Sometimes the icy finger of dread creeps down my back … like, for instance, when I read the “disclaimer” my formatter added to my manuscript on my behalf spelling out that this book was a work of fiction — that characters, places, themes and the like are of my own wonderings and not based off the real life happenings of others …
But still … we live in legal times. People can be “sue happy” at the glimmer of a windfall and this is true whether you’re insanely successful or selling merely two digits worth of stock.
I can say — in all sincerity — my book was totally made up. My characters, save for Jenna who has mother’s spirit, are fictional beings living in the land of make-believe. But, that doesn’t mean someone somewhere someday might not think otherwise.
We hear about it all the time. And it’s not just the instance in which a story might strum the strings of another’s reality … sometimes it’s simply your book seeming to them a lot like their book — a book that may or may not be published, a book that may or may not be copyrighted … sometimes, it’s simply a matter of them having the idea and nothing more.
Stephenie Meyer was sued a few times over for her saga. Once, before the finishing of New Moon … a college friend watched the Twilight movie and felt that the story was actually her’s … one that seemed to have many, many similarities to a short story she wrote in college. Another, was after the release of Breaking Dawn when a relatively unknown author claimed that some scenes of the fourth installment were plucked directly from her own works — works that she had posted online over time but never traditionally or self published — like, the wedding scene or when Bella and Edward do it on the beach. To her, those moments belonged to her book … and Stephenie Meyer with all her money was the “bad guy” … the thief … she was accused of plagiarism.
The internet has made being an author a dangerous place. And the novelty of “no original idea” has taken a sharp right turn.
Can you protect yourself? No. Not from what I’ve seen … not from what I’ve looked up. Save for a little blurb on the story being a work of fiction through and through, you’re screwed. If someone wants a slice … if someone feels wronged by you and your writing … tough shit — that is, tough shit for you.
Thoughts and ideas are not gadgets and things … you cannot patent them … and that works both ways. While someone may not be able to patent their idea that they never did anything with … you, as an author, cannot patent it either. However, you can copyright it. File it with the Library of Congress. But, it’s not a fool-proof safe guard … loop holes, legal loop holes, exist.
And it’s worrisome, because whether you make bucketfuls of cash or not … you may someday find yourself served.
Do you ever worry? How do you protect yourself and your work?