting the FINAL PRODUCT. Edits turn the snapshot into a different image, like taking still shots of a horse race. The order of words has changed, and protection might just go away for the new order of words. Courts don't really grasp the idea of "but it's the same CONCEPT" in copyright. Ideas can't be copyrighted. In the event of minor edits, it's still a good estimator of when the book/story was originally developed, but the actual protection is limited if edits were significant.

Still, there's no harm in registering, other than the expense. If it's just a book or two here or there--no big deal. But if a writer is considering copyrighting two or three DOZEN stories, then it's wise to consider how "done" you are with the story before considering taking that snapshot. :)

Keyboard Hound
03-02-2007, 08:24 PM
I've gotten some good information here. Thanks to each and every one of you for being willing to give so much help.

I still have a few questions though. As I've been reading over some of the sites, all I can find is reference to printed pages being sent to the copyright office. Does anyone know if it would be acceptable to send a computer disc instead of printed pages?

Also, some have suggested each story has to be done individually, but I had the understanding that collections could be sent with multiple stories. Does anyone know which is right there?

Again, thanks so much for any help.

Judg
03-03-2007, 12:21 AM
Actually, there is some potential harm in copywriting. Scam publishers will often contact the holders of new copyrights and suck them into expensive vanity publishing deals. I've noted that all the experienced authors here at AW discourage the idea of copyrighting novels, with the possible exception of Delarege.

Cathy C
03-03-2007, 12:43 AM
I've gotten some good information here. Thanks to each and every one of you for being willing to give so much help.

I still have a few questions though. As I've been reading over some of the sites, all I can find is reference to printed pages being sent to the copyright office. Does anyone know if it would be acceptable to send a computer disc instead of printed pages?

Also, some have suggested each story has to be done individually, but I had the understanding that collections could be sent with multiple stories. Does anyone know which is right there?

Again, thanks so much for any help.

The answers to both of these questions is on their FAQ page, Keyboard. Here's the link (http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-register.html#disk)to the one about computer discs. Just pop back to this link (http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/) to search for information about collections. :)

Del
03-03-2007, 01:49 AM
Scam publishers will often contact the holders of new copyrights and suck them into expensive vanity publishing deals.


A real publisher wouldn't waist time perusing new copyright files. Every new writer has to get his education. He can either go find it or he can let it come to him. The latter is quite costly.


To copyright or not to copyright. I've never heard a legitimate reason not to copyright that wasn't built around cost…or faith.

I don't worry about hard copy submissions nor who they are sent to. Electronic submissions leave your control. A novel is a lot of work. Experience a problem once and then tell me what you'd do.

Ultimately it is simply a matter of money.

PeeDee
03-03-2007, 09:01 AM
Actually, there is some potential harm in copywriting. Scam publishers will often contact the holders of new copyrights and suck them into expensive vanity publishing deals. I've noted that all the experienced authors here at AW discourage the idea of copyrighting novels, with the possible exception of Delarege.

Todd McFarlane, some years ago, made clever use of copyright applications to set the timer running on how long until the copyright expired on Miracleman, which means if no one had caught it in time, he would have been able to take over and own Miracleman (the comic book, the characters, and so on).

It was part of the legal case between Todd "I'm a jerk" McFarlane and Neil "I creamed you in court" Gaiman, which I refer to a lot simply because it covered so much territory that writers ask about all the time.

Medievalist
03-03-2007, 09:37 AM
Here's Jaws, who is an attorney who knows copyright exceedingly well, on poor man's copyright:

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=118227&postcount=216

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=118405&postcount=222

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=265041&postcount=11

And on the almost non-existence of theft of unpublished work:

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=118431&postcount=223

Jamesaritchie
03-03-2007, 08:13 PM
It's impossible to copyright anything. It's already copyrighted the moment it's written. All you can do is register your already existing copyright. This really does little more than put a time stamp on it so you can prove when you wrote it, and gives a bit of extra bite to a court case.

If you're self-publishing, registration is a must. If you aren't, it's a silly, wasteful step, and is usually the mark of a rank amateur. There is no good reason to do so, and in all my years I've never once met a professional writer who registered his own work.

And the plain truth is that no one is going to steal your work. It isn't worth the paper it's written on until after someone buys it and publishes it. Then it may well be pirated, but it will also already be registered. From my experience in publishing, 99.9999999999% of all stolen work has already been registered and published.

Really, why in God's name would anyone want to steal your work? And what on earth would they do with it if they did steal it? Publish it and make millions? Yeah, right. If you believe this, I have a nice beach house in Arizona I'll sell you cheap.

There are literally tens of millions of unpublished manuscripts out there, and all they represent is more landfill. Even a Stephen King manuscript isn't worth a dime once you take his name off it. Not only will no one steal an unpublished work, just about everyone alive would be grateful never to have to look at it.

