First off, thank you so much for all you do to help your fellow writers!
I have a question, and maybe you can answer it. I was perusing the day’s writing jobs that you are kind enough to send, and came across one that involved writing articles about a game that I play. It sounded great and I was getting excited until I saw a line about “copyright transfer upon receipt of payment.” My brain came screeching to a halt. Why, as a writer, would somebody want to to do that? I mean, yeah, it’s a couple extra bucks, but you can’t claim the piece as your own, or use it in a portfolio for future work… or can you? Can you show a piece that was ghost-written and is there a way to claim it? What are the rules on this?
Thanks for any help you can give,
Glad you find this site useful, thanks.
There’s often a lot of confusion about the actual value of a copyright, both for authors and publishers. In this instance it may be that super cautious lawyers insist that the copyright be held by the publisher, or maybe they have hopes of publishing some sort of guide, or, well who knows.
Which brings me to your questions. First, let me ask you one. Assuming you wrote several articles for this site, are those articles something you’re likely to want to use again? Think seriously about this for a moment.
In my experience the article I write today for a website or a blog or a magazine is unlikely to be something I’d want to use again. That’s not always the case, of course, but it often is. Some questions to include in your contemplation would include:
- Would the piece, exactly as it is, make a likely candidate for selling second or reprint rights? If it is, you want the copyright.
- If you were writing your memoir is the article something you’d be likely to include? If so, you want the copyright.
- Would having this particular article posted on your website be truly impressive? If so, you want the copyright.
On the other hand, if the article doesn’t fit this sort of criteria, the copyright doesn’t do you any good – so why hang on to it?
Now, remembering I’m not a lawyer, I’ve linked to articles I’ve written but don’t hold the copyright on and, on occasion, I’ve gotten permission to reprint (not sell) my writing as a sample. And I’ve claimed credit for ghostwritten material just by saying so – with and without links.
I do this carefully of course, considering the nature of the agreement. I won’t, for example, tell you some of the author’s I’ve ghostwritten books for unless I have their specific permission. Articles for websites are a bit different. Linking has never been a problem for me.
Has anyone had trouble linking to articles they’ve written even though they no longer hold the copyright?
Write well and often,