Some thoughts on Copyright. It is a tricky business. For instance, fair use laws apply in Australia for extracts and quotes, but what does this mean to a professional writer? (See Australian Copyright Council link below for detailed information) As a freelance author and journalist for over 30 years I am both the owner and user of copyright material.
As a Copyright Owner:
Books and Newspapers: Can publishers rip off ideas you have pitched to them? Yes! Ideas aren’t protected except for the exact wording. In the early days I’d pitch an idea to an editor, who’d reply ‘We’ve already got someone on that story.’ As if they already had someone on a story about using car parts as garden features, an Aussie peculiarity.
Newspapers: Can articles be published without your permission? Not legally. Although I was a freelance journalist and other imprints in the newspaper group assumed I worked in house. If I found out they had published an article in print I asked to be paid. About 2/3 of original fee. Less for smaller magazines.
Online: I’ve had my own articles emailed back to me in a chain letter without my name on it. That’s what annoyed me the most, a friend sending me a chain funny saying ‘You’ll like this.’ ‘Yeah! I bloody wrote it.’
RULE OF THUMB: If your work is used in a commercial product of any form you should be paid unless you have waived the fee.
COPYRIGHT USE: I’ve had a substantial quote used in a VCE year 12 exam. They didn’t ask for permission. But, maybe, for the sake of all students I should have asked for money to inflict some reverse pain on the examiners. Ha!
Recently, I was asked permission for a quote of mine to be used on a brass plaque in a bar in Malta. I didn’t think they needed permission, but I appreciated the request and, if I get to Malta, I reckon there’s a free drink waiting for me.