1. Jonalexher
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    Jonalexher Contributing Member

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    Copywriting unfinished works?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Jonalexher, Nov 28, 2010.

    Edit: Oops! Copyright, not Copywrite haha (title)

    I have searched this and no threads came up, so I decided to make a new thread.

    I am currently writing a novel, and it's obviously going to take a long time to finish, but I would like to have it copyrighted already. I want to do this so I can show it to anybody I like (to get feedback) and have no worries. Is it possible?

    Help is greatly appreciated
    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. Delfia
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    Delfia New Member

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    Yes it is possible, (according to Wikipedia). I was wondering the same thing, thanks for reminding me.

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

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    Yes, but you don't need to register it. The copyright belongs to you from the moment of creation. You don't need to register it for it to exist.

    Realistically, I wouldn't worry about it. Plagiarism is thankfully very rare, and without meaning to be rude, but I doubt that someone would be interested in stealing an unfinished first draft from a new writer.

    Once you get to the publishing stage, if a publisher takes it on, then they'll register the copyright for you. Until that stage, I don't think it's worth the expense.
     
  4. Jonalexher
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    Jonalexher Contributing Member

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    Thanks for the tips! but I'm not saying someone is going to steal my draft, I'm saying someone might steal my idea, which could happen very easily. Many friends already warned me that I should copyright it already, just in case anything happens. And by doing so, I would gain an immense liberty to go around and ask anybody for feedback and opinions.



    And why is everybody saying the copyright exists as soon as the ink touches the paper? I'm sorry but I don't understand how that is proof somebody wrote it, somebody please explain.
     
  5. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    If it's the idea you're worried about, I'm afraid copyright won't help you. You can't copyright an idea. And besides, if anyone did try to write the same idea as you, then it would still come out completely different, because no two writers are the same.

    And it's not about the proof. You'd still need to be able to prove it. But the right in the creative work itself crystallises at the moment of creation. It's an inherent right in the thing itself, vesting in the individual who created it until it's transfered by that person to someone else.

    Sorry if I lapsed into legalese there, but what I'm trying to say is that the moment the ink touches the paper, as you put it, is the moment the copyright comes into existence. Registering it isn't about creating the copyright, but about being able to prove it at a later date. Registration, however, is neither an absolute proof, nor the only proof you could produce to a court.

    But like I said, you can't copyright an idea, so I'm not sure how much help registration would be in this case anyway.
     
  6. Jonalexher
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    Jonalexher Contributing Member

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    Thanks for the help. I thought I had to write the title, and a synopsis (not sure about the length) of the novel, and send it to the copyright office. Something along those lines. I'm going to call them and investigate further, but for now I'll just worry about actually finishing the work.
     
  7. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Yeah, I think you'll have to send them exactly what you want to copyright (i.e. the entirety of the novel), since you can't copyright something you haven't written yet.
     
  8. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You can Register your work with the Copyright Office, either electronically or by sending in a form and submitting a copy of the work, and then paying the fee.

    You don't need to Register to have copyright protection. You automatically have the copyright in your work as soon as it is set down in "a tangible medium of expression." Pen and paper, computer disk, canvas, etc. Registration can proof possession as of a certain date, though that's not the only way to prove it. Registration is also generally a prerequisite to suing someone for copyright violation.

    Banzai is right about protecting "ideas." Copyright doesn't protect that in the first place, so if you're trying to protect your general idea before you show the work to people, you're not going to have much luck. You can only protect your expression of that idea (i.e. your work itself).
     
  9. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    You only need to register copyright to sue for statutory damages in the USA. You can still sue for actual damages, even if the work isn't registered (although the actual damages may be harder to prove).

    In many other countries, there's no such thing as registering copyright.
     
  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    That's not true, Islander.

    The exceptions in section 106A(a) are those considered an author's moral rights.

    Depending on WHEN you register the copyright, either in length of time after publication or prior to infringement), you may find your damages affected. But registration is generally required whether you are going statutory damages or not, as noted in the statute above.
     
  11. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hm, you're right. It's only authors who have created works outside of the US who can sue for actual damages without registering with the US copyright office. Authors within the US need to register to be able to sue at all.
     
  12. Jonalexher
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    Jonalexher Contributing Member

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    I live in California, but I'm moving to Argentina around february. So if I register it over there in Argentina it's the same thing as if I do it over here, right?. After all, the work is copyrighted, so is it a universal copyright?
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    in any case, jona, you need to do your homework and study the actual rules 'n regs:
    www.copyright.gov

    in re your 'ideas' and 'synopsis' neither can be protected by copyright and can be used by anyone to develop their own novel/screenplay/whatever from, if they choose... but the fact is, no two people can or will write the same story in the same way, even if starting from the same idea or synopsis, so your book will be unique regardless...

    and the best way to prove you wrote something is to keep all your original notes/jottings, the first draft and a couple of in between ones... all of that will show that you developed the work from your idea and wrote it in your own unique 'voice' and style... no one else will have that sequential proof...
     
