1. Ironwil
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    Ironwil Member

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    The Internet and copyright issues

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Ironwil, Jan 10, 2011.

    I'd like to start a website around the book I'm working on. I won't be posting my story online, of course. What I want to include are bios of the main characters, a plot line and updates as I progress in my work. My concern is that someone would steal my ideas. I know that anything posted online is able to be stolen, copied, etc., but I see authors doing this all the time, so I assume there are ways to protect your ideas.

    How do I protect my intellectual rights while still providing an online experience for my book?
     
  2. SashaMerideth
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    SashaMerideth Contributing Member

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    First, plagarism happens. By creating it, you have the copyright.
    Second, your ideas aren't as valuable as you think they are.
    Third, there is a lot of effort in writing a story, and two people calling on the same material can create vastly different stories.

    Get some perspective first. If you are really desperate, trademark your names, but I don't think trademarks work like that.
     
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  3. Ironwil
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    Ironwil Member

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    Hmmm. I cannot help but be offended at this reply. Telling someone their ideas aren't as valuable as they think is verbally spitting on them. If ideas and creations aren't valuable, then why bother writing at all? I'd suggest you get some perspective, and try to limit replies to be, at the very least, civil.
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Ironwil:

    To a large extent, you can't protect much of what you are talking about here. Plot lines in their general form aren't protectable. Basic characters aren't really protectable. The more you flesh everything out, the more you will have available to you if someone copies your work down to these details. But if you have a general plot outline posted somewhere and someone else writes a story on their own following that same general outline, there's not much you can do about it.

    Depending on how the character names are used in commerce, you may be able to get some trademark protection in that area, as Sasha suggests.

    I could write a story tomorrow about someone who comes across a ring being sought by an evil overlord and bands together with a group who seek to destroy the ring at the place of its creation, and the Tolkien estate couldn't do much about it. Of course, it would be rightly panned as a LoTR ripoff.

    The prime value in your work is your writing of it, and making a compelling, engaging story that people want to read. A lot of professional authors have some of this type of thing online, but generally only after the work is completed and published. At that point, you don't really have to worry too much about others taking the idea - you've already beat them to the punch.
     
  5. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    First of all, you can't copyright ideas. Ideas are out there for all of us to use.

    The detailed bios of your main characters would be covered by copyright if they were exact enough.

    Your plot would also be copyright, but that too would have to be detailed enough.

    There are very few original ideas, it is our interpretation of those ideas that give them their individuality and make them subject to copyright laws.

    Plagerism occurs when a work is copied in such a way that most or all of it is so like the original that it becomes obvious that a breach of copyright has occured, not when someone takes an idea and develops it into his own piece of writing.

    There are a few sites that explain the laws of copyright quite clearly. It would be a good idea to check those out.

    There are places on line where you can register your copyright, but it is just as easy and less expensive to post your manuscript to yourself in a sealed envelope. The date of the postmark will be your proof.

    However, most writers don't want to copy someone else's work. And no matter how unpalatable it may be to you, SashaMerideth is right, your work is probably going to be best appreciated by yourself.
     
  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    This isn't very effective, at least not in the U.S., for a couple of reasons:

    1. The post office will deliver unsealed envelopes, so for this reason (and others) this is easy to fake. I could send myself an envelope tomorrow, get the postmark, and then wait for the next big literary phenomenon to come along, type it up, and seal it in the envelope.

    2. In the U.S., there are certain damages for infringement that you can only get with a copyright registration (in fact, you need to register to file an infringement suit, and you need to have registered it shortly after publication to get certain damages from the other party).
     
  7. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I just electronically post it to myself every night. Don't know if it is any good but figure between that and my first few lines on here I have date evidence of when I wrote it. Not that I am overly concerned - I mean someone that steals my stuff is cheating themself rather than me. I enjoyed writing it, bonded with the characters etc they will never have that.
     
  8. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    If you really wanted to get picky about it, you could always sign and date each page when you write it, then have two witnesses who would be willing to testify in court also sign and date each page. That's pretty decent evidence of possession and is in fact what companies often do with their inventions (e.g. signing, dating and witnessing laboratory notebooks) in case they have to prove possession at a later date.

    But it seems like overkill to me when it comes to what we're talking about here.
     
