For writers, the copyright notice and its ramifications are sacrosanct.
For writers, the copyright notice and its ramifications are
There’s no other viable way to safeguard the use and display of their
stories. Protection is a means of warding off would-be plagiarists,
collecting legal damages and announcing officially that the piece
belongs to the writer.
Like many a dedicated freelancer, every quarter I dutifully ship my
stock of new stories off to the US Copyright Office for
I learned the hard way that monetary damages cannot be collected without
that copyright certificate. No reputable writer would argue with the
value of the copyright - until now.
Why would PR pros use the symbol on press materials?
Several recent press kits contained such printed documents. Most of them
ended up in my garbage. Why? At this late stage of my career, I didn’t
want to leave myself open to accusations of plagiarism. After years of
picking up bits of information directly from press kits, it seemed odd
to think I might now be stealing material. But that’s what it would have
been, given the copyright notice.
Was it a mistake? Probably, but there were several instances. Various
press releases bore a note to credit such-and-such a writer. There was a
glossary with basic information and the same verbiage in one press kit.
Another contained a magazine with an admonition to those who would dare
to duplicate a sacred word.
Am I supposed to ask whether I can use this PR material when it was sent
to me to do just that? It makes no sense.
So what’s the deal? I am not sure. For one thing, it is standard
procedure for a publication to print a copyright notice for the design
and presentation, which includes the one-time use of the content. It
also means that the design and presentation cannot be duplicated without
permission. If you are placing copies of writers’ published stories in
the kit, then you had better clear it with the publications or simply
pay for reprints.
But if you expect a writer to use these stories, think again.
If you want to display a writer’s published story by itself, then ask
for permission before doing so. If there are copyright restrictions,
Perhaps an excerpt or quote will work just as well. If a professional
writer develops pieces for you, then they should look like your other
handouts. Any material in a press kit should be ready to use - without
Obviously, there needs to be a distinction between copyrights for
content and copyrights for design. As regards press materials, make them
totally available. Otherwise, you risk losing the writer’s attention and
subsequently his story.