We can publish this book about the BONANZA TV Series's Cartright family characters without violating the copyrights of the Television show, because the author has permission of the show's producers to use those characters and pays them a portion of her profits for that privilege. To use them as characters in her book WITHOUT that permission, in writing, and signed by the producers, would have been illegal. Many fan fiction sites ignore this circumstance, however. Fan fiction can be fun to write. BUT Be careful with whom you share such stories.
Question: Someone told me that without a copyright registration I have no recourse. Is this so? You said I didn't have to register if I didn't want to.
Answer: As I said before, anything you create in America, books, paintings, poetry, movies and TV shows, etc. are automatically copyrighted when they are made. In a case where two people claim to have written the same thing, the one who wrote it first, is the winner and the one who wrote it last is a plagiarist.
Registering your work is one way to prove legally when it was completed. But not the only way. YOU DO HAVE to have proof of when something was completed if someone sues you.
If you WERE going to sue someone, or if someone was suing YOU, an unopened copy of the manuscript or disks in a sealed envelope with a legible US Post Mark will prove a date of creation just as legally in any US court of law as a copyright registration and it costs less than $1.00. You just have to keep the unopened envelope in your files, and make sure you got the right disk in the envelope, before you had the PO hand cancel it to make sure the post mark is legible.
Actually, VERY FEW authors are troubled by plagiarists and the last big case I heard about was when Nora Roberts's publishers sued Janet Dailey's publishers back in the 80's -- all settled in time. Yet many of us have OUR work stolen every day by Book Pirates and the plain fact of the matter is that MOST OF US HAVE NO RECOURSE AT ALL in dealing legally with those Book Pirates, whether a books is copyright registered or NOT.
Of course you COULD SUE them under the Copyright law. If they were law-abiding citizens, LIVING IN the US, but they are NOT law-abiding citizens or they wouldn't be Pirates.
First of all, they don't SELL the books, They give them away. So how can you recover the EARNINGS from stolen books, when there weren't any????
They give them away as a lure to get people to "join their free book club" and to join and get free books by Steven King OR ANY ONE OF US, all ANY person has to do is fill out a form that gives personal information, like their name, address, phone number, Social Security number, parents names and sometimes even credit card info. They then get to download the books at no cost. You and I miss out on a sale and earn nothing from the download. AND the pirates use the books as bait to get your personal information.
People who join sites where they are asked to sign up and register for "Free BOOKS!" are giving away all sorts of information in exchange for those Pirated books. All you have to do is fill out the form and you can have any book you want for free! Sites who operate like that Have STOLEN those books! They bought one copy and are duplicating it illegally and are giving it away to everyone. They claim it's legal as they are not selling the books.
Whenever I find such a site, or one of our authors finds one, we send them a cease and desist notice to remove the books and they usually agree. We also report them to their Internet Service Provider for "Doing Fraudulent Business on the Internet" and have succeeded in getting quite a few thrown out by their host providers.
But they just move on to another ISP, change the name of the site, the company, but use the same old book files, and do the same darned thing all over again. They will give the books away to anyone who fills out their "join our club form" -- AND USING THE INFORMATION THE HAPPY RECIPIENT OF THE FREE BOOKS HAS GIVEN THEM, they will steal that person's identity AND BUY STUFF ON their CREDIT CARDS, too.
Copyright Registration isn't going to stop them or any other crook. If they were going to obey the law, they wouldn't BE crooks to begin with. You might be able to report them to law enforcement -- I have tried that -- but since the books are given away, law enforcement is quite likely to laugh and say, "Well they're not SELLing the stolen goods, right?" And even if you could identify the the site owners and charge them, you could only do that that if they reside within in the USA where US laws apply, which most of them DO NOT.
MOST of them are slaving over hot little computers in Brazil, in India, in China, in Indonesia...and in the UK, Cyprus, or France. NO US LAW applies to them. .
Worse, there are "Free book sites" who actually solicit authors, offering "free advertising on the Internet" if you will give them just one copy. Just one...
And if you do, they duplicate the book and give it away to ANYone who asks and the "free advertising consists of listing on their Free Books Web site.