Essays, Stories, Adventures, Dreams
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
Words Matter, No Matter What
Maybe some words attain the distinction of earning copyright protection, maybe some words are so vulgar that they are not accepted in polite conversation, and maybe some often-repeated words are so vapid that they are dismissed out of hand. But no matter what the reason, words matter.
As children, we were taught that sticks and stones could break our bones, but names could never hurt us. We didn’t question the wisdom of that counsel from our parents. After all, they were merely trying to soften the blows that would inevitably land in the exchange of careless insults hurled by other juveniles. In retrospect, that folksy cliché was not true then and is not true today. Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can break your heart. Or your bank account.
A broken heart is a figment of speech, but the hurt is real. False words can lead to libel suits, and costly financial settlements. Careless words can lead to charges of slander. Words matter.
Protecting the very usage of certain words for the benefit of individual intellectual property rights runs deeper than we imagine. At no uncertain expense, trademarks are protected by law and although most often the concept of a trademark suggests a proprietary symbol, trademark protection also includes certain words used to identify those products, hence an exclusive right to those words when used in the proprietary context. ® is the accepted symbol of trademark protection. A more detailed description of what is implied by trademark can be found in Wikipedia and elsewhere.
A trademark, trade mark, or trade-markis a recognizable sign, design, or expression which identifies products or services of a particular source from those of others,although trademarks used to identify services are usually called service marks.The trademark owner can be an individual, business organization, or any legal entity.
Other examples of casual use of words can be found in the esoterica about precise language that sometimes impacts us directly. From one on-line source, a distinction is made about a word that could easily lead to legal entanglements and presumed moral standing of the person or persons using that word.
The term “creator” as applied to authors implicitly compares them to a deity (“the creator”). The term is used by publishers to elevate authors' moral standing above that of ordinary people in order to justify giving them increased copyright power, which the publishers can then exercise in their name. We recommend saying “author” instead. However, in many cases “copyright holder” is what you really mean. These two terms are not equivalent: often the copyright holder is not the author. To dispel any doubt, © has been incorporated into a special alphabet to designate the symbol for copyright.
Don’t you just love a lawyerly battle for supremacy? But in the final analysis, words do matter. A copyrighted quotation by the late Robin Williams added emphasis to the issue. He said, “Regardless of what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”
A segue into copyright protections (may) also include photographs, charts, graphs, and memes. It is difficult to know what is protected by copyright and what is not, but we are putting ourselves in legal jeopardy if we go beyond established boundaries mandated by law. In other words, we may share thoughts, memes, photos, and data with anyone of our choosing—unless the law says that we cannot.
No Matter What, Words Matter
(message intended for embedding on book cover)
The magnificent Matterhorn shown above was the planned book cover for an upcoming book emphasizing key words to make the point that not all copyrighted words and photos are permitted in self-published books, if the publisher chooses to contest their use based on the presumption of copyright protection enjoyed by someone else. So, instead of being permitted to share the words of Robin Williams verbatim, the Footloose Forester had to improvise a paraphrase, “No Matter What, Words Matter” and to substitute a photo of the Matterhorn that was not under copyright protection.
Personal photo of Matterhorn at sunrise (photo credit: Dick Pellek)
Despite the fact that the photo of the Matterhorn that he had originally chosen was a stock photo and not under copyright protection, he lost his argument with the publisher and had to settle for a substitute. Let’s see if his message intended for embedding on the book cover itself, raises a challenge of a copyrighted idea. The jury is still out but a new day beckons. In his early morning dream, the Footloose Forester imagined the likely scenario: wake up, get up, stand up, suit up, buckle up, show up, and speak up.