Legal Obligations of Freelance Writers

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The life of a freelance writer is relatively easy compared to others. While some of you may argue this point, I honestly think that we have a lot of freedom, and as long as we have the necessary self-discipline (and then some), we’re really in a sweet position. Source One thing that we may overlook, however, is that we have legal obligations as freelance writers. Just like any professional doing his job, a freelance writer has to take the legal matters into consideration. Legal counsel Daniel Perlman highly recommends every freelancer to pay attention to legal obligations, which may vary [Read more…]

How to Protect Your Freelance Writing Work

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Freelance writers run the risk of having their content used without permission or compensation. While it can be risky working as a freelance writer, if you’re aware of the possible pitfalls, you have much better chance of preventing plagiarism of your writing. Take a look at these suggestions for protecting your work: Trust Your Gut If you are contacted by a new client and they ask you to submit content without a contract, it’s a good idea to tread lightly. Sometimes freelance writers have to take risks to get work, but giving your work away for free shouldn’t be one [Read more…]

What’s Your Stand on File Sharing Platforms?

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File sharing has been around ever since digital files existed. From sharing files using floppy disks to using online platforms – these are all forms of file sharing. With the advances in technology, however, file sharing has become such a widespread activity. There is the common misconception that file sharing – and thus the platforms allowing them – is automatically related to shady activities. While this idea may be justified, there are actually a lot of legitimate uses for file sharing platforms: sharing copies of your ebook, sharing photos of your vacation, and so on. When it comes to file [Read more…]

What Bloggers Need to Know About Trademark Law

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There are three major types of intellectual property law: Copyright, Patent and Trademark. The distinction between the three can often be confusing and gray, but in general copyright protects artistic expressions (literature, movies, photos, music, etc.), patents protect ideas and inventions and trademark protects any “mark” associated with a business. However, trademark is very different from other areas of intellectual property. You don’t run afoul of the law simply by copying the mark itself but, as a tradeoff, trademarks can protect a much wider variety of things that would not fall under any other area of protection. Yet, at the [Read more…]

The Best of FWJ February

February brought most of us in the States snow storm after snow storm, Valentine’s Day and some really informative posts from the FWJ crew. Here are a few of the most popular: Applying for a Freelance Writing Gig Without Looking Desperate by Jodee Redmond In this post Jodee cautions against oversharing when looking for writing gigs. Is Your Blog Dressed For Success? by Gayla Baer-Taylor First impressions are important. Gayla shows you how to make sure your blog turns heads. I’m a Ghostwriter (Get Over It) - by Jeffery Reyes In this terrific guest post, Jeffery hits on the many misconceptions [Read more…]

5 Common Ways Freelance Writers Get Scammed

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Ever since I started writing at Plagiarism Today and especially since I started this column, I’ve been hearing a lot from freelance writers who have been scammed or otherwise victimized by unscrupulous clients. Though the good news is that such bad clients are very rare in the big scheme of things, they are common enough that almost every freelancer, if they remain active long enough, will run into one or two over the course of their career. So how do you avoid being taken advantage of as a freelance writer. As we discussed previously, clients have the playing field tilted [Read more…]

Why You Want to Keep Your Copyright

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By now, we all know that, when signing freelance writing contracts, you need to be copyright smart and make sure that you aren’t giving away more rights to your work than you intended. But many don’t understand what the big deal about signing over copyright to their work is. Most freelance writers don’t resell the same work to several clients, and act that is considered to be very bad form when it is done without prior knowledge, and often times freelance writers never have any intention to ever return to the topic again. In short, for many freelance writers, once [Read more…]

5 Legal Questions to Ask Before Turning in An Assignment

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Turning in an assignment is the goal of pretty much every freelancer. It’s the moment where they can send their invoice, collect payment and, generally make a living. If you don’t reach this point regularly, you’ll likely soon find yourself looking for another career. That being said, the moment you turn in your assignment is also something of a point of no return. Once you send the email, share the Google Doc or otherwise turn in what you have completed, you’ve not only submitted that work for revenue, you’ve also distributed it to a third party, an important step legally [Read more…]

Whose Responsibility is Copyright Enforcement?

