In Star Wars, Obi-Wan Kenobi refers to Mos Eisley spaceport as a “wretched hive of scum and villainy” and adds, “we must be careful.”
Obi-Wan’s wisdom applies to the Internet too.
Regardless of your publishing path, if you write for publication, you should take steps to protect your copyrighted work against Internet-based infringement.
Today, we take a look at how to do that. While no single post can cover all of the ways to protect your work online, here are some tips on things all authors can do to protect and enforce their copyrights:
Internet searches are important even if you also use Google Alerts or another monitoring service. While effective, automated alerts don’t catch all infringement, and can’t be relied upon to screen for all uses of an author’s work on the Internet.
Warning: Not all sites that come up on these searches will be safe to click on. Protect your computer with anti-script and antivirus software and other protective measures before clicking through to unknown or untrusted websites. Many websites that contain infringing content also contain trojan horses and other dangerous computer viruses. Protect your rights…but know that you click through at your own risk.
As with Internet searches, authors should set up Google Alerts for the author’s name and for each of the author’s published (or soon to be published) titles. Also: beware clicking through links on Google Alerts or other alert notifications. Be sure your computer is properly protected against viruses and hacking before you travel to the Mos Eisley Cantinas of the Internet.
A proper copyright notice looks like this: © [year] [author name]. All rights reserved.
Traditionally published authors should check with their publishers before preparing and sending DMCA notices, because in many cases the publisher prefers to handle those notices in-house. Self-published authors need to learn the procedure and how to use a DMCA notice, in order to protect their legal rights.
While these steps can’t prevent infringement altogether, and no one can control the Internet (in all its gruesome glory), they do offer concrete steps all authors can take to reduce the chance of infringement and theft.
If infringers refuse to respond to DMCA notices or requests for removal, authors should consult a copyright lawyer to determine their legal rights and whether legal action is worthwhile. In some unfortunate cases, infringers host their sites “offshore” in countries where copyright protection is nonexistent or favorable to thieves. These sites are difficult to shut down and often impossible to regulate, so pursuit of their owners may be a waste of time. However, other infringers may respond to attorneys (or court orders) even if they ignore the author’s initial contact. It’s often worth a call to an experienced lawyer if an infringer ignores or disregards your rights.
Have you ever had to police your legal rights on the Internet? How did the experience go for you?
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Susan Spann writes the Shinobi Mysteries, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Portuguese Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo. Her debut novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT (Minotaur Books, 2013), was a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month and a finalist for the Silver Falchion Award for Best First Novel. The second Shinobi Mystery, BLADE OF THE SAMURAI, released on July 15, 2014, and her third novel, FLASK OF THE DRUNKEN MASTER, releases in July 2015. Susan is also a transactional attorney whose practice focuses on publishing law and business. When not writing or practicing law, she raises seahorses and rare corals in her marine aquarium. You can find her online at her website, http://www.SusanSpann.com, and on Twitter (@SusanSpann).
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