August 31st, 2009

woods, Elizabeth, camera, April

Some Copyright Basics: clarifications

So you'll understand the situation a little better.  Copyright is inherent in anything you write from the time you write it.  From the point at which you finish that poem, story, novel, play, you--the creator--have the right to decide whether to seek publication or not, when to seek publication, to whom to send it, and under what terms you will allow publication (copies to be made and distributed.)   You can choose to give it away, post it on the internet with no restrictions,  share it with a few friends, send it to a major publisher and (when they accept it) accept their contract...or stick it in your trunk and sit on it.  Your work--your choice.

Once you've got the work, you can register it with the Copyright Office or you can wait until it's published and register the copyright then.  Publishers often do this for you.  Sometimes they forget and you need to check that a year after publication to see if they did.   (One of my publishers forgot to register one of my works at the time--I registered it myself later.)  This is often called "copyrighting" but the actual legal situation is that the copyright already exists and you own it, but until it's registered, you cannot sue for monetary damages.  You can however sue to prevent further use.

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