How To Protect Your Work Online

By on October 21, 2017
How To Protect Your Work Online - Writer's

Many writers understandably feel nervous about sharing their written ideas, novels, short stories, poems and any other type of writing online. While it can be a great idea to get feedback and exposure, doing so can make them feel vulnerable. What’s stopping someone coming along and stealing your idea, or worse still, passing off your work as their own?

Whether it’s setting up your author website, or submitting your stories to competitions, or websites to get feedback, there are things every writer can do to help protect their work and ensure that no one runs off with their ideas.

Here are some tips to help you:

You cannot copyright an idea

The first and most important thing to understand is that you cannot copyright an idea.

According to Section 102(b) of the Copyright Act, “In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated or embodied in such work.”

Because of this, it is a good idea to think carefully about who you share your ideas with. While it is unlikely that someone will hear your idea and copy it exactly, there is very little you can do about it if you do. So if you think you are on to something unique and genius, make sure you trust the people you share your thoughts with and keep any written plans or outlines to yourself until you are ready actually to execute your idea.

You can protect your written work.

As soon as you write something, be it an entire novel or just a chapter of your book, it is protected by copyright law. Many authors mistakenly believe that they must place the copyright symbol on their work for that to be the case, but this is not so. However, if can make your life easier, and give you peace of mind to officially copyright your work with bodies such as the Writers Guild of America and the U.S. Copyright Office. This will make it easier to state your case should you have to enter into a legal dispute.

Be smart

Although you cannot copyright an idea, keeping evidence of how you came up with your idea is a smart move. If you have dated documents detailing your ideas, chapter outlines, character sketches and so on, these will all help to back up your case and can be used as evidence if required. Make sure you save all this somewhere safe and even share copies with a trusted friend, colleague or family member. Also, be smart about who you send your writing to. Reputable publishers and agents are incredibly unlikely to try and steal your work, so make sure you do your research before blindly sending it off.

Be fair

Is there such a thing as a unique idea? While you might feel disgruntled that someone has written something based on a similar theme or concept, unless you can show that the work was copied from your own, you can’t go around kicking up a fuss about every story that has similarities to yours. If you think about the world of books, there are a huge number of stories that have similar plots or characters which echo one another. That’s because authors cannot help but be influenced by one another, and also may have shared experiences which prompt them to write in a similar vein. You have to accept this and take comfort in the fact that there is room for more than one story with a similar plot, you just need to execute it in your own unique and intriguing way.

Don’t panic!

While it is good to exercise caution, being overly protective, secret and paranoid about your work is only going to be detrimental to you and is quite unnecessary. For someone to steal something you have written, they firstly have to manage to obtain it, and then sell it or publish it themselves - this actually takes a lot of work on their part, and for someone to go to those lengths to do so is fairly unlikely.

As a writer, it is a good idea to understand the basics of what you need to do for your work to be protected online. Just remember to be sensible but also not to let concerns about your work being stolen stop you from getting feedback, sending it to agents and publishers and trying to gain readers and build your following as the chances of someone actually stealing your work are very low.

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

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