This is one of those cases where new writer just need to check and see what pro writers do, and have always done. If pros aren't worried about someone stealing a manuscript from a writer who has proven he can write well, why should a new writer worry about someone stealing their work?

Worry about writing something good enough to sell, not about someone stealing something they don't want, can't use, and are neck deep in already.

Del
03-03-2007, 11:07 PM
How can a copyright registration 'mark you' as a rank amateur when, while involved in the submission processes, it is literally impossible for anyone to discover you've registered unless you volunteer the information? After acceptance your rank is moot.

Established writers don't register their own work because the hand to hand submission process they've earned doesn't leave opportunity for violation until their work is in hard print and out.

My complete novel has been transmitted digitally several times. You tell me how many computers it is sitting on. Assure me no one can slap it up on a blogg or profit from discounted downloads. People think anything they find on the internet is free and distributable. Improbable, not impossible.

Registration won't stop anyone from doing what they are going to do. It isn't ever any protection from someone writing a story similar to yours. All it can do is show as a bigger gun if you find yourself involved in one of those unlikely but occurring issues; mostly, unauthorized internet distribution. Without registration you might have to drag all your files into court to prove your rights. With registration you'll likely only have to show you are registered. No court, no expense. If your work, published or not, showed up unauthorized on a website it is to your benefit to get it removed as quickly as possible. Courts can take a long time. When someone screams ‘you are violating my rights,’ it is easy enough for the other to say ’prove it’.

All of this is unlikely. I'm not saying it is smart. I'm only saying it is careful. I'm also saying it is not stupid. It is benign.

Medievalist
03-04-2007, 12:27 AM
You're protected without registration.

Registration only gets you more money if your copyright is violated and you got to court and you convince a jury that you are the rights holder.

But the publisher who wants your work has to fill out paperwork and pay an attorney or rights specialist and . . . it's a PITA.

A work isn't worth stealing until it's been published. I'll look for the previous threads on this topic where Jaws posted his typically cogent and on topic responses.

victoriastrauss
03-04-2007, 12:33 AM
Registration won't stop anyone from doing what they are going to do. It isn't ever any protection from someone writing a story similar to yours. All it can do is show as a bigger gun if you find yourself involved in one of those unlikely but occurring issues; mostly, unauthorized internet distribution. Without registration you might have to drag all your files into court to prove your rights. With registration you'll likely only have to show you are registered. No court, no expense. If your work, published or not, showed up unauthorized on a website it is to your benefit to get it removed as quickly as possible.You don't need to have registered your copyright in order to do that. You only need to be prepared to prove you're the copyright holder, which you can do in many ways. Remember, most countries don't even have registration procedures. (And of the ones that do, I believe the USA is the only one that makes registration a pre-requisite for bringing a court case.)

Registration won't save you a trip to court, if that's what's required to halt the infringement. Nor do you have to register before the infringement happens in order to take an infringer to court. If you register up to five years after the infringement occurs, you can still sue (though if you register more than three months after the infringement, the amount you can sue for is reduced).

Unpublished work doesn't get stolen. Really.

- Victoria

PeeDee
03-04-2007, 12:35 AM
Quite a lot of unpublished work simply isn't good enough to steal, honestly.

If you dig into any magazine's slush pile looking for something to steal, you're still going to have some hard work ahead of you to find something worth stealing. And even then, you've got to turn around and find someone to sell it to, another long process.

Stealing stories ain't like stealing Rolexes. You can't just sell them on the street ten minutes later.

Rich
03-04-2007, 01:23 AM
I've got more neg points trying to convince newbies that copyrighting stuff is not important than I've ever had when I'm just being a pain in the ass.

PeeDee
03-04-2007, 01:27 AM
That'll teach you to tell it like it is.

Cathy C
03-04-2007, 01:38 AM
To me, the issue comes down to scope. If you have ONE book, and that's the only thing you're going to write, it's the most important thing in the world to you. When you have a dozen, or a hundred manuscripts in your computer or on scribbled legal pads, there will be another one and it becomes less important.

I used to work for a company that did tax-deferred exchanges of investment property. Our company held the funds in a special account that the taxpayer had no access to. Now, we had some files with ten thousand in the account and some with ten million (not kidding!) The most DIFFICULT people to deal with were those with ten thousand. It was EVERYTHING to them. I couldn't for the life of me convince them that I wasn't out to steal their money. But really---if I wasn't interested in stealing the ten million, then the ten thousand was sort of beneath my notice.

I finally gave up and realized it was a matter of scope. That's why I don't worry much about trying to convince people not to copyright. Usually the people that are dead-fire serious about it only have a few to worry about. Once they have a dozen, it'll probably become a moot point.

