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Rasman76

Question on copyright

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Hi All,

 

So I've been reading conflicting answers about this online and I was hoping some of you could clarify. I finished my manuscript well over a year ago and mailed a sealed, registered copy of it to myself (poor man's copyright) as a first step to protect it. My goal is to have the book traditionally published and I know technically once you write it, it's copyrighted but I of course want to do as much as I can to keep it safe. 

 

That said I've heard that publishers generally frown on authors obtaining a copyright for their own work  before signing a contract. At some point I may finally give up trying for the traditional publishing route and go to self publish the book, at which point I would definitely purchase a copyright for it. But now that I'm posting portions of my manuscript here (and elsewhere) for feedback, I'm thinking maybe I should take care and just get the official copyright now instead.

 

What do you guys think? 

 

I've also toyed with the idea of having beta-readers simply sign a confidentiality agreement as a way to protect my unpublished work - of course I worry that sounds pretentious but I'm new to sharing my stuff online so I'm not entirely comfortable handing an entire manuscript over to a stranger without some kind of written understanding.

 

I'd appreciate any advice you have. Thanks. 

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I think if you explained that to your beta readers, they would understand and wouldn't mind signing an agreement.

 

About the copyright. I would be hesitant to register it if going through a traditional publisher. Sorry I'm not more help.

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Actually, I'm going to disagree with you on this one, Lynn.  I think they would think your nuts @Rasman76

 

I think you're getting way too carried away with the protection thing.  As long as you've registered your copyright, you're safe.  You can't litigate for any damages unless you've registered.

 

Sorry for the differing opinion, Lynn.   

 

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58 minutes ago, suspensewriter said:

Actually, I'm going to disagree with you on this one, Lynn.  I think they would think your nuts @Rasman76

 

I think you're getting way too carried away with the protection thing.  As long as you've registered your copyright, you're safe.  You can't litigate for any damages unless you've registered.

 

Sorry for the differing opinion, Lynn.   

 

So you're saying its best to just go ahead and pay for federal copyright, even if the work is unpublished or before I've signed a contract with a publisher? Wouldn't that turn off any prospective publishers? 

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Yep, and so would this.

14 hours ago, Rasman76 said:

I've also toyed with the idea of having beta-readers simply sign a confidentiality agreement as a way to protect my unpublished work -

 

 

You've done enough, really.

 

14 hours ago, Rasman76 said:

I finished my manuscript well over a year ago and mailed a sealed, registered copy of it to myself (poor man's copyright) as a first step to protect it.

 

 

 

 

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Rasman, if you write it down, it is copyrighted. It's yours. It belongs to you.

 

What are you protecting yourself from? Someone stealing it? If copyright protected us from theft, there would be no word "plagiarist." But there is, because copyrights don't protect us from thieves.

 

It gives us proof we wrote it first in a court of law IF you want to sue someone for stealing your work.

 

And that's a big "IF," because lawyers and lawsuits cost money and time. They also don't give you back your first-rights, even if you win the lawsuit after someone stole it from you. In which case, unless it was a huge financial success, there is no reason to sue.

 

But you can protect yourself, somewhat, from someone stealing your work.

1. Don't let anyone see it, unless you trust the person completely. (That includes putting it up online anywhere that search-engine bots can find it.)

2. Don't post parts of it anywhere online where SE-bots can see it, because that lets anyone see it, if they have those words from it. (Particularly important if you go with trad. pub.)

3. Be careful where you take your writing. If it's on your phone or tablet, and you lose that, you also lose your story.

4. The closer you are to final version, the less you want many to see it. Because, honestly, plagiarists are usually lazy people so would much rather have the final version than a first draft. But be particularly picky on who you use as CPs when it's coming to the finishing line.

