Eva van Emden, Freelance Editor

Certified Copy Editor and Proofreader


November 2, 2016

Some notes on copyright

These are a few summary notes that I started writing when I read Lesley Ellen Harris’s Canadian Copyright Law (see below for more information about the book). This is just a bit of basic, introductory information and doesn’t include lots of good stuff like the categories of fair dealing.

Types of intellectual property

  1. Patent: devices, formulas, processes, or improvements to existing patents.
  2. Trademark: word, symbol, logo, or distinctive shape used to distinguish a product.
  3. Industrial design: shape, pattern, or ornamentation.
  4. Copyright: protects text, pictures, art, audio recordings, film, software, etc.
  5. Confidential information and trade secrets: ideas and information that should be kept confidential because of the terms of a relationship.

Copyright law in Canada

  • Falls under federal jurisdiction, under the Copyright Act, enacted in 1924.
  • Major amendments to the Copyright Act were made in 1988 (Bill C-60), 1997 (Bill C-32), and 2012 (Bill C-11: Copyright Modernization Act).
  • This book does not discuss the “copyright pentalogy,” five supreme court rulings on copyright made on July 12, 2012. See The Copyright Pentalogy: How the Supreme Court of Canada Shook the Foundations of Canadian Copyright Law, edited by Michael Geist, for a discussion of the meaning of these five cases. Available as a p-book, e-book, or free PDF.
  • How copyright works: property rights versus copyright protection. There’s a right to physical property, but also rights to intangible property. When a user buys a book, they have certain rights: to read or give away the book, but other rights are protected: to reproduce or translate the book.

Creations eligible for copyright protection

A work is protected by copyright as soon as it is created, as long as it fulfills the following criteria:
  1. Original: It is a new work, not a copy.
  2. Fixed: It is set down in some reasonably durable form: written down (even if it’s on a napkin), recorded, saved on a hard drive, etc.
  3. Creator is a citizen or legal resident of Canada or another copyright treaty country, or the work is first published in a copyright treaty country.
There are some special rules for “Other subject-matter,” which means sound recordings, performances, and broadcasts.

International copyright law

Canada can extend copyright protection within countries that offer reciprocal protection to Canadian works. The following are international copyright treaties:
  1. Berne Convention
  2. Universal Copyright Convention (UCC)
  3. World Trade Organization (WTO)
  4. WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT)
  5. WIPO Performances and Phonographs Treaty (WPPT) (for sound recordings and performances)

How to get copyright protection

  1. Protection is automatic

    Under Canadian copyright law, there are no formalities to obtaining copyright: it the protection exists as soon as the work comes into existence. You don’t have to register the work, deposit it, mark it with a special symbol, or include any particular statement. All countries that subscribe to the Berne Treaty (this includes Canada, the U.S., and the E.U.) have to allow automatic copyright when the work is created.
  2. Adding a copyright symbol and statement (optional)

    • Makes it absolutely clear that the material is protected.
    • Provides the name of the copyright holder to people seeking permissions.

    Format of a copyright notice

    The copyright notice should include the © symbol, the year of first publication, and the name of the copyright owner. Optionally, you can add the years of major revisions, or use a range of years.
  3. Registration and deposit (optional)

    You can register your work with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO). CIPO copyright database search. (Results for “Life of Pi.”)
  4. “Poor man’s copyright”

    This method of proving ownership of a work seems to have entered folklore. The idea is that you put a copy of the work into an envelope and mail it to yourself. You leave the envelope sealed until you open it in court to prove that the work existed on the postmarked date. Skeptics point out that an obvious way to cheat is to mail yourself an unsealed envelope and put the work in later. Harris’s book describes poor man’s copyright as a method of providing evidence of existence and ownership, but suggests using registered mail, which presumably requires the envelope to be sealed, or mailing it directly to your lawyer.
  5. Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office

    Copyright protection is also automatic in the United States. However, you can choose to register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office. One of the benefits of doing this is that they accept deposits, which can help you prove a case down the road.
  6. Library and Archives Canada deposit

    Library and Archives Canada (LAC) requires copies of publications to be deposited, but this has nothing to do with copyright.
  7. Other depositing services

    Professional organizations and writers’ unions may provide depositing services. Using such a service will not cause you to be registered in the Canadian copyright database, but it might help you prove ownership of a work.

