by Simona Stefanescu | Simona Media
Ownership of your original writings is protected by law. Unless you sell them, or you are hired / paid to write for someone else, you own the copyrights for published and unpublished works until you die, and they are inherited by your successors, who can use them for a limited time. With Social Solution Collective having had quite a few articles “lifted”, lately, we looked into copyright and property rights laws, and addressed the issue with an attorney specializing in intellectual property.
Your rights start with the Constitution: The Copyright Law of the United States and Related Laws, contained in Title 17 of the United States Law (December 2011), derives from the first Article of the US Constitution, which secures “for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries”.
What is copyrighted and what is not: Copyright applies to recorded / created / written writings, music, dance, photographs, sculptures, movies and architecture, etc. Your work has to be in tangible form, made permanent in some way. Copyright does NOT apply to improvised works that have not been recorded (impromptu speeches), titles, names, ideas, concepts, charts, lists made from documents, etc. There is no requirement to register or publish those works, in order to enjoy copyright protection. Also, there is no need to use a copyright notice to notify people that these are your works. You may, however, want to use the © symbol, or the word “copyright”, followed by the publishing year and your name.
Laws are complicated matters, so we asked an expert in the field. Eugene M. Pak, attorney-at-law, partner at Wendel Rosen and head of the Intellectual Property Litigation Subgroup, answered our concerns about copyright in social media and article authorship:
Do we own the copyright for the content (original writings) we put on our blogs and other social media (Facebook, Twitter)?
Who owns the copyright for the writing / text posted by us on a website that is not our property? In this case, if I write an article for another website and I sign it, do they own my writing or it is still my property?
The law also mentions that a “fair use” of your work – without infringing upon your rights to property – could be for educational purposes (classroom), nonprofit, non-commercial, and it should only use a small portion of it. From practice, to stay safe, it’s always better that one use a short (2-3 sentences) excerpt of your work, give you credit, and only republish with your express permission. Just keep in mind: it is illegal for other people to steal and repost your work as their own, or sell them for their profit.
For more information about copyright law, please visit the website of the United States Copyright Office.