How do you protect intellectual property for writers?

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The Write Question is a weekly video podcast all about writing. Today’s question? How do you protect intellectual property for writers? If you have a question you’d like me to answer you can email me,  tweet me @pubcoach, or leave a message for me at the Skype account, The Write Question.

Transcript: 

How do you protect intellectual property for writers? That’s the topic I’m addressing today in The Write Question. I’m Daphne Gray-Grant, the Publication Coach, still in pandemic mode.

I have a question from Jacqueline Hendrickson, a writer based in Wildwood Crest, New Jersey. Here’s what she’s asked by email…

“I have a creative idea for publication and I want to know how I can protect it as intellectual property? I wonder if you have this concern about your own work or if I am being somewhat paranoid or selfish? I still dream of creating a blog…but I let go of my GoDaddy domain because two years went by and I didn’t move forward. Is blog writing considered intellectual property?”

Thanks for your question, Jacqueline. My first and most important response is that I am not a lawyer. As a result, my comments are going to be a little bit generic, but I did ask a friend of mine who’s a lawyer to pre-read my script and prevent me from saying anything stupid. Thanks so much, Brian!

We all need to begin by understanding that anything related to law is going to depend, at least in part, on geography. I’m based in Canada and the rules here are slightly different than the ones in the US. And the rules will differ again in countries in Europe. And in Asia. So, if you’re searching for information about legal matters relating to intellectual property for writers, always make sure you define your jurisdiction, first.

I did a bit of research and found what appears to be a good website about legal matters and blogging in the US titled “blogging dot com.” I provide a link in the show-notes, below.

Here are the key points the site makes:

American copyright laws do safeguard American bloggers. Your blog posts and any other content you create — such as e-books, music, videos, software, podcasts, and photos — are all protected, provided that you’re the creator of them.

Once you hit the “publish” button, you will automatically receive this protection under US copyright laws. It is instantaneous and no official copyright registration is necessary. In fact, you don’t even need the little circled-C symbol © to indicate your ownership.

But while bloggers in the US aren’t required to file an official copyright registration, you may still wish to do so. That’s because you can’t sue for copyright infringement unless you’ve officially registered your work. In other words: no registration, no lawsuits. You can register two ways, either online or by paper. Consult the blogging dot com website for more information on those options. But remember that lawsuits are usually punishingly expensive.

Also, while you’re automatically protected, it doesn’t hurt to put in place various reminders on your blog. This is why many people — including me — do use the copyright symbol and create a special page outlining policies about re-use. You can also do Google searches to find plagiarized content — I do this once a month for both my books. Then, if I find a misuse, I issue what’s called a DMCA takedown. Google that phrase if you want more info about it.

My friend Brian asked me to add that copyright protects only what you write, not the idea itself. Only JK Rowling can publish a story about Harry Potter, but there is nothing to prevent someone else writing a story about a child wizard.

Otherwise, Jacqueline, I suggest you worry less about intellectual theft and focus more on your writing. If you have a great idea, go for it.

Many inexperienced writers worry unnecessarily about legal protection. I think they have a sense that their idea is so big or so revolutionary that others will want to take it. But, in fact, there are few ideas so ground-breaking that they’re going to be stolen.

Finally, let me wrap up with a quote from American writer Mark Twain: “Only one thing is impossible for God: to find any sense in any copyright law on the planet.”

Jacqueline, I suggest you adopt my philosophy. Publish relentlessly about your topic and by sheer volume ensure that your name is associated with your work. Of course, if you have something good to sell, a few bad apples might try to misuse your idea. But the vast majority of people are honest and respectful and I generally regard dealing with a few bad apples as a cost of doing business.

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If you’d like to learn more about how to make writing a happier and more rewarding process, check out my latest book Your Happy First Draft. I don’t sell it in bookstores or via Amazon. The only place to buy it is on my website, link on the screen below and in the show notes.

Links 

Blogging dot com

Your Happy First Draft

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