101 Series – Copyright for Writers

Copyright for Writers

As a writer, you might spend hundreds, if not thousands of hours developing, researching and creating your plot and premise, theme, characters, moral development, the struggles and resolution of your character along with an ending which pulls it all together.  You spend months, if not years, writing it and re-writing your story.  But how much time have you spent figuring out how to own what you create or how to make money off what you created?

Copyright for Writers

Writers Make our Lives Richer by Creating Stories. Photo Credit Susan Yin

Writers contribute to the growth of society by providing unique and original stories.  These stories can last forever and make society richer and our lives more enjoyable.  As you probably know, our founding fathers valued author’s contributions so much, they actually provided a right to you, an author, within the U.S. Constitution.  Our country depends on the innovation of you as a writer so we created Copyright for Writers.  But what does that even mean, what rights does a writer have?  Writers have Copyrights.

What are Copyrights

A copyright is a bunch of rights given to any author who creates an original work in a tangible format.  A book, a story, a novel, a short story, poetry, plays, screenplays, essays, various reports and news articles are all works in the copyright sense.  By creating an original book you automatically have Copyrights.  However, those rights are not perfected, in the United States, until you register them with the Copyright Office.

Copyright for Writers can include:

  • Right to Reproduce Work;
  • Right to Distribute Copies of the Work;
  • Right to control first sale;
  • Right to communicate work to the public;
  • Right to rent or lend copies;
  • Right to make translations or adaptations of work;
  • Right to make work available over the internet;
  • Right to License or grant Sublicenses to any right single or bundle of rights;
  • Right to stop others from violating any right; and
  • Moral rights.

Who owns Copyrights?

Initially, the author owns the copyright in their work.  However, to make money, many authors license or assign one or more of their rights to a publisher who will print and commercialize their work.  This is typically in the form of a written agreement and typically provides for some sort of transfer of rights by the writer in exchange for some form of payment, like a royalty.

What does Copyright protect?

Copyright for Writers typically protects the creative expressions contained in the work, like the text, any illustrations or photographs.  It can also protect the individual components and arrangement of the work, including the  typeface, design and layout.  In addition to the work itself, Copyright for Writers protects many of the adaptations, generally referred to as the derivative works or subsidiary rights.  These may be relevant with any translations of the work, any musical arrangements based on the work, a television series or a motion picture.

What does Copyright not protect?

Because Copyright for Writers protects the tangible expression of an idea, not the idea itself, copyright protection does not extend to any data, scientific or historical facts.  It also does not typically extend to any common themes, scenes, plots or characters, or any short phrases or simple shapes.  While not relevant for most writers, copyright protection also does not extend to any functional aspects of the work.

Learn More about this Topic

If you would like to learn more about Copyright for Writers, you can contact one of our Copyright Attorney’s or come to the Writers Conference, where Intellectual Property Center is presenting at the Conference, hosted by the Johnson County Library, this weekend.  There is still time to sign up if you are interested.  Our presentation is titled Copyright 101 for Writers and you can register for the event at the Johnson County Library.