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europa
July 5th, 2006, 12:39 PM
Hi! I am new.

Could you help me with info on what happens to the copyright of the authors who post their stories here? I mean some of the websites say they can publish it if they like and the author has to mention that this story was published etc on so-and-so site etc. How is it here on SFFworld?

BrianC
July 5th, 2006, 02:47 PM
Hi! I am new.

Could you help me with info on what happens to the copyright of the authors who post their stories here? I mean some of the websites say they can publish it if they like and the author has to mention that this story was published etc on so-and-so site etc. How is it here on SFFworld?
Copyright is an author's right to control the use of his or her work. The right attaches to a written work when the words are recorded in any type of media (i.e., pen and paper, typewritten, electronic file, etc). The author can sell the copyright outright, though this is rarely done in fiction, but normally what is "sold" is a license to publish the work. Usually the license is limited in a number of ways, geography, time, language, etc., and may be contingent upon certain facts such as first publication. Nevertheless, the author retains the actual copyright.

Now, are you asking whether a website that offers to post an author's work obtains the copyright? I would say no, not merely by virtue of "publishing" the work on the internet. In any event, the author and the website should enter into a contract providing for such a trransfer of rights, and the author should receive payment in exchange. The terms of the sale would have to be negotiated and agreed to in advance by both parties. I highly doubt that any one-sided disclaimer by the website would have any legal effect in this regard.

But in order to really answer you're question, it would be helpful to have a quote from or link to one of these other websites--because i do not think it is clear exactly what you are asking.

daigoro
July 5th, 2006, 05:50 PM
Hi! I am new.

Could you help me with info on what happens to the copyright of the authors who post their stories here? I mean some of the websites say they can publish it if they like and the author has to mention that this story was published etc on so-and-so site etc. How is it here on SFFworld?

The details are in the terms you sign up for when joining the Community section to post stories, but basically you own your stories and are free to remove them at any time if you wish. Something that you can do from the same place as you add a story.

Rocket Sheep
July 5th, 2006, 06:18 PM
If you post a story here and you somehow manage to sell it somewhere else you must tell them it was here first.

Many publishers would consider webpage publishing as having already "used" your "first rights". They will probably amend the contract to claiming second rights and ask you to remove it from this site and to refrain from posting it on all sites anywhere from 3 months to 2 years. Short story publishers (mags and anthologies) are usually pretty flexible in this regard so I doubt a short story here would compromise its chance at publication too badly... but it is a risk.

Novels... hmmm... bigger risk, IMHO.

Generally the copyright remains with you from the moment you type the words. The idea cannot be copyrighted, the title cannot be copyrighted but no one can copy your words for more than a line. Standard short story contracts merely lease the copyright to someone else for a while and... if you're savvy... novel contracts do too.

europa
July 6th, 2006, 09:47 AM
But in order to really answer you're question, it would be helpful to have a quote from or link to one of these other websites--because i do not think it is clear exactly what you are asking.

Thanks Brian.

I was referring to http://www.365tomorrows.com (http://www.365tomorrows.com/) where they have written something like this:

"Legal breakdown: When your story is accepted, you're giving us first electronic publication rights and non-exclusive subsequent publication rights. This means that we get to be the first to publish your story, and then, after it's been put up on the website, we can stick it in a printed book or on a flyer or something of the sort, as long as we give you credit. We don't, however, own your story. After it goes up, you are free to sell it for millions of dollars or cut a movie deal without needing our approval, as long as the people who buy it know that they're buying it non-exclusively.

In order to avoid complications, we're only accepting work which you previously haven't sold or given away the rights to. That means your work must not have been published elsewhere, either in print or on the web."

BrianC
July 6th, 2006, 02:24 PM
Europa, the site that you linked to is something akin to a webzine, to which you must submit to be considered for publication. In essence when you submit to that site, and your story is accepted for publication, you are granting the website it an exclusive license to the first electronic publication and a non-exclusive license to hardcopy publication. You would still own the copyright and can license any other rights to any other publisher. Personally, I think that the hardcopy license that the website wants in exchange for publishing your story on the internet is a bit excessive; I would think hard before I submitted anything commercially viable to that site.

