Copyrighting: A Sign of Writer Paranoia?

Tim Kane

I recall, as a starting writer, I was so paranoid about people stealing my writing that I slapped the copyright symbol on everything. I even employed the poor man’s copyright. I printed out a copy of each short story and mailed it to myself. The date on teh envelope served as proof that the story was written by me.

There are multiple problems with this style of thinking.

First, the idea of mailing yourself copies (despite ignoring the recent trend of cloud servers) ignores the idea of revision. That’s because, along with paranoia, beginning writers think every word that they type on paper is golden and never needs to change. It only needs to be discovered by the great agents, publishers, and readers.

That gets to the second point, writing is meant to be read. Slapping a copyright on it stinks of corporate lawyers. Honestly, as a reader, when I see this, I prefer to set the work down. Mostly because writers who do this have little knowledge of the copyright process.

A copyright will protect an execution, but not an idea. That neat idea of robots versus zombies for your next book…? Yeah, you can’t protect that with a copyright. Anyone can write a tale of mechanical men attacking the undead. The only thing a copyright protects is the particular execution of your idea: names, plot events, style.

Think about it. Anytime an idea for a particular film hits Hollywood, there are always copy-cats. I mean, how many talent shows are there now to discover new singers? The idea can’t be copyrighted.

Finally, copyrighting speaks of overconfidence. It shouts: My writing is so incredibly awesome that people are lining up to buy it. Now, if this is the case, let your publisher add the copyright. If people aren’t beating down your door, it means that you need to do some work on that masterpiece. After all, it’s the execution, not the idea, that will move writers from slush to published.

About Tim Kane

Tim Kane is a writer of fiction.
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5 Responses to Copyrighting: A Sign of Writer Paranoia?

  1. mlfables says:

    Copyright paranoia is the biggest reason for one of my pet peeves. Extensive DRM restrictions on ebook purchases.

    Despite the reader having purchased the book; DRM feels as though the publisher/writer is screaming out ‘mine!’ anytime you try to read the book on a different device.

  2. I kind of feel like that with people that plaster Copyrighted! all over their blog too. I understand they’ve worked hard on it, but as you said, it doesn’t stop people from borrowing the idea. Anyway, I would think these days the date the file was created on the computer would be enough to prove it was yours, if it came to that, wouldn’t it?

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