Friday, 16 December 2011

Copyright 101 or Battling Paragraphs

Pen vs. Paragraph
So, I said that I'll write about my travails on my journey towards publication. This is going to be the first entry going in that direction. I guess everything really started in October, when I finally completed the fourth edit of my book and I decided that it was time to stop stalling. I needed to crawl out of my shell, straighten my antennae and tackle the literary world. 

Thinking about the task before me, I could practically hear crickets chirping in my mind. I had no clue where to start. My bookish nature and thirst for knowledge came to my rescue - well, that and Google – while my naturally cross-eyed attitude concerning legal paragraphs settled me on my first battle. I needed to figure out the legalities concerning copyright. So I had finished a book, but how could I defend my copyright to it? Did I even automatically have copyright? Did I need to register my literary work first?

One confusing charge through legal texts, a question to my sister who studies Communication and a Google search later, I was happy to know that in Austria copyright was automatically assigned to every completed literary work. Checking further, Wikipedia educated me on the copyright situation in the UK and America – for details check out these links: Copyright UK and Copyright USA.

Of course, knowing the pitfalls of information presented on Wikipedia and wanting to appease my slight paranoia, I double checked with the Intellectual Property Office in the UK and the U.S. Copyright Office. It turns out that all three countries signed the Berne Convention which assures instant copyright to authors of literary work, meaning that literary works don’t need to be registered in order to be copyrighted. Nevertheless, you still have to be able to prove that you were the one who produced the work first. 

The paragraphs geared up for a second attack…What precautions did I have to take in order to be able to prove my claim on being the original author in case of infringement? This time the Austrian Authors’ Association came to my rescue: I was advised to send a printed version of my finished manuscript to myself via registered mail and to store it. In case of a court case, I should then take the unopened envelope directly to my lawyer. Another possibility in Austria is registering the work (Werkregistrierung) with the Literar-Mechana association for a small fee. I really recommend getting in touch with your country's writers’ guild or a recognised writers’ association in order to clear up any more uncertainties concerning legalities and your right to your work.

In the end, my first copyright battle 101 was fought and won. My bounty? A safely-stored envelope collecting dust on my shelf until the next paragraph battle beckons.  

Useful links for UK and US authors:
·         Writer’s Guild of Great Britain:
·         Writer’s Guild of America, West:

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