This is a business post. Feel free to ignore if you’re not interested in things like this. Let’s see if I can clarify some things as I understand it. Again, not a lawyer. And even if I was, I’m Canadian so my law understanding might differ. 😛

Copyright – is automatic from when you write your book. It can be registered (and probably should) but it technically is yours.  It basically gives you the right to choose how, where and when your work gets used. It also gives you the right to stop people from copying your work and making money off it.

Your copyright lasts anywhere from 50 years to 70 years AFTER your death. (50 in Canada, 70 in US).

When you sign with a trad publisher, a LOT of them take a license for your copyright for the life of the copyright. That’s a VERY long time.

Trademark – is not automatic. Is meant to register a distinguishing company or product. Trademark for single books is generally not possible as I understand it. You can trademark a series because it’s a series of products that are distinguishable. Generally by trademarking the design, font and other aspects that make your series, your series.

Trademarking series names happen. It’s not too common since the cost of doing so (and enforcing it if necessary) might be high, but it’s started happening recently. And because of the environment we’re in, many people have gotten angry at even the thought of a trademark.

The thing is, trademarks are meant for a very limited scope of uses. It’s to stop people from infringing on the goodwill you’ve developed in your brand.

Given that trademarks only hold true for specific designs, does anyone who gets a trademark have a duty to clarify the use of a trademark to others? Or do writers who want to publish commercially have a duty to learn such things themselves? To understand the difference between copyright & trademarks, what is and isn’t workable?

I’d advance that writers who publish should be treated like the adults that they are that are undertaking a business. So they should learn this stuff and realise the difference.

Kristyn Kathryn Rusch has a great series of business blog articles that basically points out how many writers, because they feel they are an ‘artist’, get screwed, again and again, for not learning the business side of things.

Whether writers like it or not, once you publish (not write, publish) you are in business. Or I guess when you sign your first publishing contract if you go that route.

By the way, if it seems like I’m okay with people trademarking generic / popularly used words, I’m not. Trademarking a series title that you have created makes business sense (excluding  PR considerations), but generic single words don’t. Those just break the point of trademarks.

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