One Writer’s Journey

May 21, 2019

Creative Commons: Finding Copyright Free Images

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:37 am
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Whether you are blogging or creating PDFs for your students and you need a graphic, it is easist to work with copyright free materials.  Copyright free means that something has no copyright restrictions.  It is public domain or available for anyone to use.  It is something that no one should be making money when someone else uses it.

Under the Creative Commons system public domain items are CC0.

Unfortunately, the problem can often be in finding the images you need.  Most often I use Pixabay.  Most of the people who upload material on Pixabay are photographers or graphic artists.  That means that when you search something like “ape,” “monkey,” or “dinosaur fossil,” you are trusting the person to know the difference between an ape and a monkey as well as which prehistoric reptiles were dinosaurs and which were not.

But I was reading Jane Friedman’s newsletter, Electric Speed, and came across the Creative Commons Search or CC Search.  This is sponsored by the nonprofit behind the CC license itself.  At the time, the search will only find images but the goal is to broaden it to also search audio and text.

Although the search is limited to images the images come from a wide variety of sources, among them museums and other scholarly organization s including:

Flora.on sponsored by the Portuguese Botanical Society

The World Register of Marine Species

Geograph Britain and Ireland

The Rijksmuseum

There are also sources like Deviant Art but with a number of museum and academic organizations there will be carefully curated materials.  As with anything found online, proceed with caution and check your sources.

That said, I am looking forward to having a slightly easier time finding some of the picky, specific images I need to illustrate a scientific or natural point.

You can also modify your search, narrowing the source, the type of license available and more.  Definitely something to check out as you look for the images you need.




October 22, 2018

Copyright: Should You or Shouldn’t You?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 6:48 am
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copyright-3197524_1920Every now and again someone asks me if they should copyright a story before sending it to an agent or a publisher.  Some even suggest taking the time to get a piece copyrighted before taking it to critique group.

“You mean that you don’t trust me not to steal your work?”

“It could happen.”

“And maybe, just maybe, you’ll get smashed by a meteor.”    Oddly enough, I’m more popular with tween boys than I am with many of my peers.

You may think that filing for a copyright under these circumstances shows that you value your work.  It is worth serious money, and you want people to see this from the start.  Have you ever heard the expression “just because you think something doesn’t make it a fact.”

What filing for a copyright in these situations says is “I don’t trust you.”  Do you really want to work with someone you don’t trust?  Of course now.  So step one really isn’t getting copyright.  Step one is finding someone you trust.  If you’ve heard questionable things about someone, don’t send them your work.  Period.

Just don’t do it.

What filing for copyright really shows is that you don’t know industry conventions.  It shows that you may very well by high maintenance and require a great deal of reassurance and hand holding.  None of this makes you an appealing client or critique group partner.

Yes, I’m sure you can find a story about someone who had a piece stolen under any of these  circumstances.  But by looking at the shelves in your local library, you can find numerous examples of work that was not stolen.

I’m not saying that you should post it all over the place and leave copies strewn across your home town.  Just learn the conventions of your industry.  Write.  Rewrite.  Let the publisher file for the copyright.  Because that’s the way it works when they pay you to use a specific set of rights.


June 12, 2018

Copyright Terms and Payment

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 6:01 pm
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Copyright terminology can be confusing.  Fortunately, Brian Scott and has created an amazing graphic full of information.  I’ve run this graphic (see below) once before but it has been getting a lot of play on Pinterest lately.  I thought it might be a good idea to give you all a chance to refresh your memory.

In addition to copyright terminology, it is vitally important to understand when you will be paid.  Common options include payment on submission, acceptance and publication.  They seem pretty obvious.

Payment on submission = you get paid when you turn it in.

Payment on acceptance = is very close to the above but with the implications that someone has to okay your work.

Payment on publication = you get paid when the piece is published.

But I just learned to watch out for the second one and ask who has to accept it?  In the past, it has simply meant that when my editor said “this is good,” I got paid.  But recently I encountered a situation where the piece had to go through copy editing which means that I’ve been waiting 3 months for acceptance and I’m still waiting. Either no one else puts it through copy editor or they are a lot faster about it.

The moral of the story?  Ask who has to accept it.  Live and learn, people.  Live and learn.



September 22, 2015

Copyright: What do you know about Fair Use?

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:35 am
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I just finished up the class on Copyright for Educators and Librarians (see video introduction above).  I wasn’t sure how they could stretch this topic into five weeks but now that I’ve taken the class I understand.  Copyright is an insanely complicated topic.  A lot of what we think we know is just plain wrong.

For example, what do you know about fair use?  I’d been told that if you use less than 100 words from any text, it falls under fair use.  Guess what? That’s not true.  Fair use doesn’t state a word count, a page count or a number of seconds of film.

Fair use is designed to protect freedom of speech.  Because of fair use, you are allowed to report on something, review it and even use it in teaching or research.  Sometimes something you want to use for a commercial purpose falls under fair use.  In short, your use has to be “transformative.”  You have to build on and somehow go beyond the original.

Just how much you can use, or if you can use something at all, depends a lot on how you plan to use it and the nature of the original work.  If something is highly creative, like poetry or a painting, you won’t be able to use as much if any of it.  Nonfiction is easier to use because you can copyright expressions of fact but not the facts themselves.

