Search Results for: label/copyright

What Must I Do to Copyright (and Protect) My Writing?

Q: What must I do to copyright my writing?

A: Nothing.

The moment you write something original as an idea or expression on the back of a napkin, in your journal, or any other sheet of paper (or any other textile or surface) – or input it into your computer, you own the material. Unless you sell your copyright to someone else (i.e. a Work Made for Hire Agreement).

what must I do to copyright and protect my writing?Outside of that nebulous area called “Fair Use” no one else can publish your material without your permission. You created it; you own it. When publishers offer you a book contract (and “book” is very inadequate term to convey what they want), they are purchasing your permission to own exclusive sales, distribution, territorial, and publishing rights to your material. Publishing rights means they have all control over the printing of your work, whether on paper with ink, whether in audible voice, whether in dramatic presentation, whether in workbook form, whether in electronic medium – or in any other medium that exists now or will in the future exist in all the universe. And so forth. (Get the idea?)

But YOU will still own the copyright. It is your intellectual property. You just can’t do anything with that property. Unless you reserve certain rights, you no longer are allowed to do anything with your material that is not allowed by your publisher. If you want to donate three chapters to your church for a ministry booklet, that’s fine – if and only if it’s fine with the publisher.

One of the classic historic battles between writers and publishers was over copyright ownership. Even into the 1990s many boilerplate contracts indicated that the publisher was acquiring ownership of the copyright and that the book would be copyrighted in the publisher’s name. That battle is mostly over, with most publishers agreeing to register a book with the U.S. Copyright Office (or the country of origin) in the author’s name.

But I thought I didn’t have to do anything to copyright my work? Why would a publisher go to the trouble?

There are some smaller publishers who actually don’t go to the trouble and in most cases, it won’t be a big deal. It won’t change the legal standing to the work. But registering the material is an action that conveys a publisher is going to protect the copyright, which is a huge issue.

Protecting copyright is the source of much acrimony and confusion in the world. As an example, I lived in a city where a local high school copied a university’s trademarked logo (a trademark is different than a copyright, but you get the idea) for their football helmets. The university, after learning of the violation after several years of use, issued a cease and desist letter. The moral outrage and outcry by supporters of the high school team was loud and sometimes vicious – and wrong. If the university had not protected their trademark in this instance, they would lose the ability to control something essential to their identity and possibly lose millions of dollars in licensing fees in the future.

Does that mean you can’t let others use your material? Of course not, but I wouldn’t recommend it without requiring proper attribution, including the (c) designation with your name. In a church bulletin? Yes. As a chapter in someone else’s book? Definitely. If you don’t protect it that way, why would a publisher offer you money for it at a later date? Be generous all you want, but be consistent in protecting your ownership.

Bible publishers have done a good job of granting generous permission for authors and organizations to use the material from their translation, in many cases at no charge, but always with the requirement of proper attribution and copyright notification. Outside of the King James and a few other public domain translations, there will be specific guidelines set forth in the front matter of your Bible or on the publisher’s website. Check it out as a good case study.

There are a host of subplots surrounding the topic of copyright. I’ve already mentioned Fair Use, which deserves its own blog and is still too slippery to nail down. There are subrights issues, international and U.S. differences on the term of a copyright, tricks for extending copyright beyond its expiration date, review rights, Work Made for Hire issues, serial rights, and other nuances. This blog is in no way exhaustive, but is at least highlighting one simple application for you as an aspiring published author: protect your property.

How? You don’t have to put (c) Your Name on all your work. But why not do so anyway as an initial precaution. Make sure you establish when you created your work in case someone claims that you borrowed or stole from them. Let others enjoy and use your work before you are able to turn it into a payday, but only with proper attribution and notification – and any other conditions you would want to stipulate. And when you have a publisher ready to buy your work, make sure you understand exactly what you are selling. If you are a new author, the publisher is going to want to buy all rights from you to make sure he or she can “exploit” those rights in any way necessary to make your deal profitable for both parties. (Exploit sounds awful but it’s not a bad word in this context!)

