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October 3rd, 2006, 04:32 PM
I mean, if I can prove that I wrote a story first and that it was my idea, does that make it my intellectual property, or is there some place where I need to register for a copyright?

P.S. I live in America, so I'm primarily interested in what American copyright law says about this.

October 3rd, 2006, 06:30 PM
I don't know the fine points of copyright law, but I do know that if you write a story it's automatically copyrighted to you. No need to register anywhere.

October 3rd, 2006, 06:46 PM
You can register a copyright if you want, you fill out a form, send two copies and a check, etc, etc... but if you put the copyright symbol, the year and your name, you are claiming copyright protection.

For myself, I never put, post or print anything that I don't have some kind of proof I wrote. Keep an archive.


October 3rd, 2006, 09:54 PM
For United States copyright law, here is the best resource: copyright basics (http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.html). The nuts and bolts however are: (1) your work is automatically copyrighted when it is recorded in an enduring medium (ink on paper, computer file, etc., i.e. writing on the sand at the beach at low tide won't do it :)) there are no other hoops to be jumped through, (2) registration of the work with the copyright office is not required for the work to be protected; (3) using the (c) or (r) symbols counts for nothing unless the work is registered; (4) the main benefit of registration is the right use the copyright symbols and the right to statutory damages in the event of an infringement; (5) registration is generally done by the publisher on behalf of the author.

Therefore, Finn, yes your work is your intellectual property the moment that you fix it in a readable medium. It is automatically protected.

October 4th, 2006, 09:53 AM
Great to know! Makes me a lot less nervous about sharing my stuff with others.

October 4th, 2006, 11:33 AM
Yes, but only your written text is protected. You cannot copyright an idea or a title. Therefore, if you write a novel about Penelope the Perilous who jumps from a cliff and call it "Farewell, My Lovely," and I write a novel about Teresa the Terrible who jumps from an airplane and call it "Farewell, My Lovely," and I'm not copying your text, there's not an awful lot you can do about it. I probably didn't even read your novel; I might have just come up with the idea on my own. (This is opposed to Hollywood, where it's all more complicated.)

But here's the thing, it is very unlikely that anybody is going to steal anything from you. Certainly, publishers don't need to bother, as there are thousands of novelists shoving manuscripts at them. So since your text is protected from plagiarism by the natural copyright, you're about as safe as you're going to get. If you sell the work, the publisher files/registers copyright in your name and their copyright as the licensed publisher, and if someone tries to infringe on that, you all can sue. But usually you have to get famous first for anyone to want to bother.

October 4th, 2006, 12:29 PM
That's right. Copyright protects a specific expression of an idea, not the idea itself. There is an entry in the link that I posted detailing what copyright actually protects, and what it does not, that will explian what Kat touched upon. I recommend that anyone who writes should look carefully at that website. It is actually, for a government site, quite straight-forward and will likely dispel lots of misunderstandings and myths.

October 5th, 2006, 11:42 AM
I'm not saying it never happens. There certainly have been cases of pilfering on the Web. I've been told that articles from a site that I did articles for had been hijacked and illegally put on another site, but there wasn't much the original site could do about it, nor could they be sure the articles weren't illegally at other sites. But in fiction, it has remained a rare thing. So, be cautious with Web stuff, but unless you mistakenly send your work to a con artist posing as an agent or something, you don't really have anything to worry about with publishers, agents or magazine editors.