Articles and IP Protection

  • I have some articles I'd like to submit to sites for publishing. One of them is a position paper on the demerits of database users in SQL Server that could be good for this site.

    Aside from obvious measures like keeping witnessed copies of writings, does anybody have any thoughts on what keeps a publication or editor from just stealing ideas that people submit to them? (No, don't assume I'm making accusations--I'm just considering possibilities.)

    Thanks,

    Thomas Knight

    2013.12.5

  • Ideas can't be copyrighted.

    I have an idea for an article on when and how to create multiple file groups

    I have an idea for an article on backups types and restores.

    I have an idea for an article on statistics maintenance.

    If you go and write articles on those subjects and publish them, I have absolutely no grounds to complain that you stole my idea. Now, if I write those articles, publish them somewhere and then you copy the text of those articles and republish, I have grounds to complain under the copyright laws of the relevant countries.

    When you write for a site, there'll be an agreement between you and the site as to who owns the copyright, republication rights, etc, etc. Read any such agreement carefully. If, afterwards either party breaches the agreement, you have ground for action under contract law. Feel free to consult a lawyer for more details.

    Gail Shaw
    Microsoft Certified Master: SQL Server, MVP, M.Sc (Comp Sci)
    SQL In The Wild: Discussions on DB performance with occasional diversions into recoverability

    We walk in the dark places no others will enter
    We stand on the bridge and no one may pass
  • Thx for the response, but you seem to have missed my point.

    My question regards the period between the time when an author submits content to an editor for review and the time when an agreement to publish is provided because, I presume, the former is required for the latter. I would assume this especially true if the author is an unknown and there's no existing relationship.

    Let me illustrate with a scenario:

    1. Editor expresses interest in an author's article (perhaps author sent a sample to editor, or whatever). Publisher says "Ok we'll publish that. Send it in."

    2. Author sends editor full article.

    3. Editor then says "Oh, well, we can't publish this after all. Sorry."

    4. Editor then plagiarizes article under his own name, getting credit and maybe paid.

    5. Author is screwed even though a relationship existed.

    -- An even more treacherous alternative is:

    3/4. Editor delays author and gives article to friend to publish in another periodical.

    5. Author is not only screwed, but his claims that the article is his are defeated by now-existing publication by someone else with no apparent relationship to him.

    If your response is:

    A. The author would have emails proving relationship regarding article. Couldn't editor just claim emails are forged?

    B. You're incredulous at the hypothetical treachery. But that's my point--it's a possibility so how do authors protect against it?

    C. The editor would provide contract to author before full article or significant ideas are sent to editor. This would work and is what I want to know. Is this how it happens?

  • tmlink99 (12/8/2013)


    3. Editor then says "Oh, well, we can't publish this after all. Sorry."

    4. Editor then plagiarizes article under his own name, getting credit and maybe paid.

    Stock standard copyright violation. Deal with it in terms of the applicable copyright laws of the relevant countries.

    In that case it's actually easy. Editor implies working for a company, so you contact that company's legal dept and deal with it through them. Far easier than dealing with an internet nobody that decides to copy your work.

    I would suggest you spend some time reading up on copyright and how it works (and doesn't) on the internet.

    Gail Shaw
    Microsoft Certified Master: SQL Server, MVP, M.Sc (Comp Sci)
    SQL In The Wild: Discussions on DB performance with occasional diversions into recoverability

    We walk in the dark places no others will enter
    We stand on the bridge and no one may pass
  • Shortest answer I can give you, start with a place that reasonably well known and legit. You're just getting started as an author. That means you're going to have to work for free or for short money to start. Then, when you get established you can make the huge bucks that an established writer makes.

    And yes, that's a GIANT joke. There's very little money in technical writing. You're primarily writing for recognition. But, that's all the more reason to go to established locations to get published first. Writing for SQL Server Central is a great way to get started. They don't go into really heavy edits, so the process is reasonably painless. It'll let you get your feet wet and decide how much you want to do.

    ----------------------------------------------------
    The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood... Theodore Roosevelt
    The Scary DBA
    Author of: SQL Server 2022 Query Performance Tuning, 6th Edition and SQL Server Execution Plans, 3rd Edition
    Product Evangelist for Red Gate Software

  • Tom, the interesting thing about Gail and Grant responding on this topic is that they're both published online and in books. I've read things written by both of them more than once. They probably know what they're talking about.

  • I'm sorry to have to say this, but people responding so far have seemed unable to comprehend my simple question and answer it. I've seen a patronizing lecture on what copyright is, advice on a writing career, etc.

    So I've searched on my own. (I checked several sites plus copyright.gov.)

    Yes, an author is protected by copyright as soon as a work is created in tangible/perceptible form. But that protection is dependent. If s/he has no irrefutable proof that s/he wrote it first, including no agreement (yet) with the publisher, someone else (e.g. editor) who gets his/her ideas and publishes them first has a much better case that the copyright is theirs. This is couched with the suspicion that the editor could claim any emails are just forged.

    My question was simple: What is the mechanism that an author has to establish that prima facie evidence to prevent this? ANSWERS I'VE FOUND:

    1. Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is one such form of evidence of the validity of the copyright by the author. But it's costly ($35) if you're writing many things, and is somewhat inconvenient.

    2. A notarized copy would work I guess.

    3. Mailing a sealed copy to oneself probably helps a little, if it's postmarked. And I imagine having a witness would help. But I doubt they're a sure thing.

    It's odd that nodoby here could just say what you do. Grant said to just rely on the integrity of the publication. Is that it?

  • tmlink99 (12/13/2013)


    Grant said to just rely on the integrity of the publication. Is that it?

    Yes. What I said here is exactly what I would do if the situation ever occurred.

