Westchester attorney cautions writers on Internet vanity publishing

No one knows better than an attorney who is a journalist at heart that every writer longs to be published, to see their by-line, their name in print so that an audience may also see it.  For those of us frustrated by the process of catching the interest of the right editor, we often turn to vanity publishing, pay for print services where you can see a hard copy of your manuscript bound for all eternity.

Most of the vanity publishers, while expensive for writers who barely earn an income, at least include registration of your work and title in the Library of Congress.  It offers some copyright protection as to creation in time if the work is ever challenged or bits of your work are ever plagiarized.  The same protection might not be afforded for self-publishing on the Internet.

SCRIBD, the online site for social publishing (sort of like blogging but with a pretty face) just launched a new service.  Writers, poets, dreamers are now able to upload chapters, verse or entire entire novels, even sheet music, and charge users a fee for each download.  The writer sets the fee and keeps about 80% of the revenue.  It is good in that it allows writers to see their name in cyber print; earn income from their passion; and bypass the route to traditional publishing with minimal start-up costs.  It takes e-booking to a new level and puts more control in the writers’ hands.  That’s a good thing.

However, my fear and concern as an intellectual property lawyer is that too many writers don’t know enough about copyright protection to guard their rights.  Those who want to download a work for free are the least of your problems.  Those with nefarious intentions like plagiarism should pose greater concern in this ever expanding cyber world where it is hard to detect and trace violations.  My suggestion to writers is to register your work in some recognizable format, whether it is registering the work at the US Copyright Office; registering a screenplay at the Writers Guild of America; or doing a so-called “poor man’s copyright” by registered mail to yourself.  Give yourself some protection to indicate at what point in time you created this work.  Just placing that cute little © with the date and your name is unnecessary and definitely insufficient.


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