1. rainbowinthedark
    Offline

    rainbowinthedark New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2011
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0

    Protecting before submitting?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by rainbowinthedark, Dec 11, 2011.

    Hi all....

    I've been writing for many years now and last year I made a promise to someone, who is no longer with us, to get some work of mine published. The story won’t be anything that goes “mainstream” as it fits with a pretty niche market and because of that I have a good idea about how to go about getting the right people to look at it. However, what's holding me back from submitting it (and therefore preventing me from fulfilling the promise) is that I worry about my story potentially being "stolen" by those I submit it to.

    Can anyone advise me about how to go about protecting my work in some way before sending it off into the world? I’ve briefly looked into copywriting but I’m not sure if that’s the best thing to do. I’ve been told to copy my story to a disk and mail the disk to myself via recorded delivery and leave it unopened (poor man’s copyright?) but again, that doesn’t feel like the best way to protect my work.

    I'd be very grateful for any advice. Thanks for reading!
     
  2. Blue Night
    Offline

    Blue Night Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2011
    Messages:
    111
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Texas
    You have a valid reason for being concerned about your hard work. I am no exception.

    I have my works registered with the copyright office. In fact, you can submit multiple literary works in one file to the US Copyright Office. And all those works will be registered for the one fee of $35 (provided they are all authentic original works).
    Then comes the nay-sayers who will argue a registered copyright doesn’t prevent people from stealing it, therefore it cannot be protected.

    Wrong answer.

    Let’s say I am someone you entrusted to read your work. Today, without your knowing, I post in on a website for feedback. I take the credit.

    And then tomorrow, I submit it to a literary agent or even a publishing house.
    At this point, you have done nothing.

    Who will be the first one to lay claim to the copyright? Right now is a good time to apply people’s misunderstanding. They will say ‘once it is written, it is copyrighted’ or ‘once it is in tangible form, it is copyrighted’.

    Okay, back to the question. Who will lay claim to the copyright? With the sayings in place, I guess that would be me.
    Then you will have a civil pursuance of copyright ownership. Then comes the lawyers.

    It doesn’t matter, in the end, who wins. The bigger point is, why go there?

    There seems to be a big misconception of what infringement is or what protection is. No, a registered copyright doesn’t keep people from stealing your work, but it sure as hell makes sure you recover your losses.

    So let’s say I published your work under my credit. I received a $5000 advance. All the while, you know nothing about this. Then the book goes to market and I start making money.

    Then a day comes, you notice your published writing under my name.

    Here’s the beauty of the whole thing. I say to you, “Hey, I published a piece of this online before you and I submitted it for publication before you. Look for yourself; it was put online December 11, 2011. Tough luck!”

    That’s when you can literally pull out a piece of paper and say, “Yes sir, that’s true. But I have a registered copyright on this work dated March 5, 2009.”

    Case closed.

    I would then have to pay you restitution for all monies received and damages incurred. The U.S. courts will make sure of that.
    Do you really want to know if you should protect it? Yes, protect it. All rights are transferable via your consent. That is the law. So it will not impair your ability to further publish your writings. But never put yourself in a situation where you would say, “I should have done that.”

    Google US copyright office and take it from there.

    P.S. This is obviously from a U.S. standpoint. Otherwise, research copyright laws applicable to your country or international community.
     
  3. Steerpike
    Online

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,059
    Likes Received:
    5,263
    Location:
    California, US
    1. Poor Man's Copyright (mailing the story to yourself) - practically worthless in the U.S.

    2. Establishing Copyright - copyright is established by operation of law as soon as you put the work down in a tangible medium of expression. To file an infringement suit, however, you must have the copyright registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. To recover certain damages, which can be very important, you have to register the work within a certain amount of time after publication.

    3. Publishers Stealing Your Idea / Story - unlikely. No one should say it is impossible, but these people are in the business of working with content providers. They have too many submissions, not too few, and the likelihood someone you submit to is going to steal your story is very, very small.

