Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas to our Creative Writer US readers

South Carolina artist Valerie Lumpkin creates each Carolina angel from natural materials like seashells and moss, adding glitter and paint. Lumpkin creates a distinct personality for each angel she crafts. I've purchased dozens of these from her over the years, for decorating at Christmas and for gifts.

We hope all our Creative Writer US readers have a holiday filled with joy and peace.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Blogs move beyond original concept, some carry liability for authors

Of late, I’ve discussed blogging with many different writers. Looking to the not so distant past, I remember when people first began to dash off Weblog confessionals. Most, but not all, early blogs tended to repeat the word “I” ad nauseam, were inclined to offer lots of personal information we don’t really want or need (who cares if you smoke two cigarettes after sex?), and came wrapped in writing that demonstrated less not more when it came to skill. Then mainstream media began to take note. Blogs were drawing readers and more importantly, some were being sold for large sums of money. Now just about every major media outlet has a blog section, and many newspapers offer readers free blogs.

With the blog going mainstream, I think a lot about content and liability. I’ve often mentioned the Orlando mom who was sued for criticizing her child’s school, and I heard a snippet yesterday on the radio that made me curious. There’s at least one major lawsuit in a New York court right now involving defamation. I didn’t catch the whole commentary because the host of the show (I don’t even know his name) cut to a commercial just as I was arriving at my destination.

I’ve come to the conclusion that blogs will ultimately end up being held to the standard established publications apply to professionally written content. The format is already changing—blogs hosted by Google and other services have gradually increased opportunities for design.

What we accepted in the early Weblog days is changing, with mainstream media increasingly featuring blog owners on talk-news shows and even in print features. I hold to my prediction lawsuits will increase. Once someone is defamed in a story on the Web, there’s a wildfire effect, with bloggers seizing the story with a simple goal of increasing traffic. Problem is many don’t do their homework, relying on a single source for information rather than doing the dull tedious research that any story deserves. Web stories hang around, unlike print stories that go into the recycle bin after a day or two.

I did a Web Savvy column at The Writer, interviewing an attorney about liability and copyright issues. Part I is up and Part II will publish after the first of the year.

I’d urge anyone who writes a personal blog to tread carefully with accusatory stories. Quote carefully and correctly, if for no other reason than fairness, and to avoid spending time and money with an attorney.

Monday, December 17, 2007

War of the Words

Online political content can sometimes pit left against right in a war of semantics. Even seasoned journalists can get caught in the conflict. That’s exactly what happened to a colleague who is also my friend after he blogged for National Review Online. I felt compelled to share his story.

When blogs first began to appear on the Internet, hobby writers created a virtual stampede. The format alone gave anyone an easy-to-use forum for political views or creative writing. Appreciating the success of sites like Daily Kos, mainstream media followed suit. Media reports have noted that even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blogs, writing about his experiences as the president of Iran.

Blogging a top content feature at political sites
For veteran journalists like W. Thomas Smith, Jr., the blog format offered a convenient, immediate way to report news. An independent journalist whose articles have appeared in numerous mainstream publications, Smith began to write for The Tank, a group blog hosted at National Review online. His dispatches from places like Iraq and Lebanon were filed in the spirit of legendary war correspondents like Ernie Pyle. Smith’s writing at The Tank, as might be expected, was more casual and far less formal than the features and analytical pieces he writes for national magazines and book publishers. The conventional approach of a blog is, after all, accessibility to the reader, offering a welcome mat via a conversational tone.

A well-known conservative on matters of defense and government, Smith also served in the U.S. Marine Corps as an infantry leader, parachutist, and shipboard "special weapons" security and counterterrorism instructor. Following his hitch in the Corps, he served on a para-military SWAT team in the nuclear industry. He has covered battles in the Balkans, Israel, Iraq and in other countries. Within days of 9-11, he headed to New York on his own dime to cover the first widespread attack on American soil by a foreign entity.

When he arrived in Lebanon September 25th, he filed his first post at The Tank: “Arrived here [in Beirut] less than two hours ago (after 25-hours of travel and layovers). Now relaxing here in the Al Dekwaneh neighborhood-offices of the International Lebanese Committee for UN SCR 1559 (more on that later).”