  9. Ironwil
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    Ironwil Member

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    Thanks. The gist I'm getting here is that my idea is not feasible. The amount of effort required in maintaining control over my source would make my life miserable. Thanks to everyone for their input. I don't have a desperate need to create the website - it was just an idea I thought might be fun, and possibly an aid for motivation. If you release regular blogs about your progress, it's harder to procrastinate.
     
  10. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Nothing wrong with your idea, I full intend to do the same to promote my books and stories. I have one planned for Angus, Socrates and Nate from my first series of books and one for Augustus, Iris and Johnny the second series of books. Then one for short stories.

    Your website will help copyright your material for a start. And yes someone might well use your ideas. I use other peoples to get my books working sometimes. My character Socrates keeps a blog think it is time to give Gran one as well.
     
  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You could go ahead and do that and keep everything in general terms. Enough info to tease the reader and catch their interest, but not enough detail to really inform anyone who wanted to steal the idea.
     
  12. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe what she wanted to say was that the ideas might not be as unique as we think they ae when we come up with them. Considering how many books that have been published its unlikely that no one has ever written about that before, even if a long time ago. most plots recycle and its what do you of it that counts. Maybe you could wait until you sold or at least finished the book before creating a website to present it, that way at least you will have a time-advantage :) its not like someone can copy your ideas and have a book ready in no time. im curious now to find out what the book is about, i hope you will link us to the webpage when its ready :p
     
  13. Ironwil
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    Ironwil Member

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    That might have been what she meant. I like to think that the idea I've come up with is unique in many ways, as I've never heard of anything similar, but a lot of people probably think their ideas are unique and special. They might be over-estimating their ideas, but then they might be correct. The fact is, unless I hear their ideas and spend time really thinking about it, I just don't know. But I do know that I'd never tell any of them that they have an over-inflated opinion of their ideas, especially if I didn't even know what their ideas were. I mean, just look at it:

    "Second, your ideas aren't as valuable as you think they are."

    I honestly can't think of anyone I could say something like that to that wouldn't be offended. It's just flat-out rude.
     
  14. SashaMerideth
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    SashaMerideth Contributing Member

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    Your ideas do not have an intrinsic value. It is what you do with the ideas that adds value. The publisher adds more by bringing it to market and selling it. There is tremendous effort in getting a book to market and only around one in a hundred writers even gets a book published. Your value is your creativity, ideas are cheap.
     
  15. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    I don't think it was meant to be rude. Most of us consider our work to be of greater value than anyone else does. That's not rude - it's fact!

    And the chances of your idea being unique are small. Since man discovered he could draw pictures on cave walls, stories have been passed from one generation to another. In the last couple of centuries hundreds of thousands of books have been written. Can you honestly be vain enough to believe that you have a truly original idea, despite the world being blessed with authors such Shakespear, Dickens, Steinbeck and the more modern King, Grisham and Evelon - sorry couldn't resist!

    Methinks a little humility would go a long way!

    As human beings we need humility, as writers we need to recognise that it is not a weakness, it is a strength. How do we make our writing better if we have total belief in what we've done. We would never edit, never re-write, never listen to those whose opinion we seek (especially if it is a favourable one.) We would never seek to improve.
     
  16. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    i agree, it was not a nice way to put it. but dont let it get you down, as long as YOU believe in your own idea thats all that matters!
    I think many writers have had their ideas for plots criticised (sp?) before anyone even read the finished book and then they had to admit they were wrong ;) since you are the only one to know what its about we will have to trust you on that!
     
  17. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree it wasn't meant to be rude. And she is right as unique and different as our ideas are they are not that valuable until the book is written, and even then.

    I know I have ideas from other places, and I am sure people will take ideas away from my work. I think it is a huge compliment to inspire someone with my work.
     
  18. Ironwil
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    Ironwil Member

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    Oh, I'm not down, and in fact I'm not angry about it. I did think it deserved a response, however. It was extremely rude, and I haven't posted anything that I'm aware of that would merit that comment. The further posting that ideas are cheap and creativity is valuable doesn't make it any better.

    Here's a good analogy for people that think this was OK. The next party or get-together you go to, after someone's done talking, tell them their ideas aren't as valuable as they think they are and that they should get some perspective, and see how well that goes. Somehow I doubt it's going to be tolerated well.
     
