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What every Freelance Writer & Copywriter Needs to Know about Copyright

Our working environment has changed a lot over the last few years and drastically over the last one. The digital economy is flourishing and shifting the way we work forever. It’s not new that along with the digital revolution we see professions and disciplines being born and other rising generating job and income opportunities. 

Which ones? Well if you are reading this article you already know one of the most prominent ones. If you ask any professional working on digital marketing what is the most valuable online asset for a business, you’ll get pretty the same answer. Content. And what are the top 3 the most valuable professionals? Writers/Copywriters will certainly be an answer. 

For writers and copywriters this is their opportunity to negotiate the terms of the work in all aspects, giving them the chance to achieve the thing many of us always wanted. Self employment, financial independence, flexible working hours and work from anywhere is at the reach of their hands. And this is how we see the online freelancing professional blooming.  Such freedom though, comes with certain responsibilities, skills and knowledge that a freelance writer should acquire to be successful. For that preparation and self- education is fundamental. 

The most important element of a freelance writer’s job is to write original articles that the readers will find interesting enough to read. The second one is to get ownership of their copyright, know their rights under the copyright laws and how to protect them. 

What is original work? 

According to the copyright laws, a work that has required significant mental activity to create, and is, therefore, considered original, automatically becomes its creator’s intellectual property. 

Recent studies reveal that there are over 5 billion blogs and 7 million blog posts are published every day! Such a thing leaves you wondering, are we honestly creating so much original content on a daily basis? Obviously no. 

Every writer is aware of the practises out there to plagiarize or citate content from other authors, either because they’ve done it, or because they have seen it done to them, or both. Both practises though can be copyright infringement cases, meaning you are not producing an original work, thus not entitled to copyright over it. 

To make sure you are creating a work entitled to copyright, you need to make sure your article is not infringing on someone else copyright, and that you have actually created an original work. To do that, remember two things

  1. You should be mindful of how to use someone else’s work. If you just change a few sentences and don’t give credits to the author, you are plagiarising. 

  2. In case you use work from another author, the best practise is to add a citation. Now if you use too many citations in your work, it’s not original anymore.   

To be certain that you are creating original work, use other authors’ work for inspiration and spend more time to work the outline of your piece to express your point of view. That’s the reason why you became a writer in the first place right?

What is copyright?

Otherwise known as “author’s right,” copyright is a legal term used to describe the rights that creators have over their intellectual property. Copyright means “the right to copy,” therefore, only the creator – or people permitted by the creator – have the right to reproduce the work.

As a creator of original work, you are awarded copyright automatically when you produce a work that is in a tangible form (i.e. blog post, article, social post, etc.). However, registering your copyright gives you additional legal protection. This is because you may need to provide proof of ownership (or strong evidence of it) in a court of law when someone uses, copies, or distributes your work without permission.

And now what?

At this point, you have created your original work, got proof of ownership for it and now as the rightful owner you are ready to go secure a sale for it. This point is critical for you as you need to understand the rights you have over your work to negotiate a beneficial deal for you. Read carefully the contracts passed to you by your collaborators or self publishing services or even social media and DO NOT give away the ownership of your copyright. 

Work for Hire

When signing a work for hire contract you are passing all the ownership of your copyright to the person who hired you. This practically means that you can no longer make any decisions or negotiate deals and income for your work. This is the reason why most of the people interested in your work would like you to do, so they can benefit from your work as rightful owners. And this is exactly why you should avoid it. 

First & Secondary serials rights

To unlock the benefits of passive income first and secondary serials rights are two terms that you should familiarize yourself with. 

As the owner of the work when closing a deal, you should make sure that you’ve only just agreed on the right to publish, and have not sold your rights to your article or piece.

To put it simply, this means that your collaborator has paid for the right to publish your original work for the first time in a specific location. 

And at this point, you are able to unlock the passive income deriving from your secondary serial rights. As the rightful owner,  you can modify, adapt or alter in any way you see fit in order to re-sell and publish your article or piece generating income from your original work. 

To sum up, to live the dream of self employment and financial freedom, you have to educate yourself on the copyright laws and the rights you have as a creator of original work.  Be very careful on the terms of your agreement to make sure you are not passing your rights over to someone else, as you will be passing over all rights to generate income from it too. 

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