Three weeks before the horror of 9-11 my older son finished his Eagle Project, a reprinting of a World War II book for our service people who are in harm’s way. For a thirteen year old, it was a monumental feat that had taken over three years to finish: a three years that started after he had received a release from the holder of the copyright for the original book. Even though the book had been out of print for over fifty years, my son learned that getting the release of the copyright from the publisher was not an easy task.
At first he resented how carefully the publisher guarded the copyrights to the book, but over time he came to appreciate the concern the printers had in guarding their ability to own the original work. And about a month after the devastation in Manhattan, when the Chaplain’s office at the Pentagon called and ordered a million copies of the new book, my son understood the need for strong copyright protection even more; he had moved to the other side of the publishing desk.
In Orange County, we have a higher number of young performers, writers and other artists than what many other communities enjoy. Several of my Scouts, and an amazing number of my wife’s former students, constantly entered the arena of creative arts. Our kids go to work in professional sports, computer games, movies, theater, publishing, music, and every other area of communication – and they all rely on copyright protection to benefit from their work.
In this age of instant exposure, wherein young people are learning how to send out creative work to be seen by thousands with the flick of a computer key, copyright protection is more important than it has ever been. It is never too early to get a young person started in protecting his or her work. Without a copyright, hard creative work can easily become part of the public domain, without the opportunity to make a dime from it.
Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Child’s Creative Work
So what can parents to do? Children should learn that, from their very first creative efforts to the time when they are receiving their first award statues on stage, nothing leaves the computer without a copyright © on every page of their work, no matter what medium it is. For even better protection, it is a good idea to have the precocious Picasso or the fearless Faulkner spend some time on the government’s website (copyright.gov). This has a good walk-through for a budding artist who wants to learn something about securing a copyright before speaking with an attorney.
Before even opening a website or setting a time to see a lawyer, there are a couple of rules that parents should follow with a child who is starting to generate any kind of work for the marketplace:
1) Nothing goes out of the home, or off the computer, by courier, post or any electronic means, without having a copyright or trademark protection affixed.
2) The young author or artist should never present a piece anywhere, whether to a market or to a mentor, without a clear understanding of who will keep the copyright; this agreement should be reflected on the piece with appropriate markings, as well as by written agreement, before being traded or placed.
3) The future Fellini should not sign any agreements without having them reviewed by an attorney who is familiar with both copyrights and the world of contracts for intellectual property, which is a universe unto itself.
My son’s copyright experience with his first work in publishing has been valuable to him as he has grown in his efforts. Now working on his third book for children, he and his illustrator have learned without the perils of lost rights that an early use of copyright protection cements the benefits that the creative person brings to the marketplace. May your child’s lessons in publishing be as painless as theirs have been.
Hunsberger Law is a full-service estate and business planning legal firm serving families all over Orange County. Connect with Don Hunsberger by calling (714) 663-8000 or visiting www.hunsbergerlaw.com.