Tag Archives: copyright

How Can You Protect a Creative Idea?

 

Or, can you?  This editorial in “Fresh Asylum” discusses one of the most controversial aspects of the copyright issue.  It’s one that writers have pondered for years, and I understand the urge to safeguard what you think is a truly brilliant and unique concept.  All of us creative types – strange little animals that we are – experience those moments of euphoria when we conjure up something extraordinary.  But, is it even plausible to obtain a copyright for something that’s in your mind?  In reality, no; you have to put something down in a tangible form for it to be copyrighted.  The U.S. Copyright Office doesn’t rely on feelings. 

Yet, this piece goes even further and highlights the concern about copyrighting the actual idea in some way or another – not just the words that describe it, or as the final product.  Many artists worry about creative ownership.  They simply don’t want someone to steal their ideas.  It could mean the difference between a successful career and a lifetime of struggles.  Obviously then, it’s best if artists merely keeps their ideas to themselves.  No one else needs to know – not even your spouse, best friend, or closest relative. 

Everyone likes to think they’re unique, especially artists.  But, sometimes several different people actually may come up with the same concept at the same time.  Paul Gallico got the idea for the The Poseidon Adventure from his experiences aboard a ship that almost overturned during a storm 30 years before he published the book.  And, surely, someone thought of teenage vampires long before the Twilight series.  Going from concept to reality is often a long, arduous process that requires as much determination as creativity.  Writers and other artists just have to be careful along the way.

 

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The Missing 20th Century: How Copyright Protection Makes Books Vanish

This chart shows a distribution of 2500 newly printed fiction books selected at random from Amazon’s warehouses.

This is an interesting graph I saw on Linked In today.  Paul Heald, a law professor at the University of Illinois, was curious how copyrights apply to older works of literature in the new digital age.  In other words, if an outfit like Amazon publishes a long out-of-print book in digital format, can the author – or his or her heirs – claim copyright infringement?  In a speech he gave to the University of Canterbury on March 16, Heald pointed out that most books published since 1923 have copyrights.  But, he also noted that there are just as many books with copyrights in the first decade of the 21st century as there were in the decade from 1910 to 1920.  It’s a significant observation with a global impact, considering how the publishing industry is moving more and more towards digital formats.  As always, it seems standard laws can’t keep up with technological advances.

 

 

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