There was no editorial annotation at that point, explaining the committee. National Review attracts a relatively informed reader who would likely assume Smith, a conservative, was dealing with other conservatives, readers who would have at least a passing familiarity with UN SCR 1559, a resolution that included a call for disarming militias in Lebanon. Naturally, one of those militias would be Hezbollah.

More on Hezbollah
In June, 2007, in testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, James Phillips, research fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Heritage Foundation, said, “Hezbollah is a cancer that has metastasized, expanding its operations from Lebanon, first to strike regional targets in the Middle East, then far beyond.” Phillips noted the United States, Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands have designated Hezbollah as a terrorist group, with the United Kingdom placing the “Hezbollah External Security Organization” on its terrorist list. Phillips also pointed out, “But the European Union has dragged its feet on taking serious action against Hezbollah.” One country’s terrorist, in other words, is another’s freedom fighter.

As might be expected, the blog format popular with American political pundits has become popular in other parts of the world. Lebanon is no exception.

On a populist site, Lebanese Forces, a poster named “Drinkaholic” whose location is noted as “somewhere near Lebanon,” put things in perspective on the forum on December 7. “I can see that Hezbollah is acting in a very wrong way, it has become like a state-within-state where for example it even has sort of like it’s [sic] own police force in Dahieh!” Another post concluded, “Hezbollah now has a huge base of weapons, and so other (sects) feel threatened by this now and won’t accept to see such a large amount of weapons held by just one party.” Visitors to the site commented, in the discussion thread, on Hezbollah’s physical strength and presence in Lebanon.

Smith fires off dispatches amid a volatile political climate
Meanwhile, Smith filed his dispatches in streaming prose, relying on trusted sources, writing further in his initial post, “Between the airport and the committee's office, we (my escorts and I) passed by the sprawling Hezbollah tent city — some 200-plus heavily armed Hezbollah militiamen — positioned between the parliament and the Serail, basically the headquarters of the prime minister, his deputies, and all the cabinet members.”

Four days later, he wrote, “Hezbollah is rehearsing for something big here. Not sure what or when. But a few days ago, between 4,000 and 5,000 HezB gunmen deployed to the Christian areas of Beirut in an unsettling “show of force,” positioning themselves at road intersections and other key points throughout the city.”

Smith’s dispatches, though technically a series published in chronological order, were not published one after another in sequence. The Tank is a group blog, so one writer’s posts may be separated by another’s. Smith would have no idea that the blogging platform actually posed a challenge to the cohesiveness of his posts. The structure of The Tank distanced posts where Smith cited sources from other posts where he did not. He filed his dispatches on the fly in a conversational tone as he traveled.

In December, after pro-democracy Lebanese Brig. Gen. Francois al-Hajj was assassinated by a car bomb, Smith would later write an article at the Web site Family Security Matters and further express his thoughts about the political climate in Lebanon: “There is also the inability of Lebanon to elect a president; the existence of the virtual state of Hezbollah (the “kingdom of Hezbollah” as some Lebanese have told me) within the so-called sovereign state of Lebanon; the manipulation of the media (both nationally and internationally) in that country; and the unchecked money, weapons, and influence of Iran and Syria.”

Dissenting voices weigh in on Lebanon
Weeks after Smith returned to the United States, Thomas B. Edsall, a special correspondent for The New Republic, would write an article for a “progressive” Web site, The Huffington Post. Edsall named two journalists who questioned Smith’s veracity about his dispatches from Lebanon. Smith’s detractors described him with a level of hyperbole common on political blogs. Edsall cited Chris Allbritton, who called Smith a “fabulist.” Albritton said Smith’s “claim that 4,000 Hezbollah gunmen took over East Beirut at the end of September simply never happened.”

What Edsall didn’t point out was Allbritton’s slightly mangled quote in his email to Edsall. Smith never used the term “took over.” Smith applied the verb “deployed,” in the word’s primary definition connoting the idea of positioning. Allbritton’s perspective possibly stemmed from his lack of familiarity with military terms.

Edsall also quoted journalist Mitchell Prothero who alleged that Smith’s accounts, including the “presence of 200 armed Hezbollah fighters in downtown Beirut laying siege to the prime minister’s office….is all insane.” Edsall had included a direct lift of some of Smith’s words regarding the 200 armed fighters. In his December 1 article, Edsall noted Smith’s claim that the fighters occupied “a sprawling Hezbollah tent city.”

