One of the most fascinating sessions at the Rockingham Writers Convention on Saturday was Literary Agent Alex Adsett talking on copyright and contracts. I can't do it full justice here but these are some dot points.
· Copyright is automatic and free; it doesn't have to be registered.
· To claim copyright you have to have something in a tangible form - written or whatever the latest technology is. Talking about it is not enough.
· It is a myth that writers should self-publish on line to protect their copyright.
· The copyright symbol © has no meaning except to indicate the owner.
· Ideas cannot be copyrighted - only the way the idea is expressed.
· There is no copyright on titles or slogans unless they have been trademarked.
· Using quotes or song lyrics in your work can be breach of copyright - get permission.
· If you have a traditional publisher it is still your responsibility to get permissions, but the publisher can help you.
· Copyright lasts 70 years after the death of the creator. The report suggesting this would be changed to 15 years was rejected.
· Writers should join The Copyright Agency - it not only monitors and collects fees on your behalf but has a great newsletter and offers training seminars. Their website is copyright.com.au.
· If you have questions about copyright the Arts Law Centre should be your first port of call. Their website is at artslaw.com.au. Alex has names of lawyers with copyright expertise on her website at alexadsett.com
On contracts Alex said :
· If you get a three-page contract worry about what is missing - normal contracts are 15-20 pages.
· Beware if it says "all forms, editions and languages throughout the world for the term of the copyright". Decide what forms and territories you want to give them and retain what you are not sure they are the best to handle.
· Make sure the contract includes reversions (where the rights revert to you if they have not been achieved within a set period).
· Watch out if the contract says they will consult with you on changes to your ms. That means they can consult and go ahead despite your opposition. Make it says you must consent.
· Watch out for lower royalties on subsequent editions or print runs.
There was a lot more. Have a look at Alex’s website or, better still, watch out for one of her talks or workshops. She is also a contract consultant as well as a literary agent.