What Does “Learn Copyright” Mean?
I’m talking about one tiny area of this on the Bite-Sized Copyright class this week. But much deeper than I will do here.
When I tell a writer to learn copyright, I not only mean the Copyright Handbook, which is a great place to start, but I also mean following and understanding what is happening now in the culture when it comes to copyright.
Everything from reading the recent copyright suits to reading the WGA settlement agreement. All kinds of copyright stuff.
But I also mean learn the history of copyright because most writers have gotten stuck in time at one point or another with copyright and their understanding of it. Copyright law changes. And always has and always will.
For example, I got a very logical question from a writer about the copyright pages of traditionally published books. These days traditional publishing contracts say “All rights for the life of the copyright.” That means the publisher owns the book.
But a writer asked me if that were true, why do copyright pages on those books say the copyright is in the name of the author?
You know your copyright enough to know the answer?
In short, copyright notice is no longer required to be put on books and it has zero legal value. It is put on copyright pages more for the readers than anything these days. So traditional publishers just take the name of the author or the author’s company and stick it on the copyright page. Means nothing at all, but looks better than putting on the copyright page “Copyright by money-grubbing, rishts-grabbing big corporation.”
In other words, it is a sham.
And why didn’t the author who asked the question know this? Their knowledge of copyright got stuck back in a time when copyright notices were critical and meant something.
Copyright is always changing. “Learn copyright” means learn the basics and then the history and keep learning as copyright laws morph into the future.