This blog is devoted to remembrances and essays on general topics, including literature and writing. It has evolved over time, and some older posts on this site might reflect a different perspective and purpose.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Steal My Book — Please!

            Ever since I published my mystery, The McHenryInheritance, in July, I’ve been cultivating two fantasies about how the book might make me rich in a hurry.
            The first is that some Hollywood big shot will find it on Amazon, love it, and buy the movie rights for an astronomical amount of money. That hasn’t happened yet, but I’ll let you know when it does.
            My second fantasy comes courtesy of my intellectual property attorney. Among other things, he recommended registering the copyright for the book with the U.S. copyright office. There are a number of reasons for doing so, but one of the better ones is that if the copyright is registered (cost $35), any infringement of said copyright carries a statutory liability of $150,000 per violation. That would be a return of $4,285.71 on each dollar invested in the copyright —better than Bain Capital.

Dealing With the Federal Government

            As far as I know, no one has violated the copyright yet, but hope springs eternal. In order to secure this protection, however, I had to deal with the federal government, and we all know what that means. Or do we?
            Actually, dealing with the copyright office was pretty easy. You go online, and the forms are right there, along with clear and simple explanations of how to use them. You can call up a PowerPoint presentation that will walk you through the process, or you can look at a video tutorial that does the same thing.
            It can all be done on the computer in less than an hour and paid for by credit card. Then they e-mail you a confirmation and a packing slip to enclose when you send them two copies of the item being copyrighted. It’s that easy, and leaves you feeling, if only momentarily, that the federal government is your friend.
            (There was one bit of dissonance, however. The copyright office asks that you don’t send the copyrighted materials by registered mail, but use FedEx instead. I know the Postal Service isn’t technically a federal program any more, but it used to be family, and you’d think the copyright office would show it a little more love.)

Dealing With the Private Sector

            Dealing with the copyright office stood in stark contrast to an experience we had a day later, with the web site of a prominent American company. Linda saw a story on CNN that there had been a recall of Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats owing to a more than acceptable number of metal shards making it into some batches of the cereal. Given that our son considers said product one of the basic food groups, there was a definite local angle.
            Linda went to the Kellogg’s web site, which had a much snappier and livelier home page than the copyright office. What it didn’t have was any useful information. Nowhere on the home page did the words “product recall” appear, so she clicked for the news page. That took her to a bunch of happy-clappy press releases that had nothing to do with the recall.
            After noodling around a while, she found the recall information under a heading that no ordinary person would think of looking under. The information was incomplete, which required more noodling around for a customer service number and a call to get a human being (at least there was one!) who verified that our stash of Mini-Wheats was indeed safe. A lot of wasted time, and we couldn’t help feeling that if the federal government had been running that web site, we’d have had our answer in three minutes.