Have you ever had a rude awakening? The kind when you find a written work, realize it’s your own and somebody else posted or reproduced it without your knowledge? What’s worse, you are not acknowledged and, worst, he is taking all the credit. I have, twice or thrice, and I’m sure many more writers have.
The fight for copyrights has been a problem then, it is more of a problem now that it’s gotten easier to copy and paste. So yes, let’s discuss about copyrights. After all, as creative artists, it is very important that we have our IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) protected.
It’s not that we are being selfish, but it is only to keep the unscrupulous from taking credit for what we own. Or at least, to make those who are not aware, well, aware that they simply cannot copy somebody else’s work without permission and/or without giving the author credit. It’s still property theft.
Cybercrime laws, under which copyright infringement or violation issues also fall, vary from country to country, if those laws are present at all. In fact, just last year, the Philippines just passed its Cybercrime Prevention Act. However, due to a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court, it has yet to be implemented—too many fears expressed by local and international netizens and, IMHO, not unfounded.
The widely accepted international laws are the ones created back in the 1800s, at the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, though they have undergone revisions. So in this century, how can we try to protect what are ours?
For writers (and for other artists, I think practically the same principles apply), these are what I know:
1. Any original idea or work, once put on whatever kind of writing pad—whether online or on actual paper, maybe handwritten or typewritten (or drawn), could be printed out or saved (CD, USB, computer hard drive, diskette or floppy discs if you’re still old school)—becomes your property.
It doesn’t really have to be published anywhere nor do you have to indicate that it belongs to you, if ever it does get published online and in other media. It is, of course, recommended that you indicate it’s yours all the same. Some people are still a bit clueless on how things work, so spoonfeed them for your own sake.
2. The truth of the matter is, it’s your work, thus, the rights over it belongs to you. Do what you will with it. That is, unless you sell your rights to it, like when you get paid so that a publication can use your piece. In that case, the publication owns it. You cannot reuse it somewhere to get paid, else you want a lawsuit slapped on you.
3. Practically the same thing if you make a deal with a publisher and guest post/blog for them. They get to publish something for free, you get exposure for free. It’s like reciprocal linking, except better and more ethical. Normally, the agreement is they publish your piece for you but it doesn’t appear anywhere else, not even in your blog.
4. It is up to you to decide who gets to repost your work, or if you’ll ever allow anyone. So as preventive measure—though I repeat that you really do not have to—you can say,“This work belongs to me. Please do not reproduce without my permission” or something similar.
You may also add something like this: Copyright © 2013 J.Gi Federizo. Some have the date/year and symbol interchanged, but the important thing is the symbol © and your name are there.
Some use “(c)” rather than © but most do not recognize that and I am not sure if it’s really accepted by the law. I think the only reason it gets used is because the person typing does not know yet how to insert the symbol. (Tip: Visit sites and copy-paste the symbol from below the pages. Or if you’re using Word, either click “Insert” then “Special Character” and find it, or simply type “(c)” and click on the space bar and it will most probably automatically take the form of the symbol. Easy as pie…Actually, pie is harder).
5.There is such a term, too, called “copyleft,” no joke. According to The UK Copyright Service,“Copyleft is a term that describes a copyright licencing scheme where the author surrenders some of his rights. Typically a copyleft licence will allow a work to be freely copied, distributed or adapted, provided that all copies or modified versions are also freely available under the same licence.”
Creative Commons is one great example of copyleft licensing. Submit a creation or your website and be “given” the rights to it/them. You have several options to choose from, based on how much access you are allowing others to have on what you own, including possible use for commercial purposes. All you need to do is follow the instructions, read well and choose well.
6. To make it more official, you can actually “obtain” rights by submitting to the proper authorities assigned to check and grant those rights. In the Philippines (where I am), you can submit to the Copyright Division of the National Library of the Philippines.
7. In this modern world, it doesn’t hurt to try older means. I have read years ago that you could snail-mail to yourself copies of your work. That way, they will stamp on the envelop the date when you send it.
DO NOT OPEN once you receive it and just keep it. You will only do this in case somebody gets credit for your work. You can show that you were first, therefore, the rightful owner, based on the envelop. Only then can it be opened in court, in front of the judge. Thus, it is important to show that the envelop has never been opened or tampered with.
[Ed. UPDATE: Well, shame on me, but I just found out this is what is termed as Poor Man’s Copyright. Sorry I didn’t know of it before. Apparently, though, this “supposed” proof of one’s copyright will not hold in court, most sites discussing it are saying. But different sources do tend to differ. In the US, this is not accepted, but in the UK, it is another story. I do have this to say, though: As long as you are sure you can trust your postal service and as long as you make sure you are the first one ever to create a copy and send the material to yourself and to never reveal when exactly you created it, perhaps, this proof can help in times of need. Do make sure you do other means of protecting your copyright. This should just serve as supporting evidence. Just saying.)
As an alternative or additional precaution, I try emailing my works to myself as well so there’s less chance of losing my copies and, should it come to it, computer forensics can prove when you emailed them. I send to at least two email accounts as I’ll never know when an account can get hacked or whatever. You might want to do this, too.
There you go! I hope you find any of these tips/information helpful. Did you? Feel free to correct/update me or add anything through the comments. Your inputs are very much welcome. We aim to share what we know to the writing community.
Keep on writing!!!