Having just spotted another one, I decided to detail this particular peeve. I can’t say it’s a personal one, because I’ve never met an editor who said they didn’t mind it.

If you send in a query letter and/or manuscript and say that your work is copyrighted, I’m 99% certain to reject it. It’s very insulting and shows that you are an amateur.

First, saying something is copyright Joe Smith doesn’t make it so; the right of first publication makes it so. Specifically in the United States (which effectively sets the standards for common law nations and most other European-descended legal systems), the act of putting it down means you have copyright — though to attain legal protection, you must register it within five years of first publication. If you can prove you wrote it first (or took the picture, or made the video), it’s yours. 

Second, if you put that on your manuscript, you’re telling me you don’t trust me. Trust is very important in an author-editor relationship. We have to work together. If you’re telling me up front that you don’t trust me with your work, then I’m not going to bother with said work.

I’ll see such claims on blogs and even fanfic. Blogs are annoying too, since the same two issues apply: you not only show you don’t understand the law, but you also tell every visitor to your site that you don’t trust them. In fanfic, it’s even more ridiculous, since you can’t copyright works that inherently violate copyright.

(Fanfic advocates, don’t try to argue that point. Fanfic violates copyright. Period. Your work exists in public at the sufferance of the copyright holder. That doesn’t mean you can’t write it, just that the copyright holder has a say in how it’s presented. The fact that the law can’t be enforced in all circumstances doesn’t mean that the law does not exist. And, by the way, I support writing fanfic — but that’s another post.)

So, long and short: Don’t go claiming copyright on your works. If you’re blogging, you can claim “property of,” but that still tells your audience you don’t trust them and it still winds up being redundant for those who actually care what you think in the first place. If you want people to ask permission for using your content and/or require attribution, fine — but don’t write it in legalese, and phrase it as a request.

And never, ever send me a manuscript that says it’s copyrighted.

Note: This post has been updated because I got something wrong. I can only say I was writing while irritated at something and going entirely off the top of my head. I should have double-checked to make certain my memory was correct. It doesn’t change the peeve itself, just part of the explanation on copyright law. I elected to change the text rather than make a correction at the end here because I didn’t want it to trip someone up if he or she didn’t read the whole thing. I like it when other people admit their mistakes, though, so that’s why I stuck this here. 

Also, for more on the legal issue of posting things online, please see this far-more-informative post.