Up until last week, I’d never had a problem with Internet content piracy. Then a weird url popped up on my Google Alert. It took an article I wrote almost a year ago and inserted a strange phrase into the text at different places. I’m not going to name it–don’t want these people getting more ink. I’ve known other writers who say, sold an article to an online zine, and then weeks or months later, the same article showed up on a different site without the author’s permission. So it does happen. But (mostly) not in the way you may think.
Writing Tip for Today: Many new writers are afraid of their ideas being stolen. They’re eager to know how to copyright their work or otherwise protect their writing. What’s the skinny on protecting your work?
- Nobody Will Steal Your Ideas. Most of the time, other writers are not interested in stealing your ideas. Trust me on this. Most writers have a zillion ideas, and are too busy protecting their own work from potential thieves to be worried about your stuff. Sure, you hear about the occasional lawsuit over content (the ones against J.K. Rowling come to mind), but most of us have enough to work with without plagiarizing yours.
- Automatic Copyright. The day you create any writing, it’s automatically copyrighted under US law. Don’t waste time or money seeking an official copyright notice. If it makes you feel better, type one of those copyright symbols on your document, followed by your name and the date. If you are still not sure, print off a copy and mail it to yourself.
- Cease and Desist. If you do discover some kind of direct piracy (meaning something you wrote is printed without permission beyond the word limit for quotations), find out the url, send the offensive site a “cease and desist letter” and keep the pressure on until its resolved. Most of the time legal action isn’t required, but believe me, if these guys who revised my article don’t take down their little prank, I’ll be talking to my agent and beyond until they cave.