Category Archives: Copyright

Copyright Registration – More Important Than You Realize

Hey all,

Back when I first started writing blogs here, one of the earliest articles I wrote was on copyright protection for your novels.  And actually, everything I wrote back then was true.

However, I’ve since become aware of some additional truths to copyright and court appearances, thanks largely to this article.  I’ll try to summarize as best I can.

First and foremost, yes, the intellectual copyright law means that the moment you create something, it is copyrighted to you.  And yes, it is still important to have some means of proving that you created the work when you did.  If it should go to court in contention with another written work, this is extremely important.

However, and this is the big point that I didn’t know: as far as a court of law is concerned, it is possible for two people to create the same thing without ever being aware of each other or each other’s creations.

Let’s say someone wrote a book that is very close to identical to The Sword of Dragons and published it today.  I have proof that I published The Sword of Dragons in 2015, and that I first wrote it before then (and even have proof of initial development going back over a decade.)

However, unless I can prove that this person was aware of my work, a judge will most likely rule in favor of “mutual co-creation” and neither person will owe the other anything.  The only exception would be if it is an exact or near-exact recreation (IE: it was obvious they copied rather than came up with it on their own.)

This is where filing for a copyright comes into play…

Giving Yourself The Best Protection

When you go to copyright.gov and file an official copyright for your novel (or work of art or song), you are essentially giving notice to the world: this is my story.  I wrote it, I published it on this date, and therefore it belongs to me.

As far as the law is concerned, that is the most important part: giving notice.  It doesn’t matter if that other author knew of my book’s existence or not.  It doesn’t even matter if they checked the copyright office before hand or not.  If they publish their work after I copyright mine, I automatically would win a court case.  The judge would simply say to them, “It’s your job to check the copyright office for notice, and you failed to do so.”  In most cases (there’s always exceptions) I would win the case.

My Advice to Writers

If you are publishing your work, whether online for free or on Kindle or as a print book, pay the $35 and go through the process of getting a copyright.  Should your story do well, this is a solid way of protecting you and your intellectual property.

Note that you CAN submit an unpublished, electronic document.  But once your novel is published and has a physical copy, you need to go through the process of sending them a physical copy to obtain a copyright on your physical product.

I hope this helps my fellow authors!  Let me know if you have any advice, or for that matter, questions on this subject :)

Thanks for reading,
-Jon Wasik

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Fan Fiction – Not an Evil

Hi everyone!

Over 20 years ago, I had a brilliant idea: why not write my own Star Trek story?  I could start a new series, make millions, and live off of writing.

Okay, so I was in 5th grade and didn’t know any better.  But I wrote a Star Trek story any way.  All of my classmates became characters in it.  I even turned one classmate I had just had a big argument with into the villain.  Until she read it and pleaded with me to not make her evil.  So in the end, she becomes good again :)

And that was the very first story I wrote.  I loved it, I love writing it, I loved letting my classmates read it, and getting their feedback!  I still have the hard-copy, too, and I turn red in embarrassment every time I read it, heheh.

What I didn’t know at the time was that I had just ventured into something that, if it wasn’t already known as such back then, would one day be known as fan fiction.

Image Source - www.d2tomb.com
Image Source – http://www.d2tomb.com

Dun dun duuunnnn!  That evil thing known as fan fiction!  What so many professional writers and publishers turn their noses at and detest.

…Except it isn’t evil.  At least, I don’t believe it is.

Writing that first story, that first fan fic, sparked within me a passion that burns stronger than ever over 20 years later.  It opened up a whole new world to me.  And it wasn’t my last foray into it either.

I’ve hinted at my fan fiction before, but I’ve been hesitant to really go into details here, for fear of legal reprisal down the road, should I ever make it big.  But in reality, fan fiction isn’t looked down upon like it used to be, and big name companies, including Paramount, aren’t as anti-fan fic as they used to be.

Furthermore, fan fiction has a huge benefit that I think a lot of people overlook.  I’ll explain in a bit.

Star Trek Dragon – 7 years, 70 stories

In 1999, while looking around this really cool thing called the internet (on dial-up!) I found a website called Star Trek The Adventures of Argus.  I was shocked: Star Trek stories I could read online?  For free?  What is this…??

Image Source - http://www.ussargus.com/
Image Source – http://www.ussargus.com/

That was the first time I read the words “Fan Fiction.”  I learned that it was fans, normal every day people like you and I, writing stories not for money, but for pure love of Star Trek, or any other number of franchises!  In some cases, such as Argus, people were putting in countless hours and incredible efforts to create these websites and write these stories.

This was how my own fan fiction series, Star Trek Dragon, was born.  I wanted to make my own mark.  I wanted to tell my own Trek story.  I didn’t care that I could never, ever make a single dime from it.

stdragon.com
stdragon.com

However, there was more to it.  By 1999, I knew more about how publishing worked, and how difficult it was for new writers to get into the industry.  I also was very much aware that my own writing style was in dire need of polishing.

So STDragon became my test bed.  It was where I could hone my skills, test out new ways of writing, and get feedback from readers.  Readers who eventually became fans.  Including fans who were never shy about telling me when something needed work, heheh.

For 7 years I wrote Star Trek Dragon, each ‘episode’ becoming longer, more detailed, and better written than the last.  Each story building upon the previous, leading up to a finale that had my inbox overflowing with fan mail!  …okay so that’s a bit of an exaggeration.

