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Archived Message:

Copyright Question

BlackKnight Hi, I'm the new guy as proclaimed on the front page.

I'm very interested in ebooks and have already completed two novels (both over five hundred pages) and am five stories from the end of a short story collection as of right now so I've got a backlog but I was wondering how I should go about copyrighting my work. I know the process of it but no tutorial or article that I've read over details whether I should copyright it all as text pieces or under the internet document heading-- a case could be made for either one. Any help is greatly appreciated and I look forward to getting to know everyone around here better and having a great experience with this board. Thanks again.

Posted on: 4:52 pm on May 24, 2004
Storyman Where are you located?

If in the US the work is automatically copyrighted upon creation and unlike in the past does not necessarily have to contain the circle with the c in the center. (Although, I have been told that some countries do not respect a copyrighted piece without the the insignia.)

The advantage to sending in your money for a copyright is that if the copyright is applied for within three months of creation that you can include attorney fees in any lawsuit (without it you cannot recover such fees.)

Forget about registration services. The only time they are of any value is when you are applying for an injunction and the court is willing to accept the registration as valid proof to the original copyright. The registration services are an outgrowth of the Writer's Guild of America West, when members registered their screenplays with the guild in case of a lawsuit. The courts would accept the guild registered script as evidence because it was timely and if they waited for the copyright office in DC to locate and send the material in question several weeks might have passed, which could well render the entire process moot.

Do not believe the old wives tale that you can send the material to yourself as proof of origination--it will not be accepted by the courts. (You are probably already wise to this and only mention it to benefit others reading this thread.)

As far as the text versus internet document see if Nolo Press has any information on the subject. From experience, I would not trust a lawyer's advice unless they specialize as an intellectual rights attorney. I've dealt with both and any attorney other than an intellectual rights attorney will give you bad information half the time. Expect to pay an established intellectual rights attorney $300 to $500 per hour.

Personally, I would not trust any information from a forum because well meaning people sometimes have been given faulty information from an non-intellectual attorney. (What's worse is that they even paid for the bad advice.) Stick with Nolo Press, Government Office, or an intellectual attorney.

(Edited by Storyman at 7:39 pm on May 24, 2004)

(Edited by Storyman at 7:46 pm on May 24, 2004)

Posted on: 3:38 am on May 25, 2004
BlackKnight Well, see, most of my stuff is the kind that you could expect someone to at least consider infringing upon if I don't register it. So the question remains-- text or internet copyright? What have other posters done?

Two other questions:

1.) The Copyright Office website says that it takes about four to five months for them to send you a receipt that your work has been registered. I understand that but my question is: Can you publish an ebook and expect it to be protected if you sent in the application for registry but haven't received the receipt yet?
2.) I figure you have to but do you have to pay sales tax on ebooks since they are, arguably, not tangible property? You probably do but I'd like to know before I send off free money to the government.


Posted on: 3:11 pm on May 25, 2004
Storyman When it comes to intellectual properties, I would ignore what others have done. There is a lot of bad advice from well meaning people and if you want a definitive answer see an intellectual rights attorney. Who knows you might even get one who will answer your question on the phone no charge.

As soon as you write your e-book you are protected. Period. (Assuming that you are in the US.) In other words you do not have to send the copyright application and your money into the Copyright Office to have you work protected.

The true advantage to paying (within the first three months or origination) for a copyright is that if litigation does happen you can recoup attorney fees.

The copyright notice does not even have to appear on the work for it to be protected. As mentioned previously (and I am not absolutely certain about this) that the work is not protected by some countries unless the copyright notice is provided.

With the above as a caveat if I were to select between text or internet copyright it would be text because once the e-book sales have diminished I plan to sell it as a POD (Print On Demand) book. Also, I have books that are going from publication to e-book (not books I've written, but have obtained the rights to). In those cases the copyright protects them on the internet.

If there are distinct advantageous to an internet copyright I am not certain. I cannot imagine that the Copyright Office would set up a system that a property would be protected on the internet, but not in print and vice-versa. Can you imagine the chaos that would create.

You do not have to wait for the receipt because the work is protected even without sending in the money. When I refer to registration services I am talking about those online services that offer to register your work or web site for a fee. The idea is to prove that you are the true first creator of such material. It is a waste of money IMHO. A registration has no bearing in the courts and is only a feel good service.

What is important is that you save a copy of all your notes and other material in regards to your creation. This is important because it shows the process you went through to create your work and it is only something the true orginator would have. SAVE EVERYTHING!

It is a popular belief that there are lots of sharks out there that are ready to steal your work. Personally, I just do not see it. Having worked in the entertainment industry you will find a lot of newbie screenwriters who are nervous nellys when it comes to ideas. A seasoned writer has more ideas than they can possible write in a lifetime. Even still if someone was to steal the idea their script would be entirely different than anything that you, I, or anyone else would write. The main reason that many seasoned Hollywood writers do not talk about their ideas is that the value in a high concept idea is its uniqueness and if someone has a script with the same concept it could reduce the value of his script. Ideas and concepts cannot be copyrighted!

My point is that even if you go through all the hoops to protect your work the basic premise can be taken and restructed by a seasoned writer so that it is no longer an infringement. As a more recent example look at the DaVinci Code and what one author claims is a direct rip off of his work (if you Google you'll find the digruntled authors web site that outlines his claims in detail.)

There is not anything you can do about the stealing of cocepts or ideas. Once you put it out there it is gone forever. What is of value is your voice and how you speak to the reader and I just do not hear about that kind of stealing very often (in fact I cannot remember when I have ever heard of it--not complete works.) If you are aware of any cases I would be interested in knowing about them.

As for taxes my philosophy is to pay. Period. Once you start down the slippery slope with the taxman it is a no win situation. I sleep better at night knowing this.

(Edited by Storyman at 9:31 am on May 25, 2004)

Posted on: 5:18 pm on May 25, 2004
BlackKnight Thanks so much. That really does help me a lot. I appreciate your taking the time to answer me and good luck with those books of yours.

Posted on: 7:21 pm on May 25, 2004
EBookCompiler I'm going to allow this discussion

But I want everybody reading to be clear

As far as I know, the partipants are not lawyers, and this board is not an appropriate source for legal advice. If you want legal advice, consult a lawyer

The discussion may continue subject to this being clearly understood by all concerned (including readers not actively participating in the discussion).

Posted on: 3:29 am on May 27, 2004
merlin I live in Denmark, and can only answer for this country.
Here mere ideas and concepts can be protected, but not
copyrighted. You simply take out a patent. You submit a detailed outline of your idea, plus a sample page or two, with the application. Keep a copy of this material
together with the receipt of submission. That's it. The
patent office here makes no distinction between ideas
for written material or inventions

Posted on: 8:05 am on July 21, 2004
Storyman Merlin,

Interesting that you can protect ideas. In the US you can create a product and stamp it with proprietary rights, but the patent still needs to be applied for however.

Part of post removed, let's leave comments on specific legal cases (which I know nothing about in any case) out of the discussion. - Again remember, we aren't lawyers here, so we can't properly discuss the merits of cases that none of use is truly informed on (in a legal sense), or a party to.  Thanks

My point is this is just an example of what can happen when ideas are copyrighted.

As a writer I can tell you that there is always someone at a party who will say, "I've got an idea for a great novel/screenplay." Can you imagine if they all were awarded copyrights for their "ideas". Someone would be yelling, "Foul! That is my idea!" every time a book or movie was released.

Posted on: 5:33 pm on July 21, 2004

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