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  1. ShortBus
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    ShortBus Member

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    best way to protect myself?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ShortBus, Sep 23, 2011.

    in this day and age there a lot of thieves, especially in the digital world. the only way i know to protect myself from getting something ive written and posted on something is to time stamp it. a good way to time stamp your work is to email it to yourself before you release it to the public. im wondering if it comes to a court appearance, will it be a race to whom ever had the earliest time stamp on record?

    i know you can register for a fee to copyright your work but im poor.

    does anyone have any suggestions?

    BTW. I plan to basically spam my work all over the internet and all for free. im just worried about someone blatantly stealing my story. the whole point of me doing this is to get my name out there. that doesnt bide well when someone put their name on my work.
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Seems to me that is easy enough to fake that it would be of little or no value in court.

    Better off to have the work witnessed and signed by people who would be willing to testify to the fact of your possession of the work as of a given date.
     
  3. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    In terms of timestamping alone: I'd figure spamming it all over the Internet would protect you even in the case of something as simple as a timestamp.

    On your computer, a timestamp means nothing. Even e-mailing it from your computer might not work that way. However, posting it on something such as Fanfiction.net (if it's fanfiction) or some other literary site would work. They have their own timestamp independent of anything you can fudge. It's not as if you can bribe the people at Upstandingwritingsite.net to back-date your stuff a few years. Same with Yahoo. I would figure e-mailing it to yourself from Yahoo to Yahoo (not from your own computer to Yahoo) would be proof enough since Yahoo has no interest in helping you back-date your work; they'll have a reliable timestamp. You could even keep a copy online somewhere in Google Docs or some similar service. They'll have a file timestamp just like your computer does, but you can't mess with theirs.

    The idea behind this is that, if someone were to steal your work and post it somewhere with a later timestamp, you could show that you have an earlier timestamp. How can you steal work from someone whose timestamp is later than yours? You can't see the future.

    But that's only timestamping. It can only get you so far. There are other--probably better--ways to prove something is yours.

    Keep all your drafts. Showing the progression of your work (and keeping notes on what changed in the draft: changed subplots, changed characters' names, elimination of "to be" verbs, incorporation of feedback, tightening of terminology, etc.) is a great way to prove it's yours. Anyone stealing it will only have the final draft, but you'll have the entire evolution from conception to publication. Your word against someone else's, and you have notes and drafts to back you up. Even notes on the unused stuff (deleted scenes, tossed characters, subplots that didn't make it in) is helpful.

    Also, as Steerpike said, readers. Friends, family, online acquaintances. People who can testify they were reading your work and when are a great help. Send it to them by e-mail for the reasons above, and have them send you feedback by e-mail. Paper is a better way to get feedback since, for some reason, reading it on a page is different from on a screen, but get at least *some* feedback through e-mail. But the discussion here is about proof of work, not feedback. Give your story to one or two people you know online, people you don't "know." Family and friends can be coerced to lie, but acquaintances don't necessarily have a personal interest in this. Any court would think an online acquaintance doesn't know you from a hole in the ground, so why would he or she help you cheat someone... unless he or she isn't?

    Mailing a CD of your work to yourself through registered mail. I don't really trust this method, but I've heard about it. It's up to you whether or not you think it'll hold up if it comes to that.

    And then there's registering your work. This is seen as amateurish, though.
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Registering the work is generally seen as amateurish by publishers, because publishers usually handle that aspect of things.

    If you're going to "publish" yourself, whether online or elsewhere, then the only way the work will be registered is if you do it yourself. That's not amateurish. If someone steals your work and you don't have it registered, you won't generally be able to sue for infringement, no matter how much proof you have from timestamps, or mail, or witnesses. The law, as a rule, requires registration of the copyright to bring suit. Also, if you publish yourself and don't register within a certain amount of time after publication, you give up a lot of potential damages in the even someone infringes.

    So if you're self-publishing and the work is at all important to you, I recommend registering the copyright. It costs you $35.00.

    If you're submitting to a publisher, you don't need to register the copyright yourself and if you do so it will appear that you are unaware of how the industry generally functions (i.e. that the publisher handles this).
     
  5. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Keep copies of your work at all stages during the writing process. I do a monthly CD back up of all my files, so if it ever came to a head, I could simply show anyone of my novels through every stage of the writing process.

    As for spamming it all over the net - that doesn't sound so good to me. If you just want to get it out there and looked at, publish it on one of the ebook sites for free. Also create a blog and have your own web page.

    Cheers.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes, the best proof is to keep all your handwritten first notes [on paper!... computer files can be faked] as well as your first edit-marked-up draft [printed out with pen/pencil edits is best], and a couple of 'middle' ones... this shows the progression from idea to completed work that no thief will have...

    and, yes, only amateurs would register their existing prose copyrights, though lyricists and screenwriters often do so...

    mailing to yourself [called 'the poor man's copyright'] has no legal standing in the us, but does have some in the uk, i believe...

    all who want to be writers should familiarize themselves with the actual rules 'n regs, instead of guessing:
    www.copyright.gov
    www.uspto.gov
     
  7. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wouldn't spam work all over the internet, as you suggest. Be selective where you share.

    I've posted a couple of pieces on forums, and shared privately only ever with very selective folk (2-3) who I feel are trustworthy.

    Personally don't bother with timestamps or any of that malarkey.
     
  8. ShortBus
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    ShortBus Member

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    thanks for the help guys. it seems to me that there is no way around getting everything legal without actually going through some sort of predisposed avenue for publishing. the only reason there woujld be such a thing is because they want some money. money is something i dont have much of and im not expecting any sort of compensation from my work. its actually more of an advertising tool.

    VM80, i just wasnt clear in my original post. im going to spam in the right places. it wont just be text either so i have a possibility for a much broader audience. personally, i dont read books, i listen to them. i work all day and when i come home i would rather do other things than sit down and read a book. i think im not the only one in the same position so making an audiobook is a good move i would think. the only bad part about that is that you need a whole other set of talent for it. i guess we will have to find out later if i have such a talent.

    thanks for clearing that stuff up for me.
     

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