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  1. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Registering your Copyright

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by CharlieVer, Mar 16, 2010.

    On another thread, we were discussing registering a copyright. I registered the copyright for my book. Mammamia suggested that registering my copyright would hurt my chances of getting my work considered by a publisher or agent. When I asked for a reference, she said:

    I understand (and understood then) that it's not necessary. I haven't been "trying unsuccessfully to get an agent or publisher for years." I haven't sent it out at all yet. If I've been sending my manuscript around unsuccessfully for years, chances are my problem is not copyright related. Chances are the problem is my book.

    I registered my copyright because I wanted to. I never said it was "necessary" or "I'm defending my authorship in court." It was a choice that I made, and, honestly, I was concerned about that decision when I read your original response. There was a moment of panic followed by hours of contemplation and lost sleep.

    I had never heard of a publisher or agent rejecting a piece because it had a registered copyright and I didn't know if you were correct or incorrect. I've read a few books on copyright, and, after reading your post, I went out on the net and researched, to support or refute what you said. I wasn't trying to disprove you. I was trying to learn the truth. Right or wrong, I wanted to know.

    When I couldn't find the answer , I sought an expert that I could e-mail and ask. I found Gary Kessler, who offers Editorial and Author Support Services and is a freelance book editor and novelist. He e-mailed me. Here was his response:

    I was already aware that, by law, copyrights are secured the moment the work is in tangible form. There are certain advantages, though, to registering your copyright. See page 7 of copyright basics copyright.gov.

    http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf

    At least according to Mr. Kessler, while he admits they'll think it's "amateurish" they "won't care if you got your own copyright beforehand."

    Side note: I notice that he used "got your own copyright" and "formal copyright" to mean "registered your copyright." I used "official copyright." As long as we understand what we're talking about, I don't think we need to be pedantic about using the word "registered." We're all among friends here, so we can be a little relaxed. You can tell from context when "registered" is implied. The above phrases imply "registered." Obviously from context they don't mean "the copyright provided by law the moment it's in tangible form." even though we know that technically that's when copyright protection begins.

    After reading your post, I was in bed thinking, "I put so many years of my heart and mind into this amazing book, went around the country doing research, shaped these characters who have become my friends, wrote and rewrote and polished, and my book is not going to be taken seriously because I sent it to the copyright office?" My mind was racing. There were moments I was near tears, and moments of disbelief. I think now that the disbelief was correct and the fear incorrect.

    That they will care about the formal copyright rather than the book is not common sense. Common sense tells me, if, hypothetically, my book is good... no, if my book is great, if my book is a gripping page-turner that grabs the readers by the throat and draws them in from line one, that has amazing imagery, that captivates, if my book is up there with Harry Potter, or Borne Identity, or any of the best bestsellers, as I hope my finished product will be, then the publisher/agent is not going to say, "Oh, it's been registered. Forget it then." They're not going to care. At least, that's the opinion of the expert I found. Perhaps another expert feels differently.

    I know you mean your best, mammamaia, and I'm not trying to butt heads with you. But I was very worried about my book, and I think my instinct was right that my worries were for naught.

    Registering the copyright, not necessary? Sure, I'll grant that. I'll even grant amateurish. But that's okay. I am an amateur. I admit it. I'm not Stephen King or Dean Koontz or Robert Ludlum, and I think they know that up front. But they're not going to reject my book on the basis of my formal copyright. And as amateur as I may be, I have a book that's going to wow them, and I'm not going to apologize for being new to the writing scene.

    Some might think it's amateurish, but getting that registration meant something to me. It made me feel, not only a little more secure that it can't get stolen, but it gives me just a little sense of accomplishment, of completion, of "I made it to this point," a feeling that I hope will be a tiny prelude to the bigger sense when I finish my redraft, and do land the agent, the publisher, and eventually, hold the published copy in my hands.

    But I'm done panicking about this. I'm convinced now that my book isn't going to be rejected merely because I secured a copyright.

    Charlie
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Maia's point was NOT that your writing would be rejected because of you having secured a copyright. Her point was that if the copyright is mentioned, you are broadcasting your inexperience. If the copyright is checked, and reveals the story has been registered for quite some time, it underscores how old the piece of writing is, and how long you have been trying to get it published.

