Face it, folks. The Internet has taken over. That means many great things for writers. It means that we can create websites and blogs for free; we can reach out to more publishers, journals, and magazines for publication; we can self-publish and market our own work with ease! The biggest problem with sharing our work on the Internet is copyright infringement and plagiarism.
In most cases, infringement isn’t a huge deal; we are not posting finished manuscripts for novels to Facebook. But shorter works can often be copy-and-pasted to other websites who profit from them. In fact, we at the Writer’s Circle experienced this when someone took an entire article about Dr. Seuss and posted it to their Facebook timeline! The good news is that there are ways we can protect our writing and also have the vast readership of the Internet community!
Here are 3 copyright tricks for writers posting their work on the web.
3. Poor Man’s Postal Copyright
One of the oldest tricks for proving that a work belongs to you is to print off your writing and send it to yourself in a sealed envelope. This sounds weird but, legally, it functions the same way as a copyright. All mail is stamped with the date by a government employee. And if an envelope is properly sealed, it implies that its contents haven’t been tampered with. Therefore the contents contained within the envelope are recognized by the government as having been written on or before the stamped date.
This method combats instances where someone claims they’ve penned something but their version has been published after the original (which is still sealed in an envelope). It’s not a bad idea for authors who have finished larger works to try this out, especially they plan on releasing their writing in sections.
2. Putting a copyright notice on your webpage
Many writers and bloggers include an “about” page on their websites. This gives readers and overview of who the author is and their purpose in writing. It can also tell them to not share. Sometimes, fellow writers really like something and will post it to Facebook or Twitter. With an “about” page, you can tell them not to. At the bottom of this page it is smart to include a copyright notice. This can be as simple as a statement telling readers that the work on your site is original and is not to be shared without permission.
There are also templates out there that you can copy and paste with copyright information (like this one provided by WordPress). This is a clear way of letting people know who owns the work on your page, which is particularly important if a copy-cat tries to claim that “they didn’t know” your work was privately owned.
1. Register For A Creative Commons License
For writers who have gained a large following, are prolific in their publishing, and especially those who’ve found ways to monetize their work, Creative Commons might be your answer. Creative Commons is a type of free license that anyone can obtain in order to grant (or restrict) permissions to their work. It comes with easy to interpret symbols, clear usage restrictions, and all the legalese required to protect your work.
Creative Commons makes it easy to share your work and ensures that you get credit for it. One thing authors might want to consider when using Creative Commons is allowing people to share your work and cite you as the author. It’s a great way to get your work out there and it encourages collaboration with the writing community online!