This week on my corner of Twitter, there’s been a lot of discussion about copyright, and how long it should last. Someone suggested 30 years after publication! (See below.) The discussion isn’t about a real-world change in laws, as far as I can tell, but a what-if scenarios that may stem from the Dr. Seuss estate pulling some of the Seuss books with racist imagery. As a lot of internet conversations do, the discussion has drifted from the original “problem” to a lot of different ideas about how to do things. Some “solutions” are silly, some are impractical but some have brought up some great tangential points.
In my corner of Twitter, Dr. Seuss wasn’t even mentioned. I’ll get into that later. The reason why it caught my attention is that most writers I know there are extremely concerned about their rights, their old age, and taking care of dependents who may not be able to take care of themselves.
In general, writers are also readers, and many readers would like to be writers. So, I would say there’s a significant minority of readers who see both sides of the copyright problem.
In America right now, copyright is for the life of an author plus 70 years. (For all the ifs, ands and buts, visit Copyright.gov. The website is a cornucopia of copyright facts in America.) It’s basically the same in the UK, but I’m sure there are some different details. (British Library) In Japan, it’s the lifetime of the author plus 50 years. (Page 5 of this PDF) The problem for me as a reader
I had no idea what today’s post would be when I woke up this morning; thankfully, the internet had my back. While eating my morning pancakes, I read this postby writer Chuck Wendig and then saw this link, courtesy of a Facebook post by author Loretta Chase. Both were in reference to the Internet Archive’s recent launch of a “National Emergency Library”, making 1.4 million books available free online with no waiting to address “our unprecedented global and immediate need for access to reading and research material” during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Sounds good, right?
If you are unfamiliar with the Internet Archive, here is a brief explanation from their website: Continue reading →
I just registered the copyright for my second book, The Demon’s in the Details, and I have a few thoughts to share, along with a public service announcement.
You can tell this is a government site, because you have to type the same info over and over.
Even though you have use a separate ISBN for paperbacks versus ebooks, there is only one spot to enter an ISBN.
At the end, you have to choose between uploading an electronic file and sending in a hard copy. I’ve read numerous discussions on various self-published author boards about which is appropriate if your book is available both as a paperback and an ebook. I opted for an electronic upload rather than paying postage to mail in a physical book.
Once you register a copyright, it can take months to get your Certificate of Registration.. My certificate for The Demon Always Wins took about four months, but one of my chaptermates at my RWA chapter said her most recent certificate took fourteen months to show up.
Given the recent Supreme Court decision that you must have that certificate in order to file suit against a copyright infringement (like, say, any of the million pirate sites out there), it’s probably a good idea to do it sooner rather than later.
It was a busy day in Romancelandia today and not in a good way. If you spent any time on social media recently you’ve probably seen the stories by now. A Brazilian romance author who had a book entered in this year’s RWA RITA contest, appears to have engaged in some very blatant plagiarism. I got wind of the story by way of Courtney Milan’s blog at lunchtime and by the end of the day, the list of authors whose work was thought to have been plagiarized read like a Who’s Who of Romance – Courtney Milan Tessa Dare, Bella Andre, Loretta Chase, Victoria Alexander, Nora Roberts – just to name a few.
It was disheartening to read posts from the various authors who were impacted, describing how it felt to see bits and pieces of the stories they’d put their whole heart and soul into writing, being passed off as the work of someone else.
The author, when confronted with the accusations, gave the equivalent of a “the dog ate my homework” excuse, saying “the ghostwriter did it.” That didn’t fly with anyone, including the understandably outraged ghostwriting community. Continue reading →
In case you missed it, the last time I blogged, I did a Q&A with Greg Ourada, an intellectual property attorney with Hill, Kertscher & Wharton, LLP in Atlanta, GA. He answered questions about copyright, trademark, registered trademarks, and several other related topics. You can view that post here.
A few commenters had follow-up questions and I have the answers.
Before we begin, though, a disclaimer:The responses below are general in nature and should not be considered legal advice. Due to the highly fact-specific nature of copyright and trademark issues, you should contact an attorney if you require specific legal advice regarding a particular matter.
What a week it’s been in the romance writing world! In case you missed it, there is a huge uproar over #cockygate, or the trademark of the word “cocky” in a romance series.
Background: Faleena Hopkins, the author of several books that have the word “Cocky” in the title, recently received an official trademark of the word “cocky” in a romance series in both regular and stylized (meaning in a specific font) form from the US Trademark and Patent Office. You can view her filings here and here.
Ms. Hopkins’ stylized trademark of the word “cocky.”
Ms. Hopkins has threatened other writers whose book titles also contain the word “cocky” with a lawsuit if they don’t change their titles. She’s also reported some authors to Amazon, telling the Zon that the authors were in violation of her copyright. Amazon took down the offending books at once. Romance Writers of America has hired an IP attorney and has asked Amazon to reinstate the take downs pending a legal challenge (Amazon agreed), and former IP attorney-turned-writer Kevin Kneupper has come out of retirement to Continue reading →
This past Friday, I attended a free webinar by the folks who do Masterclass (I had previously taken James Patterson’s class on writing and Aaron Sorkin’s class on screenwriting). The topic of the webinar was protecting your intellectual property before you copyright it, and it was presented in large part by folks who work for the Writer’s Guild of America West (WGAW…there is a sister organization, Writer’s Guild of America East. They do the same thing, but the organizations do not share information with each other).
I had always thought the Writer’s Guild was for screenwriters only, but it turns out any artist – as long as they can put their idea/story/script/play/lyrics on paper – can have their intellectual property protected. This topic is relevant to me right now because Continue reading →