1. Anita Kuno
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    Anita Kuno Member

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    Who owns my research notes?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Anita Kuno, Aug 20, 2012.

    Hello:

    I am grateful for some advice particularly if a commenter has experienced something similar.

    I have done research for a newspaper story for which I have not been paid. The editor wouldn't assign me any other stories nor run other stories that I had submitted. So three weeks on this story and no pay.

    Yesterday a big interview fell through and I can't keep working on this story with no pay. The editor asks for the story. I tell him I have lost incentive. He says he will take my notes and write the story. I have no mention of being paid.

    The story is delicate. My editor has acknowledged someone may get fired over the story. I free-lance and this topic is not my area of interest.

    I have not given my permission to use my notes to write the story. I had shared them with my editor for feedback as I prepared for my interview (which subsequently fell through). This is the first story I have written for this editor and people's jobs are at stake, I wanted to ensure I was responsbile with my words.

    Who owns the notes? I took them, my editor has copies, I have not been paid for them. He told me he was going to use them. I did not give my permission. I have not responded to his email in which he stated he will take them and write the story. (He says he will credit me, I'm not sure I want that.) I did use the name of the paper in my introduction to each person that I interviewed.

    So my question is about the ownership of the notes. Do I own them or does the paper?

    I appreciate any commentary, and my thanks,
    Anita.
     
  2. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    That's a lawyer question. I doubt you will find anyone on the forum who has been in the same position.

    Common sense would say that if you are not an employee of the newspaper, have not been paid for your work on the story, and have signed nothing giving them rights to your work, then they shouldn't be able to use your work. But law is not always common sense.
     
  3. Anita Kuno
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    Anita Kuno Member

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    Thank you, B93. I don't have easy access to a lawyer but I do appreciate what you are saying.

    Yes, common sense and the law don't always agree. That is true.

    I do appreciate your comment though. I wanted a bit of a reality check prior to making any decisions about what I do. Your comment feels validating for my position so to that extent, I thank you.

    Thanks B93,
    Anita.
     
  4. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you done the research and took the notes, I would say you wrote them they are your copyright.

    I don't know if I am right, you need to seek legal advice.

    I note that you are from Canada, so you would need to check Canadian laws.
     
  5. Anita Kuno
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    Anita Kuno Member

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    Thank you, Trilby, I appreciate your input.

    I feel better for even having asked the question.

    Yes, I am Canadian. I am going over in my head if there is anyone I know familar with Canadian copyright laws whom I can approach.

    In any case, I am feeling like moving in this direction is not an unreasonable direction.

    Thank you again, Trilby, for your comments,
    Anita.
     
  6. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    Have you tried Googling 'copyright laws Canada'? You never know - it may come up trumps.
     
  7. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    Another lawyer question is what liability you have. You said people might get fired because of the story. I'm thinking for this to be newsworthy those will be powerful people. You could wind up defending a libel suit at the same time you are suing the newspaper for your x cents per word, especially if the editor over-states what you can prove and then puts your name on the story.

    Do you have any sort of written agreement with the newspaper about any of these issues?
     
  8. Anita Kuno
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    Anita Kuno Member

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    Yes, this is another one of my concerns.

    I have no written agreement with the newspaper about liability. Over-stating what I can prove is definitely a concern. To be honest I am wondering if I am being used, since none of my other story ideas were considered and the only story I did submit recieved no feedback for improvement. But I don't want to jump to conclusions since I leave the realm of reality when I do so. I want to stay grounded in facts.

    You ask a good question, B93. I have no written agreement. To be honest I was just looking to make a little money for groceries.

    Thanks for your question. It is a good one.

    Thanks,
    Anita.
     
  9. Anita Kuno
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    Anita Kuno Member

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    I have not tried googling that keyphrase, Trilby.

    To be honest, having a dialogue with a few objective authors is helping me more than the spew that google provides.

    I may get there though and when I do, your keyprase is a good suggestion.

    My thanks, Trilby,
    Anita.
     
  10. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    I'm not a lawyer, nor do I live in Canada.

    So my first advice, which you've already received is:

    Get a lawyer.

    Outside of that, I'd contact PWAC if you aren't already a part of them. I've just come across it once or twice, but it's the "Professional Writers Association of Canada" with 700+ members. There's 22 chapters of the association. They've been involved in lawsuits for freelance writers, copyright law, etc.

    There's also a union, CFU, that can be of help, including forums for free-lance writers that may be dealing with exactly the same thing you are.
     
  11. Anita Kuno
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    Anita Kuno Member

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    Thank you, E.C. Scrubb.

    I acknowledge your advice to get a lawyer.