International copyright law

International copyright laws are relevant when you distribute your work outside of Canada, or use works created outside the country.

International copyright treaties

There is no international copyright law, just agreements between countries. In copyright treaties, each country agrees to give citizens of other signing countries the same protection they give their own citizens. One exception is for length of the copyright term.

Berne Convention

  • Canada is a member, which means that Canada’s Copyright Act has to meet the levels of protection specified in the Convention, and that Canada protects the rights of creators from countries that belong to the Berne Convention.
  • The text and a list of member countries is at Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.
  • The Berne Convention specifies automatic copyright protection. Once a creator in a member country has copyright, copyright protection is automatically granted in all member countries. Berne Convention countries are not allowed to require any formalities for obtaining copyright.

Other international conventions

Material protected by copyright

Not protected:
  • Ideas
  • Facts
Copyright law protects the expression of ideas and facts, but not the facts themselves.

Additional resources: Canadian law

Lesley Ellen Harris: Canadian Copyright Law
ISBN: 978-1-118-0751-8
October 2013, 368 pp.

Additional resources: U.S. law

September 30, 2016

Editorial fingerprints

Ideally, editing is invisible. Typos are corrected, small errors of fact pointed out, plot howlers averted, and the end result is a seamless, polished work that doesn’t betray any hint of multiple minds at work. Usually when I read books that I didn’t work on, I see text that seems to have sprung fully formed out of the author’s mind, but once in a while I see, not a scar exactly, but perhaps a band-aid.

In an excellently edited, smart, well-written thriller, the protagonist releases the safety catch on his Glock. Aha! I said. The Glock doesn’t have a safety catch. But a few pages later, there’s a passing reference to the gun being “modified.” What do you think? Author’s original vision or editorial band-aid?

I laughed out loud when I came across a sentence in another book that read, “Some people say insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome.” I bet there was a query on that manuscript that said, “Actually, [Albert Einstein/Mother Teresa/Benjamin Franklin/Leonardo da Vinci] probably didn’t say this. This quote seems to be attributed to various people without any evidence. I’ve edited to read ‘some people say’ instead. OK?” Dubious quote provenances are the bane of fact checking.

And on rare occasions, a disagreement bursts right out into the open. On the copyright page of Garner on Language and Writing, the eight-line American Bar Association policy statement is supplemented by an exemplary plain language rewrite titled “How Bryan Garner wanted the statement to read.”

Picture of the copyright page of Garner on Language and Writing
From Garner on Language and Writing by Bryan Garner.

It’s not about the turtle—or the elephants either

It’s been six months since Sir Terry Pratchett’s death, and I never did finish my thoughts.

I started reading him in my late teens, as I worked my way through a friend’s book collection. It took me a little while to warm up to him, but by the time I’d read Lords and Ladies, I was hooked. There is so much more there than funny footnotes, dwarf bread, and oograh.

I’ve met other Pratchett fans here and there—fellow students, the property manager of our old apartment—and every time it’s like discovering a common friend. People have their favourite characters. I’m partial to police commander Vimes in Night Watch, Thud, and Snuff, with his passionate sense of justice. But my favourite stories are the ones about the witch Granny Weatherwax with her goats, and her bees, and her herbs, who traded any possibility of normality and belonging to pursue knowledge instead.

It happens that I just read his collection of nonfiction A Slip of the Keyboard recently. Pratchett argued patiently and reasonably that people in the U.K. should be allowed to have the choice of assisted dying, and it seems that some change has come about.

Neil Gaiman on Terry Pratchett, from his wonderful introduction to Slip of the Keyboard.

June 19, 2016

How can I protect my work before sending it for editing?