The only problem there: Smith’s actual post said the Hezbollah fighters were positioned. He did not use the term, laying siege.

During a slow news week a small story becomes a big one
Over a period of days, Smith’s accusers gained ground with the momentum of a cavalry charging down a steep slope. CNN interviewed Edsall, and numerous print publications carried stories alleging Smith “fabricated.” The Columbia Journalism Review noted Smith reported “fabrications fed to him by sources during a trip to Lebanon this fall.” Coincidentally, Edsall is a professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, in addition to his work as a correspondent for The New Republic and his position as political editor of The Huffington Post. Other publications like Salon and Harper’s levied criticism against Smith, apparently relying on Edsall’s analysis for research. None of the publications relying on Edsall’s analysis contacted Smith.

Edsall’s original headline queried, “In The Tank: Did National Review Reporter Make His Stories Up?”

Smith remained calm for a journalist being criticized even by conservative columnist Michelle Malkin. “This thing is just so complex,” he said during a phone interview. As far as making things up, “I didn’t.” Kathryn Lopez, an online editor for National Review, told a conservative Internet radio host Smith’s sources were “trusted.” But she added she couldn’t independently verify the sources. She apologized extensively to her readers and to media. She did not point out that getting Hezbollah or any of the media associated with the “resistance” would be unlikely to corroborate statements made by the other party. That would be similar to getting Sen. Hillary Clinton and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee to agree on taxes or federal spending.

'Progressives' busy defending stories about the Baghdad Diarist
Meanwhile, the “progressives” were busy putting out their own fires and those fires were considerably hotter than Smith’s. Franklin Foer wrote a ten page exposition in The New Republic, expressing his thoughts about Scott Thomas Beauchamp, popularly known as the Baghdad Diarist who accused American troops of heinous conduct in Iraq. Beauchamp’s work was published by The New Republic.

Foer noted the individual who checked Beauchamp’s facts turned out to be a young woman—an intern for the magazine—who eventually married Beauchamp after he and she met online. The word “fabricated” or a form of it was used to describe the American soldier’s dispatches from Iraq. Beauchamp had claimed among other things a soldier wore part of a human skull like a yarmulke and other soldiers deliberately ran over stray dogs. Beauchamp’s first-hand accounts of life as an American soldier in Iraq, initially filed without using his real name, became suspect, and conflagration ensued after The New York Times ran a story raising doubt about the diarist’s claims. As might be expected, conservative publications subsequently had a field day, levying heavy criticism against The New Republic for the dubious claims.

In some publications, Smith’s predicament was compared to that of Beauchamp.

“They’re saying I lied, that I made things up and I didn’t,” Smith said with steely resolve, speaking by phone from his office in South Carolina.

Should standards for pro bloggers be developed?
Asked if the format itself—the blog, carrying an impression of informality dating to its roots when a blog was called a weblog and viewed more or less as an online diary, as well as the physical structure of non-sequential postings by multiple authors at The Tank—caused part of the problem, Smith called blogging “a new dynamic.” He added, “There needs to be proper sourcing and attribution when reporting events on the scale, and in the complex environment of Lebanon.”

Smith did source his statements, but the sourcing was, by virtue of the posting format, often separated from future statements by those sources. The situation that confronted him is one that many editors may consider as blogs continue to grow in popularity and traffic. Should a link to the first in a series be placed by subsequent posts, to remind the reader of sources’ identities and political slants? Should opposing parties each have a say in assessments of politics in a country or culture? Will blogs ultimately be held to the same standards as a typical feature in a mainstream publication? Should mainstream publications embrace the point of view of writers with a declared political bent, and refrain from contacting the opposition for a different viewpoint?

Those questions indicate, aside from the fact blogging is here to stay, the format has grown up and, over the protests of many fringe writers, become mainstream. With that growth come challenges unique to new technology. Standards are sure to follow.

Smith weathered the storm with perseverance characteristic of a Marine. As his reputation was dissected by media, some of whose intentions might be considered suspect, he shrugged it off with dry humor. “Using a military analogy, I failed to deploy pickets for security on my flanks.”

