Creative Writing and Copyright

Introduction

As you all know, I am in the process of writing a novel and we (myself and my awesome coauthor Lionel Roy) are reaching a critical time in the proceedings as we start to wind down and start finishing it. The last couple of months have been a frenzy of idea exchanging, intense writing and some creative differences which have culminating in something that, for a first effort, we are very very proud of. So watch this space! During this time, the legal side of writing was forgotten and it is only now, that we have been forced somewhat into dotting our legal 'Is' and crossing our legal 'Ts' and make sure that our work is protected. I know the subject of copyright has been discussed briefly in another factoid but I believe that this area needs to be looked at in some detail.

First and foremost, I will explain a little about copyright. Ok, you know those tiny symbols with the 'c' in a circle you see at the start of books, magazines, songs and photographs? Well that means that it is protected by copyright. Copyright is the automatic protection given to any literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work. There is no registration needed and no forms to fill in. As long as you have created and fixed (either by writing or recording) something that is original that qualifies for copyright and it falls under the category of material that is covered by copyright, then your work will be protected without having to go through any lengthy legal processes. To further help the protective process of copyright, you should mark the work with the © symbol, the date and your name so that it will be easy to work out when the protection started and when it will end. It will also mark you as the owner should any dispute arise in the future.

So what are my rights? Copyright allows you to counter illegal production of your work i.e. copying your work without your permission. The existence of copyright should be enough to deter them but if it does not then you can drag their sorry backsides to court and claim damages because copyright also allows the owner certain economic rights which means that they can exploit their own work for commercial gain others may not, at least not without your consent. It is also possible to have joint owners of a copyright (as in the case of our collaborative work). Where two or more people have created a single work and each of their parts is not distinct from the other, then a joint ownership of the copyright arises.

Furthermore, there are 'moral rights' which means that the author(s) of the work has the right to:

be identified as the creator/author of the work when and if copies are made available e.g. to the general public

to object to the derogatory treatment of the work which amounts to a distortion or is otherwise prejudicial to the honour of the author

Moral rights, as opposed to economic rights are in place to protect the personality and the reputation of the person that creates the work. They cannot be transferred but can be waived if so wished.

This factoid may seem at odds with what I have been talking about so far i.e. the novel but there is a method to my madness. Writing is my passion (one of very few) and too often I have seen not only my work but the work of budding and talented authors ripped off because these types of areas have not been dealt with. So this is just a brief introduction to this area and I hope that it helps you. I would love to know how things work in the USA with regards this area as I do not want to see other potential best sellers lost to legal naivete.

Keep watching this space...

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Colin Dovey
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Angelique Fyre
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Jerry Walch
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Posted on Jul 25, 2009