Discussion in 'Support & Feedback' started by Killer_Imagination, Jan 28, 2009.
How do I know that some of work that I post in the future on here will not be plagiarized?
I'm afriad we cannot confirm that you will be safe from plagiarism. The review room forums of the site are only visible to members which limits the risk, but as it is so easy to join, there is still a risk.
We would not advise you post any piece in its full format that you intend to submit for publication, as you may lose their interest, "publishing" it here for free first.
The site takes plagiarism very seriously and any on-site infractions would be dealt with swiftly and severly after an investigation to establish any wrong doing.
Keep original copies of early drafts of your work, preferably drafts that predate anything you have posted. If you're really worried about it, register your copyright. That gets expensive, though, if you write a lot of works.
Anyone can steal your work if it is posted or published. The copyright laws provide the means to protect your rights to your own work, but they don't prevent plagiarism. They provide the basis for a remedy if you are plagiarized.
You can register your copyright at any time. The copyright exists from the moment you have a complete draft of your work, whether it is published or not. If you do find that someone has stolen your work AND registered it as their own, you will have a hell of a legal fight on your hands. But if you do register first, even after you have discovered someone has stolen your work, you have the upper hand.
Registration of the copyright IS a prerequisite for opening a civil case against an alleged plagiarist. Early drafts, particularly if you can prove to the satisfaction of the court that they predate anything your opponent can produce, will strengthen your case.
If you do plan to publish your work, never post it anywhere in its entirety. Only post short excerpts, and this is not only to prevent plagiarism, but to be able to sell first publication rights.
So the short answer to your question is that you are protected by the law, but a pound of prevention is still the best policy.
I'm curious, would mailing a hard copy of your MS to yourself certified mail then leaving it sealed protect you in the event of plagiarism?
A friend mentioned this to me, but I told him I wasn't too concerned about it. Everything I write here, I feel, is a part of learning to write. I hope no one swipes anything, but I wouldn't try to publish any of it anyway.
Maia says that the "poor man's copyright" is worthless. I would think it would be good supporting evidence if your copyright registration were challenged, or if someone registered a copyright against your writing. It is, after all, evidence that at least one draft of your work existed on the date it was mailed. With registered mail, the registration number is verifiable by te USPS.
There are also services that allow you to archive a copy of your work inexpensively, and can act as witnesses of the date the work was archived with them.
The thing to keep in mind is that these do not replace rehistration, but are only evidenciary in the event you have to support a claim if more than one person tries to register the piece. To take it to court as a plaintiff, you have to file to register your copyright.
So, when I get to the point where I think I could submit for publication with any degree of success, should I copyright my story first?
Really, when I get to that point, I won't be posting it anywhere on the internet. So it would be moot at that point whether someone could steal it online.
"poor man's copyright" Love it! I can so see her writing that.
Publishers will take care of the registration for you.
you don't!... anytime a person writes something and then puts it out in public view anywhere, anyone can use it, steal it, claim it as their own... it's a fact of life... but it happens so rarely, the risk is minimal... especially when the work isn't displayed in its entirety and is not publishing quality, which is true of most stuff people post on writing sites...
for the official legal details of what cog presented above, go here: www.copyright.gov
and familiarize yourself with what is and is not protected, what registering a copyright really does and doesn't, et al.
and cog, i don't just say that, the us copyright site does!... check it out before passing on that worthless old wive's tale any more, ok?... all you had to do was look it up on their site in the faq section [ http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/faq-general.html#poorman ]:
it is not 'supporting evidence' and has absolutely no standing in us courts... however, i've heard that it does have some in the uk, though i wouldn't count on that, either, till i saw it in some official source's info...
the best thing one can do is to keep one's original notes and some early drafts, that show the progression from idea to finished work... if it comes to a court battle, the 'thief' won't have such a convincing paper trail...
as for 'archiving' your work, the only reliable and court-accepted 'service' for that is the wga [the writer's union], where myself and other serious/professional writers register and archive our work... wgae [east/NYC] is most used by book writers, playwrights and lyricists, wgaw [west/LA], by screenwriters and tv writers... you can even send in your work electronically and it's covered for 5/10 years, depending on which place you use...
fyi, you can't become a 'member' till you've sold enough work to qualify, but anyone can use their registry/archives...
