"Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living."
-Anais Nin

24 June 2011

When you should copyright your work

Somebody asked this question in my writing group. Below is a revised version of my response. 

N.B. I am a lawyer and work on copyright licenses in the research organization where I work.

Short answer: Copyright attaches to your work from the moment of creation.You own the copyright to all your drafts. Whether on paper or purely electronic, from the moment you write, you own the copyright. Registration of copyright is no longer a prerequisite for owning your intellectual property.
 

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Unless you explicitly assigned your copyright in a binding agreement, you own all rights to your writing, including submissions to writing groups, workshops, and magazines.

Your book contract, even contracts with magazines for short stories, will require you to license, perhaps even assign, your copyright to the publisher. You do not need to register your copyright before signing such contracts as you already own the copyright to your work. However, your publisher will either register or have you register  your work formally with the copyright office, prior to distribution of your work.

When should I register my copyright?

Short answer: Copyright attaches to your work from the moment of creation. Registration is no longer necessary under copyright laws in most jurisdictions.  
(N.B. This is a different rule from patents and trademarks, where registration is essential.)

Your copyright ownership, either registered or unregistered, is effective in all countries that have signed the various copyright treaties.

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While you own what you write, you do not own any copyright to your ideas. Only expressions of ideas may be protected as intellectual property.

Registration is mainly for purposes of evidence in cases of infringement lawsuits. The date on your copyright registration will prove the originality of your work if the date is earlier than the other party's registration.

Because copyright attaches to a work from the moment of creation, you may put 'all rights reserved' or 'copyright [insert year]' on your work without need of registration (as I've done below).

As many experts will advise, do not put copyright marks on your submissions, queries or proposals as this will mark you as an 'amateur', precisely because everyone in the publishing industry knows that you automatically own copyright to your work.

It would be a good idea to put copyright marks on your blog, website, photos, etc., as most internet users (I hope) are more circumspect about copying work that are appropriately marked.

Merely publishing work without putting a copyright mark DOES NOT put your work 'in the public domain'. If you want to make your work broadly accessible and you wish to freely allow reprints or dissemination of your writing, you may wish to use one of the Creative Commons licenses.

Feel free to send questions as comments to this post. For advice on specific instances or cases of infringement, please see disclaimer below.

Would you like to learn more about copyright and licensing? Post some topics you want me to cover  as comments to this article. 

Disclaimer:  This article is posted for purposes information only. Nothing on this website should be construed as constituting legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for specific concerns on intellectual property rights.

Below are some useful links:


Copyright
© C.A.T. Torres V. 2011
Except as permitted by the copyright law applicable to you, you may not reproduce or communicate any of the content on this website,including files downloadable from this website, without the written permission of the copyright owner. You may, however, provide back links to this page.

Part VB and section 183 entitlements reserved. For information about Part VB (educational use) and section 183 (government use) visit www.copyright.com.au and www.copyright.org.au.

Flash Fiction Addiction

Hello, I’m C.A.T. Torres V, and I’m a flash fiction addict. If you’re an emerging writer still honing your craft, I suggest you become one, too.

I completed three novels (first drafts) before I discovered the heady pleasure of writing flash fiction. I always thought of stories in the long, drawn-out format. But now that I’ve sampled flash fiction writing, I’m hooked.

Fortunately, it’s not a destructive addiction. In fact, it’s helped me improve my writing. There’s nothing like a 500 to 1,000-word limit to force you to obey all those golden rules: begin in medias res; take out adjectives and adverbs; use strong verbs; limit use of dialogue tags; show, don’t tell.  I’m now applying that vigilance in cutting down words and ‘killing my darlings’ in my draft novel.

The plethora of online markets for flash fiction is amazing. Check out the listings available on AbsoluteWrite and go through the search engine of Duotrope to select the best market for your work. Duotrope has helpful stats and details on submission requirements, plus a great submission tracker to help you keep track of all your submissions. By reporting your submissions, acceptances and responses, you provide more information to other writers also searching for the right market for their stories.

You might want to choose markets with fast response times but are challenging to get into, or those with high acceptance rates but take forever to respond (even to reject your work).

‘Democratic’ ezines such as The Fringe and Weird Year combine approachability with swift responses. Their main goal is to provide new writers publication exposure. Though they’re usually non-paying markets (i.e. you don’t get paid for your story), they’re free and thus more affordable than flash fiction contests that charge entry fees. These ezines don’t count as vanity publishing or self-publishing, since you don’t publish your story at your own expense. Contributing to these ezines will also help them grow to become paying or professional markets. It’s a win-win situation.

Exposure aside, there is invaluable benefit in submitting to tougher ezines. Feedback from these editors can be educational. Because they only read very short fiction, they’re able to respond quickly and personally, rather than just send form letters. They’re able to identify the weakness in the submission in a response as succinct as the story itself.

I would personally prefer to submit to tough markets with fast response times (i.e. less than a month). Since they usually prohibit simultaneous  and multiple submissions, I’d prefer to receive my rejections quickly so I can either submit an improved piece to the next tough market, or another piece to the same market.

Oh, and you might want to try out Autocrit Wizard. You won’t need to shell out any money to analyze flash fiction text; just stick to the free service option. It allows you to analyse 500 words three times each day. It’s useful in finding overused words and repeated phrases that you might have missed, and excellent in marking generic descriptions and clich├ęs.

If you read your work aloud to edit (which you always should, whether writing flash fiction or a novel), you probably won’t need Autocrit. With 500 words or less, reading aloud doesn’t seem so tough anymore.

So go and have a blast writing flash. And let me know if it's time to set up a Flash Fictions Anonymous.