I want to write a book about an idea/story I've had for many years that I find many will truly enjoy when furnished out; however, I don't want this to be "open-source"; I don't want anyone to be able to re-use it as their own and profit like it's their work (as a Creative Commons kind of license).

Is there any way I can "protect" ideas/characters without a copyright? Any simpler, easier, freer way?

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    Just a side piece of advice: I often hear beginning authors stressing about someone else stealing their ideas. It's not worth worrying about. As a new author, your problem is to get more than a dozen people to know you exist! Spend your time worrying about how to write something good enough that anyone would want to steal it. Worry about how to get enough people to read it that there's a chance one of them would try to steal it. When you're a best-selling author, THEN is he time to worry about people stealing your ideas. – Jay Aug 14 '15 at 4:52
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    Here is a Forbes article answering your question about copyrighting characters: forbes.com/sites/oliverherzfeld/2012/11/08/… – user5645 Aug 14 '15 at 7:25

Copyright is free. Assuming you're living in a country that's a signatory to the Berne Convention, which you almost certainly are, your work is copyrighted as soon as you record your ideas.

Registering copyright may cost something, depending on where you live, but it's of dubious value, really. In the US, for example, registering copyright allows you to sue for punitive as well as compensatory damages, but it's really pretty rare for a copyright case to go that far anyway.

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    And in any case, the cost to register the copyright of a book in the U.S. is $35, and it requires filling out a form on a web site. I don't know how rich or poor you are, but $35 doesn't seem like a huge amount of money to me. The form is a bit complicated, I didn't time how long it took me to fill it out the last time I registered a copyright, but even if you're not familiar with it and have to stumble through and look at a lot of help screens, I can't imagine it would take more than an hour or so. – Jay Aug 14 '15 at 4:46
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    I was with you until you inserted an opinion about the usefulness of copyright registration. – Goodbye Stack Exchange Aug 14 '15 at 5:24
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    Do you know anyone who's ever taken advantage of the extra protections offered by registration? Have you ever HEARD of anyone taking advantage of the extra protections? I haven't. – Kate S. Aug 14 '15 at 7:20
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    Read this: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_registration In short: register copyright, if you live and publish in the US; register unpublished works (e.g. as proof of creation date) if you live elsewhere and registration is possible; you need not register if you live elsewhere and your work is published shortly after creation (e.g. you had a contract when you where writing it). – user5645 Aug 14 '15 at 7:20
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    The $35 fee is fine if you write novels, but for people writing short stories it could add up fast. Also, the US is about the only country I know of where registration offers ANY benefits other than providing prima facie evidence of authorship, which could be easily established in many other ways. – Kate S. Aug 14 '15 at 7:32

Once you write something, you officially own the copyright to it. That basically means that nobody else can use your story, characters, or setting to create their own story, because it would be considered a derivative work. Basic copyright laws protect the owner from such acts.

To help ensure that other people do not assume that your work is "open source", simply add the following tag: "Copyright 2015 by Author Name". By doing this, you make a public declaration that your work is under copyright protection and warns others that they cannot freely reuse your content.

Part of your question also mentions the word "ideas". You should be aware that ideas themselves cannot be protected under copyright. If you come up with an idea to write a story about a wife shooting her cheating husband, there is nothing that will prevent somebody else using that idea to write a story about different people in a different setting.


The best way to prevent anyone from stealing your idea, is to have a rubbish idea, and write it badly.

Anything more than that and what you write will become part of the canon and people will build from it.

You're protected from someone stealing the details of your story, but that isn't generally how work is copied.

I remember when I first saw Iron man, thinking that I'd really like to see a story that was based on Pepper Potts. with all of the other mayhem going on in the background.

In that context I may have an issue calling her Pepper Potts, and the superhero couldn't be Iron man, but I could write something that built on that story by changing the names to protect the guilty (i.e. me)

Romeo and Juliet, is probably one of the most known stories in the world, it has been copied, rehashed, built on, stolen from. Imagine what we would have lost from the world if Shakespeare had been worried about someone stealing his ideas.

Stop worrying, get writing. If its good, people will steal ideas from it, take it as a compliment, and move on to the next thing they can steal.

We're here to be creative, we take ideas from the canon, build on them, and give something new back for others to build from. If you don't like that thought, go be a bricklayer.

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