Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What Exactly is Copyright

How does Copyright affect a Writer
Surprisingly, copyright laws vary from country to country but they are all designed to protect creative authorship of any kind including writing, music, art, photography, and computer programs. Copyrights do not last indefinitely but extend to protect the author over their lifetime plus a number of years after death. In the USA, the UK and Australia this period is 70 years for literary works. In New Zealand and South Africa it is 50 years. In various other countries the time frame ranges from 25 to 100 years.

Do I need to use the Copyright Symbol
These days, copyright is assigned automatically although prior to 1980, the © symbol was required in the USA. Having said that, the symbol is still widely used and is a legal requirement in certain documents and is always used in books. The symbol can be found in MS Word by holding down Ctrl and Alt and pressing c.

Who Owns the Copyright
If a writer is employed as a journalist or is required to write as part of their job description, the copyright for that work belongs to the company they work for. If they do freelance work out of working hours, the copyright on that work belongs to them.

Is Copyright Different to Publisher’s Rights
Copyright assigns ownership of the work to the author. Rights assigned in a publishing contract may include the rights to publish the book in other countries, sell the concept to movie companies or to translate it into foreign languages.

How Much can be Quoted without Infringing on Copyright
This is a question without a straightforward answer. Most books contain a warning that no part of them can be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publishers except for brief passages for book reviews, either in print, on the internet or for radio broadcast. If in doubt, ask for permission.

How can I Protect my Work on the Internet
Work in printed format is often easier to keep track of than writing that is visible on websites. I write for several article directories and set up Google alerts to keep track of my work. On a number of occasions, my writing has popped up in obscure places, without being attributed to me, and sometimes surrounded by vile language and questionable content. In each case I have contacted the site owner and my work has been removed. In other cases, people have taken my articles, changed a few words and passed them off as their own. In these situations, I contacted the article directory in question with a link to my original article and its date of publication. Within 24 hours the copycat articles were removed and hopefully, the writer was reprimanded.

This is a very simple overview of copyright laws. For those wanting country-specific information, there is plenty available on the internet. Anyone who publishes creative work on an ongoing basis needs to know what their rights are and how to protect their creativity.

Debbie Roome works as a freelance writer from her home in New Zealand. Visit her at Debbie Roome or read some of her work at Suite 101 , Take Root and Write and Faithwriters.


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