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Friday, April 25th, 2008

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    E brought up an interesting point about copyrights when she was looking to make her own mag, because I was wondering if you could re-print a story if it's already in another copyrighted mag (like, if the mag says it'll take already-published works, is that legal?).

    Well, I've been looking for the answer, and Harriet recently let me barrow her Writer's Handbook (1991, but it's still good), and in there, there's a section on copyright law and how it works.

    These are the basics I've figured out, which we mostly knew anyway, but:

    1) You own your own work, period. You wrote it, it's your baby. The book recommends actually getting a copyright once you hit it big (via the copyright office), but if you're fairly unknown and/or unpublished, don't worry about it.

    2) When a magazine won't accept previously published works, it's not looking to copyright your story, it's looking to copyright “first rights” of the story, meaning they desire credit to being the first magazine to publish your work. I'm fairly sure this also means that you can take a story published in this magazine and put it somewhere else, as the next magazine you take it to will obviously not have the “first rights” privilege—they'll have the “second” rights privilege and so on.

    3) “A publisher may not buy 'all rights' to your material unless you agree to such a sale and signify it in a signed written statement or 'instrument of conveyance.' In the absence of this signed statement, the publisher owns only first rights, or one-time use of your work.” (In other words, it's yours, period, and don't sign anything stupid. Yay!)

    4) The the novelists--“If you're selling a book manuscript, be sure the contract your publisher offers specifically states the terms of the sale and which rights are included. Book contracts are somewhat standardized, though the language and terms will vary. For instance, as author you would declare your work original; that you are granting the publisher the right to publish your work; that you will deliver your manuscript in final form on a specified date; that you will be responsible for obtaining permissions if the manuscript includes copyrighted work. The publisher promises to make timely payment of royalties; to give you as author a specified number of free copies of your published book; to share in the proceeds from sales to book clubs, and so forth. It's important to remember that the time to discuss any terms that are not satisfactory to you, or are at all unclear, is before the contract is signed. In most cases, the terms of book contracts are somewhat negotiable, and you shouldn't shy away from discussing possible changes with your editor.”

    5) “Infringement of copyright is a relatively rare occurrence, and although writers should take precautions to protect their work, they should find reassurance not only in the fact that the revised copyright law represents their best interests, but also that reputable publishers will deal fairly and honestly with authors in all matters relating to the publication of their work.”

    So! In summary? Yes, I think you can re-publish works without trouble, E, though I'd recommend that everyone publish in a different magazine first (primarily one that requires the first rights, before publishing it either in E's mag or a mag that won't mind previously published works. That way, you can take advantage of the higher-end mags that require first rights. ^^

    But it says that as the author, you have sole rights to your work no matter who you send it too (unless you sign something), and therefore, you can put anywhere you want. Yay!

    I'll post more about whatever I find in this book—there's a really good article by Steven King on what you need to know to write in ten minutes, but it's a bit wordy, so I'll re-type it later. xD

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