    It's true that neither of these will become a cause for rejection, but they tend to bias the publisher against you. Do you want the submissions editor to breathe a heavy sigh, and think, Let's get this over with? Or do you want him or her to begin with a cautious optimism that you tried hard to evoke in your query letter?

    First impressions count.
     
  3. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Mentioning the copyright... um... wasn't mentioned. And I know based on my readings not to mention it, not to put the little c in a circle on my manuscript when I send it anywhere. But that hasn't come up in the discussion.

    I'm not sure how copyright = "trying to get it published."

    As for old, didn't Rowling spend 6 years working on Harry Potter? If, hypothetically, she finished draft 1 in year 2 and sent the draft to the copyright office, why would the publisher care? I wouldn't think they'd care if I wrote it in the 1980s and let it sit in my cellar until it got moldy, as long as I retyped it and the copy I send is fresh and the book is great.

    (For that matter, how is the publisher even going to know? I'm sure they don't check with the copyright office first before they read anything.)

    I took her statement that the agent and publisher "won't take it seriously" as "cause for rejection." Worse, "not take it seriously" to me implies some degree of amusement while they toss it in the garbage. The words "joke" and "laughable" comes to my mind when I think about not taking something seriously.

    But I was literally very upset about this. It kept me up half the night. (Honestly, talking about it now is keeping me up a second night, I should be in bed.)

    I want the submissions editor to read page one and say, "Wow, this is a really great book, and flip to page 2, and page 3, and decide to skip lunch because he wants to read the whole thing.

    I only want him to sigh when he gets to the page where he thought the killer was going to jump out, then the killer doesn't jump out, and there's a moment of relief. At that moment, I want him to sigh. But I, as the author, get to decide when he sighs or doesn't sigh.

    The subject of the query letter never came up in my discussion with mammamia, but when I get to the point of writing a query letter, believe me, if anything, I'll over-research the proper way to do a query letter. That, of course, has nothing to do with the copyright I have in my possession, which I never intended to mention in my query letter.

    I'll make sure what I send them is awesome, for my first impression. But I doubt that the first thing they're going to do is check for copyright. In fact, I suspect that by the time they get to that point, they'll already be sold on my book.

    (Also, at this point, I'm not even sure what I'm supposed to do with this advice. I'm relieved to learn that this won't ruin my chances, what can I do? I already have it registered. Unless there's a process for un-registering, what other alternatives? Throw away my book?)

    Thanks for the advice though!

    Charlie
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Just keep it to yourself that you registered it already. The important thing is not to prejudice the submissions editor befor he or she reads your manuscript.
     
  5. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    You know what... now, Mia's original post said this:

    But may be what she meant was, if you do, just keep it to yourself. And I had no intentions of mentioning it in any query letter or manuscript in the first place.

    If that's all she meant... than... LOL!
    I just went through a night and a day of worry for nothing!

    Time for bed, and I'll sleep tight this time.
    G'night Cog!

    Charlie

    Edit: I just realized something!
    The other part, the bit about semantics with the word "copyright."
    It just occurred to me, there are three ways the word could be used in context. Copyright (legal, when its in tangible form) Copyright (formal, when it's registered) and Copyright (the notice, a little c in a circle.) I never even thought about the third one! If that's all that was meant, don't do that... LOL! I wasn't going to and actually didn't think about that meaning of the word till now!
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it certainly was, charlie... here's what i said:

    and cog is exactly on point in re what i meant by what i wrote... in both my original post and the subsequent one... i'm sorry you took it all way too seriously and not at all as meant, but i certainly couldn't imagine you'd have a panic attack over it... from now on, if someone says something that makes you wonder if you should be worried about it, instead of agonizing over what may not have been meant, why don't you ask them for more info, before going off the deep end?... ;-)

    healing hugs, maia
     
  7. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    What I meant was it wasn't mentioned in the earlier post. That's when I was having my panic attack, the night before the second round. (Two nights ago.)

    By the time you wrote the second post, I had already made contact with the gentleman I quoted and was already in the process of writing the new thread which was all based on the earlier post. In fact, I actually edited in to the beginning of my first draft of my new thread (this thread) the quote from your later post... and went through a couple drafts before clicking "submit." (Sheesh, I'm obsessive, ain't I? You should see how I write my novel... no wonder it's taking me years!)

