Keep your rights attached to your words

ANYONE "of an age" will remember times when submitted copy had to be laid out exactly "so" - double-spaced, wide margins and extra gaps between paragraphs.

Anything else, and the wrath of the chief sub would descend on the unfortunate transgressor like several proverbial tonnes of bricks. Like metricated masonry, that's all changed now. Copy is filed by email, and the layout no longer matters. The mouse, cursor and on-screen highlighting has replaced the sub-editor's mark-up pencil.

Copy may still, of course, be filed as emailed attachments, but it's probably better if it goes into the body of a plain text email. Why? Because once it gets to its destination, someone is going to hit control+A to select it all, then control+C to copy it and then control+V to paste it into a publication's copy handling software.

If a hard copy is needed, it will be read as a normal email, with single spacing and extra lines between the paragraphs. Or rather you have to hope that whoever receives the copy hits control+A to rake everything you send across to the different software.

So it's important to stipulate in such emails the rights that you're granting to the publication for the use of the copy. And, you may need to put reminders of this at the top - and the bottom - of the email. Many regional newspapers now have deals with news agencies which allow the agencies access to their material. Freelance copy which isn't clearly marked can, unwittingly, be lifted. Just as "(corr)" to show that a name has been spelt correctly should be taken out by a sub before the piece appears on the page - or online - then any such notes should be removed too.

Filing copy in the body of an email is as good as anything. Believe it or not, many computers at Johnston Press titles no long have the full version of Microsoft Office loaded on to them - so they don't have to pay for the licences. Instead, they have a "reader" but this makes it impossible to correct or amend copy in attachments.

Top-and-tail your story with "first UK magazine rights" or whatever the licensing deal is, and mark the material as copyright too. That way, there's more chance that you won't lose out once the copying-and-pasting has taken place.

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