One of the best parts of my life is giving tours at the Longfellow House here in my beloved city of Portland, Maine. It’s interesting to talk about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the rich poet. Henry understood something that, in his time, was just coming into being. It was a magic gem that would ultimately prove to be an extraordinary boon for writers:
Copyright law has to do with the legal – but not boring! – side to being a writer, and that’s intellectual property.
Property of My Intellect?
Well, sort of. I mean, both our minds and our hearts write stories, yes? But intellectual property is more than that. According to its definition, intellectual property is “a distinct type of the creation of the mind for which a set of exclusive rights are recognized”. Yes, you have rights to the books coming out of your mind. It’s pretty amazing, when you think about it.
Yet, while a book may be a tangible object, or asset, rights are not. Intellectual property rights, including the copyright on all of your stories – and this blog, too – are automatically granted to you as soon as you write it down. Even rough drafts are protected by copyright law. I’m not sure if
strikethrough and scribbled out words are protected, but you get the gist! It’s almost like a Lewis Carroll invention, that all of the floating balloons of ideas, thoughts, jottings and musings are suddenly able to be protected in court … and on your way to the bank account.
Intellectual Property = Cash
It may be a weird switch to start thinking of your stories, articles, essays, and blog entries as items of intellectual property – but you won’t think it’s weird when you’re cashing in on the value. Because your intellectual property stories and novels have rights, you can then turn around and sell those rights (as long as you own them and don’t sign them away) to a huge number of folks ready to get their hands on new work.
A film director will always need new material, and who better to provide him with than you, O creative writer? Editors need to fill the pages of their literary magazines. Bloggers need to keep posting and stick to a schedule. You can also sell overseas rights, translation rights, gaming rights, eBook rights and a whole host of other rights.
And You Thought You’d Be a Starving Writer …
Sorry to burst the romantic image bubble of banging out pages in a garret, but when it comes to intellectual property, that’s just not the case. Intellectual property rights encourage the rightful pay from consumer (reader) to creator (you).
Oh, and feel free to relax and post/publish/display whatever writing you want. No one can plagiarize you without serious consequences, since messing with intellectual property law is no joke. This is the kind of stuff lawyers and creators are wrestling with right now, thanks to pirating and illegal downloading. But when it comes to your stories, you don’t even have to put the little “c” on it as copyright Meg North. It’s already yours.
So, write more ‘creations of the mind.’ They are protected!