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I operate an Internet radio show that seeks to help independent entertainers and artists promote their projects.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

What is copyright? By guest: Casey Sheridan

Editor's note:

Back in May, erotica author and friend Casey Sheridan and I experimented with a fun little "Casey Crossover" concept by drafting guest posts for each other's blogs and posting them on the same day. You can read Casey's post on the disappearance of sex scenes in the movies by clicking here.

The idea proved to be well received by both of our readerships so, it only made sense that the two of us work on a sequel. Knowing Casey, she's also probably giggling at the fact that I used the word "experimented".

A large part of what I do on my radio show is enablement and sharing best practices so, I was very happy when she told me she'd written a post to provide authors with some advice on copyright issues.

Once you're done, I invite you to hop over to Casey's blog to read my own piece on "chick flicks" that I actually enjoyed.

Casey, once again, the floor is yours...


I leaned in closer to my monitor and gasped as I stared wide-eyed at the screen. A rush of adrenaline coursed through me and turned into a knot that settled as an ache in the pit of my stomach.

“What is this? Why is this on here?” I whispered. I sat frozen, unable to think.

What do I do now? Who do I contact? These questions, and many others, scrambled through my head the first time I saw one of my books being offered as a free download on a site notorious for illegal free downloads of books and music. Dozens and dozens of books. And now one of those books was mine.

If you’ve never experienced copyright infringement, let me tell you, it’s not fun. I felt violated. It’s unnerving, it’s infuriating, it’s frustrating, and it’s misunderstood.

(Just so we're clear, I'm not a lawyer. If you need an in-depth discussion of copyright, I suggest you contact an attorney).

What is copyright? Generally speaking, copyright is a form of intellectual property law that legally protects original works of authorship and artistic works such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. As an author/writer copyright protects my writing, the contents of my books.

Now that I have a book/story written and finished, stored on my computer and/or printed out and sitting on my desk, when does the copyright take effect? Immediately. The moment I created my story, it was under copyright protection. It DOES need to be registered with the U. S. Copyright Office if I want to file a lawsuit against anyone for infringement, but registration is voluntary. Even so, I gained legal rights at the exact instant my story was created.

Okay, so my work is copyright protected, big deal, right? That doesn’t affect you, the reader. Or does it? Should you, the reader, care? I hope so. To quote Marilyn Byerly, “Protecting and respecting the author’s copyright is the right thing to do.

If an author doesn’t make money by selling books, she will probably stop writing, and you will have lost some great reads.

If the author doesn’t sell enough books because of ILLEGAL books, the publisher won’t buy the next book.”

“Stealing or misusing copyright is not a way to thank an author for giving you pleasure.” (A Reader’s Guide to Copyright blog post by Marilyn Byerly)

I don’t make a lot of money on my writing. I wish I did. Actually, I make very little. I’d love to quit my day job and spend the time writing and creating more stories, more books. Many other authors, musicians, etc., are in the same situation.

Now you’re probably asking, “Okay, Casey, you’ve cleared up what copyright is (sort of) and how illegal books can affect us all, but I’ve got an e-reader loaded with eBooks. Can I sell some of my used copies of copyrighted eBooks?”

As of now, the US Government, along with most other governments, says no. This falls under the “first sale doctrine”. To keep this post brief (ha!), and to keep you from falling asleep, I’m not going to discuss First Sale Doctrine. If you would like to learn more about it please click here.

Who owns my copyright? I do! I’m the author. Under copyright law the creator of the original work (book, story, song, etc.) is the author. So, I own my copyright unless I have a written agreement that assigns it to another person (or entity). In other words, my publisher doesn’t own the copyright to my story unless I sign an agreement that assigns it to them.

Offering my books for free, in part or as a whole, without my permission, is illegal. It’s a violation of my right as an author, a violation of my copyright. Many authors, including me, have free reads available. Stories that you don't have to pay for so you can get a taste of my writing. Reviews and excerpts from my books are also available.

There's plenty of excuses that digital thieves offer for what they do, but not one of those excuses is legitimate, nor are any of those excuses reasons for "stealing" an author's work.

What can you do if someone infringed your copyright? First, DON’T send them an angry email, calling them every name in the book, and demand they remove your work from their sight. Be professional. Let yourself calm down first. That’s not easy to do. Trust me.

Always check with your publisher before doing anything in case they are running some special somewhere that you aren’t up on because you were too lazy to read your email. Hopefully, they’ll be able to help if your work is being made available illegally. They may have a department that handles infringements. If not, they should be able to provide you with a sample Takedown Notice and provide you with any other tips or information you need to move on this.

If your self-published, you should be keeping excellent records on where your works are available, if there free, or need to be paid for. You’ll have to send a Takedown Notice to the site your infringed work appears on.

Samples of Takedown Notices are available at Romance Writers of America (if you’re a member), and, here, at EPIC.

You’ll have to provide the exact URL where the infringed work appears and follow the sites directions on how and where to send your request.


That’s it for me. I know this was a very brief discussion of copyright; it’s a subject that could go on forever. I encourage you to read all of Marilyn Byerly’s blog posts on the subject and follow the links she provides. You can find her posts using this link.

She has an excellent post about what would happen to books, movies, music, and more, if copyright were to end. Her post is titled, The Death of Copyright.

You can also find more information here.

I’d like to thank Marilyn Byerly for giving me permission to quote her blog and for giving me so many links loaded with information.

And I’d like to thank Casey Ryan, my gracious host, for allowing me to take over his blog for the day. Casey is a wonderful supporter of Indie talent and I'm honored to be. Thanks Casey!

FYI: Blog posts are copyrighted too, but feel free to spread this one around, if it’s okay with Mr. Ryan.

(CJR: By all means – share away!)


Casey Sheridan is the author of playful erotic fiction. Like most authors, she began writing when she was very young. Later in life she read her first piece of erotica and it was on a dare that she wrote her first erotic story.

Casey’s work has been published by Breathless Press and Cobblestone Press, and her short fiction has appeared on various erotic web­sites.

Casey's main website:
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  1. Thanks for having me, Casey. Like I said on my blog, I always have fun hanging out with you :)

  2. Hi Casey, you've cited some good resources for copyright issues. It's certainly become a different animal with books published on line.

    As it was explained to me, there is a convention for almost all of the western nations - that copyright rests in the creator of the material. If you use a pen name, you should actually copyright it under your legal name.

    In times gone past, the best way to guarantee copyright was to mail yourself a copy of the manuscript and keep the envelope in a safe place. I'm not aware of many authors doing this anymore.

    As you state, what most of us will likely be worried about is copyright infringement - especially with ebooks. The fact that you are the author gives you the right to go to pirate sites and demand they take your book down. Your publisher should also do this.

    Here's a link that might be useful for Canadian authors who have questions re copyright.

    Thanks for sharing, Casey!

    1. Thanks again, Eden. It's always a point of pride when people like yourself or Casey are able to share best practice information or other advice on my blog and show. Copyright issues in particular are a mine field for a lot of people so, it's great to have a list of resources like the ones Casey provided here.

  3. Thanks for sharing the link for Canadian authors, Eden. Excellent source of info.

    You're correct that in times past a person could mail themselves a copy of their work. According to copyright.gov, that isn't necessary any longer (thank goodness! Think of the cost on postage for some thick manuscripts).

    Thanks for coming by and commenting, Eden. I always appreciate your support.