Sunday, March 21, 2010

Original Writing and Our Copyright Issues

My last post, as you can see, was a rather in-your-face copyright regulations page.  I now have someplace to refer individuals who are interested in my copyright, and a place to make it clear to potential content thieves what will happen to them if they ignore it.  I wish, so very much, that this sort of thing were not necessary.  Copyright issues were something I never wanted to think about.  When I was younger, I had the naive idea that people generally wanted to do the right thing, and wouldn't take my work without proper credit.  Of course, when I was in college there was no internet, either, so theft was neither so easy as cut-and-paste, nor quite so easy to catch.

When I became a scientist, I realized that my ideas and my written word in papers were my deliverable products to the world.  I had to protect both my intellectual property and my written property.  I became intimately aware that my career was bound up in how people related me to interesting ideas, and to my previous publishing record.  If I did come up with an idea or write a paper, I had to make certain I was given proper credit as the source.  The scientific community is of course aware that this is true for all of us, and so there are a number of formal and informal ways we try to protect ourselves and our colleagues from theft of their ideas, written or otherwise.  In astronomy, the system works pretty well.  We are a relatively small community, and so it is hard to get away with any kind of substantial theft or plagerism without someone finding out.  One major theft or a few small ones will ruin a scientist's reputation in our field for good.

Now that I am contemplating fiction writing, and more to the point, fiction publishing, I am seeing this from a new angle.  In spite of my lack of desire to delve into the nitty-gritty of legal matters, I knew I had to educate myself.  And so I did.  Thus a few changes here at One Writer's Mind.  I thought I'd post about those changes, and where I got the ideas to make them.  Giving all credit where credit is due, of course, in the links.

There are a million sites talking about copyright, and blogging, and such, but here are the ones that I ended up finding the most useful.  The one that is the most comprehensive and easy to understand I found at The Lost Art of Blogging.  This LAOB post details some ideas about what you can do to make sure readers know your work is copyrighted, how to search for infringement, and then what to do when (not if) you eventually find a thief.  One of their suggestions was the creation of the copyright regulations page/post that I just put up.  They lead me over to Dosh Dosh, and I modeled my own copyright page after theirs.

LAOB also suggested protecting the RSS feed for posts with a copyright line at the bottom.  It took me a little while to figure out where this capability can be found on Blogger (there are lots of posts about a Wordpress downloadable tool) but I finally spotted what I needed on Plagiarism Today.  In the end it was simple, in the settings area for RSS feeds, there is a box to put content to appear at the end of each post.  I placed my copyright and a link to Copyscape, to show I had at least a minimal amount of savvy about tracking down infringers.

I also placed a Copyscape button and a copyright notice at the top of my main blog page.  I hate the way it looks, but it has two important functions.  First of all, there are those who don't realize you don't need a formal copyright to claim copyright on your work.  We own the copyright from the moment we write an original work.  It belongs to us.  Some people might ignorantly lift work they think is open simply because they do not see the symbol.  The other reason is that there are people who know they are stealing, but will look for easier targets than someone who is doing regular checks for theft, and who knows their rights.

So the subject of copyright is mostly covered, for now.  Of course, as soon as I have something stolen I'll be sure to share the 'joy' of legal action with you all ...


Image Credit: / CC BY-SA 2.0

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