Intellectual Property and the Internet


Picture I took upon visiting Chittenango Falls...

Picture I took upon visiting Chittenango Falls in New York State. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t know about you but when I send out a part of my book to my writer’s group, or a story to a friend, or even post to this blog I sometimes wonder if I need to protect my work. It can feel like I have sent off my child to play in traffic. Of course I have always been a great worrier…let someone in my family be a half hour late arriving home and I am mentally planning the music for the funeral. Add natural worry (Someone will “steal my stuff”), to having had my email account hacked with emails to all my friends requesting money, and the internet can feel scary.

We former Upstate New Yorkers need to at least get some analogies out of our time in the frozen tundra. So let me put it this way: Going near the internet with my writing always raised my anxiety and the concept of e-publishing set cascades of shivers catapulting down my spine like pent up ice in a creek bed going over the rapids at the end of winter.  (This analogy owes any vividness to many March days spent hurrying to Chittenango Falls to see winter begin to self-destruct.)  But you get the picture. I have never felt comfortable when anything I’ve written crossed the net. Thankfully that is no longer the case.

Much to my surprise surfing some blogs I learned that there is no magic to protecting your work on the internet.  As best I understand it, a kind of implicit copywrite attaches to any materials published on the web. Unlike that nice hard copy you can give someone (which they could scan) publication on the internet identifies the posting (blogging, emailing) person as the author of the material and typically dates it as well. Nothing of what they write and publish on the internet can be copied unless they explicitly grant permission. This is done by noting somewhere on the document, webpage, etc. that copying is allowed and that what is written is “in the public domain.” Without one (perhaps both) statements nothing can be cut, copied, reposted, spindled or mutilated.  AND you don’t have to say that what you have written is copywrited nor do you need the © symbol to have your work be protected.  It is your intellectual property, and though I am no attorney, as they say, I can read research, and as best as I can tell the internet may well be your friend as far as copywrite is concerned.  That said let me repeat, I am not an attorney…and of course people plagiarize all the time.

So check it out for yourself.  I recommend Virginia Montecin’s article from George Mason University at http://mason.gmu.edu/~montecin/copyright-internet.htm  Quick and easy summary.  As George Carlin so bravely pointed out, “It’s your stuff.” We never want to lose our stuff. But I believe now that publishing here may document this is my work, my stuff. So no more anxiety for me….well, maybe, a shiver or two. I told you. I’m a worrier!


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About joanneeddy

Writer living in North Carolina. Originally from upstate New York. I love my family, my community, and my friends, and embrace 'living deliberately' in the world, trying to make a difference. I have written an as yet unpublished book, The Call, an epic fantasy with historical fiction and folklore elements. My blog is for other writers, for those who love a good read, and for all who, like me, are looking to find and live their call.
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