Tags:
  1. Thom
    Offline

    Thom Member

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2009
    Messages:
    65
    Likes Received:
    8

    Copyright

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Thom, May 4, 2011.

    So I just finished a story and I want to copyright it, as in protect the title and content as an original work.

    How easy is it?
     
  2. popsicledeath
    Offline

    popsicledeath Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    71
    As easy as a google search.... hah, jk, but it's a good place to start!

    A few things, though. You can't copyright a title (though you can trademark one, depending).

    Why do you want to get a copyright? I'm guessing, most likely, after answering this question my response will be 'don't worry about it.'
     
  3. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,059
    Likes Received:
    5,264
    Location:
    California, US
    Copyright won't protect the title.

    The work itself it protected by copyright as soon as you set it down in tangible form. This happens automatically and the copyright vests in you, the author. You may wish to register the copyright, however, which entails filling out a form and sending the work in to the copyright office, along with the appropriate fee. It isn't difficult and if you go to the copyright office web site it will show you how to do it.
     
  4. psychotick
    Offline

    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2011
    Messages:
    1,371
    Likes Received:
    307
    Location:
    Rotorua, New Zealand
    Hi,

    The moment its published its copywrited in the same act. At least it is on the kindle - just read the contract you have to sign.

    Cheers.
     
  5. ScaryMonster
    Offline

    ScaryMonster Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2011
    Messages:
    334
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Australia
    I've been screwed regarding copyright! A few years ago I read a book written by one of my old teachers and the bastard had ripped off a plot summery I had presented as a student.
    I never actually did write it up into story form, but the concept was mine.
    I can't work out why someone needs to steal ideas from other people, I've got a whole draw full of ideas that might be worked up into stories!
    Do people just lose the ability to have original ideas after a while?
     
  6. Banzai
    Offline

    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2007
    Messages:
    12,871
    Likes Received:
    150
    Location:
    Reading, UK
    The copyright is yours from the moment of creation, not publication.

    And has been mentioned above, content comes under copyright, but not titles. You can register your copyright, but that costs money, and isn't really necessary.

    By and large, plagiarism is rare. You hear a few scare stories, but most authors would never countenance stealing work from someone else. One of the best ways to be able to prove your copyright without paying to register it is to keep hold of all your previous drafts, to demonstrate the evolutionary chain of the piece, if need be.
     
    1 person likes this.
  7. TheSpiderJoe
    Offline

    TheSpiderJoe Senior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2011
    Messages:
    174
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    Arizona
    There are many reasons why people would want to steal from others. In the writing world, it's much easier to take a great concept and use it as your own because the risk is minimal and the rewards are potentially great. Your teacher was probably very impressed with your idea and thought he could do more with it than you could.

    But don't get discouraged, people like that eventually get exposed for who they really are. The digital age has created a giant stage for writers and ideas/concepts are flowing through the Internet at an impossible pace. Great ideas are still few and far between so when one doesn't strike gold, it may be necessary to utilize help from outside resources. I'll end this with a quote I heard from one of my favorite movies.

    "Good artists copy, great artists steal."
    - Pablo Picasso
     
  8. Arathald
    Offline

    Arathald Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2011
    Messages:
    314
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Seattle
    Stealing a concept isn't the same as stealing a story. If the teacher didn't use the same character names, place names, etc, as far as I know, this isn't covered by copyright. As Cogito is fond of saying, a story concept means nothing. As authors, we like to think that all of our concepts are great and unique and out most valuable posessions, but, in reality, they're a dime a dozen. It's very possible that the teacher didn't even realize that he or she had used your story idea. It's also very possible that you inadvertently copied the story idea, in part or in whole, from somewhere else.

    Execute a concept well, *then* complain when it gets stolen.

    Also, what Banzai said. If you want to get technical, I this post is copyrighted to me. I don't have to do anything to make it so. In this case, it would be fairly easy to prove date of creation if anyone stole it (if I wanted to enforce the copyright). That's the main key -- if you can prove that you created it or posessed it earlier than anyone else, you can use that to prove copyright. If you are concerned about being able to prove that, that's when you want to consider registering it. It generally doesn't matter until you publish it (Are you giving it out to people you can't trust? Don't. Reputable publishers and agents can generally be trusted, and anyone else who gets their hands on a copy should be someone you trust.), and publishing it in itself is proof of date of creation (though publishers may also register the copyright just to be doubly safe).
     
    1 person likes this.
  9. Banzai
    Offline

    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2007
    Messages:
    12,871
    Likes Received:
    150
    Location:
    Reading, UK
    This. Exactly right, in my opinion.
     
  10. ScaryMonster
    Offline

    ScaryMonster Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2011
    Messages:
    334
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Australia
    Well like you said, its a concept and I've got a draw full of them as good or better then the one this guy stole.
    And yes he did change character names and I'd estimate that its about 10% different to my concept.
    I don't mind that he wrote a book based on my idea and got it published, only that I would have liked to have been asked. I probably would have let him do it.
    Or maybe I should just consider it fan fiction?
     
