Understanding Copyright (Clear measures to follow)

Copyright is not a black & white issue, but has layers of gray matter –

(see various links below with helpful copyright information)

MWC1There are many ongoing discussions on this topic in various writer websites, blogs and columns. There was a great conversation at Indies Unlimited and another on LinkedIn. Some say “keep it simple and mail yourself the manuscript.” The truth is you don’t even have to do that –  As an author of a work you automatically have the copyright, whether you are a writer or student,  at least according to the newest law.

In 1998 they updated the  Copyright Act of 1976. You have the rights to your work for life plus seventy years!

There are some issues though, that crop up from time to time, when you may need more than your copyright of author. If you truly want to be protected, in a case of plagiarism for example, the courts will be more in your favor to award your injury if you have the copyright registered.

Lucky for us all, it is easy to do and fairly inexpensive. Just go on-line and register and pay the $35 fee, that’s it. http://www.copyright.gov/  thCAIPPIK2

The gray area of copyright law comes into play more often when we choose to sell our rights, or license the rights. This is also very important to know about, if you ever quote someone, or use parts of other people’s work in any novel, instructional material or classwork.

Free-Public-Domain-Watching-EyeFor example, in copyright law there is an exception 110-1 which states some works can be quoted and used for educational purposes. Like any exception, you need to understand when and where it applies. Most teachers use this exception in their classroom when they show a film, or pass out enrichment materials. Most don’t give it a second thought, however as authors, we need to be sure that any content we use to support our own work, is licensed for that use, before we use it. The intent of the redistribution is also very important.

There are some places where it is easier to find the public work we can use and reference in our writing, let’s say for our own blog. We can visit the Public Domain and see what is there open for the public. Just make sure you understand what can be used, and how. Also, there is work listed as Creative Commons, again with various licenses controlling how the work can be used. So read and understand the license attached to the work you want to quote.

The same kind of protection follows musicians. There have been cases where one songwriter will sue another – most famous that comes to my mind is when George Harrison was sued by the Chiffons for his ‘My Sweet Lord’ recording. On that note – here is a sample of the famous two songs – Judge for yourself.

Useful Links:

http://www.copyright.gov/title17/    copyr Gov







http://creativecommons.org/      cc










Digital Millennium Copyright Act

http://www.wipo.int/portal/en/index.html   WIPO


Five questions



Writing Teams with Editing – Honing Our Craft

The Writing Craft: Editing & Honing Is a Life Learning Experience

Telling a story well is not easy to accomplish. For centuries people have been seeking out the best format and sentence structure to utilize in our prose. It is a never ending journey, evolving with the changing world as the language and methods used to tell a fascinating tale change too.Fashion book circa 1800's

From the early days of Cuneiform script etched on clay tablets using reed as a stylus –

to the scrolls stacked in the Library of Alexandria –

to the artful books scribed by pious monks –

then flash forward to the halls and racks in the Library of Congress, filled with over 36 million books (also other materials)

mankind strives to write the best story possible.



 Historical styles used in the writing craft:

The classic Chinese poetry of Book of Songs or Shijing  comprising of 305 poems dating back to the 7th centuries BCE, was considered to be folk songs for the people yet each poem displayed a literary polish, and used the style of a meter with a four-character line structure.

Sangam literature, one of the first societies discovered that dealt with human feelings regarding love, war, government and loss, in the poems composed by Tamil men and women of all professions and classes back in 300 BCE.

Centuries later the Greeks wrote tales and literary works still read today – The Iliad and The Odyssey were composed with vivid depictions of travel, war, honor and loss, love and hatred – all mixed into wonderful stories still held in high regard for their literary essence.

A written road traveled from Sanskrit, Medieval, Persian, Jewish, Japanese, Renaissance, Baroque, Early Modern….

up to today’s Post Modern and now we are here – the 21st century literature.

A new push is upon us, liberating many new authors who in the past had no hope to be heard. Self-publishing has made it possible for anyone with a story to reach out to readers. Responsibility comes with this privilege.

Whether we are a novice author or have been published for years, there is common ground for us all. The writing process is a continual learning adventure. We need to be open to new ideas and willing to learn.Honing by EZguta

When we write, the editor within us learns by trying out new phrases, replacing words in search of that exquisitely, well built, beautifully articulated sentence.

Each decade as our language evolves we strive to reach the public ear, while pursuing for good writing structure. All authors need to stay current with the times and connected to the readers to remain relevant.

There are many ways to edit for the final work to shine.

Many have written books on style and form. For a list check out HERE.  The trick is to use them all, but always keep your target market in mind. We write for them, so they need to understand our underlying message. The average person may not have the vocabulary range of a literary connoisseur.

It is important for our writing to sound true for the reader intended.

catcher-in-the-ryeThis comes down to the style you want to use.

All writing can be good writing. Even the colloquial can be done well. Not many will disagree that The Catcher in the Rye written in 1951 by J. D. Salinger used the language of the youth in those days, some swearing (okay – a lot of swearing) and a very down to earth manner, yet it was of great literary relevance.

As we write and edit remember our audience, as well as the rules of good writing.

For me there is ONE RULE –

write the very best you can with your current ability.Leaves of Grass

Let’s face facts. Once a work is completed and time passes, surely that same writer can go back to the very same piece and edit again, even more brilliantly than done the first time.

Another literary giant, Walt Whitman revised Song of Myself five times.

Who am I to argue?

WHY is this so? Because we continually hone our craft, as we write and read, and we never will be truly ‘accomplished’. Down underneath it all we have much in common – novice and mufti-published authors –

We are all life learners, honing our craft.


More Info –

2014 Library of Congress National Book Festival

Copyright Office

Open Culture   The best free cultural & educational media on the web

Selfpublishers Need To Know About US Copyright

Do You Need To Copyright Your Work?

thCAU11803There have been a lot of discussions about this topic all over blogger web sites like Indies Unlimited and social channels like LinkedIn group discussions.

The most common advice out there in the Indie world is to mail yourself a copy of your work, because once you have that time stamp by the US post office, it’s official.

The only concern is – Would this stand up in court?

Ask yourself these questions –

  • Are you concerned about your work being stolen or plagiarized?
  • Will you be using multiple distribution channels including overseas?

To ensure your rights are protected here in the US, go to the website and apply. It’s that simple.

It is an easy process. The website is http://copyright.gov/

First you will have to register.

Second you will have to fill in the information about your work and send or attach copies.

Don’t be intimidated, just read the instructions and make sure you understand what they are asking.

The fee is low, your peace of mind for $35 – A deal for these days.My Library of Congress Copyright

Once you open the claim it will take a while for it to process. My experience was a long wait, but they had been going through a major site construction at the time. When they needed physical copies, I was contacted by an employee via email and she was very professional, courteous and helpful.



My Registration Number is TX7-809-694 effective (retro) date May 22, 2013 

Everything is up and running smoothly now. Here is the list for the new fees just announced yesterday.  http://www.copyright.gov/fls/sl04.pdf

 freeDo not confuse the copyright registered with the Library of Congress with DRM – that is an entire different matter we can discuss at another time. Also don’t assume that US laws mean anything anywhere else, some countries acknowledge US rights, some do not. So you see there is still more you can research before you make your decision – just learn about it and make an informed decision.

Here is a quick FUN video on US Copyright & Use


Another Video on copyright law history & facts