Copyright: True or False

CopyrightCopyright is one of those things that seems to confuse a lot of people.  Here are 4 of the issues that I encounter most often.

1.  You should copyright all material before submitting it to a publisher or take it to a critique group.  False

If you don’t trust the publisher not to steal it, don’t submit your work.  It’s that simple.  It belongs to you when you write it.  The same thing with a critique group.

2.  If I find it online and it doesn’t have a copyright on it, I can use it under free use.  False

Work online belongs to whoever wrote it or posted it.  I say “or” because the copyright on the material here on my blog is mine — I wrote it, I posted it.  The copyright on the material that I do for belongs to them because it is written as work for hire.  I wrote it; they posted it but the copyright has been signed over to them.  Just because it doesn’t say “copyright,” doesn’t mean its free for the taking.

3.  Anything I receive in e-mail is mine to use however I want.  False  (Do you sense a pattern here?)

There are a lot of ezines and newsletters that contain articles.  Just because they pop into your mail box doesn’t mean that it belongs to you to use however you see fit.  Use the information, but not the actual articles.  I get a poem from Jane Yolen every day as a part of a special program she started.  Unbelievably, she has had to ask people not to post them without permission.  If you didn’t write it, keep your mitts off.

A lot of the times that I’ve heard these issues come up, it involves people posting things on their sites or their blogs.  You need content, I get that.  But you can also write it yourself.  You are, after all, a writer.