When you post a story to SFFWorld you do grant the website a non-exclusive right to electronic publication, but by the terms and conditions of use, you retain the right to withdraw that license and delete your story from the website at any time. I would not post a complete short story here if you want to try to sell first electronic publication rights elsewhere. Otherwise, however, publication on SFFWorld should not have any significant effect on your copyright whatsoever.

As Rocket Sheep said, if you do post here, and then submit the same story elsewhere, you do need to tell the subsequent publisher that first electronic publication rights may not be available. I'm sure that they will ask you to confirm that the story has not been previously published, and will certainly require that you delete it from this site. Many webzines may be very concerned about first electronic publication--so they may just pass on the story--or they may offer you less $$ (asuming it pays in the first place) because it's already been out there on the internet.

dented
July 12th, 2006, 04:17 PM
So how much of a writing can be safely places on the forums here for peer review? I mean, if you are writing a novel and place say 3% of the total text here, would that be considered losing first rights to the publisher of the novel?

And if a work is in the pre-writing or writing stage, and will be edited heavily, if it is posted here (pre-edits) is that also going to be something that publishers frown upon?

BrianC
July 13th, 2006, 08:02 AM
So how much of a writing can be safely places on the forums here for peer review? I mean, if you are writing a novel and place say 3% of the total text here, would that be considered losing first rights to the publisher of the novel?

And if a work is in the pre-writing or writing stage, and will be edited heavily, if it is posted here (pre-edits) is that also going to be something that publishers frown upon?
These questions are probably better answered by one of the editors that post here now and then, because they involve business practices, not strictly legal issues involving copyright. A publisher might assert that posting a chapter of a novel on SFFWorld constitutes "publication," and thereby offer less favorable terms to the author, but I doubt that this sort of thing really happens. First, a publisher is always free to offer whatever terms it believes the work under consideration merits, and usually this is driven by purely economic and market concerns. You might get the $1,000,000 advance and the all-out marketing effort, or you might get the third-class package. Posting of a fragment here for feedback is hardly likely to impact the publisher's calculus. Second, in my view, a publisher that tries to take advantage of such a posting (3% in your example) to claim that first publication rights are exhausted for the novel as a whole, as a tactic to pay less for the license to publish the work, is not worth working with in the first place. If your work is commercially viable, then the publisher should want it without regard to your posting a small amount here. The same applies to a draft version that has been heavily edited (and I mean more than just changing a few words and sentences).

To reiterate, nothing prevents a publisher from claiming that a small posting equals first publication; the publisher is free to conduct its business however it wishes. Personally, I feel that a publisher that seeks to use posting of a small fragment of a novel as leverage in contract negotiations is one that I would not want to do business with in any event. I have posted a section of the first chapter of my WIP here without any qualms, and I've posted other fragments on my own blog.

All of that having been said, I am responding solely to your examples, Dented, and I do not advocate posting a complete short story on this site (or any other website for that matter) if you intend to submit it to a magazine or other publisher in substantially the same form. Legally, at least under U.S. law, a writing is published when it is made available to the general public for reading. Printing and generally distributing the writing in any format, i.e., magazine, book, anthology, etc., likely constitutes publication; but so does posting it on the internet, i.e., in a blog or forum or whatever. Whether anyone reads it is not relevant. If you post a writing in substantially the same form* anywhere on the internet that is generally accessible by the public, (or for that matter, nail it to the church door) then the publisher to whom it is submitted may be perfectly correct to complain that it has already been "published."

And THAT having been said, again, I highly doubt that these sorts of disputes occupy much of the time or effort expended by legitimate publishers trying to protect their own razor-thin margins. It seems to me that that such concerns are only very rarely relevant.


* Note the bold text, indicating that this language is critically important.

dented
July 13th, 2006, 05:35 PM
Thanks, that helps a lot!