Monday, February 20, 2012

Who will have copyright of the contest submissions? #writers

This is the fourth part of a multi-part series devoted to our plans for a writing contest. To read this from the beginning or to see a full list of posts as they are posted, please refer to this page.

Since we are still in the planning stages, be aware that any of the following is subject to change at any moment (though I doubt it).

I had intended to write about copyright a little later, but since there was a comment asking about it, I'll share the information sooner. As far as I understand copyright law (and I'm no lawyer by any means), once your idea (your story) is in a tangible form—be it on paper or saved on a computer—you automatically have copyright. The only way for you to lose that is to draw up a contract, signing your rights to a third party, usually for the purposes of marketing and distribution, such as with a publishing company.

Publishing contracts can be an expensive thing to draw up, especially if you are just getting started. From what I can gather, people are rarely sued for copyright infringement. Publishing companies—whether small or large—do not steal from authors. Neither do agents working in behalf of such entities; there's just too much risk involved. The cases I could find involving authors usually had to do with slander, someone suing the author for writing negative things about them.

The individual works submitted for our contest will be the works of said authors, copyright not changing hands whatsoever. I do not intend to bring contracts into the deal, either. Until there is money involved, there's no such need, and by the time there is money involved, I hope to have your trust.

I haven't specifically stated this publicly, but one of my major long-term goals is to help people publish their work, providing marketing and promotion along the way. The only way this will be financially successful for all parties involved in the long term is to treat each other fairly. I'm hoping this contest and resulting publication will be the next step toward furthering those goals.

Perhaps this is foolhardy of me, but I am also risking our side. The Masquerade Crew is an informal association of several people around the world, the two most active members being Bec and myself. The others help out where they can and have time. The expense involved in formalizing the crew into a legally binding entity is not something I even want to consider—not at the moment, anyway.

So, basically, let's use the honor system. Put your short story out there and see what happens. It could be the start of something really great. Once trust is built up, we could do some amazing things together. In the end I think we will have a lot more power in the publishing market if we work together rather than trying to make it separately on our own.

So, what rights will you have? Technically since you will retain copyright, you have the right to do whatever you want with your work. You could sell it separately, whether through us or by yourself, for instance. As part of the honor system, I will ask one thing: do not sell or resell the collection as a whole. Instead, help us advertise it, allowing us to informally retain the rights of the collection itself (but not the individual works therein).

That, of course, brings up the second part of the comment which prompted this post. What about the money the collection brings in? Will the authors be paid royalties? That will be discussed next time. Stay tuned.

If you have not officially expressed interest in the project, you may do so here.

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