    We're not talking the next Harry Potter here, we're talking maybe $50-100 for an article, usually less. What you're discussing is more appropriate for a major movie or similar.

    And at risk of been accused of being 'patronising', ideas cannot be copyrighted. An editor getting your idea means nothing. An editor getting your written work (which you have proof that you sent them) and publishing that is a copyright violation. If said editor does that, you contact the publication's legal team and lodge a complaint of copyright violation. Send them a DMCA takedown request too.

    Sure, the editor can claim the emails are forged, I can claim the sky is pink, you can claim that the editor promised to pay you a million dollars, doesn't make it true. Claims without prove are just hot air and the burden of proof is on the one making the claim. Proving that said emails (which you would have sent to the publication's company email server, resulting in a log trail, and have all your own records of) are fake is a whole nother matter and hard.

    An editor that does this won't have a job for long. A publication that does this won't be in business long.

    Copyright these days favours the author, probably too much to be honest.

    Gail Shaw
    Microsoft Certified Master: SQL Server, MVP, M.Sc (Comp Sci)
    SQL In The Wild: Discussions on DB performance with occasional diversions into recoverability

    We walk in the dark places no others will enter
    We stand on the bridge and no one may pass
  • tmlink99 (12/13/2013)


    It's odd that nodoby here could just say what you do.

    BWAAA-HAAA!!!! I don't find it odd at all! This isn't a legal forum and, to the best of my knowledge and despite their awesome personal expiences and knowledge with and of published material, no one that has responded to this thread is a Copyright Lawyer.

    Grant said to just rely on the integrity of the publication. Is that it?

    Why are you even considering that? It was part of a "patronizing lecture", right!? 😉

    Based on my previous statements above and the nature of your original question, the answer would be "no". If you want to protect yourself absolutely, then you can't actually trust anyone (not even your own lawyer) and all of the tricks of using Notarized Copies, sealed registered mailings, and the expense and "inconvenient" registration with the Copy Right Office should come into full play.

    In real life, though, and with the understanding that trust isn't worth the paper it's written on (because it's not written on paper), establishing trusted relationships do help a lot. As with all else, "It Depends" and I believe (although I cannot speak for them) that's what the other respondents on this thread were trying to say with their so-called "patronizing lectures".

    1. Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is one such form of evidence of the validity of the copyright by the author. But it's costly ($35) if you're writing many things, and is somewhat inconvenient.

    As my contribution to the stream of "patronizing lectures", your answer seems to imply that you have a doubt as to the worth of your own work. As Gail stated, for a $50-100 SQL article, it's probably not worth it. For a book manuscript, it might be. Either way to answer your original question, Copyright Registration is a guaranteed method of proof that surpasses all the other methods IMHO and, if you're that paranoid about your work, then both the money and inconvenience should make it worth it, especially since you don't need a Copyright Lawyer to do it. Even a "pending" copyright is proof unless it is disproven in a court of law and, plagarism notwithstanding, is a difficult thing to disprove.

    I'm sorry to have to say this, but people responding so far have seemed unable to comprehend my simple question and answer it. I've seen a patronizing lecture on what copyright is, advice on a writing career, etc.

    I'm equally sorry to say that you're being a bit nasty to people that are trying to help in the best way they can (they're NOT Copyright Lawyers!). If you were smart, you would embrace the supposed "patronzing lectures" you've received on this thread in good faith as a source of points and questions that you should ask of a Copyright Lawyer or discuss on a legal forum.

    You might also leave that particular attitude out of any articles you produce so you don't find out what a "patronizing lecture" really is in the discussions that follow. 😉 Like I said, people were just trying to help you as best they could.

    --Jeff Moden


    RBAR is pronounced "ree-bar" and is a "Modenism" for Row-By-Agonizing-Row.
    First step towards the paradigm shift of writing Set Based code:
    ________Stop thinking about what you want to do to a ROW... think, instead, of what you want to do to a COLUMN.
    "Change is inevitable... change for the better is not".

    Helpful Links:
    How to post code problems
    How to Post Performance Problems
    Create a Tally Function (fnTally)
    Intro to Tally Tables and Functions

  • tmlink99 (12/13/2013)


    It's odd that nodoby here could just say what you do. Grant said to just rely on the integrity of the publication. Is that it?

    I did say what I do. I publish through people that have a track record (SQL Server Central, Simple Talk, Apress, Microsoft Press) of working with me, other authors I know, and a public face. For a $50 article, I send it to the people to get it published. For the books, we're working under contract before the book work starts and once the book starts, I send the chapters in. It really is just a level of trust. And yes, that's it.

    Now, in my youth, when I had serious delusions of grandeur and thought I was going to be a great screenwriter, before a copy of a screenplay left my hands, I sent a copy to the Screen Writer's Guild. They ran a service where they would store your manuscript. If there was a question as to who wrote it, you could go there and get a dated copy. In theory, three of my works are still sitting there (although, I'm quite sure they're long gone by now). But, in theory, if I was worth a darn as a writer, those screenplays could be worth millions. The difference is, my 2000 word essay on backups is probably worth $100. It's just not worth the trouble to protect the copyright that tightly.

    I'm sorry that you thought we wouldn't answer your question, but the truth is, we did. I told you exactly what I do.

    ----------------------------------------------------
    The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood... Theodore Roosevelt
    The Scary DBA
    Author of: SQL Server 2022 Query Performance Tuning, 6th Edition and SQL Server Execution Plans, 3rd Edition
    Product Evangelist for Red Gate Software

  • 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.

  • 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.

    ----------------------------------------------------
    The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood... Theodore Roosevelt
    The Scary DBA
    Author of: SQL Server 2022 Query Performance Tuning, 6th Edition and SQL Server Execution Plans, 3rd Edition
    Product Evangelist for Red Gate Software

  • 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.

    HTH

  • 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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