1. GloriousEternity

    GloriousEternity New Member

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    Writing Contests and Copyright

    Discussion in 'Research' started by GloriousEternity, Sep 12, 2017.

    Hello all!

    I have a bit of a concern regarding submitting written works without registered copyright to writing contests. One I am particularly interested in entering is for college students, and offers a scholarship prize to authors who are currently working on, or have finished (but not published), a full-length novel. As someone developing her first novel, I was ecstatic--most contests that allow novel-length works, as far as I have seen, require the entire thing to be complete, so this is a nice change of pace.

    My concern, though, is that since my work is unfinished, it is not registered with the copyright office. I've heard from enough writers and individuals with knowledge of the publishing industry that it's imperative to copyright your work before showing/submitting it anywhere. Problem is my novel is nowhere close to being complete, and the contest deadline is in less than two weeks.

    Presuming the source of the contest is legit and won't steal my rough draft first chapter (don't know who would do that, but you never know), is it safe to submit to a writing contest without copyrighting the work first?

    tl;dr Can I submit unregistered copyright work to a contest without fear of plagiarism/anything else?

    (Forgive me if the question seems ridiculous. I've witnessed plagiarism before, and as a result, I'm extremely paranoid about it happening to me).
     
  2. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView Supporter

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    That throws their "knowledge of the publishing industry" into real doubt. It's actually considered amateur to do that.

    You own the copyright of anything you write, automatically, which knowledgeable writers (and industry professionals) know. All registering does is aid you in suing somebody who plagiarises you, and if you had a short story plagiarised (highly unlikely) and had the funds to sue (even more unlikely) and won (so unlikely you should buy a lottery ticket, too) then the payout you can expect would be laughable compared to what you spent, unless you're J.K.Rowling.

    If you have a novel published, the publisher will pay to register the copyright. But even they rarely pursue plagiarism cases.

    If it's a reputable contest then yes, absolutely safe. Same with reputable agents and publishers.

    I wouldn't bother copyrighting anything if you're looking to be published (rather than self-publishing: I don't know if it's a wise thing to do in that case).

    Good luck in the contest!
     
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  3. GloriousEternity

    GloriousEternity New Member

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    Thanks so much, Tenderiser! As for the reputation of the contest, it's the Reedsy National Creative Writing Scholarship Program (don't know if anyone's heard of that) but I haven't seen anything online against it, and I got the notification through the college-prep site Cappex so I guess it's legit. Anyways, thanks, you've been a great help! :)
     
  4. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView Supporter

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    I've never heard of them (which made me raise an eyebrow at their claim to be "the world's leading marketplace of book publishing talent"!).

    I can't find much about them. No evidence that the scholarship is a scam, but no evidence that it isn't. What I'm reading about them in general isn't good - aggressive marketing, fake reviews, and spam.

    I'd say the aim of the scholarship is to gather the names of aspiring authors and target them for Reedsy's paid editing services. I'd guess somebody does win the $1,000, but everybody else gets told they need editing and by the way, Reedsy can offer it at a great price...
     
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  5. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    I'm confused on how copyrights work in literature. In software, the line "//@copyright newjerseyrunner 2017" is considered a legal copyrighted piece of code, and I can sue anyone using my code unless otherwise stated by a license (usually GNU or zlib.)
     
  6. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView Supporter

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    You legally own the copyright the moment you create a story. You don't need to put a copyright symbol or any kind of disclaimer on your stories, and actually you mark yourself as an amateur if you submit a manuscript with the copyright symbol.

    The complication is with registering the copyright, which I believe is free in the UK and costs a bit in the US. I'm hazy on the details because I know it's not something worth doing in my situation, but I think it registers your ownership of the copyright with some kind of central body. Then if you ever sued someone for plagiarism (probably not possible or wise, as I said above) you can claim damages. I believe if copyright is unregistered, it's harder to claim damages.

    But in practical terms, nobody except the likes of J.K. Rowling will be able to claim a significant amount in damages, so I'm not sure what the point is. All registering copyright does is cost you time and/or money and makes you the target of vanity publishers and the like.
     
  7. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Supporter Contributor

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    For the purpose of contests, always read the fine print. As a teen I saw many contest rules which state that by submitting an entry you are assigning them all your rights, including to the copyright. I don't enter contests anymore, though, so I couldn't say how common that is now.

    I can only speak of US copyright...

    While it is true that "technically" a copyright takes place the moment you write the piece, in the US, you must register the copyright with the US Library of Congress (copyright office) in order to be able to sue for copyright infringement.

