Copyrights Revisited

 By: Michael LaRocca
I used to make this joke in my Advanced English Writing classes. I'd write on the board, "There are no new ideas" and attribute it to Plato, and then say in my lecture that he probably stole that quote. Are we allowed to do plagiarism humor in China? They forgot to comment on that in my contract.

Anyway, dig this. Michael LaRocca, age 17, is crafting his award-winning THE BARGAIN in 1980, which I hype far too much. Somehow he stumbles upon something he will write in 2005. CAMEL BUTT. The total lack of anything redeeming depresses him so much that he never writes again. Thus, he doesn't write CAMEL BUTT.

Is this "time travel paradox" original? Yes and no. I believe this is why the US Copyright Office says you can copyright your words but not your ideas. I've never read a time travel paradox featuring a camel butt, but otherwise my little tale is far from original. If you were working in the Copyright Office, would you want to be the one deciding which ideas are and aren't new? Is it even possible?

This is my latest answer to every aspiring author who asks me, "How can I protect my idea?" Don't write it. Take it to your grave. Otherwise, it's fair game. Your words are always protected, but your ideas never are. There are no new ideas.

Put another way, the ideating is the easy part. The hard part is publishing and marketing. This is also why I've never seen an idea worth stealing. It's too damn much work. Pick up something by your favorite author, and in my case that would be Shakespeare. Ignore the words and look at the ideas. How many will you see that are original? Zero, baby.

To be or not to be. To thine own self be true. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. A coward dies many times before his death, a brave man dies but once. Ideas I fully agree with, but they aren't original. And, in this day and age, a damn hard sell. That's right, I can't even get rich ripping off Shakespeare, unless I want to write the latest installment of THE LION KING. (Which is also cool, so don't start.)

Put yet another way, if you want to steal what I just wrote, you can't take my words. They're mine. Copyrighted the moment I clicked "send." But if you change CAMEL BUTT to WHOMPING THE YAK, then it might work. But be careful. I stole the words WHOMPING THE YAK from Dave Barry. If he decides to sue you, you're on your own.
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Getting copyright for your own original work is something that is advised under the law, particularly if there is something about your work that makes it likely to be either copied or used for any purpose against your will. Being the creator of a piece of work is something that can provide both financial riches and personal kudos. If, however, you have not copyrighted this work, you will have problems trying to prove ownership further down the line.
If you’re worried that someone will “steal” your work and take credit for your effort, there’s a simply solution: copyrighting. Copyrighting online makes it easier than ever to be sure that your original piece is protected from plagiarism.
The creators of Superman sold their copyright during the Great Depression for $130. Their heirs are now in the process of reclaiming that valuable copyright. Their tale is a graphic demonstration of the important copyright reversion rules under the Copyright Act. Under the Act, artists who sold their works many years ago are entitled to recover them, even if they signed contracts that said otherwise.

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