This is Yesenia! Today I am discussing a topic we are asked frequently on our tumblr and email: Aren’t you afraid of someone stealing your work when you post it online?
Why We Share Our Work Online
Tracy and I feel that sharing our work, rather than trying to keep it safe, has aided us greatly in our journey to bring our story to fruition.
Showing our project online allowed us to:
- Reach a bigger audience than our small circle of friends
- Get critiques and feedback from our fans for a more well-rounded viewpoint
- Meet and speak with other great creators
- Connect with talent for collaboration
- Gain interest from different organizations to help us to make the project more successful
- Document proof of our ownership and content (more on this later...)
Intellectual Properties on the Internet
We live in a digital age where independent productions are posted online every single day, and the success stories outweigh the cautionary tales. Web comics, e-books, web series, and kickstarter pages alike freely share IP in various forms- from finished content like Lackadaisy Cats and Inverloch, to work-in-progress concepts like Fate Saga, or well, us.
In Example: Aaron Diaz
Aaron Diaz shares his work online.
His passion project, Dresden Codak, is so successful now that he is able to live off of the merchandise. He reports once talking movie deal based on his premise, and recently held an insanely successful kickstarter. His resume doesn't stop there. He also concepted and created The Clockwork Empire pitch to Nintendo, and possibly received some sort of contact from them.
Aaron's successes com from a lot of hard work and dedication first, but also from posting the work online.
So Let Your Ideas Shine
Tom William said it best in his book Get Paid to Write:
“YOU’VE GOT TO SPREAD YOUR IDEAS AROUND. OTHERWISE YOU’RE LIKE A FARMER WHO REFUSES TO SOW HIS SEED FOR FEAR THE BIRDS WILL EAT THEM. HE SUCCEEDED IN PROTECTING HIS FROM THE VAGARIES OF THE NATURAL WORLD, BUT HE ALSO PREVENTED THEM FROM GERMINATING AND BEARING FRUIT. IF YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER, [OR ANY TYPE OF CREATIVE] YOU'VE GOT TO SEND YOUR IDEAS OUT, TOO, OR THEY JUST ROT IN YOUR MIND LIKE THE FEARFUL FARMER'S UNSOWN SEED ARE LIKELY TO DO IN THE BARN.”
Without exposure, critique, inspiration, and proof-of-ownership, an idea will wither and die.
Protecting an Idea vs Protecting Content
Most people who contact us about us putting our concept online, express fear over the theft of their idea.
I feel it's common to find artists who have a story in their head, who freely post drawings of settings, characters, and plot points with intentionally vague descriptions to protect their concept. Yet, I feel you are more likely to have trouble with theft of content than theft of an idea.
This is because ideas are a dime a dozen, and only the unique interpretation of your idea – your content - is your own.
What is the difference between an idea and content?
I believe this: There are ideas- the concept or the basic premise of your story, and your content - the ways you choose to execute your idea, whether it be through writing, performance, art, etc.
- Our idea is a story about a protagonist trying to start a new life in a city full of characters from myth and lore
- Our content is anything we write about our story or the artwork that we post
We have been working on this project for some time now- researching, developing our story and making mistakes in the process. We are always learning, and one thing we've come to understand is it’s not just the idea the makes our story, but our spin on it, our style, our characters, and our passion and drive, which only we can replicate.
Protecting Your Interpretation
There are intricacies to IP law that may be confusing. Still, you should try to have a basic understanding of copyright law before you begin to take an idea into the public realm.
Here are some quick facts on U.S Copryright (Since we are based in the US) to get you started.
Copyright protects any tangible form of expression.
Some examples :
- literary works
- computer software
- images, illustrations and sculptural works
- motion pictures and other audiovisual works
- sound recordings
- architectural works & etc
Under the current laws, copyright protection starts from the moment of creation of the work and continues until 70 years after the death of the author or artist. After that it is considered public domain.
Works not protected by copyright are non-tangible things or works by the Government.
- Ideas, processes & concepts (but written descriptions or illustrations of such things are)
- Titles, names, short phrases, and slogans (in "He Walks Alone," by John Doe neither name John Doe nor "He Walks Alone" is subject to copyright. The written contents of the book however are).
- listings of ingredients or contents
- Things unrecorded (like an improvised speech that was not written down)
- commonly available information (info on a calender, or Tuesday for example)
- and works by the Government
To define what constitutes as stolen work, consider it anytime your artwork is duplicated and/or used without your permission.
My hope is this article serves as a talking point for anyone who has a project, is starting one, or just wants to join in on the subject. It is also important to remember that while I can tell you my own experiences and thoughts, it is your decision whether or not to make your content available online.
It is is our opinion that it is better to share your work online, than to hide it away. We live in a digital age, with several online IP success stories to look up to. We encourage you not fear the theft of your idea, but to be knowledgeable and to protect your content through copyright law.
Give Us Your Perspective
Do you have any stories , thoughts, or questions?
Let us know what you think by writing below, emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or commenting on our facebook fan page or our tumblr page.
For more opinions on idea theft read :
- “Talk About Your Idea; It Won't Get Stolen” -forbes.com
- “They Will Steal Your Idea. They Cannot Steal What Really Matters” - jasonlbaptiste.com
- Tom Williams’s book, “Get Paid to Write” - There is a great excerpt in chapter 9 on idea theft.
Great read through out - totally recommend it.
- US Copyright Office Website
- Laymansiplaw.wordpress.com - explaining IP law in laymen terms
- Copyright kids – It explains things for children, so if copyright law leaves you confused, this might be the best place to check out for a basic crash course.