    That's not technically the law, but it's used as a filtering mechanism for an overcrowded court system. No judge in the US will hear the case unless the work was registered it with the US Library of Congress, because it's assumed that if you cared, you would have registered it. Poor Man's Copyright is really only useful as a stopgap while your copyright registration is being processed.

    For a manuscript I would be submitting to someone else, such as to an agent or publisher or for publication, then no, I wouldn't register it, because it's going straight to a trusted entity.

    For a manuscript or article I know will be self-published, I register copyrights. For something you self-publish and think you may change later, it can always be re-registered as an Amended Copyright. Registering copyrights is not cheap in the US, though, so for me, it needs to be pretty much "done."

    For me, it's not the money, it's a matter of "How dare that motherf--" put their name on something I worked my butt off for. Revenge and slamming the smithereens out of their reputation can be every bit as sweet as cash, and in the US you can't be sued for libel if something is true.

    For songs, always, always always register the copyright. Song publishing works exactly the opposite of the above advice, and when submitting material to a professional entity in the music industry (if they accept unsolicited material), it's expected that you're submitting properly registered material.

    I speak from personal experience, as does @Tenderiser so it's really up to you to decide what it's worth to you and what isn't. (In my case, my ex stole song lyrics I wrote, registered the song we wrote together--my lyrics, his music-- solely as his, toured with the song for about a decade, and I lost out on royalties and song credit...because I believed in the myth of Poor Man's Copyright. So, I trust no one.)
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2017
  8. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    "was" registered or "is" registered--as in, you can register it essentially simultaneous with the lawsuit? And this sort of statement of fact calls for a cite.
     
  9. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Supporter Contributor

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    was registered, as in before the lawsuit.

    Citation: http://musicbizadvice.com/advice/howto/poor-mans-copyright-myth-stop-mailing-recordings-to-yourself/

    But mainly, decades of my own personal experience with this in my day job. (And the above-mentioned $50K mistake when I was young and stupid.)
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2017
  10. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Oh, I didn't need proof that the poor man's copyright is useless. That's pretty common knowledge.

    But are you really saying that if someone files a copyright suit against someone else, the court will look at the date that the item was registered for copyright, and if it's too close to the time of the suit, say, "Nah."? Do courts really have that absolute discretion to make civil suits go away just because they wanna? How does that work? I need a better cite. The above link just has an anecdotal quote of an unnamed lawyer.
     
  11. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Supporter Contributor

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    T
    No, that's not what I'm saying at all. I'm saying the case wouldn't even get to court.

    I'm saying that if you want to sue for copyright infringement and you meet with an intellectual property attorney, the first question the intellectual property attorney asks you is, "Did you register the work with the copyright office?" And he/she will ask to see the Certificate of Copyright the Library of Congress Registrar of Copyright (Copyright Office) sends to you after the work has been properly registered. Because an experienced intellectual property attorney knows the judge will refuse to hear the case if it has not been properly registered.

    As to the date registered, I hadn't thought about it, but I imagine the attorney would probably weigh it as a factor in deciding how successful a potential the case might be and thus whether or not to take the case. There's a long lagtime between registering your copyright and receiving your actual Certificate of Copyright. I've had them take anywhere from 6 weeks to four months to receive.

    As to citation, as previously stated, I have been there, both in the past as the person who wanted to sue for copyright infringement to get my part of the royalties my ex was earning every night from my words, and later with decades of experience as a regular part of my day job.

    Don't like the citation I found on a quick search? You're more than welcome to call an intellectual property rights attorney to check for yourself.


    ETA: Forgot the word Registrar

     
  12. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    There's a difference between "you have to register to sue" and "you can't sue if you haven't registered." My understanding is that if you want to sue and you haven't registered, you register, and then you sue.
     
  13. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Supporter Contributor

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    Dude. Seriously. At this point, it's patently obvious you're not seeking information. So I'm exiting this conversation.
     
  14. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Well, no, I'm just not assuming that you are the premier authority on copyright, and apparently you find that upsetting. So, yes, bye, now.
     
  15. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Did a bit of a search. Interesting. They appear to be based in the UK. And here's an article about them from The Guardian two years ago. Not sure what their connection to a scholarship would be but ...I'll keep investigating. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/may/18/rootsy-self-publishing-professional-edge-emmanuel-nataf

    They are, apparently, an editing service, but they also have apparently launched an author-focused wordprocessing programme 'to rival Scrivener and Ulysses.' https://techcrunch.com/2016/02/16/reedsy-launches-book-editor-to-seamlessly-turn-your-draft-into-a-book/

    I haven't been able to find anything online about them SINCE mid 2016, though.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2017

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