I did look it up. All it says is that it is not a substitute for registering a copyright, which I agree with. It says nothing about its admissibility as evidence in a copyright infringement dispute (for which formal registration is a prerequisite anyway).
In such a case, where both parties claim to be te originator, it may well come down to proving who has the earliest verifiable draft, and I don't see why that wouldn't be every bit as credible as the testimony of friends who claim to have seen early drafts.
Since no one is recommending you formally register every piece of writing you produce with the copyright office, what damage could it cause if you are willing to pay the postage costs, as long as you realize that if you actually publish it, you will want to register the copyright if your publisher isn't already taking care of that for some reason?
That is in addition with keeping a history of drafts, which costs you nothing but storage space.
Actually, the key to "admissibility" of self-mailed documents is to NOT open the envelope. Once the package/envelope is opened it loses its value as "proof" based on the USPS stamp on the envelope. Anything could have been inside that dated instrument. On the other hand, if a court officer opens the "evidence", then the date stamp on the package is considered absolute proof of the date for the contents.
I've had to deal with this issue in the insurance business.
Like mama said, it's not really that big of a risk. If you think something of your is good enough to get plaigarised, I suggest you consider submitting it for publication. If not, you are in little danger.
Ideas are a dime a dozen, and anyone with enough skills to be making your idea publishable has plenty of ideas of your own.
re the poor man's copyright, it's a well-known fact that i've heard/seen confirmed by attorneys, that it will not be entered into evidence for a court action in the us for copyright matters, even if it may be for other things, like insurance... and to give new writers the idea that doing this can help them in any way, is giving bad advice, imo...
all it does is waste ink, paper, envelopes and postage fees...
from sfwa's 'writer beware' site:
Thanks for that feedback maia...besides, it's always best to do things the "right way" in the first place, especially when it's really so easy to accomplish the task.
Here is a link that will give a bit more information on The Poor Man's Copyright.
As stated, it is very very unlikely that your work will be stolen, especially if you post only a section of the work. What are the chances that someone who can't write or devise a piece on their own will be able to take a section of what is posted and complete it such that a paying market would accept it? Most markets decide in the first page, maybe two if a piece is worth reading--and they stop at any time it is decided to be rejection material.
I guess someone could post it on their blog as their own...still what value or quality will the piece be?
Thank you. Maia and Terry. Given this additional info, I must concede the point. The Poor Man's Copyright has no significant value whatsoever.
Any day I learn something is a good day.
Oh. I meant, how do I make sure nothing is plagiarized on here? This site? No. I don't think any of my work is worth plagiarizing, but I was just curious.
As stated earlier there are no sure fire ways to prevent it. This is the internet. Once it's on the internet anyone can get it. The site limits provide that only member can view the review forums, but anyone can register as a member. It's the risk you take by going on an online workshop. Lots of people and and lots of opportunity, but a little risk comes with it.
Don't worry about it though. Few writers will actually steal the work of others (it sort of defeats the purpose). As others have suggested don't post the entire piece. Usually a first chapter is enough for reviewers to make suggestions about your writing style, and from there you can work on bits and pieces that you want help with. I doubt your works in any more danger here than it would be anywhere else.
If we detect plagiarism on the site, the plagiarist is banned and the plagiarized writing is deleted. We have a zero tolerance policy with regard to theft of intellectual propeerty.
I know that's no guarantee that a particular piece of writing you see here has not been stolen. If you see somthing you think may have been plagiarized, use the Repoet Post icon and we will investigate it.
Does that address your concern?
Yes. Thank you for being so prompt. That's great modding.
thanks for that link, terry!... i've added it to my collection of info/tips for aspiring writers that i send out when needed...
extra hugs, maia
One alternative to physically posting it to yourself, which is easy to fake, might be to email a copy to yourself so there is a date verifiable record. If you use a mail service such as gmail, where you do not have access to the servers, it should hold up.
I have known people working in research industries (pharmaceuticals) who routinely emailed themselves password protected copies of their research notes.
Under those circumstances there is no possibility of fakery as the server holds the files, which are still secure as they are password protected. This wasn't intended as a substitute for patent protection, more a support in case a patent claim was challenged.
As an added bonus its not going to cost you anything but time and your files will be available to you online from anywhere in the world!
Servers don't necessarily retain those files, and electronic fakery is widespread.
Listen to Maia.
Keep your drafts, and don't put everything out for the world to see if you ever plan to publish your work.
Separate names with a comma.