  11. Trish
    Offline

    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2011
    Messages:
    1,986
    Likes Received:
    224
    Location:
    New York
    ScaryMonster I'm really sorry that happened and I know it must feel lousy. Here's the thing though, you can't copyright a concept (in writing) because I can walk into a writing class of any level anywhere in the world and give them a concept. I can tell them exactly what to write (just not give them names, maybe not places), but even if I told them to write about an alien invasion in 2054 from the perspective of a mole rat, every story will be different. Because our minds and our perceptions are different, and words mean different things to us. Alien can conjure a different image for every person, the same with invasion. You know what I mean?
     
  12. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    if you hand the same concept to any 10 writers and tell them to write a novel from it, you'll get 10 completely different novels!

    if you thought of it, do you really think it's not possible that someone else might think of it, too?...
     
  13. Thom
    Offline

    Thom Member

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2009
    Messages:
    65
    Likes Received:
    8

    The beauty is that the concept is still yours. And you could probably write the story you have envisioned a thousand times better than him.
     
  14. ScaryMonster
    Offline

    ScaryMonster Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2011
    Messages:
    334
    Likes Received:
    15
    Location:
    Australia
    Thanks Trish I'm only venting about it, but this concept was just a little more specific then your alien invasion in 2054 from the perspective of a mole rat.
    The assignment required a bit of research and I plotted out the beginning middle and end in a synopsis.

    I'm looking at it now as I write this, he was actually disparaging of it so I just filed it away and got on with other things.
    I'm not going to chase him up on it, its just an idea. But he should do his own research and book planning.
     
  15. Reggie
    Offline

    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2010
    Messages:
    680
    Likes Received:
    22
    Location:
    USA
    So in summary, if a person has an idea and write it on paper, the idea of it isn't copyrighted, but the words on it is. If I was to write a story about a 15-year old teenager living a terriable life and wishes to change it, this isn't copyrighted, since many people can come up with this. If the idea was to be copyrighted, then no one could come up with the idea of the teenage boy living a terriable life, even though it isn't written on paper.

    This is why you see many movies about bombers and action. All these themes are available to anyone. The only excuss we may have to sue peopel for an idea is when the person write the idea exactly the way the original aurthor has written it.
     
  16. Trish
    Offline

    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2011
    Messages:
    1,986
    Likes Received:
    224
    Location:
    New York

    I understand. He said he didn't like it, then he went and wrote it. And yes, a synopsis is a bit more detailed and I see where you're upset. He tells you no, I don't like this, you put it away and ta-da... guess he liked it after all. I can appreciate this for the kick in the teeth that it must feel like. I'm sorry, truly, that this happened to you.
     
  17. popsicledeath
    Offline

    popsicledeath Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    71
    It's increasingly becoming a sticky point, that space between idea and product. I mean, what happens if I write a story about a little boy who moves with his family into a big house that has several strange roommates, a door that goes into another dimension, where he means his 'different mother' and 'different father' and they all have brown buttons for eyes and are trying to trick the boy into staying, etc.

    What do you mean that sounds like Coraline? No, mine is about a boy named Corey Line, and the buttons are BROWN not black! See, it's totally different.

    There's a reason, particularly with movie scripts, that executives for a movie company often refuse to even open, much less read, unsolicited manuscripts. Even when coincidences happen in the business and you can prove, if nothing else, that they read your script and then happened to come out with a movie very similar, things gets a bit sticky.

    So, no, ideas and even concepts (which is a somewhat more developed idea) aren't copyright protected, but somewhere in that space between idea and product it gets pretty murky.

    Personally, if I had the time and money (which I have neither), and I turned in a full treatment/synopsis of a novel into a writing teacher, and that same writing teacher later published a book that seems to draw from that, depending on how similar it is, I'd definitely look into pursuing it. I don't know the details in this case, of course, and am definitely not giving legal/professional advice since I don't have the details, but it's not as simple as 'sorry, can't copyright ideas,' not anymore.

    There's becoming an increased attention to these sorts of situations, especially since we're in a time where the individual style and flair doesn't always make vastly different stories, and like movies, the idea/concepts are what drive much popular fiction, to the point we have best-selling writers basically get rich by fleshing out stories written by staff writers creating in-depth synopsizes. Especially if that's becoming a valid business practice, and sadly it is, then the ideas and synopsis itself becomes more of a commodity, and that's how get get into some murky grounds.

    Ironically, you can't copyright names or titles, but at the same time the first thing people say to ensure you aren't stealing someone's work is to just change the names and titles, lol.

    But yeah, want to clarify I don't know what happened in ScaryMonster's situation, so am not giving advice without the details, but it's increasingly becoming a murky legal point. If nothing else, it's terribly unprofessional, though there are almost more legal grounds against it that simply business courtesy these days, as the whistle blowers in these cases often just get buried anyway by the high-dollar lawyers (in TV, at least, that's how it works, they often do blatantly steal and then trust their lawyers will take care of it).
     