    Earlier I thought you were talking about registering the copyright, then, in your second post, you said, "if you've been trying unsuccessfully for years," and I was like, "wait, wait, wait, I haven't been trying for years..." and, I took it as a change of subject I then went back to reread the original post, thinking we were going off track. That's why I missed what you said after that in the later post.

    I obviously misunderstood what you said (in your original post mostly, which is where my mind was focused) ... and (if this makes sense at all) I couldn't have known I needed more information unless I had more information...

    I understand what you meant now... hence, my LOLs with the realization.

    Best always,
    and sorry for the crossed wires...

    Charlie

    PS. On going off the deep end... I was off the deep end before the conversation. You see, I've now been working on my novel long enough that I've become Gollum and my book has become the ring. I actually have lost all my hair and developed a bend in my back, and my arms have grown twice their length. If anyone goes near my book or if I sense any imaginary threat to the success of my novel, I say, "Ohhh, my precious," and grab my book and climb up a mountain with it, far away from reality. ;)
     
  8. MissingInAction
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    MissingInAction New Member

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    There is an interesting loop hole that the US court systems will recognize. Write the main idea of your story, including a cast of characters and synopsis. Take it to a Notary and sign and date it. (I think it costs about $5 to get a notarized signature on a piece of paper, and they keep their records for years) Then take the whole thing, place it in an envelope and mail it to yourself. The notary will guarantee that you were the one who presented it, and the US postal service (aka the US Government) will have time stamped it with the post mark. Assuming you never open the envelope, you have proof that it was your idea, and when you came up with it, but you don’t have to actually register it. All for about $5.35
     
  9. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Because I'm British and I've only ever submitted work in Britain (or Turkey, where I live), I always send my sister in the UK a copy of whichever story I'm submitting e.g. to a magazine, by registered mail, and she keeps the story in an envelope for me, unopened. I've never registered copyright, it's totally unnecesary for the UK. Interesting that the US is so different on this.
     
  10. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Blame Disney. Seriously.

    EDIT: I suppose I should elaborate by suggesting anyone interested google the "Mickey Mouse Protection Act"...
     
  11. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, on the subject of Disney, the French press was very up in arms a little while back about a film maker/artist named Le Calvez, who sued Disney.

    He had registered his little clownfish hero as a trademark with France’s industrial protection and copyrights body in 1995, and the screenplay with the French Society of Authors in June 2002. He sent the pictures and screenplay on the rounds until finally selfpublishing 2,000 copies of a picture book in November 2002. Finding Nemo came out in 2003.

    His precautions gained him nothing--he still lost the case.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It's a variation of the Poor Man's copyright, and it has no real legal standing. You can verify that by reading the US copyright site.

    Keep in mind that ideas are not copyrightable. The idea that forms the basis of a story is useless. If you mentioned your story concept to someone, and they liked it and wrote a book based on it, it is their work to copyright. If you also developed and wrote your own story on the same basis, that is your work to copyright.

    The public may tsk tsk, and debate over who stole the character names and story idea from whom, but it's not actionable. Nor is it actionable if both of you took the character names and story idea from a drunken bunch of buddies making up tall tales around a campfire.

    Keep your early drafts. Those are what will demonstrate before the court that you put in the work that led to the finished piece of writing. And if you really want to protect youself, keep all the details to yourself until you have some drafts saved up, including chapters or scenes you later decide to drop.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    as cog notes, both of those suggestions have absolutely no legal standing as proof of ownership of a written work, in the us... so, although i'm sure you had good intentions, please don't give new writers such incorrect and misleading advice any more...

    the best way to prove you wrote what you wrote is to keep your first jotted-down notes of the idea, plus your first rough draft and an edited version, as well as the completed ms... that will show the progression from idea to polished ms, that no one who might be silly enough to claim your work as their own will be able to produce...
     
  14. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Say what? Yes we do!
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Your Gary Kessler apparently doesn't know what the hell he's talking about. The UK is indeed a signatory to international copyright laws, and does have its own copyright administration.
     
  16. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    When I was doing my own research for this, I was reading some of the Wikipedia articles and found some surprising things (if true, we all know about Wikipedia) that may at least explain what he was talking about. He seems to have at least some credentials from what I read, so he may have just gotten lazy when it comes to properly addressing the UK issue, or he may not be as current or knowledgeable about the UK, but it may have some point although inaccurately stated.

