A lot of useful information here. In my real life, I used to teach copyright, and my students surprised by two things:
1. Copyright is presumed.
Putting (c) on a piece of work is for information only.
2. Titles are not copyright. One of my published stories has the title ‘Us and Them’ (and I didn’t get sued by Pink Floyd).
3. As Helen says in the article below, ideas are not copyright.
Did you hear the story of the newcomer to a writers’ group who refused to share his work in a meeting, in case someone ‘stole’ his ideas?
It’s only natural to be protective of our ideas – after all, they’re the lifeblood of writers – but was that an over-reaction or was he right to be worried? And if our ideas are used by someone else, is there anything we can do about it, or even learn from the experience?
Firstly, remember, there’s no copyright on ideas, so even if yours is ‘stolen’ and you may consider it a moral theft, there’s no legal redress. Copying an idea is not the same as plagiarism – which means to directly copy someone’s written work and pass it off as your own.
An idea, until it’s expressed in some tangible form, doesn’t actually exist. The only way to protect an idea is…
For reasons that made sense in my sixteen-year-old mind, I opted not to take English A Level. What I didn’t take on board was that this would be my last opportunity to learn literary appreciation, or how much I would need this skill in writing. I knew I wanted to be a writer since primary school, when it seemed to me that Enid Blyton’s output was not enough. (Yes, I know she produced loads, but I was even younger at the time.)
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” This is the advice Stephen King gives in On Writing, but he didn’t give it until 2000 and, Dear Reader, I was a child and a teenager long before that. I wasn’t making the connection myself. Some people might expect me, not being tutored in conventional literary criticism, to come up with new and interesting perspectives… but I’m not that intelligent.
When I read, I read for pleasure. During the Winter of Discontent in 1978-9, I devoured Dickens in paperback, on heaving, snow-swept platforms, and in draughty commuter train corridors, always (unlike my train) racing ahead, desperate to find out – equally – what was going to happen next, and whether there would be a train to work (or home). However, there were long periods when I didn’t open a book at all, even though I was writing reams and reams, and in a manner that was supremely suited to me myself personally. I believed that my novels were pretty amazing (because I wasn’t comparing them with anything else), but, when I came to join online writing groups, I was gently pulled up for not developing characters and for inadequate (actually non-existent) descriptive passages. In these groups, I was given a lot of very useful advice about writing, which I would not have needed if I had learned to read properly, to analyse structure, character and writing style. I would like to add to Stephen King’s famous quote. “…and take it apart.”
I review (almost) every book I read on my other WordPress blog, Dear Reader; this is my attempt to analyse what books are about, how the storyline works, how characters are drawn and to think about written style. However, when I read a critique of a work of literature by someone who really knows how to do it, I’m gobsmacked at what he/she finds, often angles that I didn’t see at all. I have paid a heavy price for my decision to take history, geography and maths at A level. My reason was that I knew, from being in English classes lower in the school, that the English staff were obsessed with Dylan Thomas and D H Lawrence, writers I did not get on with at all. Actually, I think I was too young for them. Just recently, I came across Thomas’s poem, ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’, which I’m sure everybody else knows. I need no expert here. The howl of impotent fury against the inevitable is palpable. Oh, if only I could write anger like that.