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Non Disclosure agreements for works in progress


First off, I thought this might be the best forum to post this, so hope I am not wrong.

How many of you use non disclosure agreements (nda's) for your works in progress? I'm not talking about when dealing with editors, publishers, or agents, just people you share your work with. When do you think you should use one? For any kind of shared writing for places like here on mythic scribes? Or what if you have a friend who you only know online, and not very well, but well enough to share your work? And at what point in your writing do you think you would start requiring an nda? If you are at least halfway through your book, or are even sharing full chapters of your fully completed first draft, would that warrant using an nda?


It's common to think this might happen at first, but the truth is, it just doesn't.

Everyone has their own stories & characters they love. When you're starting out you're fortunate just to have people reading your work at all. They're not going to beat down your door for your writing & they're not going to steal your ideas or stories.

I've shard countless stories and ideas. I've read hundreds from others. It's never happened.

If this still bothers you, transfer your work to partners & readers electronically. There's a record of transmission there.

But, seriously, it isn't something to worry about.

Caged Maiden

Article Team
For me? Never (though some sites like Critters have it VERY clearly stated). I've perhaps over the years reserved some of my ideas and concepts, but that's it. Like, with my long-time partners, I pretty much share everything, because ideas are cheap and even writing is cheap. Put it this way, if it isn't good enough that I can publish it today, they can't publish it today. That being said, I've shared work with hundreds of people and I think there exists an unspoken understanding in every exchange, "For YOUR Eyes Only". I've had people ask me whether they could send one of my stories to another friend after they read it, and I've said yes or no. I've worked on collaborative projects where we kept open dialogue about what belonged to whom. I mean...where would this even come into play? And would you really fight in court? What court would handle this kind of case? Look at all the knock-offs that hit the shelves a month after a book gets really HOT. They aren't the same book, but the ideas are stripped from the original book, the title even, to ride the coattails of popular stories. Look how many 50 Shades of...anything there are available on Amazon.

The odds you literally had a bomb-ass book that was ready for publishing, and someone who was beta reading said, "Hang on a minute, I could publish this..." and then just DID it? I think VERY LOW. Because almost anything short of that would simply be copying someone's idea, which usually isn't copyrighted (unless you're Disney and you have so much money you can take everyone to court who writes a talking candlestick into their story now). But the thing is, each of us has an automatic copyright for anything we write, so we have some legal grounds for (if you have money and a will) taking someone to court for repackaging our first draft and selling it as their own, or whatever. And I know our lawyer friends here will encourage us to get a proper copyright as soon as our final draft is complete ;)

I can't wait to see what Steerpike has to say, because I've honestly never heard of a writer signing a contract with betas to prevent their mishandling of their role. Everywhere we look, agents and authors encourage us to read for other folks and share, share, share, to get critique, not be afraid of it, and learn from our allies in the trenches. I would just think that if intellectual property theft were prolific enough to warrant a contract preventing disclosure, that we'd hear a lot more about it, and our friendly neighborhood copyright attorney on this site would be all kinds of loud about this being a really concerning thing.

Also, kinda related, it's irritating when someone puts a watermark on their manuscript, or does read-only. Honestly, people, all you're doing is making me Select-All, Copy, Paste New Document. And I'd just as soon be able to enter my feedback right on the original document, because that's why you sent it to me, right? And if someone asked me to give them critique on their manuscript, and then sent over a contract that ISN'T standard practice in the way Buyer's Agency Agreements are in real estate, with half of realtors using them and half not (and sometimes getting screwed), I'd choose not to work with that person. They would appear high-maintenance to me, and distrustful.


Article Team
I believe if you're a high profile author, like Rowling or so, then you might have NDA for your beta readers.

If you're a low profile writer, like me, you can link your unfinished drafts in your forum signature and even then you'll have a hard time getting people to read them. :p

EDIT: Then again most people who visit my blog seem to be more interested in my recipe for fudge than in my stories. /rant
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The topic of copyrighting one's work and of others stealing ideas has been raised several times here. Most of the PM's I've gotten from members are about concerns of them posting in the Showcase or pretty much anywhere on Mythic Scribes. I've even had to delete entire threads for panicked members because of the fear of idea theft.

I've been a member here for four and a half years and have never even heard of someone's idea or work being stolen.

T.A.S. offers great insight in his earlier post:
If this still bothers you, transfer your work to partners & readers electronically. There's a record of transmission there.

Check out the link I've included (highlighted in blue). That may alleviate some of your concerns.
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If it's still a concern, you could send the piece out as a pdf (or if the other person has a kindle, email as a mobi directly to their device) and remove the ability for to edit. You could also put a copyright notice in the footer or a water stamp across the page (I know you can do it on Word).

I wouldn't send it to random strangers but I think if you know the person or engage in a trade off (I'll read X chapters for you if you read X chapters for me) then you should be fine. The only time I could see requiring an NDA for would be if you were hiring these people (more so for ghostwriters or editors than beta readers). Or if you're high profile (as previously mentioned).


Myth Weaver
There are E-magazines that consider works appearing on sites such as this as being 'published,' and won't purchase them. (Might not apply to initial drafts for critique purposes, though, and one must actually have a posting history to access 'Showcase' or 'Challenges,' the two most likely venues.

Apart from that, ideas are cheap, and execution (writing) is the pain.

As 'Iron Pen' and 'Top Scribe' show, you can give a group of half a dozen writers the same prompts and end up with half a dozen utterly different stories, not six versions of the same tale.


I don't think it's something you need to worry much about. Depending on the pool you choose beta readers from, you're likely more than not to end up with betas who are also writers themselves and their focus will be on their own work. However, it's never a bad idea to be on the safe side so you could always send a PDF like mentioned above. :)

But yea...the chances of one of your betas ripping off your work is very slim (if Svrt ever divulged my secrets I might need to make a trip to Ireland :p). Your chances of getting pirated after publication are much greater than that so be prepared for that eventually. It'll do you well also to study copyright law. Every writer who wants to be published really should.


Article Team
Be flattered if someone thinks your story is good enough to steal. But, as mentioned by others, it really doesn't happen.

My impression is in prose writing, people tend to be wrapped up in making their own stuff, and making it good, instead of stealing someone else's. I think I could see ideas being stolen for scripts, because for Hollywood, from the very little I know of it, it's the ideas that matter.

For my own stories, if someone stole one, I think I could prove it belonged to me. First, one of my back up methods is to upload them to my google drive, so there's a date stamp for when I created stuff. Second, I'm draft crazy. Each of my stories usually has more than ten versions, so I have a gradient of versions going from very rough story to polished one.

Someone may steal a polished story, but good luck reproducing the process in which a story evolved into its final form.