  18. psychotick
    Offline

    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2011
    Messages:
    1,371
    Likes Received:
    307
    Location:
    Rotorua, New Zealand
    Hi,

    Copywriting ideas / plots etc would be extremely problematic. I mean there are only so many plots and it would be almost impossible to prove that whatever plot you came up with would be yours in toto rather then borrowed from another book / film etc.

    As for copywriting entire books, yes technically it may be correct that from the moment you write it you own the copywrite. But in practical terms its the publishing that seals the copywrite. I mean if you wrote a book and never published it, just left it sitting in your desk, then someone came along and wrote the same or nearly the same book, how would you establish first that it was your story, or second that it was copied, and remember there are two things that you need to prove to show that a copywrite infringement has occurred, first that the second book is in fact so substantially similar to the first that a breach has occurred, and second that it was in fact copied. Only publishing in some public forum is going to satisfy these conditions.

    Cheers.
     
  19. Leatherworth Featherfist
    Offline

    Leatherworth Featherfist Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2011
    Messages:
    93
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    California
    If you are really concerned that your textual content might be stolen once you write something, then you could always just mail it to yourself. That way it is doubly copyrighted and you will have the dated package to prove it.
    Though, I don't think you need to do that.
     
  20. popsicledeath
    Offline

    popsicledeath Banned

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2010
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    71
    Yet you can't simply change character names and re-write the same ideas/plots as your own story, without being sued.

    You can't copyright ideas, yet at some point an idea becomes a product that is protected... you can't copyright a plot, yet at some point plot becomes a story, that in many ways is protected.

    Granted, you can have two movies about anacondas, one called Anaconda and one called Anaconda*... and you can have stories that are kind of generally generic that they can't help but be seen as ripoffs. But at some point, your ideas and plot concepts become close enough to something someone else has written, and you're in trouble. If this weren't the case I'd be re-writing Philip K. Dick stories just to bring them into contemporary glory.

    My point is that there is a lot of gray area, and increasingly the formal arrangement of ideas and concepts are starting to be seen more and more as a product that is protected.

    * and clarification, I thought both of those terrible movies were called the same thing, but one was actually called AnacondaS? Maybe.
     
  21. Arathald
    Offline

    Arathald Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2011
    Messages:
    314
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Seattle

    This is a myth. Type "poor man's copyright" (sans quotes) into your favorite search engine, and you'll see what I mean. Not only is it not legally admissable, it's very easily faked.

    If you're *really* concerned about it, register it. But, honestly, unless you're giving it out to people you can't trust (Don't do it!), you don't need to worry too much about it.
     
  22. Leatherworth Featherfist
    Offline

    Leatherworth Featherfist Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2011
    Messages:
    93
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    California
    I see. That makes sense. I've never done it myself, but my uncle, who's a musician, recommended that I do it with my music.

    "Poor man's copyright" That says a lot about musicians.
     
  23. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,957
    Likes Received:
    5,486
    I've read that hanging on to drafts of the work in progress can serve as evidence that you were the person who wrote the work. It seems a good deal more difficult to fake drafts than to just steal and retype the finished work.

    But, really, I don't know if there's any such thing as absolute undeniable proof.
     
  24. Arathald
    Offline

    Arathald Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2011
    Messages:
    314
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Seattle
    Faking a draft would still be pretty easy, and with no way to verify a date on it, why would a court take it as proof that you created the work or that you even had it in your posession when you say you did? The amount of work to create phony drafts for, say, a Harry Potter manuscript would be more than worth a counterfeiter's time for the amount of money he could get from litigation if it were admissable.

    After about 15 minutes of research, it looks like it's actually really cheap and easy to register a work for copyright. Registering online with the US Copyright Office costs $35 and doesn't look like it would take more than 20 minutes (registration is effective as soon as they recieve your submission, but you get the certificate in about 3 months for an electronic registration). If you're really going to go through the trouble to print your work and mail it to yourself, you're already probably spending more money than it would cost to register it.

    (Honestly, I still think this isn't really necessary; I might go register a completed novel if I had good reason to, but I don't think everyone should go out immediately and register all of their half-completed manuscripts. I also suspect it might cause some interesting complications if the work were ever to get published, though I don't think it would be a blocking issue, just another step or two to go through with the publisher.)
     
  25. psychotick
    Offline

    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2011
    Messages:
    1,371
    Likes Received:
    307
    Location:
    Rotorua, New Zealand
    Hi,

    To be certain of winning your case that someone's copied your work based on the story elements, it'd have to be very, very close and at the same time, completely original, so that you can't be accused of having borrowed your story from somewhere else. Copying the text on the other hand is much easier to establish.

    Cheers.
     

Share This Page