Most people recognise the copyright symbol, but everyone in the publishing industry needs to know what might cause a copyright issue.
© This is the worldwide symbol that signals a work is owned by someone and no one else has the right to use it. Sounds simple, but it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Firstly, each country has its own laws. In Australia, our laws are administered by the federal Government. The Australian Copyright Council is a non-profit organisation that offers free advice, information and training.
Australian Copyright Council
3/245 Chalmers Street, Redfern NSW 2106
Phone: 02 9318 1788
Fax: 02 9698 3536
Who Owns the Work?
Anything you write, be it a book, play, course, or piece of music is copyright. To assert your intellectual property right you can use the copyright symbol in the following manner:
© The Publishing Company 2010
© Karen Lee Field 2011
You may also insert the word ‘copyright’ too:
Copyright © The Publishing Company 2010
© Copyright Karen Lee Field 2011
If someone copies your work, it is known as a copyright infringement. However, sometimes you do NOT own the copyright even when you wrote the piece.
If you work for a company or contract to a company and you are paid to write the piece for them, then the company owns copyright, not you. It doesn’t matter if you’ve signed a contract without a intellectual property clause, it is still implicit under the law.
This means you cannot sell the piece to another person or company, as you do not own it. However, there is nothing to stop you writing a similar piece to sell.
Defending Your Copyright
Most authors cannot afford legal representation. This is also the case for many small publishing companies. Mega companies can and do defend their copyright and it costs a lot of money.
Nevertheless, as an author, editor or publisher you must be responsible for making sure you do not breach copyright.
As an editor or publisher, if the manuscript you are working on appears to be a copy of a book you’re read, mention this to the author. People do have similar ideas and maybe it is a coincidence. If, however, it is word for word alarm bells should be ringing. No publisher should publish a manuscript that breaches copyright as they could possibly find themselves in court!
When Does Copyright Expire?
Generally, copyright lasts for seventy years after the death of the creator.
In many cases the rights to books, artwork, songs and other works may have been purchase by another individual or company so copyright continues for much longer.
Never assume a work is out of copyright. You need to be 100% sure before using anything that may be considered an infringement.
What About Book Titles?
Titles are not copyright yet you must be careful as using a title of a highly successful book may be seen as a breach of copyright.
For example, say a book is published with the title ‘Cats’ and, as an editor, you are working on a manuscript with the same title. ‘Cats’ is a word and anyone can use it, but it may be worth mentioning this to the author due to the possibility of future confusion.
Having said that, if the manuscript has the title ‘The Da Vinci Code’ then the publisher would be taking a huge risk and would be wise to suggest the author change the name as the title is synonymous with the successful book and to try and reuse it would be unthinkable. Something related to the title would be much better.
Never use a trademarked name and then defame the owner of it. However, it’s fine to refer to the trademarked product in general.
Example: Jenny took her parents to Gloria Jeans for coffee.
There are two types of trademarks: ™ and ®
™ means registration of the trademark is pending. This can often take months, sometimes years.
® means registration has been approved.
It is illegal to use ® unless approval has been granted.