Further Reading:

Facts: Statement by W. Thomas Smith,Jr. at US Writer

The Story behind the Story by W. Thomas Smith, Jr. at US Writer

Smith is a Hero by Tom Harb, Secretary General of the International Lebanese Committee for UN Security Council Resolution 1559, at World Defense Review

American Mercenaries of Hezbollah by Tom Harb (see above) at Family Security Matters

In The Tank: Did National Review Reporter Make His Stories Up? by Thomas B. Edsall for The Huffington Post

W. Thomas Smith, Jr., and His Reporting from Lebanon by Herschel Smith at Captain's Journal

Scandal Equivalence by John Tabin at American Spectator

W. Thomas Smith, Jr., The Saga Continues by Steven Foley for The Minority Report

Ed. Note: All the articles cited are online. Because online content can easily be changed, I printed the original documents as they first appeared, for fact-checking purposes.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Exploiting the news for pay

A writer’s best friend is the news. Whether you’re a journalist, poet or novelist, you can always find something to inspire you. You then simply translate your epiphany to a published work.

Many of my poems have been written as a result of something that happened, something that inspired me to speak. I recall seeing the story of a river that flooded a community. Ironically, this was the second time the river did this. I found myself wondering why these people would rebuild without resolving the issue in the first place. I wrote the poem, “Monologue by a River,” and it was published by an educational publisher then included in my collection A Poetry Break. I guess because the poem is a sonnet, people latch onto it.

I just finished an article for a new client I provide content to, Beyond Madison Avenue. This is a really fun account for me; blogging for a client is definitely a plus since I seem addicted to this form. I’d seen a PBS clip about Dr. Ron Paul’s remarkable fundraising via the Internet. I found it fascinating that a candidate could raise the kind of money he did without his official organizers doing a thing to orchestrate it. To read the story, visit Beyond Madison Avenue.

After Ken Burns’ movie The War aired, he came to the University of North Florida to do a lecture. I cover news here in Jax, so I went to the lecture and then arranged a followup interview. Burns and his script writer Geoffrey C. Ward will be the cover feature for The Writer in March, 2008. Chuck Leddy did the article about Ward; I wrote about Burns.

I learned about an Orlando mom who got sued for writing a blog. That spurred me to look into liability issues for writers, a topic I believe will increase in importance because, let’s face it, everybody wants to write these days. With lots of help from fellow members in the American Society of Journalists and Authors, I interviewed a leading intellectual property rights attorney. I cover the topics of liability and copyright issues in my column Web Savvy at the online site for The Writer—part I published yesterday and part II will go live around the end of the year.

I admit I’m an avid (even rabid) consumer of news. I’ll read anything if it’s topical. It brings me pleasure to know what’s happening in the world. And it also helps me to publish freelance work. Win-Win.

Poets who read Creative Writer US may want to read the interview I did with Donald Hall in the December issue of The Writer. And watch for a story I did about Hanukkah for The Florida Times Union.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Top ten gift ideas for writerly types

This is the time of year when my family gets annoyed with me. My younger daughter is a perfect example. She asks, "What do you want for Christmas?" Then before I can utter a syllable she says with disdain, "Oh, I know! Legal pads and stamps, right?" Truth is, I like practical gifts for myself--things that can be used in my home office-- though I don't apply that to others. When I select a gift for someone, I honestly try to pick something he or she would like rather than what I want to give. Being a freelancer produces special needs, so here are my top ten suggestions for the writer on your list. I can't guarantee this is what your writer will want. I can guarantee these items are/would be useful to me. I've included helpful remarks below each item.

(Drum roll begins).

1. Postage stamps
I know, they're almost obsolete, right? But when you need a stamp you gotta' have one and I always seem to run low. I don't need enough of them to go the online postage route and if I can avoid a trip to the postal center I do.

2. Starbucks or Panera gift card
In every city I've traveled to (well, almost every city), I look for coffee. Enough said.

3. A good bottle of wine
That doesn't necessarily mean you break the bank by selecting the most expensive bottle you can afford. If you don't drink (my sympathies to you on that note), visit a good wine shop and talk to the salesperson. A bottle of wine is good for occasions when you sign that exciting contract or when you screw up big time.

4. Sparco Brand Reporter's Notebooks
My favorite. If your writer does interviews, this is the way to go. I get mine from

5. Multipurpose paper, 8 1/2" x 11", preferably recycled, and/or paper clips (jumbo size)
Do I really need to explain this one? I didn't think so.

