Author vs Editor-- who owns what?

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  • I recently finished my book.

    It was electronically registered with both the US-LOC and the WGA-East.

    It will be printed soon.

    I gave the manuscript to 2 people to review

    One wants the actual DOC file so he can “EDIT” it. Perhaps rewrite some dialogue, etc. before I print it.

    I hesitate, since this may compromise my copyright on the material, and cause complications as to ownership of the property if I incorporate some of his changes.

    This is a friend and I don’t think he’ll lay any claims if I have some success with the book— but I’ve been screwed in the past by some NY producers who professed to be my “best’ friends over things I wrote.

    Any thoughts?
  • Speaking as an editor, I have never asserted copyright in any suggestions or changes I've made to a manuscript. It seems to be an unspoken rule of sorts. And it is often easier to use an electronic file and track-changes when editing a manuscript. Most people who a review a manuscript for a friend are content with the usual boilerplate -- "I'd like to thank so and so, who read the ms with an eagle eye. Any remaining errors are my own." To make this clear to your friend from the start, you might say thanks for the offer and add that you will be sure to thank them in the introduction and even (if that's possible for you) give them a free copy.

    Editing is different from authorship because the editor is working with your product, which you have fixed in tangible form, instead of their own product. Minor changes between copyright registration and printing should not, to my mind, invalidate your copyright, but someone with more knowledge of that process might be able to give you better information.

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