    4. Protecting Your Idea with Copyright - copyright doesn't protect ideas, only embodiments of those ideas. If someone takes the same 'idea' as you and writes their own story you are not going to be able to use copyright infringement as a basis for going after them.
     
  4. Steerpike
    Online

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,059
    Likes Received:
    5,263
    Location:
    California, US
    This is a bad idea, unless the works you are registering are really part of a "collection."

    From the Copyright Office web site: "Published works may only be registered as a collection if they were actually first published as a collection and if other requirements have been met."

    You can register unpublished works in this way, if you give the collection of works a single title and meet some other requirements. If the works are really separable, though, and not a collection, then you can also harm yourself in later actions against people infringing your copyright, because the "work as a whole" as registered under your copyright is arguably going to be viewed as the entire collection and not the individual components of the collection.

    If you make a mistake in any of this, your registration can be vulnerable to attack. So unless the multiple works really are part of a collection (like a collection of short stories first published together as a collection), you can do more harm than good by going this route. If you ever have to enforce your copyright, chances are the other side is going to find out if you first published those works separately, and then you can lose the registration and all the benefits that go with it.
     
  5. rainbowinthedark
    Offline

    rainbowinthedark New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2011
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks all!

    Thanks for your advice everyone. I am very grateful! One thing that does concern me, I'm actually based in England. I believe the publishing house I'd be contacting with my story is also based here, in London. However, I'm not certain on where their headquarters/official base is.

    Would I need to get a copyright in both the UK and USA to protect my work if it went overseas. Or would a UK copyright act as global protection?
     
  6. arron89
    Offline

    arron89 Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Messages:
    2,460
    Likes Received:
    91
    Location:
    Auckland
    If you manage to have the work accepted by a publisher, they will copyright it for you. If you can't get it accepted by a publisher, it's not worth copyrighting.
     
  7. Steerpike
    Online

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,059
    Likes Received:
    5,263
    Location:
    California, US
    People have self-published works that become as lucrative or valuable to them as works published by a traditional publisher, so the idea that it isn't worth protecting if you can't get a publisher to take it on is silly. Further, you don't know how successful the work will be at the outset, but if you want to avail yourself of the full benefits of registration, you should register within a short window after publication. If you have a complete work, like a novel, that is important to you, it is probably worth the $35 to just register it.

    If you go with a traditional publisher, they will take care of registering the copyright. They won't copyright the work for you, as it is already copyrighted when you create it.
     
  8. rainbowinthedark
    Offline

    rainbowinthedark New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2011
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0
    Aaron89....I have to totally disagree with you. Just because one publisher doesn't take your work on, doesn't mean that another one won't. I know it's a struggle to get published and makes you feel worthless when you are rejected. However, when you have spent time creating and crafting an idea, you want to, and should protect it.

    Just imagine if you sent it to someone who rejected it and another who accepted it, only to find that in the intermission the first person had took the idea and ran with it. Sure, it's unlikely, and unethical for publishers, but it could happen. I think it's sensible to safeguard your work before putting it in other peoples hands. Especially if it’s a unique idea that hasn’t been capitalized on by anyone yet!
     
  9. arron89
    Offline

    arron89 Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Messages:
    2,460
    Likes Received:
    91
    Location:
    Auckland
    But that's precisely my point....copyright doesn't protect ideas, it protects the words used to express those ideas, which will almost always be different to the words someone else uses to express the same idea. Besides which, I don't know where you get the idea that publishers are writers themselves...they're completely different sides of the industry, and in my experience, there's very very little crossover. I suppose you could make the argument that self-publishing might necessitate it, but banking on your self-published novel being plagiarised and then that (presumably also self-published) novel becoming successful is a pretty ridiculous hypothesis. I mean, you're free to do what you want, but it is a waste of time and money that offers very little actual protection.
     

Share This Page