Whether you have just finished the great American novel or finally completed a training manual on your company’s proprietary software, it is important to protect your work the right way. If you are an inventor, you know how important it is to protect your great idea with a patent, but did you realize that copyright protection can be just as important?
It is easy to see why copyright protection is such an important concept for an author, and how failing to secure that protection could have long-lasting repercussions for you and your new writing career. Without the protection of a copyright, someone else could steal your words and pass them on as your own, and that could mean the profits that should be yours will go to the interloper instead.
Automatic Protection – With a Twist
One thing many new authors fail to realize is that protection under applicable copyright laws is automatic. Once you have finished the page you are working on or completed your long-awaited novel, that work is automatically protected under international copyright law.
So does that mean you do not need to do anything else, or that you can rest assured your hard work will not be copied by others will ill intent? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is no. There are many good reasons to pursue and enforce your protection under international copyright law, and it is important to do your research and understand your rights.
Protecting your work from copyright infringement is always an important consideration, and that is why this protection is so critically important. If you find your words being used by another author, you will need to provide solid evidence that the original work was your own, and that the other author is violating your copyright.
Taking active steps to protect your copyright can also head off infringement before it starts. If others know that you take an active role in ferreting out plagiarism and protecting your copyright, they may think twice before appropriating your words or engaging in acts of plagiarism.
The reputation of an author often proceeds them, and you can bet that fellow authors will be taking note. If you have developed a reputation as a strict enforcer of international copyright law, you may not need to take further action, mainly because other writers will be much less likely to plagiarize or otherwise appropriate your words.
The Steps of the Copyright Process
The protections inherent in international copyright law may apply automatically, but that does not mean you can be passive about your copyright protection. If you want to safeguard your work and prevent unauthorized use and duplication, you need to take an active role in protecting your copyright.
The processes used to obtain and protect a copyright are relatively easy and straightforward, but getting expert help and guidance can still be helpful. If you already have a literary agent, he or she can help you protect your rights through international copyright law. If you are working without an agent, you can follow the steps outlined below.
Make Sure Your Work is Properly Marked
If you hope to enforce your rights under international copyright law, you will first need to make sure your work is properly marked. Having a properly worded copyright notice is important, as it can deter infringement and make appropriation or outright plagiarism far less likely.
The copyright notice should clearly state that the work in question is protected by all applicable copyright laws. This will serve as notice to others that the unauthorized duplication, use or appropriation of the work is strictly prohibited, and that you will protect your copyright in the event it is violated.
You do not need to include a copyright notice to protect your work under international copyright law. As stated previously, that copyright protection is automatic. Even so, a specific copyright notice can deter theft and help you protect your rights in case a question of authorship or authenticity arises later on.
Register Your Work
In order to protect your work further and make future enforcement of your copyright easier, you will want to register your work. Registering your work promptly can protect you in the event of a plagiarism case, and the sooner you file for that registration the better.
Think about what would happen if another author were to copy your work and then claim that the work in question is actually theirs. The copyright protection may be automatic, but how would you prove that your work was created first. If your book has already been published, you could refer to the publication data, but what if the work is still sitting on your shelf awaiting publication?
By registering your work prior to publication, you can protect yourself and your words. If someone comes along later and publishes a suspiciously similar work, you can refer to that registration to prove the creation date and enforce your copyright under applicable national and international laws.
You can hire an expert to help you with the registration process, including proving the date the work was written and certifying that its content is entirely original and entirely your own. This registration process can provide the best evidence against charges of plagiarism by other writers.
Maintain Your Supporting Evidence
If you have been working on your novel for some time, you probably have lots of notes, first drafts and other supporting documentation. Now that your novel is completed and on its way to publication, you should take pains to protect that backup information.
Maintaining your notes is an important part of protecting your copyright, so make sure your notes are dated and properly documented. If a dispute about the authenticity of your work or the timing of its completion comes up later, you can refer to this documentation to prove the timeline and enforce your copyright.
Having this supporting documentation at hand can also help you trace the evolution of the ideas and concepts contained in the finished work. While you cannot copyright an idea, you can apply your copyright protection to the work that contains your original ideas and scenarios. By maintaining control of your first drafts, rough recordings, character sketches and synopsis, you will be better able to protect and enforce your copyright should a dispute arise later on.
The more complete your supporting documentation, the more valuable it will be in any subsequent copyright dispute. Ideally, the documentation should trace every step of the creative process, from the origin of your ideas and concepts to the first page you wrote to the first, second and third drafts.
Whether you maintain this documentation on your computer or keep it with your publisher, it is important to back up the information. You do not want the untimely demise of your hard drive or a devastating house fire to interfere with the protection and enforcement of your rights under international copyright law.
Insert Footprints and Watermarks
Maintaining complete documentation of your work from start to finish is one of the best ways to enforce your copyright and protect your creation, but there are other ways to prove the work is yours and yours alone. Many experienced authors insert footprints and watermarks into their works, and these techniques can also be very valuable.
The insertion of footprints and watermarking can provide valuable clues in a plagiarism case, whether you are accused of plagiarism by another writer or you are the one bringing the copyright enforcement action. These footprints and watermarks can include things like deliberate mistakes, items that most readers would miss but that would be obvious to the original writer.
If a subsequently published novel includes those same words, along with the deliberate mistakes, that can serve as valuable evidence that plagiarism is to blame. Even one or two of these small mistakes can provide valuable protection and help you enforce your rights under applicable copyright laws.
In the modern age, some authors are turning to technology to further protect their copyrights. Those authors may, for instance, insert hidden data into their books. That hidden data is invisible to the reader, but readily apparent to a special device or application. Once again, if a subsequently published work includes that hidden data, that is powerful proof that the original work has been plagiarized or otherwise appropriated.
Writing is hard work, whether you are talking about a full-length novel, a technical manual or something else. Now that you have completed all of your hard work and are seeking publication, it is important to protect yourself. International copyright law is designed to provide those protections, but simply obtaining the automatic copyright is not enough.
If you truly want to take advantage of applicable copyright laws, you need to take a proactive approach. Going through each of the steps outlined above can help you protect your hard work and reap the benefits that come from your carefully crafted creation.