Articles tagged "ownership"

Vampire Diaries Author Loses Rights to her Book

If you think writing a series of acclaimed supernatural thrillers, which get made into a successful television show and sell thousands of books, would be considered a job well done, think again.

Publisher HarperCollins removed LJ Smith, author of The Vampire Diaries, from the project after friction during the editing process. Smith said she was pushed out after arguing against cutting characters, scenes, and other creative decisions that she felt were important to her vision of the story.

Smith, who began writing the novels on a “for hire” contract back in 1990, was shocked to find out that she had no rights to any of the characters or stories she created. In an e-mail, Smith reflected, “Even though I have written the entire series, I don’t own anything about The Vampire Diaries.”

This is an all-too-common story among writers of genre-fiction. Authors desperate enough to sign anything end up losing any creative or financial control of the characters, and the ensuing sensations, they create. Where a publishing house offers a vast marketing and distribution network, it also tends to dilute and altogether alter a writer’s creative vision. To some writers, like LJ Smith, this becomes too much to bear. They fight to keep their work intact, only to find “a letter addressed to the ghostwriter by name, telling her to completely rewrite my book.”

We’re neither arguing against the need for a good editor, nor against some self discipline and revision on the part of the author, however, we think this example demonstrates an important benefit of self-publishing: complete creative control and financial ownership of your work. Even after writing several successful novels, LJ Smith was removed from her series with little to no warning whatsoever, and absolutely no recourse.

Copyrighting Your Work 101

Copyright_symbol_9Something we get asked about a lot is copyright.  As creators, we want to make sure our work is protected from intellectual property theft, and ensure that we control the publication, distribution and adaptation of what we’ve created. The problem is that copyright can be confusing and there are a lot of misconceptions about it. Hopefully, I can help clear some things up and give you some resources for more information on copyright if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

Please note that this information is focused on copyright in the United States. For more information on International copyrights, please check out the links at the bottom of the post.

What is Copyright?

To begin with, I’m going to get the easy stuff out of the way. With a quick Google search, you can find the basics of what copyright is as well as in-depth discussion and even some analysis. As such, I am going to keep this as simple as possible. Copyright protects the rights of creators of literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works. Specifically, it gives the owner of the copyright the exclusive right to, and to authorize others the right to, reproduce, distribute, perform, or display the work. It is illegal for anyone to violate any of the rights provided by the law to copyright holders.

For more information on what copyright entails, check out the US Copyright Office’s Copyright Basics.

How Do I Protect My Work?