Saturday, September 16, 2017

But It's Protected

The wonderful world of copyright. When did that evolve into law that provides legal remedies for taking the work of another, claiming ownership of it, and then reaping economic reward for the theft?

Outright plagiarism still happens. Copying and modifying a theme gets us into murky waters. And then there is the matter of ideas and proposals that contain the idea for a work. Some of it is entitled to protection. Some of it takes finessing in order to make certain it doesn't unintentionally become public domain. And some simply isn't protected - or maybe it isn't.

Advice regarding what can be protected comes from copyright lawyer, Brian Klems. "[C]opyright doesn’t stop at your words, but protects any original expression in your work, including detailed outlines, plots and characters." Not too many folks understand that. Consider the kindly folks in the church committee who are trying to approve a new program. Someone steps up to the plate and outlines something they believe will be worthwhile. It sits in Committee for six months. It languishes. Meanwhile, someone needs further details. Those are willingly supplied. After all, this is a church group that is founded on ethical and honest behavior. A year later the program is nixed but someone else produces a program that is eerily similar to the one that was proposed. The doppelganger has some nice aspects to it but lacks the true thrust of the original idea. The original idea is somewhere in either the back of the file drawer or last year's trash.

Then there's the idea presented to a professional organization. "That's a fantastic idea," someone exclaims. "Let's work on it together so we can develop the details." Of course that collaboration happens. And then the colleague is mysteriously unavailable, that is, until they produce an initiative under their own authorship.

We need to be certain of the ethics of those with whom we're working and that they understand the principles of copyright. That doesn't mean browbeat everyone with your encyclopedic knowledge each time you have a discussion. But some preliminaries are justified. Observe the members of the group and learn about their habits and beliefs. Notice how they treat others. Have a conversation about their understanding of limits and boundaries, what will happen and under what circumstances is a healthy idea. (Document it.) If you see eye to eye, move forward. If they breach the understanding, it's time to move on to a healthier environment that focused on mutual benefits.

Be clever with your creations. Be smart and informed with how you handle marketing and publishing them. Be agreeable but also be wise about the nebulous subject of copyright.

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