08/12/2018

How to protect the copyright of books

Books, books, books… Is it even possible not to love them? There is no better way to discover the world and yourself than by reading! Reading not only brings knowledge about an infinite number of areas, but it also opens up the imagination and helps to develop empathy.

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I could spend the rest of this post talking about how absolutely FANTASTIC books are, but that’s not quite our focus here, is it? Yet today’s theme is related to them: we are going to explain how writers can secure their copyright and protect themselves against plagiarism, especially in the current context of changes in the publishing industry. Let’s go?

Books and copyright

The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works of 1886 is the document that gives the basis for the protection of copyright in virtually all the countries in the world. It includes every production in the literary, scientific and artistic domain, whatever may be the mode or form of its expression, and includes books, pamphlets, and other writings.

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According to the Convention, the registration of the work is not necessary for the recognition of copyright. This is because copyright is born at the same as the work, that is, from the moment an idea is expressed and fixed in the world, its author already holds the rights to it.

Note, though, that what is protected is the EXPRESSION of the idea, not the idea itself! You own the copyrights on HOW you told that story, on the text, but not on the idea behind it – let’s say, a rich girl falls in love with a poor boy and they go through great adversities in order to be together (or maybe not…?).

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In practice, however, although not mandatory, registration becomes extremely important to secure the intellectual property of an author. In the event of a legal dispute, for example, it is essential that the party has the means to prove his or her authorship. Imagine that you are an author and discover that someone plagiarized your work and published a book that is nothing more than a copy of yours. In order for you to sue that person, you’ll have to prove to the judge that you had that material BEFORE the plagiarist!

The place where you can register the works varies depending on the country. In Brazil, for instance, it can be done at the Escritório de Direito Autoral (Copyright Office) of the National Library. To do this, the person must pay the state fee, fill in the application form and send it to the Office, along with copies of his or her personal documents and a printed copy of the work. The Library requests a period of up to ninety days to officiate the registration (starting from the date the documents arrive at the Office, not from the day they were sent by the applicant).

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The current situation

The problem is that these copyright systems were established CENTURIES ago. The Berne Convention is from 1886, and the Brazilian National Library requirements are from 1898 (seriously!). This means that they have some SEVERE limitations in the current context of technological advances and changes in the way we consume books. Sales of physical books have declined noticeably in the past years – which can be seen in the recent announcements of Brazil’s two largest bookstore chains that they had filed for bankruptcy and closed dozens of stores. At the same time, the sales of e-books are growing fast.

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The growing preference for digital books greatly affects the publishing market. Before, the author was primarily responsible for writing books and sending them to the publishers, who took care of the complexity of the revision, layout, printing, publicity, and commercialization of the works. Digital books, on the other hand, do away with many of these tasks (such as printing and negotiating with the bookstores that will sell the work). With this, a trend that is emerging today is self-publishing, in which the writer becomes responsible for the whole process.

This new option, especially appealing to early-career writers, has serious repercussions on copyright management. Unlike publishing houses, which have professionals who specialize in dealing with the bureaucracy of the book market, authors do not necessarily know which procedures to follow! In addition, even if they decide to follow exactly the what the Brazilian National Library determines, for example, a lot can happen between sending the material and registering the record, even more so with the speed at which the content is disseminated through the web nowadays.

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What can be done?

As you can see, the established system for copyright protection of writers is not necessarily the one best suited to our current context. More than ever, a system that is fast, efficient, and simple to use, is needed to provide strong proof of authorship of a work.

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Blockchain technology – a new, distributed, decentralized type of database – can help with this task. Since the information recorded in this system can’t be modified or deleted and comes with a timestamp that accurately tells the date and time they were added, it is an efficient method to make proof of authorship.

With it, the writer is able to register his books in a convenient, fast and cheap way and to get protection against plagiarism – even while waiting for the registration of in the government system (such as it the case with the National Library)! They can even register the work little by little, as they write it, and ensure protection from the get-go.

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OriginalMy is a pioneer company that has been offering document registration services in the blockchain since 2015.

Want to know more about the relationship between blockchain and copyright? So check out this post here too. You can also find out more about how this new database can help protect the copyright of musicians and bloggers/vloggers.