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If you work as a freelance writer long enough, it’s bound to happen: Something you’ve written will be infringed. Whether it’s marketing copy being lifted by a competitor, a blog post pilfered by a scraper or something else altogether, the work you were paid for will be used by someone else unlawfully. But putting a stop to it can actually be very difficult. There are three parties involved, the infringer, the client and yourself. The dynamics between the three of them are, at times, complicated. So who has the responsibility and/or the ability to enforce copyright in freelance-created works? The [Read more…]

3 Grim Legal Realities Freelancers Need to Accept

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In an ideal universe, the law is there to protect both parties in a contract equally. The freelancer and the client would both have guards to prevent the other from doing something unscrupulous or somehow taking advantage of the other. Of course, in an ideal universe, justice would be free, it would be immediate and it would never make any mistakes. Unfortunately though, we don’t live in a perfect world and, in many regards, that legal playing field is very much tilted against the freelancer. Not only do clients, typically, have more money but the global nature of the Web [Read more…]

Be Contract Smart: 7 Copyright Terms to Know

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One thing nearly every freelance writer is going to have to do is sign a contract. Contracts, when written well, protect both the freelancer and the client by avoiding any confusion and preventing anyone from giving up any rights that they didn’t intend. But as necessary and as useful as contracts are, they are often filled with terms that can cause confusion. Many freelancers, intimidated either by the size or the seeming complexity of their contracts often just sign them with little more than a cursory glance. This is a poor move that can cause a freelance to sign a [Read more…]

5 Legal Concerns To Watch in 2011

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As we get ready to turn over the new year, we get a chance to both evaluate what 2010 meant for us and what we want 2011 to look like. But while we each are making our personal evaluations and decisions, we also have other shifts and changes around us. For example, the Internet is a constantly-changing environment, with trends, sites and companies rising and falling in a strage chorus, all of it affecting our profession. Another area is the law and legal issues. Though it has something of a reputation for being fixed and static, nothing could be farther [Read more…]

Why Social Media is No Legal Safe Haven

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One of the reasons that the Web has become a legal minefield is because it deals with laws and ethics that, prior to its creation, almost no one had any reason to know. Before the Web, the only reason to understand libel, privacy, copyright, trademark and other areas commonly associated with mass media law was if you were a journalist, a publisher or someone else involved in some form of media. The average person just didn’t have the means to really reach a large audience, not without filtration, making the laws fairly pointless to know. But now, with the Web, [Read more…]

Why Having a Pen Name Can Be a Risky Move

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Having a pen name is one of the oldest traditions of being a writer. Even Homer, the famed author of the Illiad, is more of a mythical figure than a real person. Writer’s select pen names for a variety of reasons. Some feel their “real” lives might be harmed if it is known what they write, others just think a new name sounds better and still others want to try two different writing styles or subjects without interference from past works. In fact, even publishers can demand an author use a pen name, as was the case with J.K. Rowling. [Read more…]

How to Avoid Legal Trouble With Your Portfolio

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Every freelance writer should have a good online portfolio, a place to showcase their best works and examples of the kinds of writing that they do. However, creating a portfolio is not as simple as choosing the best writing that you’ve done for your clients and putting up copies or even snippets on your site. Not only might this be considered bad form on the part of your clients, but there may be legal issues that prevent you being able to do so. So as many of us begin to look toward the new year and seek out ways to [Read more…]

Should You Appoint a DMCA Agent for Your Site?

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Freelance writers don’t just write for their clients. Most have sites of their own where they both post for themselves and, due to the increasing interactivity of websites in general, accept comments, postings and other material from users. However, this creates a new legal problem for freelance writers, namely what happens when their users violate copyright law. It might seem odd to be held accountable, even in part, for infringement that your users undertake without your permission or even knowledge, but the law does allow for that to happen in certain circumstances. To make matters worse, certain copyright holders have [Read more…]

