CopyWrite: Copyright for Writers 101

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Joined: October 5th, 2010, 4:42 pm

CopyWrite: Copyright for Writers 101

Post by MsBrouhaha » October 5th, 2010, 4:48 pm

Why do writers need to understand the basics of intellectual property law (particularly copyright)? This item from Slushpile Hell says it all:
Dear agent, first of all, let me tell you that I have applied for a copyright for my book, so I hope you will respect that.

Curses! Without a copyright I would have outsourced your book idea to India, where a team of writers would carefully plagiarize it and then hand it back over to me. After which, I would put my name on it as author and ride it to glorious bestsellerdom.
I have good news for this writer and others like him. All writers own copyright in their writing, whether they choose to register it or not. It doesn’t matter whether the work is a novel or a short story, finished or unfinished, published or unpublished, a work of genius or barely literate. It doesn’t even matter if you leave out the © copyright symbol, (believe it or not, that symbol has no legal effect.) It’s a type of magic, really – as soon as you put those words down on the page, *voila* a right is created and it is called copyright.

You can’t see it, touch it, hear it. You can’t eat it for dinner or frame it on your wall. Of course you can’t, because as well as being an intellectual property right (and therefore intangible), copyright is essentially a negative right. Owning the copyright gives you the exclusive right to do certain things with your work – and on the flipside, you can prevent anyone else from doing these things without your permission. Among other things:

· No-one can copy or reproduce the work without your permission.
· It cannot be published without your permission
· People cannot make derivative works (for example, turning your novel into a screenplay) without your permission.

If people do these things, whether it’s on the far side of the world or somewhere in cyberspace, they are likely to be infringing your copyright.

Why do I say “likely to be infringing”? One reason is that every rule has its exceptions. In the US and in many other countries, there is a “fair use” defence to copyright infringement. That means that certain types of use of the work – for example, quoting sections of a book as part of a book review – won’t be a copyright infringement.

In an effort to keep this digestible, I’ll stop here for today, but I'll go into fair use some more in my next blog post on

Kenner R. McQuaid
Posts: 10
Joined: December 17th, 2010, 11:01 am

Re: CopyWrite: Copyright for Writers 101

Post by Kenner R. McQuaid » December 24th, 2010, 10:28 am

100% correct. There are a lot of misconceptions about copyright, even amongst lawyers themselves.

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