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Articles and IP Protection

Articles and IP Protection

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For those who care ...

Grant, thank you. My question "Is that it?" was primarily addressed to the rest of the forum because you are indeed the only person who actually said (briefly) what they do. I was just checking to see if others do the same.

But re-check your post. You wrote 11 sentences. Ten of them were about how and what it's like to write. Thus my label of "advice on a writing career".

Gail, I was looking for simple answers about people's methods. That's why I wrote my OP in a simple fashion but with enough information and deft to demonstrate that I know what my question is about. After your 1st response, I tried to detail this. We're all adults here and know what copyright is, yet you're still repeating "ideas can't be copyrighted." Therefore my label of patronizing.

(BTW, as an aside, even if an editor "steals" just my ideas instead of a full article and uses & gets credit for them, that might not be illegal, but it doesn't mean it's right.)

That notwithstanding, only in your last post did you finally address my question, which was simply how do you prove you're the true author of an article. Even after my 2nd clarifying post, you wrote "standard copyright violation". Yes, we all know it is, but that doesn't matter if you can't prove it. Thus my label of non-comprehension.

As you end up saying, "Claims without prove [sic] are just hot air". Exactly. A simple piece of paper with your name on it isn't proof. If you say that going through the process of getting email server logs isn't cost prohibitive for an author of an article, then okay, that finally sounds like your answer. And that's fine and all you had to say. I mentioned my suspicion of it in my last post because it didn't seem viable (David vs Goliath). That's all.

Jeff, I think it's obvious that my original, informally-worded question indicated I never believed this to be a legal forum.

And no, Grant's response was not part of a patronizing lecture. Re-read my comment please. I said "a patronizing lecture on what copyright is", not plural, nor a "stream" of them. You're generalizing. My point was that up to then, other than Grant's answer, there were no "points and questions" to embrace.

As to the worth of my own work, I didn't expect to get any money from it. But I do value credit. That's why I was wondering if there are any good, but cheaper and more informal methods.

And if you felt I was being a bit nasty, know that it was because I felt I was being a bit belittled by many of the responses. I asked a simple question. What I got seemed to be based on assumptions that I'm a naive, aspiring writer. But I was mostly just perplexed that people here, working in detail-oriented database jobs, seemed unable to target my actual question. In contrast, I found a direct answer without even asking, after a 2-minute search, on About.com! So I thought that was odd.
Grant Fritchey
Grant Fritchey
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In my youth, I loved getting involved with online arguments. For some reason, as I've aged, I just walk away from the goofy things. To a degree, this feels like an argument, and it's online, so I ought to be walking away... but... There's something that's drawing me back, maybe it's just the topic. Silly though I find it, I take writing kind of seriously (and I'm mildly ashamed to be writing that sentence down).

I went back through the topic again. I still feel like you largely got honest, if inadequate for you, answers. I went back and reread my own responses especially carefully and I'm still not quite seeing what you are. That has to be partly a failing on my part (and probably why my screenplays sucked), but I don't think it's completely on my end. A big part of the reason why you're not seeing HUGE copyright concerns from many of us is because the overriding majority of what we write is in no way original. Not even a little bit. I can copyright my precise words on SQL Server backups, but I can't copyright SQL Server backups, because Microsoft owns that copyright. So maybe our mutual confusion, yours and ours, arises from that understanding. I don't feel that my work is terribly original because the vast majority of it is explained through Microsoft resources. In most cases, at best, I'm rephrasing, rearranging, and drawing connections between work that was already done elsewhere. And, with only a few exceptions, that's what everyone else writing about SQL Server is doing as well. Maybe that is the reason we weren't able to give you the legal answers you were looking for.

I am trying to write this from a stand point of engagement, not argument. I'm just getting a sense of attack from you in a place where I think you got some pretty good answers (OK, Jeff popped you a couple of times, but that's Jeff and we love him for it. My turn Jeff). I'm engaging, where I would normally just disappear, because I'm trying to understand. Help me out, but assume I don't have your particular viewpoint on this, not that I understand it your way and I'm just refusing to give you what you need.

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Steve Jones
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Much of this discussions seems like miscommunication, or perhaps mis-understood expectations. However leaving that, and to your original question.

Can you protect yourself and your work/credit?

TL;DR: no. Not in a practical sense.

When you create work, you copyright it. I think we all get that. However proving copyright, in a legal sense, and wanting to prove it, in a practical sense, are different things.

The proving piece: You could drop a copy with a lawyer, expensive, and frankly, not worth it. Personally, if I had any item that I was concerned about in a technical sense, I'd post a draft blog, or email to a gmail/hotmail/etc. address that would establish some timestamp. That's probably good enough evidence in small claims court, and make no mistake, we're talking small claims here. If it were a larger issue, as a screen play that Grant mentioned, I'd seriously consider contacting a lawyer as an independent escrow place as well as something like the Screen Actor's Guild.

In a practical sense, there's not much to be done. You send me something as an editor, I decide to take credit, what can you do? I publish it. You can rail about it online, but that may or may not work. It might get the editor fired, which is turnabout/fair play, but it may not get you credit. There could be an argument, as the editor could "re-word" your piece and use their name. Ultimately it isn't worth suing about for a technical piece from your perspective, and while you might even get paid, I'm not sure you'd get credit. Even if you did, it's not likely worth it. You would get the byline, but you might never want to write again if that's the hassle.

However in a more practical sense, it doesn't really happen. First, your ideas aren't great. I'll say that almost nothing I see published in the technical area is worthy of protection as an idea. In terms of the work to get the actual words down, sure, but the ideas aren't. We get submissions all the time, and you might be surprised how often I get similar submissions in the same month/quarter. This isn't a "stealing" of ideas, and it's usually not a stealing of work. Most of the copyright seems to be lower-fruit. People take what you've published on a blog or site like SQLServerCentral and republish it themselves to boost their audience.

Editors need writers. We can't do it ourselves, and if we use their content without paying or credit (which is more important from what I've seen in over a decade), we lose the authors. Which means more work for us to find more content/authors.

It just doesn't happen as you've theorized.

What I do/did before I had this job. Write, submit to an editor, keep track, and ask for copyright retention. Give them 30/60/180/360 days exclusive publication right and perpetual rights, but retain copyright. Not everyone allows this, but you decide then if you want them to publish. Some will anyway and pay you and claim a mistake, but then you can move on to somewhere else as a publisher.

From my perspective, I'd be happy to view pieces and give feedback. We publish and don't take copyright. We don't care if you are exclusive or if you want to write for every other place.


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Thanks Grant and Steve.

No, I don't like arguing online either. It's unfortunate that what I intended to be a very simple question turned into this. Maybe I should've initially asked about "work" rather than "ideas", as that seemed to really throw Gail off.

Nobody likes to be misunderstood, especially when that's due to misrepresentation or inaccuracy. If I saw things here that were off-target, or incorrect interpretations of what I was asking, I tried to drive that toward more accuracy by being precise. Unfortunately, some people interpret that as an attack. (And then I get imperfect at being tactful, perhaps.)

Stuff like Steve's response regarding the "proving piece" is really all I expected... 1- or 2-sentence practical stuff like:
- "You could drop a copy with a lawyer" but that's expensive.
- "or email to a gmail/hotmail/etc. address that would establish some timestamp"
- etc.....anything I might not have thought of.

It seems the above, plus my items from the 12.13 post, are a pretty good list.

Thank you for spending time on this.


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