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  1. Merlin273
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    Merlin273 New Member

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    A question of ownership of a story idea

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Merlin273, Aug 4, 2011.

    I am hesitant to post any of my work because my wife told me that anything I put on these forums can be stolen by someone else because there's no copyright.

    I really would like to develop my stories with fellow writers, but I'm afraid of getting my ideas stolen.

    How do I fix this? What can I do to protect my intellectual properties? I will say that my story ideas allow for other authors to "run with it" in my 'verse, but certain laws and concepts MUST remain intact.

    Help?
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You can't really protect ideas. I wouldn't post them in detail, though the likelihood of them being stolen is probably slim.

    Any actual writing that you post here is already protected by copyright, assuming it is more than just a short snippet.
     
  3. AJSmith
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    AJSmith Senior Member

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    Others will have much better responses for this question, but from what I've seen on here I can say the following.

    Don't post an entire story unless you want to lose the ability to have it published for any sort of profit.

    You can post an excerpt in the writer's workshop threads to collaborate with others on here/get constructive critiques, but you must first read through all the guidelines for submitting there and critique two other people's work first. You should browse the threads in the section I linked below.
    http://www.writingforums.org/forumdisplay.php?f=71

    Also, if you are talking about just posting ideas here, there isn't really anything to protect an idea. If someone were to steal elements of your idea, what they did with it, would be their own in the end. Until you turn your idea into a completed story, I don't believe there is anything protecting it.

    That said, the people on here are rich with their own ideas, and generally come on here to help and collaborate rather than steal from each other. I wouldn't worry about it.
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    As Cogito is fond of saying, there are no completely original ideas - it's all been done before. What is important is how well you develop your idea into a story that's worth reading. That said, I'm not a big fan of developing story ideas with other writers. When I start on an idea, I usually know where I want to go with it and what I want to accomplish, and I tend to treat each one as intensely personal. If I share anything with other writers - and I do, sometimes - it's to get an objective opinion on how a passage works or how an idea is developing; the tactical side of writing rather than the strategic side. But that's just me.
     
  5. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Like the others I wouldn't worry too much about your story idea being stolen. Even if someone was that way inclined, it would take surely at least six months to turn it into a novel so if nothing else you've got time. But equally, there are very few truly original story ideas, and the chances are that your story borrows from other writers, as in the future others will borrow from you if your story becomes successful.

    Cheers.
     
  6. Mikeyface
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    Mikeyface Member

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    There's a few options if you're truly worried. But I would only suggest these if you've actually written something significant (like, the whole novel.)

    Option 1)

    Register it with the WGA West registry, located here: https://www.wgawregistry.org/webrss/dataentry.asp -- it's not too expensive and it's on file and dated so if somewhere were to steal your stuff, you have proof it's yours (I would only suggest this if you have a completed manuscript.

    Option 2)

    Print it out and mail it yourself. It's the old school way of copyrighting. The date stamped on the unopened package is proof of ownership should the need arise.

    Final thought: ideas are meant to be shared and debated. Stories are worth protecting.
     
  7. Dresden
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    Dresden New Member

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    I won't trust an idea not to be stolen. It's just the world we live in, sad to say. If I have to, I would find a coupla people I want to take a risk on and run the idea past them individually then make my own conclusions.
     
  8. Shifty
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    Shifty Member

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    I live in my head with my characters most of the
    so whats your idea? :)
     
  9. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd just post short excerpts of any writing, especially something you have ambitions to publish.

    If it's part of a first draft, by the time it's been polished, it should read much differently anyway.

    As for ideas, again you can just post anything you want feedback on, and not an outline of the whole story.

    I would hope no one would nick an idea, but I guess you never know. Even if they did, their version would be entirely different than yours. I wouldn't worry too much.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    mikey...
    option 2 is useless in the us, having no legal standing in courts here, though it may have some in the uk... look up 'poor man's copyright' at the source [ www.copyright.gov ] and you'll see...

    and in any case, ideas can't be 'owned' or copyrighted... plus, there are countless cases where more than one writer had the same idea at nearly the same time and turned out books or movies that were practically clones of each other...

    merlin...
    no two writers will turn out the same story/book/movie from the same 'idea'... so even if someone should use yours, the final product won't be anything like yours...
     
  11. James Scarborough
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    James Scarborough Member

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    It's a good idea for any writer to have a basic understanding of copyright law. In the US, copyright is protected by federal statute (Title 17, U.S. Code). Federal copyright law was completely re-written in 1976, and subsequently modified in by an international treaty, called the Berne Convention, in 1989. The reason this is important is that these two laws preempted and replaced all other laws and forms of copyright protection in the US. There is a great deal of incorrect information on the internet based on prior law.

    The US Copyright Office has a series of circulars in PDF format which explain all of the basics in layman's terms. Circular 1, Copyright Basics, will tell you most of what you need to know. It can be found here: http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.pdf. Additional information is available in other circulars on their website. Under current US law, copyright protection extends automatically to all "original works of authorship". You are not required to register with the Copyright Office or include any form of copyright notice in the work itself, although it's a good idea to do so when the work is published in final form.
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I don't know what you gain from option 1. Ideas can't be protected legally, so even if you can show you had a story idea first and someone else used it (either saw your idea and ran with it or came up with it independently), what are you going to do about it? I think you're right that it only makes sense if you have some form of a complete work, whether a draft or what have you. For the OP's question about protecting an idea, I'm not sure what you gain even though "concept" is listed in their dropdown menu.

    Option 2 isn't proof of anything and is pretty much worthless. You're better off having witnesses sign and date a written copy of your idea. But again, if it is just an idea I don't know what good it will do you in the long run since you don't have any legal protection.
     

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