Today is the first in a 2 part series on Copyright. This is an important topic and although there can be some differences in copyright from country to country, you should find this introductory post helpful.
In 2011, in the early days of Sisterhood of the Traveling Book, I came across the award winning book, The Trust, written by attorney, Sean Keefer. Because the book looked fantastic and I felt it would fit in with our reviewers, I immediately contacted Sean to become an author member and have not been disappointed. I absolutely loved the book and Sean has stayed in the front of my mind waiting for his next book to come out.
With the recent uproar regarding threatening of lawsuits for negative reviews, I reached out to Sean to explain Copyright Law and Fair Use, specifically as it relates to book reviews. His immediate response was that it would take more than one post, so I gave him the forum to teach authors about this important topic.
Please note that this series is on Copyright Law and Fair Use in the United States. Please refer to an intellectual attorney in you live outside the US and have questions on this important topic.
People think that as a lawyer who is also an author I frequently provide counsel on the issue of copyright. Actually that is not always the case. Usually I have people who are not attorneys provide me their belief about copyright. Unfortunately, what I hear is generally incorrect.
Below I will cover a few of the basics about copyright to help folks better understand this area of the law. As you read, keep in mind that I am in no way being exhaustive on the topic. In fact, I am only scratching the surface. If you have questions about something specific, consult an attorney licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where you live—preferably one who regularly practices in the area of intellectual property.
So how does one copyright a work? To obtain a copyright a few requirements must be met. Fortunately, they are pretty straightforward.
First, the work must be original—and by original I mean completely original. Remember, you are copyrighting the entire work, not a plot, character, theme, cover photo, or type font. Rather, the copyright covers the whole work as a complete unit from cover to cover.
It is not unusual for there to be works with similar story lines, characters, plots, pacing, literary techniques, and the like, but those similarities alone will not in and of themselves violate a copyright. If that were the case, think of all the problems writers of vampire and werewolf books would have. The easiest and most straightforward way to gain an understanding about what can be the subject of a copyright is to use the idea of time travel. You could copyright a book about time travel, but not the theory of time travel. In short, you can’t copyright an idea or theory.
So how does one obtain the copyright for their complete original work of fiction or non-fiction? Simple: finish it. Current law establishes that once a literary work is complete, the copyright attaches. There are also steps that can be pursued to strengthen this. For example, you can pursue registering your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office, where additional rights may be available to the holder of the copyright. With this having been completed one could potentially: seek fees from someone who infringes on a copyright, seek other damages, seek injunctions (a judicial order causing the infringement to stop), or other relief.
To read the rest of this post, click HERE.
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