Friday, April 29, 2011

Tips to Prevent Copyright Infringement

I get often asked how protective an author should be over her work? My answer, "Always protect your work." You maybe unassuming and think, "Why would anyone steal my work?" Well, it takes all kinds and while this may sound cynical, I can tell you from first-hand experience, it happens all of the time. You may feel insecure about your fantastic work, but that doesn't mean it's not valuable, interesting or steal-worthy. I've had my concepts stolen. I've seen people blatantly lift my magazine articles and run them. If I were going to spend my entire life in court, I could have sued these folks. The main instigator in this situation is the same tool we all know and love -- the Internet. The Web has made it so much easier to take intellectual property. What will shock you, however, is the self entitlement attitudes of those who take. I once ran an article objecting to software piracy and you would be stunned by the sheer number of responses I got where the pirates tried to pose a legitimate argument to build a case for what is no more than stealing. After that, I realized it is that attitude that results in so much intellectual theft. While I wouldn't think to steal an author's material out my own sense of right and wrong and long-intrenched morality that reminds me that stealing is criminal, other people do not have the same sense of integrity or morality. Instead, it has been replaced with what I just mentioned -- entitlement. And this also goes for people who work with agencies that produce products for them, and then turn around and don't pay for those services. Or they don't pay what they owe for those services. In some invisible world where it's OK to take someone's work and use it anyway you like and chose to pay or not pay, these people have justified their behavior back under that sense of entitlement. So, do I warn authors to watch out when the ask me? Yes, absolutely. Protect your intellectual property the same way you would protect home and family. So with that, here are two helpful tips to protect your intellectual property:

1. Take your manuscript, place and seal it in an envelope, send it to yourself so you get the postage date stamp, and when you receive it, don't open it. This method is an inexpensive way to establish copyright.

2. Register it with the U.S. Copyright Office, but do know you should do step one too. It takes time to register the copyright.

3. If you have a screenplay or tele-treatment, register it with the Screenwriter's Guild of America. It costs $20 and you can do it online.

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