Importance of Copyright
most modern arenas it's easy to identify products - they exist as
objects. You can slap a patent on objects - and often on the processes
that make those objects.
ideas are more nebulous. Artistic expression is perhaps harder to
quantify - or so it would seem. Which is why copyright and the concept
of 'intellectual property' is so important.
to what many people think, artists, writers and musicians have the law
on their side.
intellectual property - their ideas and the expression of those ideas -
are protected by law in most countries around the world. It is only
those few countries - and individuals - that do not respect
intellectual property that cause problems for the rest of us.
Copyright Act was enshrined in 1968 to protect artists, writers and
musicians from having their work stolen, copied and exploited by
unscrupulous individuals and corporations.
Copyright Act gives automatic ownership of an idea's expression to the
expresser. Much confusion, though, still exists as to what that
and movies and CDs often flaunt the copyright symbol as though it's
some kind of corporate badge that has little or no meaning.
this is not the case.
be clear. When a writer gets a publishing deal, she does not lose the
copyright to the publisher. No, the copyright still belongs to
the artist. The writer still owns the rights to her ideas and the
expression of those idea in words.
publisher only owns the rights to the book - the product.
exactly the same for musicians - who own copyright to the songs when
the recording company merely owns the recording of those songs. Same
with movies. A movie company's copyright only extends to the expression
of a writer's screenplay, not to the screenplay itself.
wish more people in the industry understood the subtleties implied in
artists - especially writers - rarely understand that you
don't need to officially register copyright to own the expression of an
copyright is innate - in law, automatically - the moment you commit
your ideas to paper or to a computer file.
doesn't mean you own the idea. No, you can't copyright an idea - only
of the idea in your own words.
often ask me 'what happens if someone steals my idea?'
bad news is there's not much you can do about that. Ideas are so
commonplace - like the air that we breathe - it would be impossible to
police who thought of what and when.
real question is 'when does your idea become a copyrightable one?'
when it combines elements that are identifiably your own - and are
expressed in such a way that it becomes clear that to copy that
expression would be to mimic the personality of the expresser.
if that sounds like legalese! But if you can get your head
around it, you'll understand some of the subtleties.
think of an example.
Stoker invented Dracula back in 1897, but that doesn't mean he owns the
rights to all vampire stories ever written. The vampire is not a
copyrightable idea. Which is why Stephenie Meyer - and a myriad other
writers - are not infringing Bram Stoker's copyright by inventing their
if you tried to write another story about Count Dracula, now that would
be different. You'd then have to deal with Bram Stoker's estate to ask
their permission - which they have every right to refuse.
are one thing.
problems start when publishers believe they own those ideas because
they publish them. They don't.
they often own the rights to exploit those ideas - but that doesn't
give them the right to misplace the author's name, sell books without
paying the author or even sometimes assign the copyright to a third
party. That's illegal, unethical and, let's face it, highly immoral.
there aren't too many people around like that, at least in the
civilized world - although I can think of at least one, off-hand. And if there are more, let's hope they'll all be punished
severely for their wrongdoings!
an artist, copyright is a sacred commodity.
is not merely a symbol tagged onto the start of an author's name.
is a birthright. And respect for that birthright should be implicit in
any relationship that the artist enters into.
you ever feel that your own copyright is not being respected, then seek
legal advice - or drop me a line. - or speak with one of the many
writers and artists' associations that now, thankfully, are
all around the world. There will be one close to you.
When it comes to copyright, the
law is on your side.
course there will always be those in business who will try to con
artists - and abuse their power - in the same way as there will no
doubt always be thieves, fraudsters and murderers.
up to us artists to remain vigilant and remind 'copyright exploiters',
sometimes forcefully, that without ideas and their
expression, their would be nothing for those businesses or individuals
to exploit in the first place.
then where would they be?
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