The All-American Right Of Copyright

Imagine yourself, an aspiring novelist, after years of plugging away on your computer and drinking your weight in Red Bull many times over, having finally completed the Great American Novel. This is it, your chance to put your mark on the world! You have written the literary masterpiece that every high school English teacher will assign for summer reading, and every high school senior can’t wait to finish, thinking this is their last time doing work for school when they should be on a break. It is now time to release your work onto the world.
But wait, you think, you should get an editor to review your work. But wait again, if you show an editor your manuscript for the Great American Novel, what is to stop the editor from stealing it, replacing your name and slapping his name onto the title page, publishing it, selling millions of copies, going on Oprah, licensing the rights to a movie, a sequel, a trilogy, a prequel. In short, the editor makes a gazillion dollars and you will be left…well…where you started before you had the Great American Novel stolen from you. What can be done to stop this atrocity from ever occurring?
Do you remember always seeing a “C” with a circle around it (like this one “©”) on every piece of work almost yelling at the world, “STOP! Someone has laid claim to this work. It is a crime to steal it! If you wish to use it for a purpose other than self-enjoyment, you must contact and pay me, the owner.” (Maybe “©” doesn’t say exactly those same words, but you get the idea.)
Your next thought, how do I get one of those little “C’s” with a circle around it plastered all over my work? You already know the answer to that question, because the © tells you, register it with the Copyright Office. STOP! Wait a second. Why are you going to register your Great American Novel with the Copyright Office? Is it because you think it gives you protection from the government and assurance that nobody can take your work without paying for it? Before you jump through hoops and offer to give the US government more of your money, ask yourself a couple quick questions. Is the Great American Novel your own original expression? Well yes, you wrote it yourself. Is the Great American Novel in a tangible form? Of course, it is a book. Then you are done. Your book has been copyrighted.
Your concern and fear that your creative masterpiece would be ripped off and stolen by another who would then take credit for your genius gift to the literary arts, is a fear you share with many. Most people don’t realize that they do in fact own the copyright to every photo they take, every doodle they draw on a napkin, every letter they write. The moment that a creation takes on a tangible form, copyright attaches. You don’t have to do a thing. You don’t even have to know it is happening.
Michael C. Donaldson is an entertainment attorney who has been fighting for independent filmmakers for over thirty years. His book Clearance and Copyright [], the third edition of which was just released, is used in over 50 film schools and has become the standard reference book for the industry.

No Comments Found

Leave a Reply