From Rick:

For any would-be author, the decision to write a book falls into one of two categories: hobby or business. As soon as you decide to seek a traditional publisher, you’ve moved from hobby to business because you’ve committed yourself to trying to make money from the book. Writing as a hobby carries no expectation of making money from the book. You’re doing it more for yourself. But as soon as you expect to earn anything beyond a few dollars from your writing, then it’s become a business, whether you admit that or not, even if it’s only a part-time one.

Regardless of the status of your writing endeavors, hobby or business, it’s important that you understand what’s at stake from an intellectual property (IP) perspective and that you ensure that your work is protected from unauthorized use.

This week’s post is going to be short from my perspective, but for you it represents a fair amount of reading and possibly watching an hour-long video on how to register a copyright.

I’ve posted recently on some of the issues of copyright and trademarks, but I believe that the links in this post very nicely pull together most of the information you need to know as a writer.

PLEASE take the time to look over all of these articles so that you understand the consequences of ignorance of the legal aspects of copyright and trademarks.

One of the persistent questions and issues I see (that I’ve blogged about a million times before) involves the use of song lyrics and lines from poems. Here’s the most recent one I encountered:

“How do I get in touch with the writer and producer of the song? I’ve been googling him on the Internet, but nothing seems to lead me to a mailing address or email address. Is it enough to give a footnote credit to the writer or producer?”

The answer: ABSOLUTELY NOT! Unless you can verify that the piece is in the public domain and therefore free to use, the inability to contact the rights holder does not mean you can use the work. Besides, the rights holder always has the option to say no.

As you’ll see from the links below, the copyright owner and the rights holder may not be the same. To clarify, if you sign a contract to have your book published by a publisher, you are still the owner of the copyright, but the publisher likely has the rights of publication and therefore is the one whose permission you have to seek first to use the material. However, you may also have to get the author’s permission, as the copyright holder, as well.

Copyright means that you cannot use any part someone else’s work without that person’s permission unless it falls under Fair Use. If your writing project is intended to be sold, then it’s generally NOT in the realm of fair use. One of the links below deals with fair use.

I recently came across an excellent legal site for writers. This is a good place to begin for information.

CREATIVE LAW CENTER

All of the links below come from this site. I’m sure that as you look over the site and read the articles I’ve pointed out that you’ll find more things of interest. It’s a good site because it offers you a place to go for legal help and information that is specifically geared to creative individuals such as writers, photographers, and artists.

WHEN TO PROTECT CREATIVE WORK

INSTANT PROTECTION IS THE BIGGEST LIE IN COPYRIGHT

UNDERSTANDING COPYRIGHTS

WHO OWNS THE COPYRIGHT IN BOOK COVER DESIGN?

HOW TO USE BRAND NAMES IN YOUR FICTION

FAIR USE OF A CREATIVE WORK

COPYRIGHT APPLICATION VIDEO TUTORIAL

Enjoy.

–Rick