    For one thing, some of the European agencies, including in the UK, actually recommend the "poor man's copyright," which was what he was talking about at that point, that the "poor man's copyright" is accepted in the UK. We know and have discussed here that the "poor man's copyright" is not recommended in the USA.

    From the Wiki articles, the UK apparently does not have a central copyright office. They do have copyright, but apparently it all falls under the Patent office and then the copyright policy is split among various smaller organizations, including, according to Wiki, "the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and plant breeders' rights are administered by the Plant Variety Rights Office, an agency of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs." (some of these said "citation needed.")

    So what he may have meant is that there is not a central copyright office with one set of standard rules in the UK, which may be part of the reason that the UK, as with some other European countries, actually do recommend doing the "poor man copyright" thing for extra protection.

    Apparently, although the UK does have copyright laws, according to Wiki, "The IPO also has direct administrative responsibility for examining and issuing or rejecting patents, and maintaining registers of intellectual property including patents, designs and trademarks in the UK. As in most countries, there is no statutory register of copyright such that there is no direct administration required in copyright matters by the IPO."

    Here are the links I got all that from:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poor_man%27s_copyright

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_Patent_Office

    Now, further Wiki research (okay, I admit Wiki is hardly research, but it's a starting point) finds that the UK does have a long history of copyright law, even if there is no central office and even if they allow poor man's copyright.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_law_of_the_United_Kingdom

    Charlie
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Charlie, why are you posting Wiki links? How about the UK Intellectual Property Office - Copyright? Copyright is an intrinsic right in the UK (as in the US), but in the UK, no registration is necessary in order to take a copyright violation case into court.

    Wiki links are useless, and should not be posted if there are authoritative sources available.
     
  18. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's not "even if" we allow "poor man's copyright". We "allow" it because any original work you produce is automatically copyright, and you need take no other steps whatsoever in order to have copyright in your work. But if you're going to have to fight that in court then you need to be able to prove that you created the work before whoever copied it. In the UK, "Poor man's copyright" isn't copyright at all, it's a cheap and easy way of proving you had the text before your plagiarist did. From the IPO site:
     
  19. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    You mean the notary/registered mail idea? Can you clarify which of these suggestions are 'incorrect' Maia?

    Thank you for pointing out that we have no central copyright office in the UK, Charlie. This is why it is not necessary to register copyright before submitting IN THE UK. Do what Cog says and you'll be fine. (Yes, I asked a UK copyright specialist. My cousin is a lawyer at EMI.)
     
  20. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Just 'cause that's where I did some quick reading and got some quick info.

    Sorry... they were useful in the sense that they got me some quick information late at night when I didn't feel like doing "real" research. And I had remembered reading it a few nights earlier, so I knew the information was right there at my fingertips. I'm in the US, it's not really that important to me. I was only trying to offer a little help before bed. I actually stayed up later than I should have (again) but this time it was to be helpful, not because I was upset. I didn't mean to offend.

    Yikes. I feel like I'm upsetting people, even with my articles and conjunctions. I only meant that the fact that you allow poor man's copyright doesn't mean you don't have a long history of copyright law, which you do.

    In the US any original work you produce is also automatically copyright, so I'm not sure the distinction there. But certainly, the words "even if" were no more meant to get anyone upset than the Wiki links. (The use of "even if" in this case wasn't suggesting any doubt to whether it was allowed, but was conjoining the sentence with meaning similar to "despite the fact that.")

    May be I should really stick to the Word Games like I had been (and go to bed on time.) At least this time I didn't mention Dan Brown and really get things cooking. (ducking to avoid thrown dishware)

    Thanks for thanking me. I appreciate being appreciated. :)

    Charlie
     
  21. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think the point is that the notary/registered mail idea proves that the text was in your posession at a particular time, but not that you were the author of that text. It's useful, but it's not the whole battle.
     
  22. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Exactly. Dates are far less important than showing progression of work. And the danger of taking advice such as the Poor Man's Copyright is tha false sense of security ig gives, which may lull you into NOT keeping what you really need for provenance.
     
  23. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yup!... that's what i was referring to...

    however, things may be different on both counts, in the uk... i was referring to the situation in the us only...
     

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