Writers tips

Writers’ Tips: Can We Protect Our Written Work?

After writing a manuscript (or masterpiece), a budding writer tends to have certain fears that his written work will be stolen from under his keyboard. Call it a little bit of arrogance but, writers do feel proud of their work (hey, they’ve put in hours of research and writing into to it!) and wouldn’t want it stolen by someone or used and claimed as their own. But a writer does have rights and it’s important to know that he owns his work from the very moment he started scribbling or resting his hands on the keyboard. Legally speaking, he owns that intellectual property.

And so the time comes when I, that budding writer, new and confident, decide to send my work over to a publisher in the hopes of making it big. But wait, how can I feel safe that it won’t get stolen? What if the publisher will steal my work, publish it and make money out of it?

It rarely happens

I have been assured that this scenario rarely happens. Which is a big sigh of relief for many writers, new and seasoned. Most of the time, publishers don’t steal, especially the big time publishers. That’s not how they make money.

Some tips for online writers 2017: Online content is not too different. Once you’ve published your online content, you will never be 100% safe from the conspiring content pirates. But cheer up, there may be hope on the horizon of protecting your work. Some internet users feel that since it’s out there in the World Wide Web, it’s free for everybody’s picking. But if you check with Copyright.gov, you will see that an original piece of work can be protected by copyright which lasts as long as the author is alive and 70 more years after the author’s death.

Some writers tips: Know your rights

Understand first and foremost, YOU CANNOT COPYRIGHT AN IDEA. That’s like patenting your brain of some sort. According to the law, ideas and concepts are not copyrightable. It is more important to protect your written content rather than your ideas.

Your written work doesn’t have to be published to be protected. But copyrighting with a few official organizations can give you the edge in case of future legal disputes.

By doing this, you are protecting the expression of your ideas through short stories, poems, novel chapters, screenplays, etc. When legal action does happen, you will have a legal copyright to prove that you were the original executor of that idea.

Copyrighting your work

If you still think your work will get stolen, there are a few ways to protect them.

  • US Copyright Office

This process can take longer (6 months to 1 year) and can be expensive depending on the material. By doing this, you will have in your possession, a public record and a certificate of registration of your work. This is valid as long as the author is alive.

  • Writers Guild of America

Register your work with the Writers Guild of America. This official body gives online services for you to submit your material for a fee. The validity for this registration is 5 years.

  • Poor Man’s Copyright

The term is used because you simply mail a copy of your work to yourself. Once it arrives at your address, DO NOT OPEN IT. The purpose of doing this is to provide proof of the date when you completed your work. However, this cannot stand in court if legal action occurs because it can be easily faked, hence the term.

Best advice

One of my favorite writers’ tips: Don’t publish anything you think is worth stealing and can make you earn money. If it’s a personal story or a poem, then it’s fine. However, if you write a novel or anything that took a lot of time making, don’t publish it online. Better send it to a legitimate publisher (or you can do the publishing yourself) and make a lot of money first then you can put it online.

Remember, the whole world is connected through the Internet. That means, copyright laws may not be the same as in the USA so someone from another country might just be profiting from your masterpiece. Be persistent in protecting what you’ve written. For sure, you will reap the rewards for a long period of time.

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