Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Small Warning to Authors

It was brought to my attention today that an author felt her e-book had been pirated and put up for free on Amazon. She had it free on some other online book sites, but she wasn't the one who put it on Amazon. Trying to figure out how this happened, I checked the book's Sample and discovered this language, put there by the author (this was the original book with the author's name on it and the author's cover):"This book can be reproduced, copied and distributed for noncommercial purposes provided the book is in its original form." It was right there in the license notes. She essentially gave others the right to put the book on Amazon as long as it was free (they weren't using it commercially) and as long as it was the original book (it was.) 

The warning is obvious. DO NOT put that notice on your work. You are giving away nearly all of your rights. She states her copyright, but by giving it to the world that way, with two stipulations, it is possible she's set the book free into the Public Domain. I'm not totally sure about that and the author will have to do some study on the laws to find out if it amounts to that, but in any event this was a bad move.

Anyone can now even stand in New York City's Times Square and hand out copies of the printed book or electronic copies on any media (CD) all day long every day as long as he didn't charge for it or change the original book. Since the word "reproduce" is in that statement, someone could even make a film from the book and never pay the author a cent, if the film was offered for free. Or that's how I read it.

Authors are often confused about copyright. It is important not only to declare one's copyright to a work, but to then make sure you protect it. If you place a statement as this author did, giving people the right to copy, reproduce, and distribute, then you just blew holes in your own copyright. Once that's done, it's done. It's out there. It's gone--or at least it is holey and apt to be Copied, Reproduced, or Distributed.

The reason I have a copyright notice on this blog is for this reason. I have a free short story here for you to read and the first couple of chapters of a novel, but my blog states they are covered by copyright and no one has the right to use the work in any way or form without permission. I might give you something free to read, but that doesn't mean I am going to permit anyone in the world to come along, scoop it up, and reprint it for free without my permission. If that were to happen my copyright would be infringed and I would be able to bring suit.

Authors, please, be careful what you state, not only on your blogs, but in your e-books and print books. Your intellectual work belongs to you as long as you don't give it away. Be warned.

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