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Copyright Online

Author: Hamish Gilbertson
Date:   06-26-01

Copyright is simple. Anything completely original that you put on paper or in bytes is automatically copyrighted. It is yours; anyone copying it is infringing upon your copyright. But what if?

We know. There is always a, "what if?" What would lawyers do all day if the law wasn't open to interpretation? But why bother the legal profession until you really need to?

A basic understanding of your rights to your creative endeavors is an important part of your writer's armory. You can get much more than a basic understanding of copyright online.

We've collected together some links to help you understand copyright:

  • The US Copyright Office
    The US Copyright office provides a great guide to copyright issues. Read thecopyright basics (the link will take you there) and FAQ's to gain a grasp of the issues you need to understand.
  • Lawgirl.com
    LA based entertainment lawyer, Jodi Sax, may be unduly influenced by the trials and tribulations of a certain television character but that doesn't stop her providing the lowdown on copyright. You will find her Copyright Fairy Godmother a good guide to the copyright registration process.
  • American Bar Association
    The lawyers take you through the basics of copyright law as it stands. It's all there in commendably plain language - for lawyers, that is.
  • Wordweaving.com
    Writer, Elena Fawkner's words were stolen. Copying is the sincerest form of flattery she thought and then she thought some more. Wordweaving.com published her thoughts; they are well worth reading.
  • Intellual-property.gov.uk
    The official British take on copyright. We may use less u's and s's but we know they are over there and they do things differently. This clearly presented site offers an insight into copyright around the world. Check out: Canada, Australia and New Zealand (Did we miss your country? Email us a link.
  • Nolo.com
    Nolo's mission is to help the "legal system work for everyone -- not just lawyers". This page from their legal encyclopedia can definitely help with your copyright questions. Don't miss the myriad of links at the bottom of the page.
  • Science Fiction Writers Organization
    Don't let the Sci-Fi bit put you off; this excellent site is useful to all writers. The copyright page is informative and boasts a good list of informative links. Go there and be informed.
  • Berkeley University Digital Library
    Many university libraries maintain a copyright information resource. This one from Berkeley is one of the best, not least because it includes links relevant to people concerned about copyright who are doing their "copyrighting" outside the US.
  • Groton Public School
    Another useful guide to copyright resources available online.

They're Talking About Copyright in our Forums:

Can't find the answer you need? Ask other writers your copyright questions.

May 5th: Do you need to copyright your manuscript before you throw it to publishing's lions for consideration? This author did but on May 22nd he was worried about the question of whether you need the dinky little c in a circle. Do you?

April 17th: Stolen ideas and stories: the community gets together to commiserate with each other. What can be done? Well...

April 12th: The question of "fair use" comes up and a participant spells out the law. As one poster suggests, even when the law is spelt out it is not clear.

Links That Delve Deeper:

US Copyright Regulations for the lowdown on the procedure - a lot less user-friendly than the main copyright link but you may find the information useful.

The World Intellectual Property Organization for insight into the issues at the international level.

Hamish Gilbertson.