5 Lessons From the Cooks Source Case for Freelancers

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If you’re a freelance writers, there’s a very good chance that you’ve been following the Cooks Source case for the last week or two. To recap what happened, Monica Gaudio, a freelance writer, discovered that an article she had written on the history of apple pies had been used in its entirety by a small New England magazine entitled Cooks Source. Though the use was attributed, making it a copyright infringement and not a plagiarism, she was understandably upset and sought an apology and a $130 donation to the Columbia School of Journalism. The editor of Cooks Source, Judith Griggs, [Read more…]

5 Simple Legal Mistakes Freelancers Commonly Make

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For a freelance writer, there is a lot of legal ground to cover. Copyright, trademark, privacy, libel and contract law are just some of the areas any freelancer needs to be familiar with to ensure that their rights are protected and they stay on the right side of the law. The reason is that, in addition to signing deals and getting payment for a service, you are creating content that will be distributed to a global audience. This puts a lot of responsibility on you and everything you right to be accurate, non-infringing and non-invasive. Still, we are all human [Read more…]

A Primer on Creative Commons

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Unless you haven’t been paying attention, you’ve probably at least heard of Creative Commons or seen its licenses around on various sites. However, there’s a great deal of misunderstanding regarding what Creative Commons Licenses actually are, how they function and what their purpose is. For a freelance writer to decide if they should license some of their work under Creative Commons, they first need to understand thse things as well as how to correctly use CC-licensed conten. Fortunately, the big idea behind Creative Commons is fairly easy to explain and the actual application is even easier to understand. All one [Read more…]

Derivative Works: Creations That Look Familiar

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One of the most common questions I get asked about copyright law is “How much do I need to change in (insert creation name) in order to use it without infringing copyright?” Whether they are asking because someone reused their work or they are thinking about doing it to someone else, these people are usually asking the wrong question. Likely misled by rumors of a 10 percent rule or something similar, many think there’s some magic number that lets themselves or others skirt copyright law by creating a new work from an old with minimal work. Unfortunately, these people often [Read more…]

How to Register Your Website’s Copyright

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In last week’s column, I talked about one of the most important decisions every copyright holder has to make, whether or not to register the copyright in their works. The conclusion of the article was that there is no single correct answer but every creator should be aware of the benefits of registration and make a decision for themselves. However, if you do decide to register your site, you are immediately faced with an ugly problem. The copyright registration system, despite some recent modernizations, is still geared almost solely toward the types of content that existed in the 80s and [Read more…]

Should You Register Your Copyright?

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Ever since the Copyright Act of 1976, which took effect in 1978, copyright has been granted in a work merely by fixing it into a tangible medium of expression. This is a fact we already covered. However, the fact you have all of the rights over your work does not mean you have the ability to enforce them. In the United States, an additional step is required if you want to take legal action over copyright infringement, you have to first register it with the U.S. Copyright Office. This has caused many content creators on the Web, including freelance writers, [Read more…]

Is Your Work Really a Work for Hire?

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Many freelance writers don’t fully understand copyright law and mistakenly believe that the fact they are paid for a work means that they don’t hold the copyright in it. In short, since they were hired to do a particular job, that the work becomes a work for hire and they also transfer copyright in the work to the buyer. However, that is very rarely the case. Though the language is very confusing, simply being paid to create a work does not make it a work for hire under the law. Rather, the law actually only caused a work to be [Read more…]

Why Joint Authorship is Usually a Bad Idea

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Growing up, we’re taught that teamwork is a great thing and that it brings the best out of all of us. This is why schools love to assign group projects and the idea of working on a team plays a major role in everything we do, all the way through college and into the workplace. However, as we become adults, especially ones working in a creative field, we see that teamwork is not always the best way to get results. Design by committee is a common way to express designs that stink and expressions such as “Too many cooks spoil [Read more…]

The 7 Most Important Facts About Copyright You Need to Know

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As a freelance writer, copyright is your business. Your works are protected by copyright and it is that protection that enables you to sell your work, prevent unauthorized use and generally control how your creations are used. However, many freelance writers, much like the rest of the Web, either doesn’t understand copyright law or has serious misconceptions about it. But given how important it is to our profession, it makes sense to sit down and work to really understand what copyright law is about, at least some of the key points, and try to make sense of an admittedly confusing [Read more…]

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