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3-1 Copyright Infringement + Abstracts

Copyright Infringement or Downright Plagiarism -- What You Should Do
(c) 2010 by Mona Leeson Vanek

Someone online is offering your work for sale without your permission. So what should you do about it, if anything?

Lee Farren, a freelance journalist makes her living by creating stories and photographs and selling them. She has this to say, "They are my intellectual property, and are protected by U.S. and international copyright law. When someone republishes my story without permission I am injured in two ways--first, I'm not paid for the use of my property and second, its value is decreased when I offer it to additional markets."

"My experience so far has been that reputable publishers do pay when they realize what happened. Businesses and nonprofits have taken the stories down when asked. Most of what I've encountered is ignorance--people with a good cause reproducing my stories because they are about people with the same good cause.

"The folks running the websites are amateurs when it comes to publication--I think they feel a small nagging doubt, but really don't know how copyright works. So I have taken it upon myself to educate them.

"I've been asked for permission a few times, and I've always granted it. I don't think it hurts me to have a story reprinted on a website for true believers--depending on what they believe in, of course. From commercial publications or websites, though, I want payment."

Lee also reported that after she'd contacted them, the Associated Press paid her double what she'd earned from the original publication of her work. She said, "I asked if I could write for them instead -- I mean, three stories, they must like my work."

Using (also and other search engines), search your name. Check relevant URLs. Contact the owner of the website. When contacted, a site owner must, by law, remove your material at your request.

Also, search a unique string of words from each story and check the returns. Copyright enforcement is part of your job as a freelancer.

Follow Lee's example. She says, "Many writers don't mind a link to the original story -- that's like lending your copy of the newspaper to a friend. And many sites at the publications archive the material after a week or a month so that it is only available to subscribers after that. However, I did find an entire story, complete with "Lee Farren, Freelance Writer" included in a post to a list ... I'll email them, too. I think it constitutes publication -- it was certainly public enough for me to find it!"

I'm unfamiliar with abstracts and royalties for abstracts, but while browsing the web, I also learned interesting things about my out-of-print Montana regional history books: one reports 4-8th grade reading level for Volume 1. US prices for used volumes are more than double the publishers initial 1986 and 1992 prices. And, international prices triple US prices for used volumes! Some old books age extremely well.

Chapter 5 - Copyrights, Previously Published Works,and Using Quotations:

Next: 3-3, Critiquing How-To: