When Authors Don’t Understand Copyright Law, the Law Might Come After THEM!

When Authors Don’t Understand Copyright Law, the Law Might Come After THEM!

I was recently considering a manuscript for publication when I noticed the author had scanned two popular cartoon strips, as well as entire pages from a magazine, and pasted them all of those into his book.

I wrote to him, asking if he’d obtained written permission from the copyright holders of the cartoons and the magazine. He responded that he was “covered” because the magazine had been out of print for years, had limited U.S. production, and no offices in the U.S. He said the government of another country had shut the magazine down. He didn’t mention the cartoons at all in his reply.


This was my response:

1. The original journalist may still own the rights to that article. And, just because a company is out of business
doesn’t mean their intellectual property can be used without permission. If you pulled all of your books off
the market tomorrow, and went “out of business,” you would still own the rights to your books. People couldn’t
start republishing your books, nor parts thereof, without your permission. The same holds true for other businesses.

The publisher, [name removed], is the copyright owner of the magazine. It has/had offices in four countries. I’m
sure they’d love to line their pockets with money from a copyright infringement lawsuit.

The publication is copyrighted. You have a scan of the masthead page itself appearing in your manuscript. I recommend trying to find the old publisher or editor. See if the publisher is still operating in another country, and contact them. They had offices in the US, the UK, Russia, and South Africa. All of their contact info. is in the masthead page in your book.

If you can’t obtain written permission from the copyright holder, you can’t use it. If you can’t find the copyright holder, you still can’t use it. It’s not in the public domain.

2. What about the cartoons? [Name of cartoonist removed] is distributed by Universal Press Syndicate. He is still very much alive. Even if he was not, his heir(s) would own the copyrights to his work. And, he and Universal Press
Syndicate would not hesitate to sue for copyright infringement. His email address is at the bottom of every cartoon.

[The other cartoon] you used is also copyrighted.

Finally, did you create Table 1 and Appendix 1 appearing in your book or were they obtained from other sources? I have to ask because of the other intellectual property issues in your book.


Unfortunately, it’s a common misconception that the intellectual property of defunct publications is up for grabs. Nothing can be farther from the truth. It’s also a misconception that cartoons can be republished simply because they are graphics. That is also entirely untrue.

Authors should research copyright laws thoroughly before including anything in their book that they didn’t write or create themselves.

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About The Author

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Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, the author of 19 books, 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).

Angela has lived and traveled across the U.S. with her kids in an RV, settled in a river-side home in Bradenton, FL, and lived on a 52 ft Irwin sailboat. Angela now resides on a mountaintop in Northwest Georgia, where she plans to spend the rest of her days bird watching, gardening, hiking, and taking in all of the amazing sunrises.

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.

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Angela's POD Secrets Revealed Series can be found HERE.

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.)


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