Sometimes writers ask how they can protect their intellectual property before sending it to an editor. Register the copyright? Write a contract? Here’s what I tell them.

Choose an editor you trust

The most important thing is to choose an editor you trust and feel comfortable with. Your editor is bound by professional ethics to respect your privacy and your ownership of the manuscript. Make sure the person you’re thinking of hiring is a legitimate practitioner. Do an online search for their name and contact information and make sure their information checks out. Make sure their communications with you sound reasonable. You can also discuss the work on the phone, ask for references, see if the editor’s LinkedIn connections look believable, and find out if they belong to a professional organization.

Put your expectations in writing

Although a good editor will respect your ownership rights, there’s no harm in writing a simple letter of agreement or contract that states that the editor cannot share the manuscript with any third party without your explicit permission and that you retain full rights. Editors Canada has a sample editing contract that you could add this to.

Use good computer security

As well as taking precautions to make sure you don’t lose your work to a computer crash, you should also consider computer security. If you are very concerned about security, consider encrypting your manuscript before you store it in a cloud storage service or send it via email.

Understand that you already have copyright protection

It’s important to understand that under Canadian and U.S. law,* you automatically have copyright on your manuscript as soon as your work is written down. Although you can register your work with the Copyright Board of Canada, you don’t need to do that to secure your rights. (If you do decide to register your work, it probably makes more sense to register at the time that you publish, when the manuscript is in its final form and you are releasing it into the wild.)
*In all countries that are members of the Berne Convention, copyright comes into being automatically, without the creator having to register their work.

June 18, 2016

Editors Canada Conference 2016: Jessica Oman on a simple growth plan for your business

Greedy chipmunk
“I’m sure I can fit that in.”
(Photo by Kaarina Dillabough. Some rights reserved.)
“Get Booked Solid” was the title of this presentation. Irresistible. I couldn’t let a conference go by without attending at least one talk about marketing my services.

Four main errors freelancers make

Jessica suggested that most freelancers who aren’t happy with the amount of work they’re finding are making four mistakes:
  1. allowing the feast or famine cycle
  2. marketing in a nontargeted way
  3. applying marketing strategies inconsistently
  4. not having a plan

Some better ideas

Offer value up front. Most people you talk to don’t need you now. To keep them from forgetting you, offer them something of value right away. Talk about the challenges they have in their work, and then offer them something to help them with that problem, even if it’s a link to a blog post. You can also give away a report or a guide, a sample edit, or a free consultation.

Follow up with your leads (a lead is someone who has expressed an interest in your service). Send them relevant information or case studies about people in their industry or find other things you can give them that will be helpful. Jessica suggests that she usually talks to people about five times before they start working together.

Convey the transformation that your service will bring to their business. Always look for ways to communicate how your service will make their lives easier. (This is relevant to price, as well. If a client is convinced that you’re going to add a lot of value to their business, they won’t balk at your rates.) Do this by sharing testimonials about what you did and how it helped your client. You can also share case histories about other companies who improved their business by hiring editors. Or you can share stories about companies who didn’t hire editors and suffered public disasters as a result (using fear to help sell your service).

Identify your ideal customer:

  • editing tasks;
  • medium;
  • subject matter;
  • field;
  • audience; and
  • demographic details of the customer.
Find out where your ideal customers hang out, and go there. Also, introduce yourself as the editor who works for your ideal customer. Many of us are generalists who work on a variety of materials, but saying so is just not memorable. Jessica suggests that you introduce yourself as the editor you want to be for the best chance of having the work you want come to you.

Be consistent in your marketing efforts, and measure the results:

  • number of leads;
  • number of customers;
  • conversion rate (leads who turn into customers);
  • average customer value (how much they spend);
  • length of retention; and
  • whatever else is meaningful to you.

Avoid thinking and acting from a scarcity perspective where you take jobs that are not ideal because you’re afraid you won’t get anything else. Try to run your business from a perspective of abundance where you can afford to give something away, and you can afford to hold out for your ideal client.