  19. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I think you're being way too paranoid. People don't scour the internet trying to steal ideas from amateur writers, ideas that, realistically speaking, have probably been done (or very nearly done) before. Besides which, it isn't your ideas that are going to impress anyone, it will be your writing. A publisher will not publish your manuscript on the strength of your ideas alone; your writing must be of an exceptionally high quality, and highly individual. As such, even if someone were to steal your idea (which, honestly, will never happen), the end product (assuming they produce an end product, which is in itself highly unlikely, given the colossal effort that writing a novel is) probably wouldn't resemble yours at all. Besides which, as others note, your ideas aren't protectable before or after the book is published. If you publish the book, there's nothing to stop me or any other writer copying the characters and plot and making my own book. Further, I don't see why you'd want to keep such control over ideas. You stand to gain more by letting them freely circulate, where they can influence other writers--if your ideas are as good as you think they are, then it would be better for the genre as a whole if they were allowed to influence other writers and help them develop better works too.
     
  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that's not really true... only completed works are covered by copyright... plots can't be and neither can characters... characters [batman, superman, etc.] can be trademark protected, but only if used for other marketing purposes, not simply for having been written into a work of fiction...

    much of the info here isn't accurate [e.g., the 'poor man's copyright' mailing to yourself thing, which has no legal standing in the us], so i would strongly advise all to go to the source and study up on the 'real skinny':

    www.copyright.gov

    www.uspto.gov
     
  21. Ironwil
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    Ironwil Member

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    I have come up with an idea I think is unique, or at least the core of it is. There will be elements common to every fantasy fiction novel. I just want to keep the core aspects protected until I get it published. Then, if anyone wants to run with it, they can feel free (within the bounds of copyright laws). I'm not being particularly paranoid - I realize that the chances of someone finding, taking an interest in, and stealing my ideas are very close to nil. Even so, I don't believe in being sloppy. If was to finish my book, only to find that someone else had actually published something very similar, I'd feel stupid for not having taken precautions. Sometimes the slim chance comes to be.

    I used to work with this woman that organized a company lottery pot every week. I never participated, because I don't like throwing money away every week. We went on to different companies, and I found out later that one of the pools she organized won the lottery. Each person who contributed received $5 million. Between her and her husband, they won $10 million. I still don't play the lottery, but I know that the long odds could pan out.
     
  22. SashaMerideth
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    SashaMerideth Contributing Member

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    You are thinking of the kind of protection patents give. Creative writing just does not work that way. Publishing is about taking an idea and fleshing it pit to a finished and polished state and then monetizing it. Until the book is being sold it has no monetary value. It may have moral,social or theistic value bit those do not translate to money in the bank.
     
  23. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    Try. You'll hear a lot worse.
     
  24. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    In all honesty, I understand why Ironwil found the answer offensive. It was worded in a way which was easy to misunderstand, especially if you don't know the reasoning behind it.

    Regarding the copyright question: At its most basic level, copyright only protects specific expressions of ideas, not the ideas themselves. So if you write out a plot and publish it on a website, people are not allowed to copy and paste the actual text, but they can rewrite it in their own words and publish their own version.

    If a new work is very similar to an existing work, it may be considered plagiarism, but just reusing someone's plot is unlikely to fall under that umbrella, since plots are reused all the time.
     
  25. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    I think what I actually said that was the plot would need to be be detailed enough to warrant copyright - and so would the description of the character. That goes beyond the basic idea, which obviously is not subject to copyright. And although a character would need to be trademarked to give you sole right to use it, the description itself of any character is again subject to copyright - it cannot be taken, as written, and used by someone else.


    As far as finished works are concerned, are you saying that posts on this or any other site, of part completed works are not subject to copyright rules?
    If you post one chapter, or one paragraph, one verse of your work, it is protected by the same copyright rules that protect the finished work.

    You can use excerpts from other people's work, under certain conditions. The word count is limited, the usage is limited and you must acknowledge your source.

    Poor man's copyright - what is that? Copyright is an automatic right to have your work protected. Posting it to yourself is just one way of helping to prove that the work you seek to protect is actually yours.
     

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