It had fulfilled it’s purpose.  I finished Star Trek Dragon in 2006, and began writing what would eventually become the novel I am now preparing to publish, The Sword of Dragons.  A novel that might never have been realized, or at least not be good enough to sell, had I not spent so much time and effort honing my skills.

Advice and Cautions

With all of that in mind, I now and forever will be a fan of fan fiction.  It is an amazing tool, a great medium for content-hungry fans, and free advertisement for the franchises that spawned them.

So much so that I seriously hope someday people will write Fan Fictions about The Sword of Dragons or Chronicles of the Sentinels!  I’ve even had the pleasure of already having fan fiction written about my stories: a follow-on series of Star Trek Dragon was started by an individual named Daniel Balding, called Star Trek Peacemaker!

peacemaker.stdragon.com
peacemaker.stdragon.com

However, there are some pitfalls to be cautious of.  First and foremost, there are legal considerations.  Intellectual Copyright permits the owners of intellectual property to control content of and relating to their series.  That means if an author or company tells a fan-fic writer to stop publicly posting and distributing their fan fiction, they have that right, regardless of whether or not everyone agrees with it.

On the plus side, writing and publicly posting fan fiction can be a real boon for aspiring writers!  And I’m not just talking about the practice we get out of it.  Whether you’ve realized it or not, you’re developing readership!  You’re creating a name for yourself.

Image Source - http://www.vtwproductions.com/
Image Source – http://www.vtwproductions.com/

I hadn’t even thought of it that way until I talked to a guy today named Wayne, who runs a podcast on the website VtW Productions.  He’s a pretty cool nerd, and he and I talked for a good long while about all of this today.  He helped me realize that there’s no need to hold back, and to tell the world about my fan fiction :)

So no matter what you might hear, if you’re a fan fiction writer, or you want to become one, don’t be shy.  It isn’t the evil taboo that some of the big names have claimed it to be.  Yes, there are fan fics that are all about fulfilling someone’s…desires.  But that is only a small percentage of fan fiction.  There are a ton of quality fan fictions out there!

Remember that, and if you decide to write one, make it one that’s really worth reading.  After all, this is your work, and that means it’s a representation of you :)

Thanks for reading!
-Jon Wasik

Copyright Law – Helping Those Who Help Themselves

Hi everyone!

I thought that it would be a good idea to talk about the copyright law for my second article, since it applies directly to writers, artists, photographers, musicians, basically anyone who creates anything on their own.  I know, it’s a very serious topic, but an important one for anyone who wishes to take their creative career seriously!

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer nor a legal expert!  If you wish to read the actual law, I recommend going to this website to read it.  Be warned, the full PDF is 366 pages long!

The Basics

copyright-logoTo sum it up, intellectual copyright law means that any original work created by an individual is their property the moment it is created in a tangible medium, and essentially is automatically copyrighted to that individual.  Now there are exceptions, not the least of which is that if you create something at work related to your work, more often than not that something belongs to the company, not you.

Also note that copyright law does not protect ideas: it has to be presented in a solid, tangible medium.  So if you have an idea for a story or character, you can tell others about it verbally but the copyright doesn’t belong to you yet.  Once you write the story out, then the copyright applies.  After all, claiming you had an idea first without tangible evidence will not hold up on a courtroom.

In any case, the beauty of this law is that anything you create is automatically copyrighted to you – you do not have to file a patent for every story you write, or every painting you create, or every song you develop, etc.

Covering Yourself

There is a bit of a ‘however’ in this whole deal: the burden of proof.  If it comes down to it and you find yourself in court, either as a plaintiff or defendant, you need to be able to prove not only that you created it but, more importantly, when you created it.

How?  For writers who use word processing programs (rather than hand-writing or typing on a typewriter), there is something hidden within your document called metadata, which identifies who created the document (tied to the user account you log into on your computer) as well as when it was created and when it was last modified.

However, I’m a big fan of CYA, or Cover Your Assets (yes, I know the ‘A’ usually means something else :p ).  One method of proof is not sufficient to me, I want there to be no doubt.  So my suggestion to everyone is simple: using a webmail account (take your pick, yahoo, gmail, what ever your provider of choice!) to email your work to yourself.  At a minimum, email your first draft, but I would recommend doing this for every major draft.

Why do this?  For starters, as long as you never delete the email containing the attachment, and as long as your email account never disappears, you will always have a time-stamp associated with your creation.  (A way to double your chances of never losing this proof, email it to more than one webmail account across multiple providers!)  This combined with your document’s metadata will stand up well in court and give you an excellent case.

This can be done with more than just written works.  Anything digital, such as digital artwork, digitally-created sheet music, engineering drafts, you name it.  But this can also be done with creations made outside of the digital world!  All you need is a camera or some method of digitally recording your creation (scanner, digital audio recorder, digital video recorder), and then you have a digital file you can email to yourself.

The bonus to the email method is that you also now have a backup of your work.  I cannot stress this enough:

Make backups of your work!!!

I personally have all of my stories saved on two computers, a jump drive, plus email, and then a hard copy for worst-case scenarios.  If you’re nervous about someone hacking your account and stealing your work, password protect your file (make sure you use a password that is different from your email account’s, and use a strong password!)

That’s all for now.  I hope you found this article useful!  If you liked it, please click “like” below, and subscribe to my blog by clicking the link on the left side of this website :)  Do you have other suggestions, or is there a mistake in my article?  As always, please feel free to leave comments!  :)

Thanks for reading,
-Jon