Everyone has something important to say and many want to write about it. They realise the value of recording and expressing their ideas and stories. The internet provides a new level of freedom for creative and intellectual expression. The law still has a quite a way to go to catch up if it is to protect creative and intellectual property with confidence. As a budding non-fiction writer, it is dishonourable and unethical to write and neglect to mention the many and varied influences, material and sources of your project. This is a matter of conscience as much as it is a legal issue.
Not everyone has the same conscience because not everyone has the same level of consciousness. The problem with relying on another’s conscience to do the right thing is that their conscience is probably at a different level to yours. You can tell this is the case because they steal your material, ideas or methods, or they use your trademark without permission, or they continue to use it even if they have been asked to cease and desist. In Australia, this is known as “pushing your luck, mate,” which is usually said some time before they go for the legal jugular. If the thieves had a higher conscience about what they were doing, they would not steal your ideas, methods or use your trademarks. They would not pretend they were their property or that they created or invented them.
The conscience of those who try their hand at non-fiction writing do not appear to be bothered as they exclude their research references to other writers and their published materials, sources and other important academic details. It is also academically unsound. A book that does not mention reference material is much less credible than one that does.
As a non-fiction writer, it is unethical and often illegal to write without mentioning the source. The purpose of copyright is to protect the authors published works. This includes words published on blogs, social media, ebooks, websites, online magazines, emails, and of course hardcopy books, magazines, brochures, flyers, posters and other hard copy printed media. If you have been asked to discontinue using copyright material and you refuse, you may be held responsible by law for this action and you will be asked to financially compensate the holder of the copyright.
To read material for the purpose of gathering information to inspire or support a writing project is known as research.
To neglect to mention the source of your research is a breach of copyright.
Astute writers are highly intuitive. They have eyes in the back of their heads. They can spot their ideas and words being manipulated, paraphrased or plagiarised with the same shrewdness that tells them what their children are doing behind their backs.
It is also illegal to use trademarks without permission. If you don’t receive permission from the owner to use their trademark, then you are responsible for this action, and you may be asked to make financial compensation. If you have been asked to discontinue using the trademark and you have refused the request, then a demand for financial compensation will follow.
Trademarks and copyright of the written word are designed to acknowledge and protect the creative and intellectual property of the writer. To use a trademark that does not belong to you is a violation of the creative and intellectual boundaries of the owner as much as it is a violation of the creative and intellectual boundaries of the thief.
Wherever possible, a non-fiction writer who values the written word, and creative and intellectual property, and wants to maintain their integrity, and further their writing career, should endeavour to acknowledge others when they have influenced their writing, whether that is in a general way, in terms of ideas, or more specifically if a direct academic reference is required.