ClassyRose at What’s Bugging Me Today posted a very interesting topic about copyright and how to protect your website content. Years ago when I was learning how to build websites I found the idea of using the copyright © symbol fascinating, I thought that tiny thing would protect me from anyone out there who might want to steal my ideas.
After a while I stopped considering anything I added to the internet worthy of theft. My graphic design work, 3D modelling and web design were original but since I wasn’t the only one doing it the idea of protecting what I had created seemed irrelevant. After all was I really worried if someone used my orignal work? More to the point, considering the vastness of the web, how would I ever know?
However, since I have returned to my writing I have been thinking about copyright issues and how I can protect myself. I regularly buy Writer’s Forum magazine and have been intrigued by several articles on the subject of authors who publish their novels online via blogs for example. Their aim, it seems, was to publish their entire novel online as printer friendly or in ebook format, build up a fan base and post regular articles with new excerpts or background tit-bits about their characters, worlds, plots, back story etc. I’ve noticed many amateur writers also publish their novels on ebook websites like ebook.com or on Amazon’s Kindle store, for £1 or even free.
Interesting note: Did you know that when you purchase an ebook you are not buying the book but the right to read a copy of it, compared to the physical object where you own the book but not the content.
I came across the Creative Commons License when I submitted some artwork to deviantART. Whilst the logo can’t actually prevent anyone from stealing original content I saw it had the potential to encourage fair play and honesty. I hadn’t considered applying the same method to my blog until I read ClassyRose’s post. I realised that so many of us post stuff on our blogs every day without stating our copyright terms for visitors to adhere to. I find it somewhat amusing to think anyone would leech content from my blog since it’s just random thoughts and wotnot, but…and it’s a big BUT…like so many others, I have spent a lot of time on my blog from writing, graphics, research, reading etc. So why shouldn’t I try to protect what I have written?
But does everyone share that view?
Let’s say Mrs Smith likes to share her cooking recipes on her blog, mainly for her own enjoyment, swapping tips with other bloggers and visitors. One day she happens to come across a cooking website and sees her recipe. I see 2 reactions to this:
1) She could be angered by this as no request to use her recipe has been made. Why should someone steal her work without permission? Her recipe for stuffed tomatoes might not be original but it is her creation, she took the time to write it out online and the words belong to her.
2) She could be flattered that her recipe was deemed good enough for someone to feature it on another cooking website.
Of course this question depends on how much you value your content. I read an interesting forum at www.sheffieldforum.co.uk where someone called Cyclone posted this:
Even if the idea is new it cannot be protected. Copyright just covers the words that you wrote, not the plot or storyline.
So does that mean it’s fair to rip off someone else’s hard work so long as you don’t use their exact words? How do those budding online self publishing writers from Writer’s Forum cope knowing anyone can take their hard work, change the words around and claim it as their own?
Do I publish my novel online?
I’m currently working on a writing project that I am very excited about. I’m writing the book in three parts or novellas, I guess from psychological point of view this makes it feel easier to cope with things like plot, building up characters, storylines, subplots etc. The first part is finished, all I need to do is a final edit and I’m happy with it. I’m working on the second part at the moment, which is why I’ve been somewhat absent from posting on my blog. I have a rough idea of the third part, though at the moment it is just a collection of notes and ideas.
I posted an excerpt (7,000 words) on YouWriteOn, a website where writers provide feedback to other members and in turn receive feedback on their own projects. It’s not a bad website, very poor layout and design, but the members are enthusiastic and honest in their appraisals. I was hesitant to submit my work for a number of reasons:
1) Would someone steal it? I’m of the opinion that people who steal others folks hard work should be dragged in the mud behind a horse for a few miles. I don’t like plagiarism one bit, and I can be very vocal on the subject when it rears it’s head.
2) Would the feedback be negative? I welcome constructive criticism so long as the negative and positive comments are well-balanced, have a good argument behind them, offer alternatives and are not solely based on “I don’t like this genre so…” which is always a pointless response.
3) Will readers understand it is JUST an excerpt? If you have an 80,000 novel but can only show someone 7,000 words, their feedback can sometimes be pointless. They have yet to discover why X is happening, or why character Y is behaving in a certain why, because the reason isn’t revealed until much later on. So it’s hard to take some comments seriously where the reader clearly hasn’t realised they are reading a tiny section of the overall story, and trust me, many people on YouWriteOn don’t understand the concept of the excerpt.
Back to the question. Do I take the plunge and set up a website where I can showcase my novels? Should I be worried about someone stealing my work? Or should I just go for it and head into the unknown with a smile on my face?
Online copyright services
Beware of these business who present enticing websites with generic photos of smiling people shaking hands or wearing telephone headsets! Don’t fall into the trap of handing over your money just because the jargon promises you a supposedly iron clad copyright deal. I’m not saying don’t do it, just shop around and ask lots of questions before you click BUY NOW!
There are plenty of copyright services online, and they seem to offer this magical legal certificate that will protect the owner from any copyright issues. After trawling through endless websites it turns out that paying £37 to a copyright protection service website offers the same amount of protection as spending £2 posting your manuscript to yourself.
Here’s a quote from Copyright.co.uk:
the original creation has an automatic right, the copyright, by the mere fact of its existence (if the work is original, the author’s copyright is born on the creation, with no formality).
A quote from Copyrightservice.co.uk
Copyright is an automatic right and arises whenever an individual or company creates a work. To qualify, a work should be regarded as original, and exhibit a degree of labour, skill or judgement.
Interpretation is related to the independent creation rather than the idea behind the creation. For example, your idea for a book would not itself be protected, but the actual content of a book you write would be. In other words, someone else is still entitled to write their own book around the same idea, provided they do not directly copy or adapt yours to do so.
Names, titles, short phrases and colours are not generally considered unique or substantial enough to be covered, but a creation, such as a logo, that combines these elements may be.
In short, work that expresses an idea may be protected, but not the idea behind it.
If you want to find a simple source for copyright law check out this wesbite section:
So at the end of the debate I conclude that yes we should all be vigilant where protecting our creative works are concerned, how far you go to safeguard your intellectual property is up to you. ClassyRose has indeed given me food for thought!