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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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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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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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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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Self publishing With E-Book Publishers (Q & A)

I am planning on self publishing through an e-book service.  Will my rights be transferred to the publisher by means of the terms and conditions of the agreement? Rights granted are only those that you agree to give.  The balance are retained.  Think of a contract as a proposal.  It is not a one-way street.  […]

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Hidden Perils of Publishing Contracts

Co-author Gerald M. Levine There are a number of hidden perils of publishing contracts that are essentially terms to control the licensed property. Authors should not fixate on the myth of “standard” terms, but there are terms that publishers are adamant about that may have to be adjusted to accommodate particular circumstances. One such term […]

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Symbol © on a Manuscript (Q & A)

I am planning on submitting a book manuscript to publishers.  Is it permissible to place a copyright notice on the manuscript? You are permitted to place the symbol © on your manuscript with your name and date of creation.  A copyright exists from the moment a copyrightable work is created. Registration is not a prerequisite […]

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Copyright Protection Extends to Expressive Material

Co-author Gerald M. Levine Copyright protection extends to expressive material. Strings of effectively arranged letters, words, phrases, clauses, sentences and paragraphs are the essence of expression. They are owned by the author who creates them and protected by copyright law, although infringements are not actionable unless the work is registered with the Copyright Office. If […]

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The Dead Are Beyond Suing; Be Wary the Living

Co-author Gerald M. Levine The dead are beyond suing but wariness about the living in recollecting the past should not be discounted. Although intellectual property rights (copyright and trademark) may be asserted by an Estate depending on the law of the state in which the deceased died allegations of invasion of privacy and injuring a […]

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Clearing Permissions to Use Photographic Images

I recently reviewed a manuscript of a non-fiction, semi-scholarly work analyzing images of historical prophesy (tarot) cards. The author explained that she wanted to illustrate her book with copies of cards and photographs of ancient artifacts to demonstrate thematic links to the images on the cards. The cards are mostly of ancient provenance, although some […]

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Google Settlement of Digitization of Books Derailed

A number of Guild members have asked me about the Google Settlement. Those who opted in saw an opportunity for revenue. Those who did nothing probably did not understand that by letting the deadline pass amounted to an opting out. Opt outers are part of a larger class that includes orphan works whose authors (after […]

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Electronic Rights: Verbatim Text Editions and Multimedia Products

About electronic rights” there are two fundamental questions: What are electronic rights? And, Should an author grant or retain them? “Electronic rights” is shorthand for a basket of rights and multiplicity of products including 1) verbatim text editions delivered through multiple platforms; and 2) non-verbatim multimedia products including interactive educational or entertainment CD-ROMs and DVDs, […]

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Contracts That Resemble But Are Not Publishing Agreements

There is a difference between contracts offered by traditional publishers and contracts by printers that resemble but are not publishing agreements. Traditional publishers produce, distribute and market books at their own expense; they assume the risk that these costs will have a positive return on investment. Printers print on demand even though they may advertise […]

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Contract Provisions: The Out of Print and Reversion of Rights Clause

Gerald M. Levine, Co-Author Most publishing contracts provide for both the establishment and termination of the author/publisher relationship.  Why should an author be concerned about the “out of print” clause?  The Grant of Rights in the contract is likely to be “for the full term of copyright plus renewals and extensions.”  The current term of […]

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