It happened again. Another author (I’ll call her Karen) abandoned an entire book she’d spent months writing, editing, tweaking, etc. Why?
Copyright infringement…with a little invasion of privacy and potential libel thrown into the mix.
At BookLocker, we often see manuscripts that have entire strings of real text conversations and/or emails in them. Most authors don’t understand that the person who WROTE those text messages and emails owns the copyrights to them, NOT the recipient of those messages and emails.
It’s astounding now many “authors” think this is a unique thing to do, and an easy way to write a book.
NOTHING IS EASY IN AUTHOR LAND, MY FELLOW SCRIBES!
When the author sent her manuscript to me, I saw right away that it was non-fiction. And, huge portions of the manuscript were copied and pasted text messages between her and another individual. Sighing deeply, I wrote to the author, explaining the laws regarding this topic, and including a link that explained it further.
I gave the author two options:
1. Obtain written permission and a legal liability waiver from the individual who sent those messages.
2. Change the book to fiction, anonymize EVERYTHING (change places, names, locations, descriptions of events and people, etc.), and create her own fictional text messages to replace those written by the other person.
The author was, understandably, upset. I’ve had authors who submitted similar books ask me to publish their books as-is, insisting that the person who originally wrote the material would never know. BookLocker is an ethical, law-abiding company and we would never infringe on the rights of another to make a buck, even if that person isn’t a professional writer or photographer, and even if that person may never know their words or image(s) were used by someone else illegally. That’s the ethical concern.
Then, there’s the legal concern. Copyright infringement damages can be astronomical if the infringement was willful. And, copyright infringement might not be the only problem. Invasion of privacy and libel accusations might come into play as well.
It’s simply not worth it for a company to take such a risk for one author. You’d be surprised how many authors beg me to bend or outright break laws for them just so they don’t have to do a re-write. I never bend or break the rules – moral, legal, or otherwise.
This author in particular chose to do what many authors do when they realize they need to start over from scratch. She abandoned the book. It will never be published. She spent months writing, editing, tweaking, editing, re-writing, adding text, removing text, etc…all for nothing.
So, what’s the lesson for today? Don’t be Karen! Research publishing laws BEFORE writing that book!
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