In order to protect your work, you should
copyright it. The owner of the
on a given work has the exclusive
reproduce or resell it. While
it does not
prevent others from profiting
from your efforts,
the copyright gives you legal
sue unauthorized users of your
work and to
seek monetary damages from them.
Here are some important tips
to keep in mind
- In general, U.S. copyright law presumes that
the author retains the copyright unless he
(she) signs a document that explicitly surrenders
it. It doesn't hurt, though, to put "©
2004 by Jane Smith" (for example) on
your submissions, just to be sure that there
is no doubt.
- When writing for small publications that
pay little or nothing for an article, you
should expect not to surrender the copyright.
Instead, you should keep ownership of the
article and try to resell it to other publications,
subject to reasonable terms and conditions
(for example, the first publisher may expect
a brief period of exclusive use).
- Larger publications that pay more serious
fees ($1 per word, or more) may want to obtain
the exclusive copyright. You must decide
whether they are paying you enough to give
up all your chances of reselling the work
elsewhere. The phrase "Work for Hire"
is often used to describe this situation.
- When you engage in business writing (including
writing for non-profits), expect whatever
you write to be a work for hire.
- Many major corporations require employees
to sign a waiver that gives the corporation
ownership of any inventions or writings that
the employee may produce during the course
of his (her) employment. Generally, corporations
rarely enforce these terms, unless the freelancing
or inventing is directly related to the company's
line of business
- Consider seeking legal advice about a waiver
if: (a) if you seem poised to earn significant
money from your freelancing, (b) if your
writing is industry-related, (c) if it draws
on experience at your company, or (d) your
relationship with your employer is strained.