1. platerawriter
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    platerawriter Member

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    Copyright Question

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by platerawriter, Oct 9, 2013.

    Do you need to have a work copyrighted before trying to get it published, or am I just being paranoid?
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Your work is copyrighted as soon as the words are on the page (or any medium). Check out copyright.gov for more info. That should answer all of your questions.

    Edit: I forgot that government websites are down, so you may just have to Google info about copyright and fiction for now.
     
  3. platerawriter
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    platerawriter Member

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    Oh okay! Thank you :)
     
  4. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you're going with traditional publishing, they will take care of registering the copyright for you as part of the process. There's no point in registering the copyright while you're trying to get an agent, as your m/s will change, anyway. If, however, you are self-publishing, you can go ahead and register the copyright immediately before you publish.
     
  5. StoryWeaver
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    StoryWeaver Member

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    Write an original poem on a napkin and putting it in that tangible form (your poetic work in writing) means it is automagically copyrighted. That is different than registering a copyrighted work. Put an original story in a word processor (or on a napkin) and it is copyrighted; now go register it for $35 or so with the US Copyright Office, online, and there are far more legal protections and remedies. Okay that is all unofficial babble; you should immediately go hire an expensive Pennsylvania lawyer to get legitimate legal advice.
     
  6. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Here are some relevant passages from copyright.gov regarding registering copyright:

     
  7. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    Since the only reason to register is to be able to sue, which is damn expensive, the only reason to do so would be if the one who steals the work has made a lot of money from it. That's something that's more meaningful to a publisher than you, because their losses would be far greater then yours—which is why the publisher usually does it for you.
     
  8. lex
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    lex Contributing Member

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    Respectfully, this really isn't the only reason to register: there can be other advantages, too. For example, it can greatly facilitate getting online breaches of copyright swiftly and efficiently resolved according to the terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. There are others, too. :)
     
  9. Edward M. Grant
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    Edward M. Grant Contributing Member

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    In America, I believe you can also claim statutory damages rather than actual damages, which could be beneficial.
     
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  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Registration opens the door to statutory damages, so at least in theory not only the ability to sue, but greater damages available to justify the lawsuit. And, yes, it helps with takedown requests online.

    Edit: Ninjae'd! :)
     
  11. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Millennium_Copyright_Act
    Wiki is only considered quasi-accurate, still it's a convenient cursory corollary common crockpot considered public domain... usually. In this case it clears up some questions. Thanx for bringing it to the table, Lex.
     
  12. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    Something that might add to this is that sometime ago I queried about copyrights and the results stated that a name cannot be copyrighted. The question would also involve independent invention of the same character or phrase by two people far removed.
     
  13. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    Online breeches? For fiction? No way. Your publisher handles such things. They're the one with the most to lose, so they file for the copyright. Someone self releasing their work doesn't have to worry about losing money to a copyright infringement because they're not making enough on the piece to be worth stealing.
     
  14. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's not always true. There are people out there (and their numbers are increasing) who make a decent amount of money self-publishing. They certainly would be losing money, and have produced something "worth stealing."
    In addition, it's not just about the money, but about proper attribution. You might not care about this, but others do -- the goals of copyright law and the damages provided therein recognize that there is an additional, intangible loss that goes beyond strictly monetary losses.
     
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  15. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    Forgetting that you're talking about something like .1% when it comes to fiction, getting the copyright allows you to sue for damages. And it's a civil suit so you pay to bring it where the person doing lives, and to enforce any judgment. Good luck with that,

    Stopping unlawful copying, something that isn't currently a problem, you can do under the provisions of the copyright act without having to register the work. You only have to prove that it is yours and being reproduced without permission.

    And there is no way in hell that you are going to pay a lawyer and travel to the city in question to sue someone into giving attribution.
     
