Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Intellectual rights, my butt

You can blame my boss for this entry, because she came in to the office with a sheet of gold-foil stampy things--some kind of faux Easter seals or something--and asked me if I wrote letters. Because I'm always writing in a notebook, and it must be letters, right? So I told her no, I was writing a novel, and we laughed, and I told her about Nano and all. And she said, "Oh, you'll have to let me read it when you're done" and I said I would when it was published one day, and then she got a funny look on her face.

"You know, I don't care, but don't let anyone else know you're writing a book during working hours. Because if they found out, the college can claim intellectual rights to the book."

I've heard this before. The argument goes that since the writer is being paid for the job, everything they produce while being paid should belong to the employer. I've heard that some companies have even latched onto ideas that their employees have had, because the employees must have had the ideas on the job and therefore the employers own them. The ideas, not the employees. Although it's a fine line at that point.

So, can the college claim The Taste of Magic is their intellectual property? Will they? I don't know why they'd bother--it's a fantasy novel that isn't all that well written (I'd love to be a great writer, but I know I'm not and I'm okay with just being a writer who writes fun books with appealing characters), and mediocre fantasy novels are a dime a dozen. No, actually, they're free. Take one. I have a bunch.

But I'd rather burn the manuscript than let some entity claim it's theirs because I wrote it on the clock. And let's just split some hairs about that too. Sometimes I write on the clock. Most of the time I don't. Do parts of the book belong to the college and the rest belong to me? What about revisions? I always do revisions at home. The college is welcome to the rough draft--it's certainly not worth jack. And the characters, world, and most of the plot was invented at home on my own time. Some plot twists came to me at work, but plot twists are worthless on their own.

So no, I don't think the college, or any other entity, owns my books. I own my creative output no matter when or where it's produced. If the college dislikes me writing on the clock, they can fire me. They can't take my book.

14 comments:

Catherine J Gardner said...

I never do any writing at work. ;)

Jamie Eyberg said...

I don't work, all I do is write. Solved that problem.

K.C. Shaw said...

Lol to both of you!

Just remember, anytime I mention in my blog that I wrote at work, I was lying. Because I just want to make everyone jealous.

Jamie Eyberg said...

wink, wink, nod, nod, say no more.

K.C. Shaw said...

Actually, I'm writing letters. *nudge nudge*

Aaron Polson said...

Um...if I *did* write at work, I would just claim it as research. I do teach writing, after all...heh.

K.C. Shaw said...

The best of both worlds!

I just give tests. I can't really claim I'm writing tests, though.

alexonthenet said...

I was actually talking to a professor about a similar issue. He was using a lot of his office hours to work on his next book about Islam. The book is his and the college has no right to it but he does mention that he is a professor there so nobody harasses him. So if you do get published just mention that you're a student at whatever college. Should solve the problem, more or less...

K.C. Shaw said...

Unfortunately, I'm not a student. I work full time as a test proctor. But they can't prove I wrote anything at all at work. Um, unless they read my blog. But no one sensible gets their facts from blogs, right?

Jamie Eyberg said...

I know nothing..(Whistles and walks away)

K.C. Shaw said...

*penguin wave* You never saw anything....

Lertulo said...

Every time I've signed with a new company, I've been required to disclose any prior art that's *mine* to ensure the company doesn't get its hands on it. And I've always got a list: I code games and utilities at home, and very often I've brought bits and pieces of that technology into the office to help with work.

Importantly, I *never* let the transfer of data go the other way: work code stays at work. And I *never* work on my own stuff during office hours (unless I'm on vacation), and *never* owrk on my stuff at the office (even if I'm there after hours).

About the furthest I've ever bent this was that I once used a corporate laptop to work on my own project, while I was on a 6-hour flight. Being severed from the net, there was no way for me to work on my real job, so it was that or be idle.

I'd be very wary of using your time on the clock to write on your personal projects. Not for the IP rights, which as you point out are silly, but because you're being paid to be attentive to the task at hand.

Lertulo said...

In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that I hypocritically read your article, and posted my response, from my desk. :)

K.C. Shaw said...

Ha, busted!

The difference here is that I only write during downtime. There's a lot of it during my job. Half the week I'm sitting at a desk answering the phone and taking care of minor things that come up during the day. Some days I'm very busy, most days I'm not. I can surf the net (which I'm not supposed to do) or I can stare into space, or I can write.

The other half of the week, I'm proctoring tests. That sounds impressive, but it mostly just means I'm giving tests out to students and filing tests that are taken. I sharpen a lot of pencils. The rest of the time, I can either stare into space or write.

I always do my job first, of course! But I refuse to stare into the middle-distance the rest of the time.