1. sabrina36849
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    sabrina36849 New Member

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    Copyright and Protection

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by sabrina36849, Jun 28, 2012.

    Hello,
    I have shared my story idea with a teacher. However, he has shared it with a publisher. I have written over 56 pages of my book. Is my story protected, or can the publisher steal it? Thank you.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Story ideas are not copyrightable. They are also worthless. All that matters is the story itself, and you are still writing it. The copyright is yours from the time you complete the first draft, and carries through for all revisins from that draft.

    Keep all your drafts and notes. The are your evidence if your copyright is ever challenged. But your copyright is yours as soon as you have a complete draft. Automatically.
     
  3. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    If only the idea was shared, there's no protection. Ideas can't be copyrighted. Only those 56 pages are under copyright protection.
     
  4. sabrina36849
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    sabrina36849 New Member

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    Thank you both for replying. So let's say he told her the name of this special "world" and what it looks like. If I have written about that "world" and she decides to write something like that, would I be protected?
     
  5. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    That particular issue would most heavily depend on proof. What kind of teacher and what kind of publisher are we talking about here who would be so eager to steal these parts of your story? That strikes me as odd.
     
  6. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    The name of your world isn't protected unless and until you can prove that it's widely recognized as your world by the public and can then have the name trademarked. But just like ideas, names can't be copyrighted.

    Basically, unless and until you see a plagiarized copy of your book, there's nothing you can do about it. More than likely you have nothing to worry about. Even if they use your idea, the book written by whomever would be a different book from yours.

    The question I would have is why this teacher discussed it with a publisher. Is he actually planning on stealing the idea, or was he trying to get some professional opinion of your story (for your benefit)? Motive in this case means a lot.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I doubt the teacher or the publisher would be so stupid as to write a story based on your idea, and keep the name intact. You have your notes, you have a complete manuscript (and all the notes and drafts!), and you have the record of your attendance in the class.

    Even if you cannot collect on plagiarism, you could ruin their reputations.

    They'd be stupid to risk that. If they have enough ability to turn it into a novel, there would be nothing to gain and so much to lose.

    Don't let caution turn to paranoia.

    Nevertheless, there is some value in keeping your stories close to your chest in the future.
     
  8. Darkkin
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    Darkkin Reflection of a nobody Contributor

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    Following the footprints in the sand...
    I came across a writer, I forget who, that compared writing, the drive to complete a piece, to a tightly wound clock spring. The closer the story was kept, the tighter the spring stayed, the stronger the drive to complete the piece. The more a writer talked about their project, the more the spring unwound, the ideas no longer as fresh and driving, having been discussed time and time again.

    Just a point to ponder. I found it interesting. On a side note, I keep my proofread hard copy of all my pieces, dated and initialed, just in case.

    - Darkkin
     
  9. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Someone taking an idea isn't likely to bear them much fruit. If I started a novel and stopped in the third chapter, you picked it up and continued writing, and I decided to finish from the third chapter as well...would it come out remotely the same?

    A publisher--what would they have to do? Publishers are in the business of publishing. How likely would it be for a publisher try to convince another writer to write someone else's novel idea?

    Ideas, even good or unique ones aren't even worth a nickle each. It's the completion of that project, well-told and highly polished form that will make the difference.

    I wouldn't worry over this at all. But if such does concern you, consider it a lesson learned, about who you share with and under what conditions. I suspect the teacher believes hewas doing you a favor.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    why don't you ask the teacher what his reason was for sharing your idea with a publisher in the first place?
     
  11. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Last night I finished reading Omensetter’s Luck, by William Gass. The edition I have includes an afterword by Gass about the writing of the book. In it he says he was just putting the final touches on the last chapter in his university office (Gass was a philosophy professor at the time) and left the manuscript in a box on his desk to go teach a class. This was in the late 1950s – no electronic copies, and for sundry reasons, Gass had no carbon copy. When he returned to his office, the manuscript was gone. He had notes and earlier drafts, but his final text (and this is a novel written in a very dense, difficult style – think James Joyce and William Faulkner) was missing.

    Gass never found his manuscript, and spent the next couple of years reconstructing his final draft. He had begun to suspect a fellow professor, though, and thought he should do what he could to protect his authorship. So he had an early section of the novel published in a literary magazine under his name to establish priority.

    Sure enough, a while later this fellow professor attempted to produce a theatrical version of Gass’ story on stage, but didn’t get far because someone recognized the material from Gass’ earlier publication. After that it came out that this fellow professor was a habitual plagiarizer, publishing stories and critical essays under his name that had actually been written by other faculty members and some of his students. Ugly situation all around.

    Moral of the story: Take care of your manuscripts, including all early drafts and notes. If you suspect your work has been stolen, establish prior authorship if at all possible.
     
  12. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think this too.

    It is possible that the teacher mentioned your work to the publisher to bring you to the publisher's attention.

    I would concentrate on writing the story and take it from there.
     
  13. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Seriously, I don't think the publisher would wanna damage his own reputation by stealing your story or writing something based on your story. The truth of the matter is, your teacher probably thought your work was excellent and wanted to share, which you should take as a compliment.

