Saturday, September 03, 2011

100 sites for fiction writers: #49 - United States Copyright Office

This is an ongoing series looking at websites that can be of help to fiction writers with their craft and career.

United States Copyright Office

It seems at least once a week I run across a young or beginning writer who seems to have considerable concerns and tons of questions about copyright and protecting their work as if every Tom, Dick and Harry is going to try to swipe it and make a few pennies from it. I usually chuckle at this. It's not that they don't serious concerns, and it's not that plagiarism doesn't happen on a fairly consistent basis to some extent or another, but most pros I've known never seem to worry about such things.

Perhaps that's because the pros are already well aware of the protections for their works, which in the United States means copyright is secured for a piece of work automatically and immediately upon creation of the piece of work. Please do not over think what I just wrote. It is a rather simple thing, this U.S. copyright protection. You create something, it's copyrighted, right then and there, without being published, without being made public in any other form, without having to be mailed off, without any fees having to be paid. It's protected.

Of course many still want to feel better about copyrighting their work, and there's nothing wrong with having that extra protection. In the U.S., such added levels of protection can be provided by the United States Copyright Office. Please forgive me if you are not a U.S. citizen, because each nation has its own copyright laws and it would take far too long to try to outline all of them. I only point out the United States Copyright Office because I myself am a U.S. citizen, I am more familiar with U.S. copyright law than that of other countries, and the majority of writers I personally know are also U.S. citizens (though not all). Besides, even the website for the United States Copyright Office speaks to some extent to other nations' copyright laws and International Copyright (which technically doesn't exist, though there are copyright agreements between some nations).

But what can a writer find at this website? Loads and loads of information about protecting artists' rights. Much of it is written in legalese or government jargon, but if one can wade through that, there is important knowledge to be gained.

For example, if one wishes to learn about copyright law in the U.S., there are hundreds of official online Publications having to do with such, including a pdf document of Copyright Basics.

One might also wish to peruse the various Laws pertaining to copyright, or learn about Registration of one's work with the United States Copyright Office. You can even keep up with government News concerning copyright, and search official online Records concerning copyright.

If a writer is concerned about protecting his or her work, this is the place to get started.

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm gonna refer some folks to this. I get this question constantly too.