Thursday, May 03, 2007

Ideas Don't Have a Copyright

Reader Debbie Moose sent me this email this week:

"A friend of mine who is a freelance writer (as I am) has confronted an issue that concerns me both on her behalf and for my own future work. I would welcome your advice and experience.My friend suggested a story to a publication where she was a frequent contributor and which her editor liked. They discussed plans at length. Then the editor said that when the idea was presented at a staff meeting, the department liked the idea and would likely assign it to a staff member. My friend would be given a "kill fee."It's my understanding that a kill fee is offered when a work is not published at all rather than when it is appropriated.Thanks in advance for any clarification or advice you can offer about this type of concern and how my friend might follow up with (and preferably not alienate) her editor."

I advised Debbie that no, this wasn't actually a kill fee unless the idea had actually been assigned and a contract signed. For some reason, the editors decided that the particular story would be better handled in house, or maybe a staff writer had presented a similar idea and felt slighted it was going to a freelancer. Who knows? While I know it's a disappointment to the writer, they should look at the positives. At least the publication was honest enough to pay the writer something. More importantly, this writer should know their ideas are hitting the mark for this publication. My suggestion: keep on querying these good ideas. My bets are that you'll have an assignment before you know it.


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