I would like to share an email I received the other day:
Hello, doug_farren --
We have removed your document "Dragonverse" (id: 38242235) because our text
matching system determined that it was very similar to a work that has been
marked as copyrighted and not permitted on Scribd.
Like all automated matching systems, our system is not perfect and
occasionally makes mistakes. If you believe that your document is not
infringing, please contact us at email@example.com and we will
investigate the matter.
will result in the deletion of your Scribd.com account and prohibit you from
uploading material to Scribd.com in the future. To prevent us from having to
take these steps, please delete from scribd.com any material you have uploaded
to which you do not own the necessary rights and refrain from uploading any
material you are not entitled to upload. For more information about Scribd.com's
Scribd Support Team
Although I'm not positive, here is what I think happened: Some time ago, someone copied the text of Dragonverse and uploaded it under a new title to Scribd. Recently, Smashwords reached an agreement with Scribd and uploaded my books. Their text matching program noted that the new arrival matched an existing book and flagged mine (since it was the most recent) as being in violation of copyright. Thus the email. I have responded to this issue and hope to have it resolved quickly.
The email also got me thinking about Copyright law. The law states that a written work is protected under copyright law the moment it is created, all one must do is to affix the copyright symbol, the year, and the name of the author. Proof of authorship is usually accomplished by publication. The author is not required to file for a copyright with the Copyright Office. After I received the above email, I did some research and discovered there is a very good reason for an author to fork over the $35.00.
The biggest reason is creating solid proof that you are the author of a given work. Once you file a copyright, you are fully protected and proof is easy. You are still protected if you don't file but proving you are the author is a bit more difficult and pursuing legal action against someone who is illegally using your work becomes more difficult. But there is another, even scarier reason for every author to file for an official copyright.
Here's the scenario: An author publishes a new work by uploading it to Amazon. The day it becomes available, some crook buys the book then sends the file in to the copyright office claiming they are the author and giving a false date that precedes the date the book was first published. He gets a copyright that, according to the government, is earlier than the publication date and then the crook can try to sue the author for copyright infringement. Proving authorship is now much more difficult and getting the copyright transferred to the proper owner becomes a painful legal problem.
My advice to all writers - file for a copyright before you actually publish your book. The process is simple: go to the U.S. Copyright Office and click on the "Electronic Copyright Office" icon. Setting up an account is quick and simple and uploading your manuscript is easy. If your books are available in print format you may be asked to submit two copies to the Library of Congress. This requirement can be waived if you have a good enough reason. The cost of obtaining a copyright is $35.00 per manuscript. It becomes official as soon as you submit.
If you're already published but have not yet registered - stop reading and go do this right now.
In other news: I will be starting work on a Peacekeeper sequel within the next couple of days. Tom Wilks will be learning what it means to be gragrakch. I'm also giving him another challenge to overcome. And, although my co-workers have been urging me to write a book entirely about the "Porn Planet", I will not do so. I prefer to keep all my books clean enough for young adults to read.
Have a happy holiday and a wonderful new year!