On Writing,  publishing

Copyright and the Fear of Learning


I did a post yesterday about the WMG business online workshop and a few people signed up. That surprised me, honestly, because I didn’t intend that post to do that, but instead just show how writers feel they don’t need to learn or don’t want to learn business.

Another area like that is copyright. So I thought I would just ask here if it would be worth Kris and my time to do an extensive six week workshop about copyright.

Now understand, Kris and I make all our money off of licensing copyright.

The seven employees at WMG Publishing Inc. make their money from licensing copyright (except the two that work in the stores and they only make their living part time from copyright. But it is still a factor in their living.)

Kris did an entire year-long series of wonderful articles on her blog about publishing contracts. Yet most writers who read those posts didn’t understand beyond a very superficial level that they are licensing copyright in the contracts.

In the business workshop, I have one tiny copyright quiz and a question about copyright inside of corporations. But it is so basic as to be scary. And most writers don’t know most of the answers to even the most basic copyright questions.

For example, I get questions all the time from authors wondering if they are required to put their own name or the work’s pen name on the copyright page. They are afraid of losing their copyright if they do it wrong.

Not kidding.

Or how and why is your work protected in other countries? Or fun things like the nature of property in copyright.

How does a writer make money from copyright without actually selling the base property? Or the real difference between trademark and copyright.

So much stuff, just the basics would easily fill a six week workshop to help writers make money with copyright.

So I’m thinking that later in 2017 it might be fun for me to try to put together a copyright workshop for writers. Not legal advice, just learning how to make money as a writer from what you create by understanding the law.

Anyone interested???  I won’t hold you to anything and I won’t take sign-ups. Just sort of wondering.

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  • Cora

    I’d definitely be interested Dean. Given my work background, I’m quite confident in my business skills, but I’d definitely want something more interactive than simply skimming through the Copyright Handbook. Time to start saving up.

  • Kristi N.

    Yes! A thousand times yes!! I was thinking about that yesterday after the business post. Maybe a once a year online workshop for copyright with maybe a once-every-two-years advanced copyright workshop that could be planned for?

    • dwsmith

      Hmmmmm, Kristi, that might be an idea. Or an evergreen one that people could take at their own pace and go back to at any point. That might be a better way to handle copyright. Or a combination of both.

  • Chrissy Wissler

    I’d sign up in a heartbeat. (And I still want to take the business workshop so I hope it stays around for a *little* bit longer. There’s only so many hours in my busy life!)

  • RJ Seymour

    I know I would be interested. I’m always looking to learn everything I can about both the Craft AND the Business. For people like myself it will always be a balancing game of which I can afford and when. As long as you both are doing these workshops for the next 30-35 years, I am fairly certain I’ll find the money to take them all.

    For the moment I’m concentrating on Craft as I only have a handful of books out. Then when I’ve worked my way through your craft courses I’ll gladly sign up for the Business as quickly as I can afford them. Unless you recommend mixing in the Business with the craft and if you do, then what order would you recommend?

  • Isabo Kelly

    I’d be interested! I’m working my way through the Copyright Handbook, but an accompanying workshop would be really helpful. Thanks!

    Also, I’d be very keen on a contracts workshop too, since you mentioned the possibility in the business workshop. 🙂

    • dwsmith

      Isabo, contracts workshop would be tougher than the copyright workshop to do. Copyright we can talk about how writers can make money from copyright as well as basics without giving legal advice. Contracts, another tightrope completely. Get Kris’s new book on contracts.

      • Isabo Kelly

        I figured it would be a tough workshop, but thought I’d throw that out there. I read along with Kris’s blog and picked up the book in the NaNo bundle so I do have that at least.

        Thanks, Dean.

  • Reace

    Have a very good intellectual properties lawyer.
    For a lesson in copyright, read how the Disney Corporation has fought to preserve the copyright on Mickey Mouse.

    • dwsmith

      Reace, yes, at certain levels, we all must have a good IP lawyer, but how do you know, without knowing copyright, if the lawyer is giving you good advice for you or not? Just saying.

      And yeah, because of Disney, we have the 70 years instead of 50 years under the Berne Convention. And the reason the public domain clock was stopped in 1923 for a long time. About to start moving again.

  • Loretta Sutton

    Wow, first poster here! I’d love to learn more about copyright. Late next year would be good timing as well, it’ll give me time to set the money aside. I think it better to learn this now, while I’m still writing my first novel, then to be several novels down the road and then run into trouble and not know what to do about it.

  • Rachel

    I want to learn everything about everything. Unfortunately my budget restricts that ambition. I would be interested in the workshop. I follow your and Kris’s blogs, and I especially appreciate the short nonfiction books you’ve put out on writing into the dark, the stages of a writer’s career, and thinking like a publisher. Thank you so much!!

  • Sean Monaghan

    Yes please. I am slowly working through the copyright handbook.I can see that the principles go in tandem with learning business which I know is an area I need to strengthen.

  • Stefon Mears

    For me, it depends on what you plan to cover. Basics I can get from the Copyright Handbook (and the Copyright Office website, which has been helpful) and places like that. I’d be more interested in something that goes further down the derivative works rabbit hole — covering ways of splitting rights and licenses that newer writers wouldn’t know to think of. That sort of thing.

  • Kate Pavelle

    I’m interested, but your craft workshops are something I can’t get anywhere else, whereas copyright information is around, and I can ask a lawyer. For me, I feel tug towards “Plotting with Depth.” Workshops take time, money, and attention, all a necessary investment into a continuing education. I feel like I’d rather take other online seminars instead. Just saying, since you asked.