Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Famous Last Words

Someday, whether it be when I'm about to leave the house, heading into surgery, or laying on a bed surrounded by loved ones, I'll speak my last words. As I drove away from my home this afternoon, I pondered the fact that, because it's impossible to pin down your exact time of death, you never know what your last words will be. It occurred to me that, if I never saw my kids again, my last words today would be these:

"And I want you to be nice to each other. Or, in the immortal words of Bill and Ted, be excellent to each other."

Yes, because I can't actually trust my kids to treat each other well while I'm out, my last words would have come from a 1980s comedy.

A few other things I've said on my way out the door:

"I know that you know. I want there to be less knowing and more doing."

"And no cooking or using knives while I'm gone."

"No answering the front door. Unless it's your sister. Never mind--she can come in through the garage."

"And if you're on the phone, and the call waiting beeps, answer it and take a message! Don't just ignore it."

"Not until you're done with your dinner."

And occasionally: "I love you!"

Now that I've shared a few of my regulars, I'd like to hear the "last words" you spoke to your family members today.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Copyright Law--a Primer

Attended an interesting workshop at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference this weekend. (Actually, I attended several great workshops!) This one was on copyright law. Sound boring? Not when it's relevant to what you're doing!

In this day and age, when e-publishing is common, and everyone shares everything on the internet, and absolutely everything has stacks upon stacks of copy protection, copyright law is more relevant than ever. So I thought I'd share a little of what I learned.

None of this constitutes legal advice. Get off your butt and pay for it! There--now I hopefully won't get sued. After all, this is second-hand information, and I'm not a copyright lawyer. As far as I know, it's all correct, but play it safe with professional help.

Ideas are not protectable. Only the physical expression of those ideas are protected. In other words, you can't copyright the idea that zombie monkeys invade the White House and eat the Vice-president's brain. But if you actually write a song, play, screenplay, poem, story, novel, about or paint a picture of it, that can be copyrighted.

These rights protect you, and then your heirs, from illegal use for the duration of your lifetime plus 70 years. So make sure you name in your will who gets the rights to what you publish, because it matters for 70 years.

After that, it becomes public domain, meaning everyone can use it. FYI: everything published prior to January 1st, 1923, is now in the public domain. That means anyone can use it, copy it, or whatever, for whatever, anytime they want.

It doesn't matter how many words you use--if something's under copyright, get permission to use it! An exception to this is if you are producing a satire or a parody. Parody is when you imitate something with the intent to ridicule it. Vampires Suck, for example, is a parody of Twilight. Satire is when you ridicule or copy something with the intent of causing change. Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal was satire. Another example is the NOBAMA bumper stickers you see. They use Obama's copyrighted artwork (you know--the stars and stripes in the "O"?), but get away with it because they are satirical.

That's it for today. Next time I'll talk about why I'm a proponent of Creative Commons copyright licenses.