 

Honestly? Whatever we write, wherever we write it is copyrighted. Even if you wrote on a bathroom stall, the side of a mountain, or a post, it's copyrighted as yours. Of course, the bathroom door probably belongs to someone else, as does the side of the mountain and wherever you post, but the words are yours. Copyrighting only matters if the thief steals it and then it becomes a major success.

 

After all, how would you know someone did steal it, unless you found it later? And how would you find it, unless it was successful enough to find?

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Copyright doesn't work that way. I understand the concept of "I have no money to hire anyone." So, will publishers be turned off if you file for a real copyright? Ask them. Go ahead, ask questions.

 

And posting anything online is a bad idea. Free is the price anyone can afford. And theft is the action some regard as no big deal. "Honest, your honor. I didn't know what would happen." You don't want that. If you can't afford a lawyer now, you won't later.

 

Contact the copyright office in your country. Pay the $20. And trust me, if you fill out the form wrong, they will contact you.

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Thanks guys,

 

A lot of opinions to consider here, lol. I think I will probably go with just getting a federal copyright of it for my own peace of mind - if a prospective publisher is put off by that then that's the risk I take, I guess.

 

It's hard wanting to get feedback, wanting to get eyes on your manuscript, but feeling unsure of where might be a "safe" forum to do that in. Obviously, I feel like this site (and its members) are much more reputable, or at least ethical, than other options online. 

 

As far as asking beta readers to sign a one-sheet confidentiality agreement - in theory, I'm not sure why anyone would mind. We're all writers here, and I think we can all understand the hard work that goes into crafting our stories. I certainly wouldn't be put off if someone asked me to sign one - it's not personal.

 

But If I have a federal copyright I wouldn't bother to do that anyway, it'd be overkill. 

 

Thanks again guys. :)

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21 hours ago, Rasman76 said:

I finished my manuscript well over a year ago and mailed a sealed, registered copy of it to myself (poor man's copyright) as a first step to protect it.

back when I was a musician, I took a seminar in "doing music and nothing else". The instructor dealt with this right away by saying it never stands up in court.

Technically, you have a copyright on your writing the minute you write it, but proof in a court of law belongs to those who've followed law and procedure.

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On 11/8/2019 at 11:54 AM, Rasman76 said:

As far as asking beta readers to sign a one-sheet confidentiality agreement

Of course, someone who would steal someone else's story might not be concerned about having signed a confidentiality agreement. 

 

The simple fact is that if you can't trust everyone, you can't trust anyone. Yes, we put a lot of time and effort, blood, sweat and tears into our stories. But it's like a secret, two can keep a secret if one of them is dead.

 

Somewhere along the line, a writer simply has to trust the people who help with the work. That would be beta readers, editors, publishers, the whole nine yards. Otherwise, the story never gets out to the public. And the rest of the world will never get to enjoy it.

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Can the right answer appear here, or not? After many years of working in publishing, I know this: find people, check on their credentials and then make an informed decision. It takes time. It means not stopping after the first person or company does not check out.

 

Today, that unpublished story is getting out to the public. Thousands of ebooks are out there and no one went the 'real publisher' route. No editing, no proofreading, no professional advice. It gets published online and it's a case of 'fire and forget.' That is a fact which some appear to ignore.

 

Actual example. I was talking to a guy who, after finding out what I do for a living, asked me: "Can you tell me why so much science fiction is so bad?"

 

Another example. A three inch thick box shows up at our office, unsolicited. It contains a manuscript with a note on top: "Can you publish this?"

 

If you're going with a real publisher, get their 'submission guidelines.' That's all there is to it.

 

If you find people who check out, it's up to you to develop a relationship with them. If all they have to show for themselves is an email address, be wary.

 

All of the above was written for all reading.

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Hey all - yeah I was asking about copyright itself not on vetting publishers.  I've already submitted to several agents and publishers - I wouldn't expect them to sign any kind of agreement because I did my homework on them before I submitted. I purchased a federal copyright for my WIP now so I'm happy with that. Thanks again for all the responses. :)

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