I am not an attorney and this is not legal advice. If you have questions about your book, copyrights, trademarks, libel, etc., please consult with your attorney.
If had a nickel for every time an author tried to pull the wool over my eyes…
And, if I had a dime for every author who simply didn’t know any better…
Having been in the publishing business for more than 20 years, I’ve pretty much seen and heard it all. And, I’ve also spent those years doing countless hours of research, and talking to attorneys. I know what you can and can’t include in a book.
Some new or smaller publishers don’t know any better, and let authors publish anything and everything. That not only puts the publisher at risk, but the author as well. Many authors depend on their publisher to tell them what they can and can’t do.
Here are some excuses I frequently hear from authors who either don’t know any better, or simply don’t care:
“Nobody will know I used that picture in my book…”
That may be the case but, if the photographer (or the person who currently owns the rights to it) does find out, you could be out a LOT of money in legal fees, in addition to actual and punitive damages.
“My abusive ex will never know I wrote this book about him…”
Oh, trust me. Even if you write under a pseudonym, it will be far too tempting to tell at least one person you know (or more) about your new book. You’ll swear them to secrecy. But, they’ll tell someone else because the temptation will be just too great. Pretty soon, several people will know, including possibly your ex. Aside from the legal and financial consequences, if he truly was abusive, your life could be in danger as well. If you have an axe to grind with your ex, don’t publish a book that will put you at risk. Instead, start attending church, and try to move on with your life.
“That magazine went out of business. They won’t care if I republish that article, or use their pictures…”
Even when a magazine goes out of business, its assets are retained by the owners, or sold to another. And, that sale could occur years after the magazine goes out of business. You can’t use their content without permission.
“That book is 20 years old. I can use text from it…”
No, you can’t. You need to read up on copyright law.
“My siblings don’t know about my deceased mom’s manuscript. I’m just going to publish it under my name…”
If your mother did not specifically assign rights to that manuscript to you (or specifically give ALL of her assets to you), you may not own the rights to it. The fact that you’re hiding the fact from your siblings tells me you already know that.
“I found all of my images on Google. But, that’s okay. Everything is free on the Internet…”
Ha ha ha! We hear this one most of all. No, the person who created the image (or took the photo) owns the rights, unless they have assigned those rights to another. The fact is, many of those “free” photo/image sites that allow anyone to upload anything are, in fact, hosting countless photos and images that are copyrighted. Those sites have no right to display nor distribute those photos/images yet they keeping doing so, earning money on ads, and hoping they never get caught. Everyone who does business this way eventually gets caught.
“I want to publish the entire poem but I can’t find the contact info. for the poet so I’ll just put ‘author unknown.'”
If you didn’t create that poem, and if you can’t find the creator, you can’t use it. Period. The only exception is if the poem is so old that it’s now in the public domain. Again, read up on copyright law.
“I can use song lyrics. They’re all over the Internet anyway…”
No, you can’t. Please read THIS.
“I don’t have any money so nobody would get anything if they sued me…”
When authors write this ridiculous statement, publishers run screaming away. Why? Because these authors also don’t care about the legal and financial consequences that their publisher would be forced to endure in the event of a lawsuit. Talk about selfish!! What this author really means is, “I’m a jerk and I don’t care if what I wrote is true or not because I have nothing to lose if I get sued.”
While it may be tempting to take shortcuts, and “borrow” from others without permission, don’t do it. EVER. You will end up regretting it some day.
Angela Hoy lives on a mountain in North Georgia. She is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, the President and CEO of BookLocker.com and AbuzzPress, and the author of 24 books.
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Angela is the creator of the Original 24-Hour Short Story Contest!
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