6. Gas card
Gas is the hidden expense that goes on taking all year long. Despite the fact gas prices have risen to a point parallel to the tip of Mt. Everest, rates for my freelance brethren and me are static. So a gas card will bring a smile to any freelancer's face. Unless of course he or she relies on public transportation or uses a bike, neither of which is doable for many of us.

7. Gift card to a restaurant
Always helpful despite the fact many of us eat in Mom&Pop restaurants that don't sell gift cards.

8. Red pens
Somebody always takes my red pen and I really need these not only to correct spelling and grammar on my first drafts but also to add the brilliant afterthoughts that will delight my editors and readers. Plus it's more fun to doodle with a red pen when you're locked into one of those long, drawn-out phone calls you'd love to conclude but can't find a polite or honest way to do so.

9. Gift card for books
Any bookstore will do.

10. Item for neurotic moments
This one has some wiggle room. Try a squeeze ball or something that can be hurled at the wall without causing damage to the wall or anything else. This is because if you work as a writer, you are guaranteed moments when you will need to throw something at something. I once threw my pencil sharpener into the back yard, and that was not a good idea because then I had to purchase another pencil sharpener.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Does a writer deserve to be paid?

There's an interesting post at the blog TechCrunch, about how easy it is to use portable media devices for "stealing books." The writer notes the technology known as BitTorrents conveniently enables this act. What's even more interesting is the discussion following the post. One fellow, Chris, who describes himself as a writer, offers some interesting views about compensating writers. He posits that publishers rip us off on contracts, but a reader who illegally acquires a book by the use of technology is doing no harm. Chris believes we should value all readers (desperately seeking readers?) whether they pay for our product or not.

I posted a question on the discussion, asking Chris whether he's paid for what he writes or whether he's been doing the deed for free. I'll let you know if there's a response.

While ivory towers are useful, most of us who try to earn a living by the pen do not have the luxury of an ivory tower. Some of us write full-time, others teach and write on the side, and still others work a non-related day job to be able to write during leisure time.

I obviously love my work--otherwise I wouldn't do it. But I also expect to be paid for content I supply to a publication or Web site. I like royalties from my books. Do you think those who own publications, presses, or Web sites are doing it for free? Should the U.S. follow the suit of countries where government controls the written word, reimbursing journalists and others who write?

I have a hard time wrapping my brain around working for nothing. When grocers fill my bag with free food items and gas stations pump fuel at no charge, when utilities supply me with free water and when cats stop chasing songbirds, I suppose we can all work for free. Until then, you work you should be paid.

Ed. note: In the article at Tech Crunch, since BitTorrents is mentioned, readers should be aware the technology does not cloak users' identities. Numeric Internet addresses are viewable, according to Bram Cohen, BitTorrents developer. Cohen was interviewed by The New York Times. He told the paper he didn't envision people using his technology for copyright infringement. Read our Covering Florida story of an Orlando man facing 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine for participating in a the Elite Torrents network, involving file sharing of music, games, movies and software.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Challenge to geek brains: come up with a solution for copyright registration and release writers from the prison of government monopoly

The Writers Guild of America strike and the recent ruling over content rights for print journalists reflect discord in the entertainment industry and in traditional publishing. In all corners of the content world, dialog is in progress over a number of issues, with new media at the forefront. Who could foresee the impact technology would have on the writing profession? New developments are announced with a frequency akin to the reproduction capabilities of rabbits. The entertainment industry appears unified and well-protected. The publishing industry is anything but.

Years ago, a contract from a periodical was a simple thing. Now, most publications want all possible, foreseeable, future and even maybe rights when they make an agreement with a journalist. Questions abound. Should a writer be paid for content uploaded to a cell phone? Should a writer be compensated if content originally run in print is published on the Web? Should a writer be allowed to pursue financial recompense if he or she didn’t formally register with the U.S. Copyright Office? This last question is one that perplexes and bothers me most of all. The U.S. Copyright Office notes, as I’ve pointed out before, the following:
In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work.

And the monopoly for registration is owned by none other than the federal government.