However, I will mention one other detriment to the process. If the book is later accepted for publication and the publisher accepts the AUTHOR'S copyright, choosing not to RE-REGISTER, it's quite likely that the author will later be out of luck when it comes time to enter a published novel in contests. Contests are quite often very strict on using the copyright year as the year of "publication" for the purpose of entering. We had this happen with our first book--not because we copyrighted it ourselves, but because the publisher registered the copyright when the contract was SIGNED, rather than when the book was RELEASED. It was only one year, but we were eliminated from several contests and our best efforts to change that didn't fix the problem. :Shrug: That might or might not be important to some people. But it was important to me and now I'm very careful to check the copyright year when I get the galley proofs.

Del
03-04-2007, 01:40 AM
You are right. No one will ever infringe on your rights. There will never be an instance of unauthorized public display. If you register your own copyright a big letter L will form on your forehead and everyone will know that you did and you will be laughed out of the industry. It is impossible to dissuade some crook from opposing your government approved date stamped work so you might as well forget about the copyright office and be content to take all of your evidence before a judge and have him confirm your automatic right to your own words while your work sets unrestricted for months on someone's site completely destroying your chance at first publishing rights. Spend that $35 on beer and cigarettes and send your work out across the internet with a feeling of complete impunity because there are no instances of pirating electronic text and our crap isn't worth stealing in the first place which makes a copyright a complete idiocy. In fact, why write at all?

OK, I got it now.

Cathy C
03-04-2007, 01:59 AM
I understand you're trying to prove your point here, but there are a few fallacies in your post:


You are right. No one will ever infringe on your rights. There will never be an instance of unauthorized public display.

Of course it can happen. That's not what people are trying to say. What they're trying to say is that the possibility is remote enough to make it have little value. It's not like auto insurance or homeowner's insurance. It's more like liability insurance for your swimming pool if you live in a retirement community. Yeah, it can happen, but the chance someone will get hurt is remote.



If you register your own copyright a big letter L will form on your forehead and everyone will know that you did and you will be laughed out of the industry.


No, not laughed out of the industry. Editors will most likely shrug and proceed on with filling out their own copyright papers. It's moot for their purposes.



It is impossible to dissuade some crook from opposing your government approved date stamped work so you might as well forget about the copyright office and be content to take all of your evidence before a judge and have him confirm your automatic right to your own words while your work sets unrestricted for months on someone's site completely destroying your chance at first publishing rights.


Actually, even sitting on someone's site doesn't destroy your chance at first publishing rights. First rights don't simply "go away" because it appears on the web. It completely depends on the BUYER'S willingness to pay for the story or book. Since buyers are becoming willing to pay for book that have actively been offered for SALE through self-publishing and subsidy publishing, then appearing on a site really won't much matter to them either. :Shrug:


Spend that $35 on beer and cigarettes and send your work out across the internet with a feeling of complete impunity because there are no instances of pirating electronic text and our crap isn't worth stealing in the first place which makes a copyright a complete idiocy.

Keep in mind that the United States is the ONLY country that even registers. Most other countries simply accept copyright as happening when it appears in the computer or in writing. More and more, I wonder if registration, with the way the Copyright laws have been changed, really have much value anyway.



In fact, why write at all?



Because we want to. It's not a matter of whether to publish. It's a matter of wanting to write. :) Sorry this conversation makes you angry. If you're happy with copyrighting, that's cool. But there are others who don't feel that way. That's cool, too.

PeeDee
03-04-2007, 02:07 AM
For what it's worth, copyrighting your work isn't completely baseless or laughed at.

Harlan Ellison copyrights every single one of his stories and works individually. I don't think I'd even try slapping an "L" on his forehead, for fear of a sucker-punch.

Del
03-04-2007, 02:13 AM
Sorry this conversation makes you angry. If you're happy with copyrighting, that's cool. But there are others who don't feel that way. That's cool, too.


I'm not at all angry. It matters little to me if you don't as I'm sure it matters little to anyone if I do. I just don't understand all the opposition, or the attempts to make others feel foolish about their concerns over their work. I imagine if the registration were free there would be no opposition so it must be about the money. Everyone can make up their own minds. It is all opinion anyway. As I said, it is benign.

Medievalist
03-04-2007, 03:55 AM
Spend that $35 on beer and cigarettes and send your work out across the internet with a feeling of complete impunity because there are no instances of pirating electronic text and our crap isn't worth stealing in the first place which makes a copyright a complete idiocy. In fact, why write at all?

There's no need for a temper tantrum.

First of all, there are people here, Jaws, Cathy Clamp, and even me, who know a little bit about copyright. OK, Jaws knows a lot, and Cathy has professional expertise as well, and I've done a lot of licensing.

Secondly, you don't need to register copyright to enforce your rights on the Internet. It's covered by the DMCA; and there are specific steps you engage in, and it's pretty easy to do. The onus is on the ISP to comply. If you have a legitimate complaint, it's pretty easy to get your work removed.

PeeDee
03-04-2007, 03:59 AM
In fact, ISPs are really quick to pull things if they think there's going to be a problem. They're jumpy. Witness when AW got pulled for no decent reason.