    But really, now being young doesn't mean you can't write excellent, publishable work, but that is quite rare - the truth is, I wouldn't flatter yourself so much as to think your story was SO great that someone would want to steal it at all, especially when it's only at 56 pages, which is not even a third of a normal book - do you know how much work they'd have to put in to complete that story of yours? They might as well write their own, easier and with no risks that way!

    Now if it was a complete, polished manuscript I'd be more worried, but even then - to worry about someone stealing a fantasy name? Really, I'd just focus on writing new stuff. One thing I've learnt from writing too - names change all the time :rolleyes:
     
  14. amecylia
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    amecylia Member

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    Why did this teacher talk to a publisher about this? How do you know that the teacher has spoken to a publisher about this? If the teacher told you, perhaps he/she is just trying to help you out?

    If you are worried about plagiarism, you can establish some "proof" that the writing is yours. You could mail it yourself, or email it to yourself (posting it to large email provider should be "proof" enough--as long as you are not running the mail server). If you fear people stealing your ideas, don't discuss them with people! (But ideas are cheap--it's their implementation that is worth something.).

    Simply "stealing an idea and names" is not an issue. You can continue doing your own thing--and do it better. Start worrying if another writer is using direct quotes from your writing, or claiming that your writing is his/her own.
     
  15. Thom
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    Thom Member

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    So, is there any reason at all to have a Copyright done? i.e. such as spending 35 dollars at the US copyright office?
    Or is it just a layer of protection, seeing as - if I understand this correctly - my finished work is considered mine and mine alone as long as I have the initial manuscripts and notes and obvious 'history' of its creation and evolution.

    Thom
     
  16. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    You have copyright when you produce the work. You can't enforce it without the registration.
     
  17. Edward M. Grant
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    Edward M. Grant Contributing Member

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    If I remember correctly, US copyright law also provides for greater damages if you registered it before the infringement.
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Not true. Copyright infringement is a civil suit, not a criminal violation, so there are no arbitrary limits on awards.
     
  19. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't believe that's correct. You may not get the damages you would if it were registered, but it doesn't need to be registered to be protected.
     
  20. ThievingSix
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    ThievingSix Member

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    As far as i know, getting copyright registered has no legal advantages other than the fact that it adds credibility to your claims as a copy of the work can be obtained from an official, unchanged source. Copyright is implied, and therefore under law, can always be enforced to the full extent without any registration.

    Partially true, the extent of damages are not determined by the credibility of information, but rather the perceived financial loss as a result of unauthorised use of said materials. You either get the full extent of your losses(not the amount claimed by your lawyer, but that as decided by a judge), or nothing at all(because your claims are unverifiable).

    If the teacher wrote a paragraph exactly how it appears in your story, then he has copyrights on that paragraph within your story and is liable for a share of any profits you make as a result of the sale of his intellectual property. You wrote the story and handed them a copy of the story, hence by the act of producing a completed work(in the eyes of the law), you now have copyright to the entire work, but not any ideas within it(excluding anything anyone else wrote within the work).

    The publisher can take your idea and re-interpret it in their own way, however they cannot take your exact work, or simply rephrase a few sentences and claim it as their own. You still have copyrights on your original work and hence a right to any profits, or a share of profits gained from the sales of that book. You also have the right to order cease of production and sale of that book because it is in violation of your copyright.

    With books, its often difficult to prove any copyright violation as authors take ideas from others all the time, but reinterpret it themselves, hence as ideas cannot be copyrighted, anyone is free to use it as their own.
     
  21. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Read the US copyright laws (we are talking about the US, right?)

    Before you take an infringement claim to court, you MUST register your copyright. Until then, registration is unnecessary. But registration is a legal prerequisite to filing a copyright infringement complaint in the US courts.
     
  22. Bell City Fires
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    Bell City Fires Member

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    If I could hijack, or at least sidetrack this thread...

    I'm currently writing comic book scripts that I hope to be joined by an artist on. The probably is finding that artist, and I'm a little paranoid on just how to do it, since I do not know what types of rights I would have as a script writer if the artist decided to go ahead and do the project, cutting me out entirely. Any idea what sort of protection I would have in this case?
     
  23. ThievingSix
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    ThievingSix Member

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    You enter into a legally binding contract with the artist to produce images based upon your script, in your contract you outline the terms of payment, distribution conditions and anything else pertinent. You need to negotiate whether they will receive a one off payment, or a share of the total profits. By both parties signing the contract the copyright for the work stays with you(he gives you the right to re-distribute his images with your story). The key here is you never show the artist the script until the contract is signed. If he decided to breach the contract, he is liable for court action. You can also write in clauses which prevent any derivative works by him or reproduction of the comic book without your authority.

    The best thing is to talk to your lawyer or get advice from a law firm specialising in intellectual property. Local laws vary quite a bit.
     
  24. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    TS and Cogito - thanks for the correction. I was either misinformed or didn't understand the distinction when it was discussed elsewhere. :)
     
  25. Edward M. Grant
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    Edward M. Grant Contributing Member

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    This is probably what I was thinking of:

    "If registration is made within three months after publication of the work or prior to an infringement of the work, statutory damages and attorney’s fees will be available to the copyright owner in court actions. Otherwise, only an award of actual damages and profits is available to the copyright owner."

    http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf
     

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