I fail to see the logic. The government position assumes the only valid means of protecting the potential monetary value of one’s work rests in the government. Anytime something rests in the government, I get a little nervous. The downside of the current copyright registration procedure involves writers like me having to spend time filing forms and (naturally: it’s a government thing) paying to protect something I already own in the first place. And if you’ve ever tried to call the U.S. Copyright Office, you know that is essentially a pipe dream. The line is always, always, always busy. Journalists and other writers are as imprisoned as a felon when it comes to seeking damages from plagiarists who steal the work of others. Lacking an official U.S. Copyright document all a writer can do is demand the work be removed from a Web site, and there doesn’t appear to be much at all you can do if someone lifts lengthy passages for a book.

So here’s my challenge. Geek people, seize opportunity. Come up with a simple database where a writer can pay a fee and register his or her works online. Come up with some means of vetting the writer’s identity. Badger government officials—you know, the ones we elect to allegedly represent us—to determine how to set up the system so it will pass muster in the courts.

As a writer, I am extremely annoyed that the only hope of financial recompense, should someone steal my work, is in government hands and worse, the courts. When judges understand the freelance writing profession, I will look up at the Florida skies and see my hound dog flying wildly, waving to me as he wags his tail with joy, baying at the new feathered friends he’s made.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Authors Guild issues statement about copyright settlement reversal

Posted with permission from The Authors Guild, a statement emailed to members Nov. 29 about the reversal in the Freelance Class-Action settlement:

We received surprising and disappointing news in our freelance class action suit this morning. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, in a 2-1 decision, the district court's approval of the settlement.

That settlement, valued at up to $18 million, was to resolve the copyright infringement claims of freelance writers against database companies, such as Dow Jones and the owners of Lexis-Nexis, that had made digital use of the writers' articles without permission. Plaintiffs and defendants had arrived at settlement in 2005.

The appellate court ruled that the district court lacked jurisdiction over claims relating to unregistered freelance articles. Copyright registration is required to bring a suit for infringement, but since registration is viewed as a formality (comparable, many of us believe, to the requirement that one file a complaint in order to get into court), lawyers on both sides thought the settlement could resolve infringement claims for both registered and unregistered works.

The settlement had been objected to and appealed by a group of freelance writers who thought it failed to allot sufficient funds to the claims of authors of unregistered works. If this decision stands, of course, such claims would be shut out entirely.

The shard of good news is that there is a substantial dissenting opinion by Judge Walker. We are considering our options at the moment. One possibility is to seek an en banc review (a review by all of the judges of the 2nd Circuit) to see whether we can persuade a majority of the court to see things our way.

For more information, visit The Authors Guild on the Web. The Authors Guild is an organization for writers, founded 90 years ago.

Freelance writers’ claims nixed for works published on Internet; NWU president calls court decision ‘an outrage’

The U. S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan voided a settlement on Thursday, resulting in widespread implications for freelance writers. The New York Times reported Judge Chester J. Straub contended in his decision, “… federal copyright law allows claims for damages only by writers who have registered their work with the United States Copyright Office. The vast majority of freelancers did not register, so he said the courts had no jurisdiction over their disputes, and the case should not have been approved as a class-action suit.”

An original agreement had been brokered in 2005 and approved by the courts, whereby publishers would reimburse writers for Web use. Straub apparently contradicts the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2001 that digital reproduction without permission violates the author’s rights.

Straub’s ruling also contradicts information listed in F.A.Q. on the U.S. government Copyright Office site declaring that copyright exists from the moment the work is created. Bear the fine print listed on the U.S. government Copyright Office Web site in mind, however:
Do I have to register with your office to be protected?
No. In general, registration is voluntary. Copyright exists from the moment the work is created. You will have to register, however, if you wish to bring a lawsuit for infringement of a U.S. work. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration.”

Why should I register my work if copyright protection is automatic?Registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney's fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within 5 years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Copyright Registration” and Circular 38b, Highlights of Copyright Amendments Contained in the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (URAA), on non-U.S. works.

The courts typically favor creative workers in the entertainment industry, but when it comes to writers, it’s a sad tale of abandonment and woe. It’s this writer’s opinion that courts have little idea of the intricacies and practices in the publishing industry. Gerard Colby, National Writers Union president, called the latest decision an “outrage,” and he told the Times he hopes the decision can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.