Top 5 Copyright Mistakes Writers Make

All About Copyright

When it comes to copyright and intellectual property rights and laws, writers are often misinformed by urban legends. Their focus is often in the wrong place.

Writing is not an easy job. It takes so much time, effort and energy to complete a novel or screenplay … So why aren’t writers ensuring they know their rights on copyright?

1) Thinking that ideas can be copyrighted

Writers often get very suspicious about sharing the idea they are working on. They think that if they do someone will steal their idea and write the script they intended to write.

The good news is ideas cannot be copyrighted. Copyright is awarded whenever a creation of tangible form is produced and ideas are not in forms.

Why is this good news? Because having an idea doesn’t mean much, unless you put the work in it to make it tangible. Pareto’s rule of 20/80 suggests that it’s 20% idea and 80% execution. If you take a moment and think about it you’ll see that it’s true for you too.

You get an idea in seconds, but you put hours and days and months to make that idea a reality. It’s your work and energy that makes your script unique, not the idea.

The fear of getting ideas ‘stolen’ is overstated by writers on the internet. That is actually limiting your creativity, not enhancing it. MORE: Get This, Writers: No One Will Steal Your Script! 

2) Being too paranoid and never sending their work out

Following their reluctance to share their ideas, writers can be very cautious about sending out their work out in general.

Well big news again! No one is trying to steal your work and risk infringing upon your copyright. As of 1989 when (c) notice stopped being mandatory to showcase a copyright in the US. This means everyone has to assume everything has copyright owned by someone and not risk infringing upon it.

Such a thing would only lead to lawsuits, negotiations between lawyers about damages and money spent on lawyer fees and compensations. This means stealing scripts is very, very bad business sense. The average producer or publisher won’t risk it as standard.

3) Not realising the importance of citing their sources  

Here’s an irony … Despite writers being so worried about their own copyright, some neglect to consider whether they are infringing upon someone else’s!

Artwork, graphic and visuals used to accompany a script may belong to artists who have ownership claims on them too. Just because it looks free on the web, or because the publishing date is old doesn’t mean that it’s copyright-free.

Remember that copyright is valid for a whopping 70 years after the actual creator’s death in the UK. That’s right: SEVENTY!

Oh, remember that remakes, adaptation and true stories are also subject to (c) laws too. Be mindful when using them.

4) Thinking sending yourself your book or script in self-addressed envelope is enough

Let’s get a bit pragmatic at this point. According to the Berne Convention (the fundamental law that governs copyright), it is awarded automatically when a work is created. This means the rightful owner and beneficiary of the copyrighted work is the person who has the strongest and earliest proof of its ownership.

Your proof of copyright needs to be indisputable. ‘Poor man’s copyright’ (aka sending it to yourself in an SAE) is NOT enough to do this.

The best way to acquire indisputable proof (if you don’t want to involve your lawyer) is to trust a service provider who can provide it easily and reliably. In other words, REGISTER your script or novel with a company like CopyrightsWorld.

5) Giving away ownership of the copyright themselves

Honestly guys, your biggest enemy is yourself … This applies to your script/work’s copyright too.

Instead of being worried about someone stealing your work, focus your energy on obtaining evidence of your ownership over your work. You also need to understand copyright should reside with you for projects you have originated. DO NOT give away the ownership of your copyright by neglecting to read contracts properly.

Last Thoughts

By the way, copyright changes country to country, so make sure you research how yours handles it.  If you’re in the UK there are some  changes coming in January 2021 thanks to Brexit. Check the changes out and whether they affect you, HERE.

To conclude, writers should not fear anyone stealing their work as standard. Instead, make sure you protect your work early by acquiring indisputable evidence of your copyright. Most importantly, read all contracts and their terms and conditions carefully, so you don’t get any nasty surprises!

BIO: Georgia is a digital marketing professional that has worked on content marketing for the past 8 years. Seeing the copyright infringement on digital content over the years, decided to join CopyrightsWorld, a platform that provides services for copyright registration, digital asset protection and infringement monitoring and work on offering creators ways to protect their works in the digital era.

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4 thoughts on “Top 5 Copyright Mistakes Writers Make”

  1. Great stuff. In 30 years, I’ve only been (loosely) involved in a situation like this. A work colleague gave me a script to edit called My Big Game about a bunch of hockey bratty kids. He sent it to Disney and years later I was asked to give a deposition and provide my 1991 copy of his script. He sued and won against Disney and the Mighty Ducks franchise. These are such rare incidences. Writers need to know that producers will organize a NDA because they fear a writer coming after them citing stealing- not the other way around!!

    1. Where does it say in the article there aren’t callous individuals out there? AGAIN: the fear writers have their work is stolen **as standard** is overstated on the internet.

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