Challenge,  Misc,  On Writing

And a Lawyer Friend Said, “I Told You So.”

Writers Insist They Know Copyright…

Without even beginning to learn it.

Right? Copyright seems so simple on the surface. My work is mine, all mine, and nothing else matters. At least until it does. And then writers, full of bad information, make the worst decisions and someone takes advantage of them and they often lose their work and wonder what happened.

But for a writer to get prepared for critical and money-making decisions ahead of time… that is just too much work, too much time, too much money. Kris and I came up with a way to make the time and work easy with Bite-Sized Copyright every Monday morning, and I committed to doing all 52 weeks no matter how few signed up.

Kris seemed to think there was a lot of interest. She believes in the idea that writers will take care of themselves if they have the knowledge, thus her weekly business blog. I’ve been on my “learn copyright” soapbox for this entire century, not kidding. I know how very few writers will do it and pay the price later.

But I agreed anyway to recording for a full year, every Monday. And I’m going to have a blast doing it.

Too expensive… I don’t need it… Going to do it in the future. And so on and so on.

But then I put up the most basic copyright quiz I could come up with. And I got two questions in the comments, one wondering why they could not use Luke Skywalker and another telling me covers were not copyright protected because the person was trying to register them wrong. And I got five personal emails, all from people not taking the class, who didn’t understand the signing requirement or that they could not believe their character was not protected and how could that be??? Even though if they knew copyright, they would never think that.

And I am talking basic copyright FOR FICTION WRITERS. Not even some of the topics that are on the burners in so many places through the world such as Copyright and AI.  I follow three major IP blogs and check in on others. My favorite of which is the IPKat even though  it has a lot of focus on European law. Massive amounts apply here. Oh, trust me, don’t go there unless you have memorized Fishman’s basic book. The articles will just bewilder you.

But after 52 weeks, numbers of discussions and such in the Bite-Sized Copyright class, I will be dealing with topics for fiction writers from places like IPKat and other major IP blogs and web sites. I will enjoy those.



  • Connor Whiteley

    Hi Dean,

    Thanks for sharing the IpKat blog, I subscribed and look forward to combing the blog archive.

    Once a week I read the UK national archive section where all the IP judgements are filed and if there’s a copyright one I read the entire case.

    Is there something similar in the USA please? Like somewhere all the federal court decisions are filed for public reading or reference for lawyers.


  • Philip

    Writers need fo understand how specialized copyright law is. I’m an attorney who specializes in contracts–I’m an expert in negotiating ans drafting legal agreements–but even I’m virtually clueless when it comes fo copyright law. I’ve never worked with it and it’s not a required course at most US law schools. I hope this illustrates how specific the topic is and how it requires additional research and learning for writers.

    • dwsmith

      Yup, have a friend who was a major business attorney and contracts attorney. An expert in that area. He wouldn’t touch copyright or trademark without a copyright or trademark attorney looking it over with him.

  • T Thorn Coyle

    If any writer is on the fence about the copyright class, I want to say this:

    Week One–which was just an intro–already pinged me with a couple of things I need to investigate further regarding my publishing business.

    My hope is that not only will I learn a lot from what is presented, but that there will be more “aha” moments.

    One for me already is: “okay, time to do more investigation into the accounting side of IP.”

    • dwsmith

      Thanks, Thorn. I figured the accounting thing would hit a few of the sharper business people taking the class. Thanks for the plug.

  • Denise Gaskins

    I’ve been assuming that the Bite-Size Copyright would still be available to purchase in the future, even after this year is done. (My goal this year is to keep up with the Decade Ahead posts.) Is that true, or do I miss it if I don’t buy now?

    • dwsmith

      That is true. Once posted, they will be there, but two points. After a time, the amount of information becomes a lot. Second, the main thing I hear from all writers is that they will get to learning copyright real soon now but too busy at the moment. What I find interesting is that copyright is more important than anything else. If you are a fiction writer of any level, it is what needs to be learned first. But yes, it will be available down the road. Just keep in mind that you think reading the Copyright Handbook might take a little time, watching around 25 hours of videos by the time this is done will be something else. That’s why we are calling this Bite-Sozed. Just 25-30 minutes per week of learning.

      • Denise Gaskins

        Well, I have read the Copyright Handbook and referred to it several times, gone through the Advanced Business Copyright lecture and the Master Business Class, so I’m not entirely clueless. And I know myself well enough to be sure that if I get two of the weekly classes going, I will end up losing track of them both.

  • Thomas Slee

    Haha Dean, getting called out for asking dumb questions about Luke Skywalker has made my day.

    I really wish I could afford the course now, but alas. I will be back, though, asking more dumb questions I’m sure.

    Appreciate the work you and Kris put into your respective blogs. I’m learning more day by day.

    • dwsmith

      You need to make it a priority to learn, Thomas, as soon as you can. Of course most young writers need to do that, but with the question, you need to have a deeper understanding before you end up getting in some sort of problem.

      • FisThomas Slee

        Thanks Dean, I am. I’ve got Fishman’s handbook in the cart on Kindle as I type.

        Given I do not yet have a published work (and only a couple of personalised rejections and my own overconfidence as evidence people want to read what I want to write) – $60 AUD for a book to give me a baseline understanding is the wiser investment I think.

    • dwsmith

      Easiest way to find any class or workshop is through They are all sorted there and under tabs with the names of the workshops. Then hit on the link and you will be at the workshop and you can just sign up that way. Any questions, feel free to write me directly.

  • David Anthony Brown

    Just yesterday on Reddit I read some young idiot telling other people that self publishing your book puts it in the public domain. And that was just the first paragraph of a long misinformed rant.

    Thankfully someone else tore apart the rant point by point. I only had to post something to the effect of buy the Copyright Handbook. But I think a lot of folks, if they do any research on copyright, get their knowledge from dubious sources, like that Reddit post.

    • Nathan Haines

      Yeah, you know, I almost started in on that comment, but… in the end I just couldn’t do it. I had already hit my limit of /r/writing bullshit for the week. That said, in the last month some of them seem to have discovered that a good story is more important than the right words, so that’s been fun to watch.

      Speaking of, I saw some interesting story openings on one of the genre-focused subreddits, and gave some feedback that was well received. I don’t make a habit of that, either, but it was kinda fun.

      I wish I could give more good self-publishing advice over there, but the way a lot of beginning writers are drowning in publishing myths, I think Dean’s “Sacred Cows” series would literally kill them. Not to make fun of them, though. If the math had ever made sense to me in the 2000s, I’d probably still be one of them. Instead, a couple years after the Kindle came out, a friend pulled me into a private group to help with EPUB formatting and their math made all too much sense. The start of a new era. 🙂