  16. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know what the exact statistic is for how many people are making at least more than a negligible amount of money on their self-published works, but it is a growing number, and even if it is a small percentage, the number of people is growing and it is not an insignificant number. To sue in federal court, under the U.S. Copyright Act, you do need to register just prior to suing. Registering beforehand, though, can give you some additional benefits, such as the aforementioned statutory damages (in addition to any proven actual damages). Registering can also give you an additional persuasive tool in attempting to get the offending party to stop their improper use of the copyrighted work before a lawsuit is filed.

    The lawsuit doesn't always have to occur where the other author lives, if there are sufficient business ties or a nexus to another location. But, yes, jurisdiction is always proper in the location where the defendant lives. However, if you wouldn't necessarily be paying a lawyer near you to travel there, although you certainly could. You'd need a lawyer who is licensed in that state. You can do this by hiring a local attorney who is admitted to practice in that jurisdiction, or who will travel and be admitted pro hac vice, which would entail having a local lawyer involved, as well, or you can hire a lawyer based in the other town. (There's also, of course, the pro se option, which I don't generally recommend, especially if there is significant money at stake.)

    If you don't want to bring a lawsuit, that's fine. Just because one can file a lawsuit doesn't necessarily mean that one should. But it is better to have the maximum protection if you are actually making money from the writing endeavor, and it doesn't cost that much to register. (Also, it doesn't matter whether what you've written is fiction or non-fiction. The copyright issues are the same.)
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2013
  17. lex
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    lex Contributing Member

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    And that's one of the huge advantages of registering your copyright: that's one of the most comeplling and least arguable ways of doing exactly that.

    Am I alone it finding it both distressing and depressing, in this forum, that some people's prejudices are apparently so inflexibly and tenaciously held that they're even willing to give fellow-members inaccurate and inappropriate legal advice on the basis of them? Being able to sue is simply NOT "the only reason" to register copyrights, Jay. However uncomfortable it is for you to admit it, however entrenched you are in your position, and however alien the words "Sorry, I may have made a mistake there" are to your vocabulary, this is simply factual. There are other advantages, also. Take my tip: when you're in a hole, especially of your own making, stop digging. [​IMG]
     
  18. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    Internet date stamps and file incept dates, as well as emails, are known to hold up in court these days. It's even possible to get an injunction to have offensive, disparaging posts or threads removed. Derivative work, in such cases, may be tougher to prove.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i've heard/seen it said that all of those methods can be faked by a decent hacker... what is the source of your claim?... what court cases can you cite where such 'evidence' has been upheld?
     
  20. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You can get emails and the like into evidence in court provided you properly authenticate them. That means you have to lay a foundation in court to support the authenticity of the document. Emails have been excluded from evidence because of the lack of that foundation. I doubt they are ever self-authenticating (in other words, you can't just show up with an email as proof without something more ( @chicagoliz probably knows more about this than I do). To authenticate, you may question a witness, for example.

    Also, depending on what you're using the email for, you might run into Hearsay problems.
     
  21. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    Actually I'm referring to opinions I've seen at some lawyer sites. Most will tell you that emails hold up in court. All emails we ever make are on some server, somewhere. Many websites are archived. I've learned that one's best friend is the screen dump file. CamStudio is a good screen capture program. Gimp is a good OpenGL version of Photoshop.

    I believe if I really wanted to spend a lot of time away from writing to research something for the sake of a net discussion, I could find case studies and opinions to support the statement.
     
  22. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    Unless it's an admission or confession.
     
  23. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah there are a number of hearsay exclusions or exceptions a given email might fall into. They don't count as business records, from what I understand. It all depends on the email and what you are trying to prove with it.
     
  24. DrWhozit
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    DrWhozit Banned

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    I would think proof of alibi, proof of circumstances, proof of agreement particulars or changes. The question may be relevancy. The date/time stamp. One usually has pages upon pages in their sent email folder. Even a notepad txt has a file inception date attached.
     
  25. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Relevancy isn't too hard a bar. My guess is you could get the email into evidence if properly authenticated. As I said, others know more about this. Date stamps on computer files are easy to fake, so I'm not sure what kind of further proof you'd have to provide to show that the date is authentic. Probably bringing it into evidence based on the testimony of a witness with personal knowledge would do it.
     

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