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Thoughts on copyrights

Dear Friends

        While I hesitate to any more fuel to the copyright fire, this
discussion has caused me to think about why I write copyright on my
work. Iím not well-versed in the law, but I think I understand the basic
principles. Technically anything that you write that is originally yours
(the words that is, not necessarily the idea) is automatically
copyright. You wrote it, drew it, etc. Anyone who wants to reproduce it
should get your permission. However, if you want to be able to sue
someone who reproduces it, the work needs to be registered with the US
Copyright office. So, writing copyright if you havenít registered it
doesnít really increase your protection.
        On the handouts I distribute at workshops, I write the copyright
symbol, date, and my name. I do it to stress that I take my ownership of
it seriously. For the handouts, Iím not really concerned about them
being reproduced. It doesnít happen very often, but occasionally a
teacher will come up to me and ask permission to reproduce the handout
for a colleague. I am always surprised that she asked. I assume that
most people are making copies for their friends and colleagues and I
really donít mind that they do. Many times a school will expect the
teachers who attended the workshop to train others and thatís fine. I
want as many teachers as possible to make books with kids. But I want my
name on it. And I want people to feel that they canít take my name off.
I want everyone to know that the information being shared was prepared
by me and presented in my workshop. And on a practical level, it makes
business sense. They will work from my handout with my name and address.
They will be able to find me if they want to. I am making better contact
with them through the handout than if they just learned how to make the
books from a friend who learned it from some woman who gave a workshop.
        The fact that the handout is something I give out at a workshop is the
reason I feel so open about its distribution. I get paid for the
workshop, not the handout. I certainly donít feel the same way about my
book, which I make money from. I wouldnít feel so gracious if someone
came up and asked me if I would mind if she copied a few chapters from
my book. Yes, as  a matter of fact, I would mind very much.
        In a related story, Iíve just written an article for Instructor
magazine (for teachers) on Holiday Gift Books. Itís the first time Iíve
written for a magazine. Going into it, I decided that I wanted the
exposure and the experience regardless of the circumstances, which are
that the pay is poor and it is considered ďWork for Hire.Ē This means
that they have hired me to write the article for them, even though it
was my idea. They own the article and the copyright, not me. Of all the
unfair things about this, the line in the contract that bothered me the
most was the one that said that they could reproduce it whenever and
wherever they wanted, and they didnít even have to put my name on it. At
this point, Iím not worrying about it. If nobody likes the article, they
wonít want another one. If itís well-received, I may have more
bargaining power. We shall see.

in good spirit,

Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord
Neewburyport, MA

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