  14. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, mamma :)
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    jona...
    the universal copyright convention has lost much of its significance, having been superseded by the berne convention... you'd better study up on that...
    http://www.google.com/webhp?rls=ig#sclient=psy&hl=en&rls=ig&site=webhp&q=berne+convention+countries&aq=2&aqi=g10&aql=&oq=berne+convention&gs_rfai=&fp=a16987c240ef3a1f

    but why would you want to register your work in argentina?... are you intending to have it published there?...
     
  16. Jonalexher
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    Jonalexher Contributing Member

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    Thanks for the info mamma :]
    I am not sure, probably not.
     
  17. SRCroft
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    SRCroft Member

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    Protection

    Everyone gave some really good tips. Be very careful and assume the worse. It will allow you to plan ahead. You can't have singular proof.

    If I don't pay for a Copyright:

    Certify Mail a sealed, dated, signed for manuscript, to yourself that you will never open. Whatever is inside proves, date, time and authorship as long as the seal remains in tact.

    Keep digital copies of every version. I do this daily with a Nov21_2010, tag at the end. Put one copy on a thumb drive or external.
    (Some digital software like Word has options to digitally sign work that can not be removed from the document, no matter how you re-save or edit. Make sure it reflects who you are.)

    Every one else covered lots of good tips. Don't be so willing to spread your information around. Protect your baby. I personally wouldn't post anything significant online, it makes me uncomfortable.

    My father once told me, never lend money, unless your okay with not getting it back.

    I propose that posting your story could be similar. If yo have things that you can live without go for it. If you want to guarantee, no battling, don't do it.

    There are many writer's groups, conventions, and meet-ups. You can show someone in person and feel much safer, because you'll be leaving with your copy. (Still protect yourself though)
     
  18. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Mailing yourself something isn't really proof of anything. It might be evidence, if you needed it, but it isn't proof. And it's not really that great in terms of evidence either, as it is too easy to fake. I can send myself an unsealed envelope via certified mail today and put a manuscript in it two years from now and seal it up.
     
  19. SRCroft
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    SRCroft Member

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    Unsealed

    The postal service in the US seal certified letter themselves, and stamp and date digitally. Plus you have to sign to release it and verify it. You can't send an unsealed certified letter with their marks, or verification, just a blank one which proves you bought an envelope and nothing more. Its the marks that occur from them sealing and digitally signing the piece with a date that matter, not the purchase of the package or envelope.

    Its not perfect by any means, but its is a decent way to protect one singular date you owned it. Place it in a firesafe and don't ever let the seal break.



    Sure, but it validates the date you received it. So if you need proof that shows you had it at that date, sealed by the usps and certified, you now have proof. It doesn't proof the contents were yours previous to that. It is really good proof however that it was yours on that date. The other party would be unlikely to have a 1rst draft with proof that far back.
     
  20. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can get documents notarised, which is accepted as legal evidence of the date something was written/produced. You need to initial every page, and the notary stamps and dates every page. My mother is a notary public, qualified in both France and England. The procedure is the same in both countries, and where I live in Turkey, also. I don't know what it's like in the US, though.
     
  21. SRCroft
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    SRCroft Member

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    Notary

    Notary would be expensive. They charge per page and for 400 pages it would be more than a Copyright. Also I wouldn't get family to do it, just in case someone could argue bias. It would work though.
     
  22. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Well, that is good information to have. I'd be hesitant to rely on it in court, but it is better than nothing (and better than mailing it to oneself via regular mail).

    You can also sign and date the pages and have them signed by witnesses, if you want to go to all the trouble. Those witnesses can then appear in court and testify to your possession of the document.
     
  23. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Here, notarys charge by the document, not the page (although I'd have to get an English document translated with a sworn translator before a notary would pass it in France or Turkey). I've never bothered to do this for manuscripts, since as Banzai says, there is no need to register copyright, the writer owns it as a matter of course. I've often used a notary for other docs, though, it wasn't expensive--far cheaper than a lawyer. My mother can do it for me if I ask--she wouldn't be accused of 'bias', it would be a criminal offence if she falsified information, not mere bias. That would be a very grave allegation to make.
     
  24. SRCroft
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    SRCroft Member

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    Complications

    It is definitely more a personal deterrent from other writers or individuals stealing your work, than a A-list court exhibit. I certainly wouldn't rely on it and feel comfortable posting the work online. Good idea about witnesses btw.

    The internet has helped and complicated the protection of intelligent information. Like anything else, one should use proper channels to show people their work. The old fashioned writer expos and conventions, where you physically can watch and wait, is much more comfortable to me.
     
  25. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    while this [known as 'the poor man's copyright'] may have some legal standing in the uk and commonwealth nations, it has none in the us... per: www.copyright.gov

     

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