1. Chef Dave
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    Chef Dave Member

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    Copyright?

    Discussion in 'Support & Feedback' started by Chef Dave, Aug 4, 2008.

    I have a question about copyright.

    The forum rules state: "You must own the copyright to all work claimed your own."

    Since everything I have shared at this forum is original work that is also work in progress, I don't have a copyright for my work. Does that mean that by posting these short stories and excerpts, that I have relinquished rights to my own work by making such material vulnerable to potential plagiarists? It seems to me that if this was true, the value of a site like writing forums.com would be greatly undermined.

    Secondly, I have observed one post on one of the critique boards that bore a copyright warning in boldface. I found this warning to be a bit offsetting because I would never steal somebody's work. With this being said, the post also raised a number of questions.

    Why would a copyrighted work even need a critique? To me, this is less of a chicken or egg question than a presumption that written works should be completed prior to applying for a copyright.

    Could one of the moderators clarify the question about who actually owns the excerpts that we post if these excerpts are original works posted by their authors?
     
  2. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Since the Bern convention, all original works are automatically copyrighted the moment they come into existence, and the copyright belongs to the creator by default (there are exceptions in some countries, like work-for-hire). There is no need to affix a copyright note or register the copyright with an authority (although doing so may give you additional legal protection in some countries). The Berne convention is followed by practically all countries that matter.

    You don't forfeit your copyright by distributing your own work, not even by posting it on the Internet. Nobody may print and sell copies or post it somewhere else without your consent (although keeping people from doing so in practice is another matter).

    I omit copyright notes when posting here, because:
    1) it looks bad
    2) It's clear from context who wrote it, and thus owns the copyright

    If I were to post on a public board, I would probably include a copyright notice, partly to serve as a warning to those who don't understand copyright rules, partly because I may not be around on the board forever and it may be impossible for people to determine who wrote it.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Islander is entirely correct. Copyright is attached by the act of creation, without any need to claim it. The purpose of copyright registration is to secure proof of ownership. To litigate a copyright infringement case, registration is often a prerequisite.

    There is absolutely no need to post a copyright notice on any piece of writing posted for review or any other purpose. If anything, it demonstrates that the writer is unfamiliar with the copyright laws. I saw the piece in question, and if I don't get around to pointing that out, I'm sure Maia will. :)

    Having said that, I do have a small copyright notice at the bottom of my pages on one particular site, but that is because ALL the content on the site, including all images and other visual elements, is of my own design; none of it is public domain.
     
  4. Chef Dave
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    Chef Dave Member

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    Thank you both for your responses.

    I thought this was the case but wasn't sure. I mean really ... if people could legally rip each other off, there would be no point to having a site like this. Why would anyone want to post a draft for a critique if the draft in question could be stolen, revised, and published under a different person's name?
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Unfortunately, theft does take place on occasion. However, the presence or absence of a copyright notice will not materially affect whether this occurs.

    When we discover someone has plagiarized someone else's work, they are permanently banned from the site.
     
  6. Ungood
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    Ungood Contributing Member

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    ironically having your work on a message board does "Date Stamp" it. Which can be used to validate when it was written or the latest possible time it was written.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Yes. Although we did have someone try to "prove" prior ownership once with an image of a Windows file timestamp (is there ANYONE here who couldn't figure out how to fake that? :))

    Independent archive sites are pretty decent supporting evidence, to establish that someone didn't tweak a date in the message board's database.

    What it mostly comes down to is just how determined someone is to try to prove ownership of something stolen from someone else, and how clever they are. Fortunately, most of the time they think they are more clever than they actually are. If they were really clever, they would create their own work in the first place.

    If you feel a piece of writing (or music or visual art, for that matter) has a good potential for a high value, that may be a good time to consider officially registering your copyright. The fees are higher than you'd want to pay out for casual works, but if there is a substantial investment of time, they may be worth it.

    By high, I mean typically well under $100, but enough to mount up if you were to register everything you write. Here is a schedule of US Copyright fees.
     
  8. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Copyright . . . versus the ability to enforce the copyright. These are two different matters. For that reason, I suggest (again, as Cog has stated many times, in many threads) that people only post a small piece of their work for review. Enough for constructive feedback, but not enough to put your story at risk. I also suggest you only post work that is close to its finished state so that any copyright infringement will more easily be proved. If you post a story and then make lots of changes during numerous rewrites, then it might be difficult to prove who arrived at the final product first. On the other hand, if your finished product is "published" on the internet, its date of origin is pretty well proved and a copycat would have trouble claiming otherwise.

    By the way, this exposes a serious risk for posts in the "Plot Creation" section. A lot of people post their very general plot synopsis, looking for feedback. There is nothing to prevent a reader from taking that general theme and developing it into a full blown story. "Copyright" would not protect the originator of the idea, but it would protect the idea-thief's completed novel as long as he/she didn't use specifics (like character names) from the OP.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Fortunately, the idea is worthless without a competent implementation. It's the implementation that is protected.
     
  10. Chef Dave
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    Chef Dave Member

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    Again - I appreciate all of your replies.

    I've posted two short excerpts from chapter two just to get affirmation that I was headed in the right direction. I deliberately avoided posting anything from chapter one. I might add a fight sequence at a later date ...
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    well-meant, but not quite accurate info, salty... ownership of a work and its copyright has nothing to do with it being made public... the point at which it becomes your property under the copyright laws is the moment when you complete it and it exists in reproducable form... so, even before a work is 'made public' the author's rights are protected...

    anyone needing the official skinny should go to the source:

    www.copyright.gov
     
  12. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    I stand corrected on the issue of when the copyright exists. I read all that material before but left with a misunderstanding about that issue.

    Thanks maia
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    And I knew I could count on Maia to comment appropriately on the submitted writing in question. Gracias, mammamaia!
     
  14. Ungood
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    Ungood Contributing Member

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    all I can say is - please read the facts on that site.
     

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