Foolproof Methods to Avoid Authorship Problems – Rose Scott | Guest Post

Have you ever thought of book piracy as a good way to promote your writing? Lots of indie authors tend to give their eBooks away through torrent sites. But what they fail to do is properly take care of and protect their intellectual property.

The reason why many authors give their books away seems logical at first: It gets their writing out there in the world, and if it’s free. Readers will also feel less inclined to copy the material and spread it all over the Internet. Thus, Paulo Coelho once claimed to have increased his sales by allowing people to easily access and download eBooks from websites similar to Pirate Bay. He went even further and created a blog for sharing his works, targeting a wide online audience. Were his ideas successful? The answer, in short, is “yes.”

As a great fan of writing, I also stick to the point that people who intend to rip off someone’s content will definitely figure out a way to do it no matter what obstacles are put in their way. The more restrictions you impose, the more excited many wrongdoers become to figure out how to overcome them. Book piracy hasn’t ceased to be a problem just because pirated books are simpler to find and transfer between gadgets than their legal versions.

I don’t belong to the fatalist camp, though, which is why I’d rather take a few precautions to safeguard my authorship and develop a workable PR-plan to make my writings more popular among readers. I’m currently creating an eBook on interactive approaches to teaching fiction, and I’ve noticed how increasingly concerned I have become over copyright protection. I’ve studied some of the most frequently recommended precautions and share my findings with you below:


Copyright Registration Can Bring Much Relief

The most essential thing to remember about copyright protection is that there is no international copyright law able to protect intellectual property in all the countries of the world. National copyright laws vary widely, but the fact that about 180 countries signed the Berne Convention to protect works and their authors gives me a sense of relief.

Apart from this international document, there is another treaty regulating copyright issues globally. It’s the Universal Copyright Convention (UCC). According, UCC suggests using a copyright notice you all know well. “A UCC notice should consist of the symbol © (C in a circle) accompanied by the year of first publication and the name of the copyright proprietor (example: © 2006 John Doe). This notice must be placed in such a manner and location as to give reasonable notice of the claim to copyright.”

Once I finish my latest book, I’m planning to register my copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office to simplify the procedure of proving my authorship and ownership. However, should a court dispute arise, registered copyright is not the only cure-all. Drafts, sketches, and other evidence will be also requested and considered.


ISBN: When It Is Really Useful?

There has been a lot of argument over ISBN codes lately. Many self-publishing writers consider it to be a kind of a monopolistic machine limiting their rights and freedoms. As for me, I’m always looking for the happy medium. Depending on how many readers you would like to engage, you need to decide whether to buy it or not.

For example, if you are about to publish your content only with Kindle Direct Publishing, then it will be automatically assigned an ASIN identification number. In such a case, an ISBN is optional. But should you be eager to embrace a wider audience selling books to libraries, bookstores, or online platforms like Amazon, having an ISBN seems to be the way to go because this identifier is commonly used by booksellers to find a particular book and distribute it.

If you decide you do want an ISBN, you can always purchase one through the official U.S. ISBN Agency, but if you’re self-publishing you may be offered one for free as part of the process – that’s the case with Amazon’s CreateSpace publishing platform.

It is worth mentioning that ISBN doesn’t relate to copyright protection at all. Though it can come in handy when identifying the author – just more evidence in your favor.


Joining the Author’s Guild to Have Legal Support

For me it seems quite important to join a reputable association of writers that provides assistance to its members not only with distribution, selling books, and networking, but also with legal issues. An example is the Author’s Guild. It helps authors effectively solve copyright problems and even provides free legal support to its members. Why not join a vast community of like-minded people and get a helping hand when you need it most?

Similar to the Author’s Guild, the Artists’ Legal Advice (ALAS) also provides free legal advice to artists in Canada, whereas Lawyers for the Creative Arts (LCA), based in Chicago, it helps those who are financially eligible.

I find joining large associations of writers such as PEN International very useful. It consists of over 25,000 members, which can give you limitless opportunities for sharing experience and dissolving all your fears related to copyright protection. The more you become involved in the writers’ world, the more possibilities you can explore to stay safe, right?


Monitoring Key Phrases or Headlines and Reporting Content Theft

Every time I write a new article, I keep track of its headline and some particular phrases mentioned in it, so that I can easily identify any twins that pop up out there on the Internet. By entering these words into the search lines in Google, Bing, and Yahoo, I can see whether they were used somewhere on other online sources. If text matches are found, it makes sense to check the resource and ensure it’s a mere coincidence, or that the original has been properly cited.

I was once a victim of content theft. Thanks to my constant monitoring efforts, I was able to trace the offender, contact the website owner, and asked for the removal of the stolen article. To prove I originally created it, I sent a link to the site where it was initially published along with the article draft dated much earlier than the copycat version. Luckily, my story had a happy ending and it didn’t take me a lot of time or effort to defend my authorship.

As for eBook protection, you can carry out similar monitoring and issue DMCA complaints to Google, Bing or Yahoo. Aside from reporting a book theft to the search engines, it is definitely worthwhile to let Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and other publishers know of the copyright infringement.


Stay Away from Accidental Copyright Infringement

Teaching literature to students, I can give countless examples of how accidental plagiarism occurs. When students get involved in discussions and then are assigned to write essays, as a general rule of thumb, I’d say more than 50 percent of them tend to repeat each other’s ideas.

The same is true for writers. When looking for a suitable source of inspiration or digging deeper into an issue, you risk accidentally recycling someone else’s writing, which might lead some readers to question the originality of your writing.

Since it is closely connected with authorship issues, I prefer to do my best and give proper credit to all the sources I used. Because I’m a very busy person, I rely on online tools for help. Among them is, which highlights all text areas that need to be cited.


Bottom Line 

Constantly worrying and fretting about the safety of your intellectual property won’t do you any good. Take a few reasonable precautions and use the rest of your time working out a detailed PR strategy to effectively promote your book, not to mention writing the next one!



Rose Scott is a literature teacher who is fond of writing. She believes the most really remarkable books are given birth at brief moment of inspiration. Follow her on Twitter: @roserose_sc

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