Perpetual amateur Holly March gives us a quick rundown on how you need to protect yourself copyright-wise.
So there it sits, in the PHS spreadsheet for articles.
If I tell you that six hours after I drafted this article it went out of date with another piracy scandal, you can understand why no one wanted to write this.
And we should, we really need to talk about this, in the aftermatch of #CopyPasteCris stealing entire passages and story structures from authors like Nora Roberta and Courtney Milan. Cristiane Surruya apparently used ghostwriters who did this and… Let’s save ghost-writing for now because that is a whole other debate.
It is incredibly difficult to fight copyright claims, and incredibly expensive. It is also open for abuse (remember #cockygate when an author tried to copyright the word ‘cocky’?). It is, however, something we all need to know about. So this total frickin’ amateur is going to do some sleuthing. Beware, there will be a lot of article links in this and an information bias to The West.
The following is from self-proclaimed “copyright nerd” Rorie Kelly:
You can use the Copyright Symbol © even if you have not registered the work, but you need to include the date and your name.
Copyright is legal even if you have not registered the work, BUT it is harder to claim. *If you want to register it you need to do so at: copyright.gov or in the UK, gov.co.uk
“There is a fee but it is not huge and it is not a hard process, just a little bit of time investment. It is cheaper to copyright a single body of work vs each individual work, for example, pay a fee once to copyright a collection of 12 essays vs 12 fees to copyright individually.”
Google has false advice that you should mail a copy to yourself to use the stamp as proof of time, but this is not admissible in court.
We cannot all, like the great Courtney Milan, be lawyers as well as writers, but we do need to be aware of this stuff. You never know when someone will pull this sort of crap.
Brianna Bennett on the Writing Cooperative has written an excellent article on just why this matters so much here.
Christi Caldwell said this on twitter: "Do you remember NAPSTER?? How thieves pirated music...and eventually the industry had real change (I think it was Metallica who kicked off the suits) and NAPSTER as it had existed, was no more? Authors haven't had their NAPSTER moment."
She has had not only passages and story lines lifted, but her entire branding co-opted by someone else:
These tricks are obvious, dirty, and pathetic. So far discovering these has led to the false author having to take books out of circulation, being shamed on social media, and often temporarily deleting their accounts—only to resurface when they think the coast is clear. There are also darker stories, such as that of Sherrilyn Kenyon, the fantasy author, whose husband attempted to poison her to get hold of the copyright of her books after she died.
Copyrights need to be registered if you are selling books, and they need to be clearly done so that no one can claim co-authorship if they did not actually write the books with you. You never know if your book is the one that will be copied, or if the copier will have a more successful name and a glut of fans who will defend them against you.
Romancelandia is not all pink clouds and rainbows. There are Boudiccas out there, yes, but there are also Cartimantuas, and they will sell you out to the Romans for wine and money without blinking. We need to protect each other, report anything we find that feels questionable, and always, always read our competitors and rivals.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the outcomes of a hundred battles.” – Sun Tsu
If nothing else, I beg that if you see an author begging for RTs or reports on a site that is pirating their work, you help out. Do not scroll past. Share it, report it, scream it from the rooftops! I have quoted Sun Tsu, and now I quote High School Musical.
We're All In This Together.
Thanks again to Rorie Kelly for helping me out with the details and explaining it in a way that even I could understand because, boy howdy! You can find out more about Rorie on Bandcamp.
Edit: So I type this up and a few days later, in the words of Jeanna Louise Skinner "Another day, another scandal in Romancelandia." Hard on the heels of the reemergence of #CopyPasteCris comes an author stealing a doctor's picture for her cover.
We are terrified of having our work stolen. We absolutely should not be stealing in turn. Here at PHS we use pexels.com and pixabay.com for our stock photos (they're mostly white people, which is frustrating, but they're stock photos in the public domain). Do not use art without asking, and likely paying, the artist. Just because you cannot find an owner of the image doesn't mean there is none. Have some respect and decency, you know? To quote Waterbabies: Do as you would be done by.
Holly March writes romantic #ownvoices fantasy. You can find out more about Holly on Twitter or at marcherwitch.com.
What are your tips for staying safe in a world of lazy and despicable pirates and rip-off merchants? Share your tips and knowledge of copyright below in the comments and on social media.