December 14, 2011

My Sister Died Young. Do I Need To Get Permission From Her Husband To Publish Her Writings? | printable version

Hi Angela,

Once again you've struck a chord with me.

I read the article about using a deceased person's writings. This is of particular value to me because I have the writings of two people and would love to see them published.

One is a romance novel that my sister wrote 20 years ago. She died very young, but was in the process of a final edit. We never could get a publisher interested in it because they wanted someone who would continue to write novels, not a one-shot thing.

My father passed away four years ago. He had written many, many stories about upbringing in the country that could be published either singly or as a collection.

With Print on Demand, both of these now are possible.

That said, is there any reason I can't publish either one of those? Would I need to get permission from my sister's husband?

If your sister did not specifically will her copyrights to you, yes, you must obtain permission from her heir(s).

If you are your father's sole beneficiary of his estate, you likely own the copyrights to his work (unless he left those specifically to someone else) and you can do with those as you wish. If your father left his estate to your mother or to be shared among your siblings, you would need to get the other heirs' permission to publish your father's works. You need to understand that, if someone were to file a lawsuit based on the content of the book, you would be liable.

We recently rejected a book by a man who published another author's book (the woman had died) and he assumed nobody could sue him because he wasn't the original author. I assured him that, yes, he is liable if anyone sues for the content because he would be the one publishing the book. Worse, since the author had died, her editor/publisher could not prove any of the allegations in the book if he was ultimately sued.

It was a memoir alleging years of abuse by different hospitals and, yes, the author named the hospitals and doctors.

Needless to say, we ran screaming away from that potential legal nightmare!


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