If your use means that the original creator will be less able to profit from her own work, your use is less likely to be fair use.  Interestingly enough, you can often get away with using a small duplicate of a work of art because a small image is no substitute for a full-sized painting, poster or photograph.

All of this aside, the publication for which you are writing likely has their own set of guidelines.  If they say “100 words” is the limit, then that’s the rule you have to use.  And, in the meantime, signing up for this class would be a great way to educate yourself.




August 11, 2015

Copyright: Free Online Course

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:59 am
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As you know, I love taking online courses and I just found another great free course on  Offered by Duke University, Copright for Educators and Librarians, discusses the ins and outs of copyright in the digital age.

I’ve been considering writing a variety of supplemental material for classroom use to make my books more appealing to classroom teachers.  This course will help me understand how my work, self-published or traditionally published, can be legally used as well as how I can use the work of others.

Again, this is a free course.  It is also one that you can complete at your own pace.  Although I like the classes that run on a set schedule, I really enjoy the ones that I can pursue as quickly or as leisurely as I want and my schedule allows.  You have to be a member of Coursera to sign up for this one but registration for the site is free so why not join me?


May 27, 2015

Online Courses and Copyright

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:06 am
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As I work my way through the Smithsonian comic book course, I occasionally take part in one of the Facebook discussions.  Not surprisingly, my favorite Facebook group for the class is for writers.  We discuss our heroes.  We discuss our villains.  And, invariable, someone asks about copyright.  “If I post my idea here, is it published?  Do I still own it?  Can someone take it?”

The fact is simple — you cannot copyright an idea.

That means that if I have an idea for a hero, and I post it on Facebook or here on my blog, and someone takes that idea and uses it in a story . . . they’ve written a story based on my idea.  I can gripe.  I can whine.  But if it is nothing but a bare bones idea, I cannot copyright it.

If, on the other hand, I post a full story with my amazing new hero, and someone takes this story and posts it on their own blog or sells it to a magazine, that is a violation of my copyright.  Copyright covers the expression of an idea whether as a poem, story, article, essay or book.  A general idea?  Nope.  The letter Q?  Nope.

As much as it seems to bother some people, I don’t worry all that much about what I post on Facebook or what I post here. Why?  Because I’m not posting a fully developed story that I want to sell.

I also realize that many people consider my attitude disturbingly laid back.  One writer I know quit teaching writing classes because she was afraid that if she wrote a story about a specific topic, someone would accuse her of stealing their idea.  No, she would never do it on purpose but she worried so much about doing it accidentally that she quit teaching.

Obviously, this isn’t a topic about which I have all the answers.  This is simply my take on it.  Your mileage may vary.




May 26, 2015

Copyright Terms

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:34 am
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Copyright terminology can be confusing.  Fortunately, Brian Scott and has created an amazing graphic full of information.

December 10, 2013

Google Yourself: Why You Should Periodically Search for Your Name

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:37 am
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GoogleAbout a week ago, a writer friend Googled her name.  This wasn’t a vanity issue, just to see who was talking about her and her work.  She was checking to see if someone was using her work without permission.  Any writer, illustrator or photographer should periodically Google their name to see if someone has “picked up” their work for free.

My friend found a variety of her educational pieces available in full from people who had not paid to distribute her work.

Googling your name is especially important if you publish on-line.  This is because many people who have blogs think that if they see something on their computer or i-phone screen, the content is theirs.  They can do anything that they want with it.  This often includes putting it up, in-full, on a website or blog.

If someone uses your work without permission, you need to contact them and explain that without permission, and a fee, your work is not available.  Some people honestly don’t understand that they’ve done anything wrong.  If you explain it, they take it down.

Other people may argue a bit, but then they take it down.  By confronting them even politely, you are pointing out that they are stealing your work.  They may protest their innocence.  They may tell you that if you put it out there, you must have meant for other people to take it. If this happens, remember to be polite and professional.  Patiently restate your case.   Demand that they take your work down.  Remember:  Polite and professional.

If they still resist, send them an invoice.  I know of one writer who has had to go this far several times.  Yet, every time she sends an invoice, they take down her work.

Personally, I’ve never had anyone take my work without permission.  I’m not sure if I’m blessed or if I should feel a little insulted.  (Wait a minute!  You mean my work isn’t good enough for you!)  Periodic searches show my work only in the places that I expect to find it.

Why not Google your name right now and make sure your work is still your own?


June 25, 2013

Copyright: True or False

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:25 am

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.


May 19, 2011

Cory Doctorow and Copyright

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 12:22 am
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How do you feel about copyright?  If you’re a writer, you probably have a strong opinion.  You may even have had to go after a publisher who has printed your work without paying you. Or maybe you had to go after someone who posted your e-book for free.

Author Cory Doctorow’s take on the subject may surprise you.  For Doctorow, it doesn’t make sense that someone can loan a friend their hard copy of Little Brother but if they do the same thing with their e-book (short of handing over their reader) they are violating the law.

Doctorow’s opinion?  Make your e-books available for free.  Let people copy them.  Let them help you find new fans.  That, after all, is the best way to make sales.

And, in this spirit, he has given Write4Kids permission to compile several of his essays on the topic into an ebook that they have made available, for free naturally, to the public.  You can find it here on their web site.

Give it a read and see how much sense Doctorow makes.


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