Saturday, June 27, 2009

Ahoy, Matey! Beware of Pirates



The technology boom in which we live has many wonderful benefits. In a click, we can visit people from all over the world, read an E-book, watch a video, see pictures of anything our hearts desire and communicate with editors, publishers and readers.

Even thirty years ago, writers did not have this information superhighway from which we benefit and yes, detriment. Authors of old did not have instant communication nor the opportunity to put their work in the public eye so quickly as we. With the use of the Internet, there is the need for caution. Not only do we find ourselves concerned about unsavory people stalking us and horrifying accidental pop-ups of unedifying content, but we also now have to be on the look out more for pirates! At this point, you may have spied the intent of this post OR think that I have finally jumped the ship of sanity. The pirates of which I speak are word thieves.

Authors have always been concerned about other people stealing their ideas and words. Determining how to prevent this can bring a wide range of solutions and opinions.

Imitation may be the highest form of flattery but it's best to remember that there is "nothing new under the sun". Others may generate similar ideas, but it is how you, as a writer express those ideas that makes them unique. To have someone quote your work is a great honor but to have your words plagiarized is outrageous!

There are many documents published about how to copyright. You will need to do your research before assuming your work is protected. Technically speaking, all written and published work is considered copyrighted; however, proving ownership in a court of law, should the need arise, is difficult without some verification that the work originated with you.
For the writer, knowledge of copyright laws is as prudent as a cook wearing an apron.
As for me, I want to make wise use of the gifts and works to which I am called. That being said, I feel also that some things are not worth fighting over. I've already seen some of my writing plagiarized (and obviously so) even though I'm not as internationally known as people like Beth Moore or Lisa Bevere. I'm known only because I've had a few things in print. In the past, I've been published in small publications and on the Internet but my books and works in progress have yet to be published. So how do word thieves find me to hi-jack my material and who thinks they are getting rich from stealing my words? I do not know and really, I do not care at this point. Small things I can let go. I believe we all "answer to a Higher Authority" as Hebrew National's slogan states it. On the other hand, some things need to be protected. The law is for the lawless. If the need arises, defend your copyright--especially if you feel strongly that it is something meant for you alone to write and publish. It's your choice.

Either way, Christian writers, you have an adversary, the devil. He is the thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy. He wants to make you fearful of writing or sharing your work because of the threat of copyright theft. If he can't do that, he send a flesh and blood "pirate" to thwart the expanse and distribution of the message. He wants to stifle all truth. Even if the message you write is your own and not full of spiritual depth, pirating it may distract you from moving on to write more meaningful pieces.
The devil is the original pirate and he trains others to follow in his footsteps. The problem for him, though, is that with a Christian writer, he is outranked.

Here's my Writer's Creed:
  • I believe that God has a supreme will for our lives, even in relation to our writing careers.

  • I believe that He gives us great flexibility within that will and freedom of choice as to how to the use of the gifts He has bestowed on His children.

  • I believe that He is glorified by skillful work and wise use of our resources as writers and people of God.

  • I believe that, if we seek His perfect will rather than our own, in due time, He will move our careers in the direction of success.

  • I believe that we reap what we sow in every area.

  • I believe that He calls each of us to use our lives and talents for the greater good of humanity and for His glory.

  • I believe that we should not fear what man can do unto us but focus on pleasing God. If we do this, rejection letters will not devastate us, public opinion will not sway us away from the goal and we need not fear the pirates who would ruin our careers. Ultimately, God is in control.

  • I believe that trusting God will enable us to know when to defend our rights and when to let it ride.

  • I believe that you should write your best, know your rights and responsibilities and trust God with the result. Do not be afraid of pirates.

There are so many things I could add to that list, but these are the basics for a Christian writer.

Nevertheless, writer be vigilant. Of pirates beware but don't be scared.

If you'd like to get some quick information about copyright laws, visit the first link, below which leads to a string of video clips by Nathan Boehme, a writer, editor and independent film maker in Los Angelos, California. Here you will see short blips with a virtual film strip so that you can select the clip you desire. Recorded in a creative and entertaining style, his videos educate you with all the basics about copyrights right down to a poor man's copyright idea. Have fun.

The next link is direct to the U.S. Copyright and Patent Office. There are almost endless sub links to answer all your questions about copyrights. These are the facts.


Rich and JoJo Tabares said...

Very true. I have seen folks post my articles all over. Some of them give me credit. Others don't. I don't really bother with that. I write the articles to get the word out about how important communication is so, I feel it's done its job whether or not I get the credit. But I guess I would feel differently if someone where to copy the books I write.

Most of what I do is a ministry anyway. The only things I earn a living with are my communication studies and online classes. Most of my customers are so honest. At least I think so. Many have asked me if they can copy their eBooks or download another copy of an eBook they lost on their computer.

I did have a few times where I was pretty sure a customer copied all my work and then returned the entire set of books to me (damanged too!) but since I couldn't prove it, I just let it go. For the most part, God takes care of me.

Damaria Senne said...

I've also seen people republish my work without asking me,or even crediting me for the work.

I don't concern myself too much with them, because I don't have the time to monitor every infraction.

For the most part though, people ask for permission and offer fair contracts for republishing my work. It's always nice to have a publisher I've never heard of tell me they want to publish something I did, and they'll credit me and pay, and i don't have to do anything except sign the contract and take my money.

Terri Tiffany said...

I love your creed!! excellent! I've never seen any of my work plagiarized but if someone is that desperate--so be it for small articles. Now a book--TOO much work!