Friday, February 05, 2010

A Writer's Worst Creative Enemy: Fear of Suits

This Copyright Tip is from a recent newsletter and I'm publishing it aa a filler--a subsitute for a real post--while I am away from my computer. That doesn't mean that it isn't worth a read.(-:

Copyright Tip: A Camden, New Jersey judge threw out Donald Trump's libel case against an author because Trump failed to prove malice on the part of the author (Timothy O'Brien). Anyone can bring a suit in the US courts, of course, but it is much harder to win one (even with money behind it) than authors tend to suppose.

Our courts and the laws are predisposed to free speech. A class I took from a copyright lawyer at the San Diego State writers' conference said that the author who plagiarizes--a different thing altogether from libel-- must have made some money from stealing the idea for there to be awarded any money.

Now, here's my legal disclaimer: This post meant both to put my blog visitors and subscribers' minds at ease so they won't be paralyzed by their fears. Too many writers--especially new writers--worry so much about protecting their work they cripple their ability to produce.

It is also meant to encourage my readers to get expert legal advice when they have questions. It's hard to believe that Trump wouldn't have done that before he spent his money suing. He either got bad advice, the case was iffy, or he just didn't care.

By the way, I talk about the fear of writing, the fear of plagiarism, and the fear of success in The Frugal Book Promoter. There are lots of little things a writer can do to help overcome these fears. Copyright is, indeed, one of them but other steps may be needed--some of them merely psychological-- long before a book is ready to be sent to the copyright office.

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books for writers, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. Her FRUGAL book for retailers is A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. She is also the author of the Amazon Short, "The Great First Impression Book Proposal". Some of her other blogs are, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor blog.

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