The small things can save you big problems later. If you think disagreements over physical property gets brutal, wait until you see a fight over something that is a product of the mind!

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Who Stole Jesus?

How do you define Jesus?

Who Stole Jesus?

We all know that the Grinch stole Christmas but who stole Jesus? According to an AP story last month we now at least know who found Him! In Detroit of all places.

Thu Jun 5, 2008, 12:57 PM ET

A Detroit woman has found Jesus … in an alley.

The pastor of a church in the city says its stolen 8-foot Jesus statue was recovered from bushes in an alley about two blocks away.

Patricia Bowers says she notified the church late Wednesday that she had seen the statue the previous day after she had gotten off a bus.

Bowers says she didn’t realize the green-hued, plaster statue had been stolen until seeing news reports Tuesday night.

The Rev. Barry Randolph says the only damage to the statue is a broken hand. The cross it was attached to suffered major damage.

A church member noticed the statue missing Monday. Randolph says thieves may have thought the statue contained copper, which often is stolen and sold as scrap metal.

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press.

When I was a seminary student many of us were pretty certain that theological Liberals like Anglican Bishop John A.T. Robinson who had written Honest to God, a thin book that had ignited a firestorm of debate, had tried or were trying to steal Jesus of His divinity. In Robinson’s case it was through a mind-numbing and fuzzy critique of the Medieval Church’s belief in a three-storied universe, which seemed fairly threatening at the time but in retrospect was a straw man argument that didn’t really address the topic at hand; God. Today such concerns might be directed at the Jesus Project (a methodical, decidedly agnostic, approach to understanding the historicity of Jesus) or come in response to bestselling books that put God on trial, like Christopher Hitchens’ God Is Not Great, Sam Harris’s Letter to a Christian Nation, and Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion.

Some would argue that Hollywood has stolen Jesus or, at minimum, the power of His name, by gratuitously inserting profane usage of Jesus Christ into almost any movie made that is not rated G. Can you imagine the outcry if names for God in other religions were treated in the same way?

After the Crucifixion, the religious authorities were concerned that His disciples would steal Jesus – while His followers, notably Mary and Martha, believed that it was the Jewish leaders who had done just that.

Parents, when sending their kids off to college, are concerned that skeptical professors will try to steal Jesus from their children. Only 8% of Americans consider themselves an atheist – so why do they all seem to be employed in higher education? I kid. (Sort of.)

Many Christians believe that Jesus has been stolen from the public square by a radical fringe that uses the courts to enforce a much more expansive view of the “separation of church and state” than Jefferson ever intended in his letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802.

The Death of God Movement, inspired by Nietzsche’s infamous sentence in Thus Spake Zarathustra, “God is dead … and we have killed him,” didn’t actually believe God had died literally or physically. But they did believe that the “idea of God” was no longer adequate as a system or inspiration for morality or finding ultimate meaning in life.

Is it possible to steal Jesus? to kill God?

We know that if God is God, if Jesus is who He says He is, then such questions are ridiculous. So why do they keep coming up?

Is it possible Nietzsche was on to something – at least on a personal experiential level? Faith, the requisite for knowing God, almost by definition – a confident belief and acceptance in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person or idea – seems to imply that we, by choice, can steal from Jesus His divinity and power; at least for our own lives. That raises too many theological questions to even pretend I could address in a quick blog or a lifetime of sitting in front of a typewriter.

But the question of whether someone has stolen or can steal Jesus is worth noting on a personal level. For we truly do live in a profane and secular day when it’s easy to just go with the flow of soft belief. So if you show up at church one Sunday morning or find yourself pondering the meaning of life in the middle of the night while staring at the ceiling and can’t seem to find Jesus, don’t go looking for Him in an alley in Detroit and don’t point an accusing finger at others.

The place to begin is found in the face you see in the mirror.