First of all, your work
is copyright the minute you put it on paper or screen.
What you're talking about is the registration of copyright,
and the manner & costs of doing that will depend
on where in the world you live. Best to google the phrase
"copyright registration" and your country.
You can also put the little copyright symbol, your name
and the date (year) on each page of your ms - if it
makes you feel better.
Second. You can, if it also makes you feel better, register
your copyright for your manuscripts, but quite honestly,
editors have a lots better things to do than to steal
your words and publish them under someone else's name.
Editors think of authors who register copyright as amateurs.
You cannot copyright ideas, only the arrangment of words
on a page - so if you had also come up with Rowling's
idea of an orphan wizard who discovers his true identity
at age 11 and attends a wizard's boarding school, you
couldn't sue her for copyright infringement unless you
could prove that you had actually written the books
before she had, and that significant portions of her
books were identical in wording to yours.
That said, you can't rule out the possibility that someone
might steal your words and credit them as theirs, especially
if you post work on the web. But in that case, registration
may not help. What really helps is being able to prove
when the work was created. If you send out your ms.
and keep copies of the cover letters, as well as any
publishers send you (including rejections), and someone
later steals your work, you have the proof of when the
work was created because other people have seen it and
commented on it.
Last, it's rare that a plagerism case goes to court
- it does happen, but not often - more often what you
end up doing is going to the nastiest, meanest, low-down
and dirtiest talking (but honest and ethical) lawyer
you can find, and get him or her to write a really nasty,
threatening letter to the person who's stolen your work.
They cough up the truth and you get (with luck) some
compensation for the hassle. Or at least get the work
pulled and a public apology.
It happens, but not that often, and in my opinion, registering
copyright isn't necessary or needful. I've never done
it, and as far as I know (and I do keep my eyes open
for it) my work has never been stolen.
A Second Post from
Actually, on a magazine story, the quick answer is yes
and no, not a straight out no. The rights you sell to
a book publisher are different than
the rights you sell to a magazine or periodical.
The all-rights story needs the permission of the rights
owner before you can post it. That's not yours anymore,
since you sold all the rights.
The partial rights stories cannot be posted until the
stories have appeared in the publication who bought
the partial rights. Once that has happened, you can
do whatever you want with the stories, since the rights
are yours, not the publishers. You can resell the stories
to other publications, post it on your website, distribute
it free on the streets if you care to. You don't need
their permission, since they didn't buy all the rights.
They bought first north American serial, or first world
serial, or something like that, and all that gives them
is the right to be the very first to publish the story
in any format. Once they've done that, they have no
more say over your story. You would be wise to include
the name of the publication in which the story appeared
when you post - that's often a courtesy you extend when
the story is republished, and it's often something the
magazine will ask you to do if
you do happen to inform them you're republishing it.
My advice would be to wait until the story has appeared
and the next issue of the magazine
is out - that way you aren't competing with yourself,
and you aren't encroaching on the magazine's market
by offering something for free that they are charging
for. Why should I buy the magazine with your story in
it, if I can read it for free on the website? True,
you don't get any more money out of the deal, but it
does help keep that magazine in business so that you
can sell more stories to them down the road - and that's
a good thing.
Either way, none of the stories should be posted until
after they've first appeared in the publications which
Posting the first chapter of a book on a site is a totally
different thing. A book has a much longer shelf life
than a story in a magazine, and so posting the book
elsewhere will affect sales of the book for a longer
time. A magazine has a shelf life of maybe a month,
to a quarter of a year, tops - then it's done, gone
and the new issue has taken its place.
Second is that publishing part of a book is not the
same as publishing a self-contained story - the chapters
of a book posted on the web can act as a marketing tool,
to get people interested enough in the story to buy
the book. The magazine piece is self-contained, complete
and can't, unless it's part of an anthology in book
form, entice people to buy