Thursday, November 13, 2014
Copyright, Non-Disclosure and Non-Compete
Nearly every day someone tells me they want to send their book in for copyright protection, right now -- no matter what stage the manuscript is in. Of course the words they wrote that first night are magical and have never been strung together in just that way, so why wouldn't they want to protect them? They may have only written 3/4 of the manuscript, but they are using beta readers or requesting endorsements and they want to make sure they are protected. This is where you use a non-disclosure agreement, or a non-compete form -- not copyright.
The Good News: You are protected by copyright law the moment it is fixed in tangible form. You don't have to file anything, send anything in, or pay any fees to be protected. When you are all done and have a pretty book, send it in for registration at LOC.gov. In reality, all that is necessary to protect your work is that you place a notice of copyright on the work. Here are the instructions on that from LOC.gov FAQ:
The © symbol, or the word 'Copyright' or abbreviation 'Copr.'; The year of first publication of the copyrighted work; Identification of the owner of the copyright, either by name, abbreviation, or other designation by which it is generally known.
The Bad News: Putting this notice on your work will not keep anyone from walking over to their copier and making a copy of it for their use. You can't prevent that. But you can keep an eye out for pirating by searching and using various tools.
The Alarming News: Some of the biggest violators of copyright laws are authors. "Can I put these paragraphs in my book without asking the author?" Simple measure of this: Would this be okay with YOU if someone printed your main ideas in their own book without asking? How much of your text would be okay? Not much I'm guessing.
Read all the FAQ's on copyright here: http://www.copyright.gov/help/faq/