I received a disturbing email from an author last week whose book was published by one of our major competitors. Yes, you’ve heard of them. And, if what he said is true, they should know better!
This author wanted to move their book elsewhere after getting upset with his current publisher. That author admitted up front that the graphics in the book were pulled from the Internet without permission. A common assumption among new authors is that everything on the Internet is free for the taking. I know most of you professional writers guffaw at that but you can’t imagine how many folks think the Internet IS the public domain. This author even had a disclaimer in the book admitting the photos were taken from the Internet.
Some words of advice here:
1. Admitting up front in your book that you’re using other people’s material without permission does NOT make it legal.
2. Using content with a disclaimer that says you don’t know who the copyright owner is also does NOT make it legal.
3. Inserting a comment in your book that asks the copyright holders to contact you does NOT make it legal.
None of these protects you from a copyright infringement lawsuit!
One tidbit you may not know is that publishing services firms that help self-published authors are, in most cases, not legally liable for the content in an author’s book. (See links below.) What might be the exception? Here’s an example. AuthorHouse was sued years ago for libel. They lost the lawsuit because it was discovered they (allegedly) knew there might be a problem with the content in the book, yet they published it anyway (Again, see links below).
So, if a publishing services firm (a fee-based publisher) is not aware of any problems in the book, the author is usually solely liable for their own content. But, what if the publisher not only knows about a problem in a book, but also actually works on that problem area of the book to, ahem, try to make that problem less noticeable?
This particular author wrote:
“Furthermore, because I had to make (the publisher) aware that these photos were not my own, they had to alter them accordingly prior to publication…”
I almost fell out of my chair when I read that. If you take and then alter someone else’s work, that does NOT make the new version yours! Remember Shepard Fairey, the “creator” of that iconic Obama poster? He was accused of taking a photo owned by the Associated Press, altering it, and using it for his own profit and, boy oh boy, did he pay the price for his actions! (See link below.)
If this author’s story is true, the publisher was not only complicit in the infringement of others’ copyrights, but they also didn’t warn the author that their actions could lead to the author’s possible bankruptcy from copyright infringement lawsuits. Since the author knew up front that the photos belonged to others, even one judgment against him could cost from $750 to more than $30,000 PER INFRINGEMENT. Add on attorney’s fees and you can see how bad this situation could get, all because the author didn’t know any better, and because his publisher (allegedly) did not warn him that their actions could have a dire impact on him as well.
This is just another reason to research any publisher or publishing services firm thoroughly prior to sending them your money. There are NUMEROUS complaints about this particular publisher online. If this author had done their research before signing up, they’d have seen comments from previous authors who clearly felt this publisher was unethical in a variety of ways.
About The Author
Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, and the co-owner of BookLocker.com (one of the original POD publishers that still gets books to market in less than a month), PubPreppers.com (print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish), and Abuzz Press (the publishing co-op that charges no setup fees).
WritersWeekly.com - the free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday.
BookLocker.com - According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, BookLocker is: "As close to perfection as you're going to find in the world of ebook and POD publishing. The ebook royalties are the highest I've ever seen, and the print royalties are better than average. BookLocker understands what new authors experience, and have put together a package that is the best in the business. You can't go wrong here. Plus, they're selective and won't publish any manuscript just because it's accompanied by a check. Also, the web site is well trafficked. If you can find a POD or epublisher with as much integrity and dedication to selling authors' books, but with lower POD publishing fees, please let me know."
Abuzz Press offers FAST and FREE book publication, but only accepts a small percentage of submissions, and only works with U.S. authors.
PubPreppers.com - "We Prep, You Publish!" Print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish. Offers formatting and design services only, and then provides simple instructions for authors on where to sign up to have the print and ebook editions printed/listed/sold. Cut out the middle man. Keep 100% of what bookstores pay for your book!
Angela's POD Secrets Revealed Series can be found HERE.
Got questions about Print On Demand and Self-publishing? Ask Angela.
Have a POD Book with another publisher? See if BookLocker can give you a better deal. (BookLocker offers "disgruntled author discounts" to those who want to move from other POD services.)
See BookLocker's publishing packages HERE.
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Angela is the creator of the Original 24-Hour Short Story Contest!
Read More Of Angela's Articles HERE