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Dec 22, 2:27 PM

Copywriting manuscript is secured automatically

Dear Help!: How does one go about copywriting a manuscript? How long does it take?

Cheryl C. Bues,Melbourne

Were he still alive, Major Henry Livingston Jr. (1748-1828) of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., might be found this evening by the fireplace, kicking himself for not copywriting his manuscript about a right jolly old fellow's coming and going via the chimney.

You see, circumstantial evidence bearing considerable scholarly weight points to Livingston's being the anonymous author of verses first published in 1823 under the title of "Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas" but later attributed to someone else.

Nowadays, everyone knows the story as "The Night Before Christmas."

Until just a few years ago, credit for the immensely popular Christmastime fable was given to Clement C. Moore who published it in 1844 among his collected works.

However, some academicians have come to regard Moore's authorship to be dubious at best. Among them is Don Foster, professor of English at Vassar College and an expert in attribution of anonymous works.

Foster's literary forensics examined the writing styles of Livingston, Moore and the author of the Christmas poem. The data suggested that Livingston, a prolific writer, probably was the author, a conclusion that appeared in Foster's book, "Author Unknown: On the Trail of Anonymous."

No matter. By the time Moore died at age 84, he was a revered figure known far and wide for more or less having "invented" Santa Claus. Livingston, of course, was relegated to virtual anonymity.

Regardless of which of the men wrote the piece, the literary world would have been spared a great deal of unpleasantry, if only the originator had sought copyright protection.

Copyrighting gives the owner certain exclusive rights.

Implemented by Congress in 1790, the Copyright Act, as amended through the years, gives American authors a term of protection lasting 70 years after the owner's death.

Contrary to widespread belief, no publication or registration or other action is required to get it. Rather, copyright is secured automatically when a work is created.

Publication remains important, but not as important as it once was, and registration has advantages, not the least of which is establishing a public record, says the U.S. Copyright Office at

To register a manuscript:

Complete an application form found online, enclose $30 payment to "Register of Copyrights," enclose a nonreturnable copy of the materials to be registered and mail to Library of Congress, Copyright Office, 101 Independence Ave., S.E., Washington DC 20559-6000. If the submission is in order, a certificate of registration will be forthcoming in four to five months.

To reach Lang, mail Help!, FLORIDA TODAY, 1 Gannett Plaza, Melbourne, FL 32940. Fax 255-9550. E-mail Include name, address, phone.

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