    I further acknowledge and express my appreciation for your suggestions regarding PWAC and CFU. I had not known about either organization and am examining their websites. I do agree that membership in either group would be beneficial in this circumstance.

    Thank you, E.C. Scrubb, I am grateful for your comments and suggestions,
    Anita.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Easy access or not, you need to consult with a literary attorney. You may be able to get an answer through a lawyer referral service at little or no cost. At the least, they will help you get in touch with a lawyer who can answer your question.

    I wouldn't ask a bunch of strangers a question like this. The consequences of a wrong answer are potentially dire.
     
  13. DanesDarkLand
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    DanesDarkLand Senior Member

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  14. Anita Kuno
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    Anita Kuno Member

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    Thank you, Cogito.

    I think that what I was asking was more along the lines of, "Is this worth pursuing or am I being unreasonable given the circumstances?" To which I believe that I am hearing that I am not being unreasonable under the circumstances, so for that reassurance, I am grateful.

    I was not operating under the expection of getting or using any kind of legal advice from this forum. You are correct in that the way I worded my question in the original post, I have left the impression that I might have been looking for legal advice on this forum.

    I concur with you, Cogito, this forum or any forum is a poor place to obtain and/or use legal advice.

    Thank you, Cogito, for making this clear,
    Anita.

    Hello DanesDarkLand:

    Thank you for taking the trouble of consulting the googles for me. I am still in the mindset of processing and hadn't quite gotten to the place where I am willing to act (acting with anger or fear does not yield good results for me). Having these links available to me makes acting that much easier when I get to that stage which will probably be tomorrow morning. I tend to like to sleep on a decision of any kind since I find my ability to act that much clearer in the morning.

    I am grateful for your help and your support, DanesDarkLand.

    My thanks,
    Anita.
     
  15. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    IMO, you're not being unreasonable. You need a lawyer. My thoughts are:

    - You would probably hold copyright on your notes.

    - That copyright won't help you a bit, because facts cannot be copyrighted, and your editor can extract the facts from your notes and write his own story.

    - If your editor "credits" you with a story that could lead to legal action by someone, without your permission and without your writing the story, that seems like a much bigger issue than the non-payment issue.

    I find myself wondering if you should make it clear to your editor that you _do not_ offer any assurance whatsoever that your notes are correct; that they are not a complete work until you have completed all information gathering and fact checking, and that you have not completed that work. And further notifying him that any story that he writes relying on those notes is against your will and without your permission, and that you will consider taking action if he claims that you are responsible for the story. And I wonder if you should go over his head and tell all of this to his boss.

    Would this be the correct thing to do? I don't know. You need a lawyer.
     
  16. Anita Kuno
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    Anita Kuno Member

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    Thank you, ChickenFreak:

    You offer a direction that I had not previously considered but which does have some merit. I appreciate your comments. Thank you.

    Having had a good night's sleep I feel more confident in the matter. Thank you everyone for your feedback. It has helped me to assess my situation more objectively than I would have by myself.

    My gratitude,
    Anita.
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    YOU ... NEED ... A ... LAWYER!!!

    and NOW, not later!
     
  18. Anita Kuno
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    Anita Kuno Member

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    Thank you, mammamaia, for your kind advice.

    Please be aware that publishing my legal status and any conversation with my lawyer would be a bad choice since this forum is freely accessible on the internet.

    Thanks,
    Anita.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    what has that to do with anything?... if by 'legal status' you are referring to simply telling us that you have consulted an attorney, that certainly would not be a problem... and, if you have, why are you here, asking all these non-attorneys for advice?
     
  20. Anita Kuno
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    Anita Kuno Member

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    Thank you, mammamaia, for your continued interest and support.

    I am sorry that I am not in a position to provide answers to your questions at this time, but I do respect your right to pose them.

    With my thanks,
    Anita.
     
  21. Chris Crooper
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    Chris Crooper New Member

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    Ownership of those notes should belong to you and not the paper since they have not paid you for your work, you work hard on research and for those notes so all rights to its ownership belongs to you...
     
  22. Anita Kuno
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    Anita Kuno Member

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    Hello Chris:

    Thank you for your response. I appreciate it.

    The paper has published what it wanted to publish and as I expected it was not in keeping with a direction which made me comfortable. I have received good advice about my position and now I have to wait and see if this issue if complete or if there is more to the story.

    While I hope this is the end of this tale, should there be more I feel confident in my actions and my status. I would like to thank the responders in this thread for their support and suggestions since many have contributed to the security of my current position.

    I can't take reponsbility for the editor's decision but I can take responsiblility for my own.

    My thanks for your input, Chris,
    Anita.
     

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