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Author Archive | Sheila J. Levine

Unintended Perils of Collaboration from Ambiguous and Incomplete Agreements

Co-author Gerald M. Levine Literary collaboration is a marriage of convenience. There are perils in ambiguous and incomplete agreements. The parties have to preliminarily agree to their separate and joint responsibilities for the completion and submission of their work. What they think they know and can trust about each other is likely to be more […]

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Protecting Ideas under an Implied Contract Theory

Co-author Gerald M. Levine Authors ask whether they can protect their ideas by which they mean the conception rather than the expression. This suggests a misappropriate theory rather than infringement of copyright. The answer is that copyright law protects ideas only to the extent they are organized and fleshed out in expressive language. Some protection […]

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Taking Down an Infringing Copy from the Internet

Co-author Gerald M. Levine There is a statutory remedy for removing an infringing copy from the Internet. It can be taken down. The principal legal mechanisms for protecting copyright of works copied on the Internet without permission and in violation of an author’s copyright is laid out in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The major […]

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Copyright for Compilations and Collections

Authors are generally well attuned to copyright for their separately standing works and the consequences of failing to register, but less so when it comes to shorter works accepted for publication in compilations such as collections and anthologies. Section 103 (a) of the Copyright Act states that “[t]he subject matter of copyright … includes compilations.” […]

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Falling Into and Out of the Public Domain

Co-author Gerald M. Levine Once in the public domain content (which includes characters) is free; to copy or create derivative works. P.D. James’ Death Comes to Pemberley and a continuing stream of novels featuring Sherlock Holmes are recent examples. Until works fall into the public domain content and characters are not free. They are copyright […]

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Claiming Joint Ownership of Copyright

Co-author, Gerald M. Levine Claiming joint ownership of copyright signifies a collaboration beyond making suggestions or performing editorial services.  This is clear in the definition of the relationship in the Copyright Act of 1976, Sec. 101.  A “joint work” is “work prepared by two or more authors with the intention that their contributions be merged […]

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When Does “In Book Form” Include Grant of EBook Rights?

Co-author Gerald M. Levine In agreeing to publish a work publishers typically demand author “grant and assign” an exclusive license to “print, publish and sell” the work for the “term of copyright and all continuations, extensions, and renewals thereof” in stipulated languages and territories. In modern publishing agreements the language is clear that the grant […]

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False Memoirs and Other Misbehavior

Co-Author Gerald M. Levine What better to start the New Year than with grimy tales about authors, literary agents and publishers? It cannot truthfully be said that in the annuls of publishing there has not been false memoirs and other misbehavior including deliberate misrepresentations, breaches of contract and “extraordinary” fraud. One such (you may remember […]

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Acceptable and Unacceptable Terms of Agency Agreements

Co-author Gerald M. Levine Agency agreements are not forever which is the reason to be concerned about their terms. There are acceptable and unacceptable terms.  They are not like publishing agreements in which authors grant licenses “for the term of copyright.” Nevertheless, for the term of of agreement the agent has an exclusive right to […]

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Pitfalls for Self Publishing Authors

There are publishers in the traditional sense who curate the books they publish and there are companies that provide printing services for self publishing authors without curation who pretend to be traditional publishers. Be wary of printing contracts styled as publishing contracts. The business models are entirely different. Printing contracts can be misleading in describing […]

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Terminating Exclusive Licenses and Recapturing Copyrights

Gerald M. Levine, Co-author Authors control the rights to their works until they agree to exclusive licenses for all or some of them. At that point the rights are controlled by the grantee, typically the publisher for the term of copyright. A typical provision in publishing contracts provides that “[t]he Author agrees to grant and […]

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Trademarks for Authors

What do trademarks have to do with authorship? Trademarks signify sources of production. The question come up with authors producing serial works who are interested in creating brands. Trademarks for authors can be perfectly reasonable. While single works are not eligible for trademark registration serial works are. Personal names are not registrable as trademarks but […]

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Copyrightability of Generic Elements in a Copyrighted Work

Co-author Gerald M. Levine Unprotected elements in a copyrighted work affects the copyrightability of those elements alone. The copyright does not extend to every sentence in a work or to undeveloped characters. Fair use is not an issue since its application presupposes expressive material that is both copyrightable and copyrighted. (we leave for another day […]

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Copyrightability in “Original Works of Authorship”

To be protected by copyright, to have copyrightability, requires a certain degree of creativity. The Copyright Clause of the U.S. Constitution provides for copyright protection to “original works of authorship.” The Supreme Court has stated that for a work to be protected it has to “possess[] at least some minimal degree of creativity.” Feist Publ’ns, […]

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Reserving Rights When Agreeing to License

Publishers typically demand rights for the duration of copyright although the shelf life of the licensed work is likely to be measured in single digit years. Authors have a basked of exclusive rights set  out in Section 106 of the Copyright Act only some of which should be agreed to in book publishing contracts. Other […]

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Titles, Words and Short Phrases (Q&A)

Co-author Gerald M. Levine Titles, Words and Short Phrases are not copyrightable although contextualized they may become so. The answer is found in the Code of Federal Regulations, 37 C.F.R. Sec. 202.1.  Subsection (a) provides that the following “examples of works [are] not subject to copyright and applications for registration of such works cannot be […]

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Contributory Infringement and Vicarious Liability for Copyright Infringement

Co-author Gerald M. Levine Copyright is not limited to literary works but extends to other creative productions. Expressive material in literary works are only one color on the palette of creativity. Literary works are first on the list of 8 in §102 of the Copyright Act. The second on the list is “musical works, including […]

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Multiple Registrations of Copyright (Q & A)

I wrote a paper that I registered for copyright a few years ago.  It was not published.  I am now completing a book length work that incorporates the unpublished paper.  Can I register the new work separately? Section 408(e) of the Copyright Law states that “Registration for the first published edition of a work previously […]

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Unprotected Speech in Blogland

Co-author Gerald M. Levine Not all speech in blogland is protected although as a general rule there is no exposure to liability and nothing illegal in a blogger communicating opinion or making truthful statements  of matters of public interest in her own name or anonymously. Speech is protected under First Amendment issue. Courts carefully safeguard […]

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Collective Work (Compilation) (Q & A)

What do I need to know about copyright on a collective work?  One of my stories is being reprinted in an anthology? Unless you have signed an assignment, you do not lose your copyright. I assume that this grant is non-exclusive and you are not prevented from having the story reproduced by yourself or others. […]

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