When I was starting out as a professional writer, taking workshops or just chatting around the cafeteria table, the question was a sure sign that you had an amateur on your hands:
“But what if an editor steals my stuff?”
These same newbies were more obsessed with where and how they should type their “© by…” line than they were with writing something steal-able.
“Copyright is automatic,” I’d sniff smugly, longing to add, “Believe me, you have nothing to worry about.”
Of course, in those days, the IBM Selectric was the most advanced “word processor” available.
Email hadn’t been born and the Internet was in diapers.
You mailed your article to your editor, maybe even couriered it — or faxed it if the publication was particularly fancy.
Today, editors (and bloggers and other writers) do steal your stuff, because it’s so easy, and because notions of right and wrong are in flux.
At the same time, thanks to the same technology that makes theft so commonplace, copyright law has become harder to understand.
If you’re a writer, however, you have to at least try.