Retaining Your Creative Rights: How Protected Are Authors?
Understanding copyright isn't as difficult as it first sounds. People often confuse copyright fundamental with copyright law, which may seem as technical as rocket ship blueprints to the laymen. But you want to understand in order to ensure the future of your intellectual property and your potential revenue in royalties, and who can blame you? Of course, there are legal nuances that escape all except those fluent in copyright legalese, but once you've read the below information regarding your creative rights as an author, you should become more comfortable publishing and marketing your book.
What's a Copyright?
"Copyright" is just that: "the right to copy (and market) materials." This means that whoever owns the copyright of a certain materials (a book, for example) will be able to decide the future path of their materials, and they should be credited with references or adaptation from the original material as well.
Copyright was started to ensure that the creator of a work could choose its specific representation and benefit financially its distribution. This protection is necessary in the contemporary world. Otherwise, once marketable and distributed, anyone could modify the original work to misrepresent the creator and continually reproduce an incorrect version of the first rendering for their own monetary gain, robbing the author of their credit and financial stability. While copyrights usually last for only a limited time, you are definitively protected against plagiarism, and you may be able to sue for monetary damages should your work be used without your expressed permission.
What Are Your Creative Rights?
In the case of published books, an author's creative rights guarantee that the writer chooses how his or her work will be represented in book form. This representation includes (but is not limited to):
- Your Specific Content: the language and creative style of your original manuscript
- Your Interior Design: the layout of chapters, headings, fonts and more
- Your Cover Text: the blurb, reviews or bio information printed on the outside of the book
- Your Cover Artwork: the visual representation of your book and authorship
- Your Promotion: the marketing campaigns and materials used to inform public audiences about your publication
- Your Distribution: the extent and retail companies that can sell your book with your permission
Note: As you own the rights to your content, any and all who borrow extensively from your book or sell your publication must obtain your expressed permission.
That said, when preparing your manuscript for publications through PublishingRoom, you always decide the final representation on every aspect of your copyrighted material. You've written the book, submitting your Microsoft Word document through the wizard is your agreement that the content is complete. You approve of the interior layout as well as your personally designed cover. Since you've decided to self-publish your book, you also decide how you'll market your title as well as the reach of your distribution.
What may confuse authors at this point is the copyright registration that PublishingRoom offers through our Services Store. Essentially, if you already control the representation of your work as well as the marketing and distribution future of your book, then what purpose does a registered copyright serve? In fact, isn't that just what a copyright is? Your ability to decide the representation and future of your publications?
Of course, you're right! DIY publishing with PublishingRoom automatically grants you what's called an “unregistered copyright” on your intellectual property, which allows the author of the original piece to choose how their work will be represented in product, promotion and sales. But there is another kind of copyright, called “registered copyright,” which may better suit your publishing needs should you be fearful of plagiarism or intellectual abuse.
What's Unregistered Copyright?
Unregistered copyright is granted to anyone who creates something that is protected by copyright law. Some things, like perfumes, may not be 100 percent protected, but books are always shielded under the copyright umbrella.
Once fixed in a manuscript form, within either a digital or printed file, your intellectual property is automatically granted an unregistered copyright. No publication, additional registration or official act is required to established copyright once you've secured the manuscript in a representation that can be observed empirically (or sensed) by others.
Obviously, your intellectual property must exist in some tangible representation as opposed to an idea, which would make for flimsy evidence in court. If contested in a court of law, proving the work was originally created by you yourself can depend heavily on tangible proof. Attaching an official date to your manuscript is the perfect way to offer evidence of your authorship and protect yourself further. For this reason, writers often mail copies of their completed manuscript to their home address, which is often referred to as "the poor man's copyright," in order to receive the post office's dated governmental stamp. But if you self-publish with PublishingRoom, documentation as well as your printed book ensures that a date is attached to your intellection property, one that will make for a solid case against any challenge to your authorship.
In fact, the fundamental difference between registered and unregistered copyright about which authors are most curious is usually decided in court. Remember, though, you're always protected with unregistered copyright, and if you choose to sue a person who misrepresents or misuses your intellectual property, you certainly can.
Unfortunately, you cannot recoup monetary damages as a result of this prosecution, and rarely can you repair the damage to your reputation. With registered copyright, however, you have additional options that may benefit you financially and salvage your reputation in the meantime.
What's Registered Copyright?
Registered Copyright is when your book is officially registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Registering your intellectual property affords you the right to seek reparations when and if a party uses your work without your permission.
The process requires that two physical copies of your book be sent to the U.S. Federal Copyright Office in Washington, D.C., where their staff then issues your book a copyright number. While this registration number is not usually printed within your publication, you should receive a certificate of your registration's validity that can be offered as evidence in legal proceedings.
In short, your intellectual property is not only protected, but you're also entitled to monetary gain from the damages a plagiarist may cause to your book sales or author reputation. Of course, you can always control the representation and marketing of your book with both forms of copyright, but registered offers writers additional coverage.
Think of it as an insurance plan upgrade, where you're still protected, just more so. Therefore, if you believe that your book will be considerably noteworthy and you perhaps suspect that certain writers may borrow from your publication without permission, you may want to consider registered copyright. It can provide the financial safety net that could salvage your writing career during a drawn out legal battle.
How's Traditional Publishing Copyright Different?
One of the fundamental differences between traditional publishing and DIY self-publishing is the control you have over your book. The primary reason you have so much control over the representation and marketing of your title when publishing with PublishingRoom is because you always retain the rights to the material. Therefore, you control your publication's past (writing), present (production) and future (marketing).
But a traditional publishing company approaches your book in a different light. Of course, working in publishing, they want to spread the word about good literature and exciting new voices, but as a company, they are also trying to support their infrastructure as well as make a profit. As a result, they want to control the products they will marketing to readers, the product being your book.
When you or your publicist sends your manuscript to a traditional publisher, what you're actually attempting is the outright sale of the rights to your book, given a royalty agreement can be reached. Essentially, a publishing house wants to own the rights so their staff can control the product they'll sell to the public.
Their design team will lay out the interior and the cover; their editors will revise the content down to what they believe will be more poignant and marketable to certain demographics; and their promotion specialists will promote your title however their company wishes. When you sign your publishing contract, what you're actually signing is a transfer of rights. Where you had control over the representation of your intellectual property, now the publishing house dictates its image (and ultimate reception by the public).
As soon as you transfer your unregistered copyright to their company, they will immediately obtain a registered one in their name, listing you as the original author. This allows them to design and market the book however they wish, while keeping your name listed as the author.
The decision to pursue a traditional publisher or a self-publisher is always yours, but one advantage to utilizing our services is that we'll never strip your creative rights away from you. Each publisher is different, and every author has his or her own publishing aspirations. But one thing is for certain – knowing the fundamentals of copyright law can only help you choose the best publishing path that jives well with your future writing career goals.
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