Five Things I Learned this Week

On Copyright, Black Books, The Big Five, Somali Skincare & Indigenous Art

1. Copyright is Automatic under Law

As I’ve been working towards publishing my first children’s book, I’ve learned a fair bit about what goes into bringing a book to market (I mentioned one of those things in my last Five Things post). One day I’ll write about all the things I’ve learned in one post, but for today, I’ll stick with one more (hopefully helpful) tidbit for anyone interested in self-publishing: In general, copyright protection is automatic, provided the conditions set out in the Copyright Act are met. This means that you don’t have to pay to register your work in order for it to be protected under law — this is true in the United States and Canada.

The Government of Canada has A Guide to Copyright on their website, and it states:

Copyrightable work is protected by copyright laws the moment it is created and fixed in a material form. Registering your work with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office is voluntary, but can be beneficial.

So why would it be beneficial to register your work if your is automatically protected? The website illustrates a case in which you take someone to court and their defense is they weren’t aware they were infringing on copyright due to lack of registration. Having your work registered would make for a stronger case if you needed to take someone to court. For more detailed information you can head over the Government website and check it out for yourself.

2. Oprah’s List of 44 books by Black Authors (it’s good!)

I’m always down some rabbit hole when it comes to books and half the time I don’t remember what sent me off on the journey. Such was the case this week when I stumbled upon a list of 44 books by Black authors on the Oprah Magazine site. I know — just the mention of the name “Oprah” summons strong feelings in folks, good and bad. I’m not sure what side you, dear reader, are on, but I’ll say: the list is pretty good; definitely worth checking out.

(BONUS: They also have a list of 16 books by Black women, recommended by Candice Carty-Williams, best-selling author of Queenie.)

3. The Big Five

I don’t think most people care, but those of us who are interested in the publishing industry know about the “The Big Five.” If you’re a writer, like me, you might think of these publishers as the ones that could make you rich:

  • Penguin Random House
  • Hachette Book Group
  • Harper Collins
  • Macmillan Publishers
  • Simon & Schuster

The news this week was that one of the largest publishing companies in the world was buying another one of the largest publishing companies in the world. Penguin Random House will be purchasing Simon & Schuster for about $2 billion.

Of course, some folks are worried about what this might mean for writers and readers. The concern is there’ll be less places for writers to pitch to and readers will end up with same ol’ names on bookshelves. One writer for The Atlantic doesn’t think this is the worst thing that could happen in the publishing world, and reminds us of the beast in the room: Amazon. It’s a jungle out there, and publishers are doing what they can to stay in the game. Read about it here.

4. About Djibouti

As part of the Regent Park Film Festival I watched Lula Ali Ismaïl’s Dhalinyaro (Youth), which I loved. The film follows three girls at the end of their high school career in Djibouti City. I learned a few things after watching the film and reading a review by Safia Aidid on Africa is a Country, but the most surprising/interesting/important to me were:

  1. Djibouti is majority Somali, with about 60 percent of the population being Somali, and Afar (which I had never heard of) being the second-largest majority at 35 percent.
  2. Somali women and girls use a face mask made from turmeric, which you can bet I’m going to try since I’ve never met a Somali sister with bad skin. (Sorry if you’re the ONE, don’t @ me.)

5. Woodland Style Art

As I mentioned in a previous post, I returned to Canada last summer (summer feels so far away now) and decided to spend some time actively, intentionally learning about Canadian culture and history, which also meant learning about the Indigenous people who were here before the settlers settled. The more I read, the more I noticed graffiti tags, street and traditional artwork that spoke to the Indigenous presence around Ontario. While biking along the Humber River trail here in Toronto I noticed a few very distinctive paintings. Boyfriend, who is not from Canada, wondered if it was a specific artist and I didn’t know what to tell him, I had no idea. We saw the same style while visiting Iroqrafts on the Six Nations reserve in the fall. I now know that this highly recognizable style is called Woodland Art, and is sometimes referred to as Legend Painting or Medicine Painting because it draws on traditional, spiritual knowledge and stories. Norval Morrisseau, also known as Copper Thunderbird, was an Ojibway artist from Northern Ontario who was credited as the grandfather of contemporary Indigenous art and for bringing this style to the masses.

I’m a writer and teacher from Toronto, with roots abroad and interests everywhere. alisonisaac.com

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