Legalities of Book Publishing

Legalities of Book Publishing


By Admin November 09, 2021    Category: Uncategorized    

Legalities of Book Publishing

As an entrepreneur, having your own book has a number of benefits in setting yourself apart in your industry and even helping others by sharing your story or experience. Writing a book provides you with credibility, you can call yourself an author, and it opens you up to more opportunities when it comes to being seen in the media or getting speaking opportunities which can also set you up as an expert in your field. 

Whether self publishing or working with a book publisher, there are legal considerations you need to be aware of while writing your book, before you publish.

Which laws apply to writing a book?

The laws that apply to protecting your written work include trademark and copyright protections.

When you’re writing your book, you should look into whether you can trademark the title of your book. Generally speaking, you’re not able to trademark the title of only one book. However, you can seek trademark protection if you write a series of books under that title and/or if you’re incorporating a brand that you’ve already trademarked and are using that brand in the title of your book.

Copyright laws are most applicable to the process of writing and publishing your book. Copyright provides protection of your original works as they’re embodied in a tangible medium, like words on a page in a book. These are automatically protected under common law rights until you share it with someone else. So if you have not yet published your work or made it known to the world that you intend to exercise your intellectual property rights, common law rights apply. However, you should seek copyright protection as soon as your first chapter or manuscript is written. 

This means that you should post copyright notices on anything you produce during all phases of the book writing and publishing process. A copyright notice should include the copyright © symbol, the name of the party that owns the copyright (preferably a business entity would provide the best protection versus your personal name) and the date. This copyright notice should be posted in the footer of your documents and on the cover of your manuscript on anything you publish or share.

What about enforceability?

The strongest means of copyright protection is for you to file for a copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office before you publish your book. You will need to complete your application and submit a copy of your manuscript. (It should be noted that the U.S. Copyright Office at the Library of Congress registers copyrights and is different from the USPTO which grants patents and registers trademarks.)

Once you have filed and received your copyright, if anyone takes all or any portion of your work, you are in the strongest position to send a cease and desist notice to stop using your intellectual property. Copyright law applies to written literary works and the protection of your book.

As you’re beginning to share the content of your book with other people, you want to be sure that you’re protecting your ideas and your literary expressions. For example, if you’d like to share a draft of your book, an outline or a chapter with someone for feedback or for them to edit, it would be good practice to protect your work by asking that party to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that also includes a non-circumvention agreement.

Beyond a typical NDA which says that the person reading the manuscript will not disclose the contents of the document to anyone or any third party, a non-circumvention agreement further protects your work as it says that the other person can not disclose the contents and will not use the contents for any other purposes. For example, if someone reads your book which triggers an idea and they go forward and write a story on their own, this could be interpreted as a disclosure of the information from your work. Non-circumvention or “non use” of the work provides additional protection by prohibiting use of the information disclosed.

What is defamation?

If you’re writing a book and you intend to identify another individual by name or by a characteristic that allows the person to be identified, you need to consider whether you need permission to include the individual in the book to protect yourself from defamation.

Defamation is when you injure someone’s character, reputation or fame with a false or misleading statement. This can be by way of speaking or oral communication (slander) or written communication (libel) such as writing a book and disclosing a scenario of the person in your book. 

There are three sides to any story and regardless of how well you believe you have portrayed the truth or interpreted a scenario in your book, your portrayal of another party in your work is going to be inherently subjective and the other individual may not see it in the same light. As an example, an author came to our firm after writing a book that shares a tragic situation to demonstrate her story and how she overcame that life event in order to teach others from her own experience. Unfortunately, the incident disclosed in the story involved an ex-spouse, and the author received a cease and desist letter from the former spouse. 

The author claimed the story was true as her defense and the ex-spouse said the story was not. Luckily, the story had not yet been published and the outcome was to negotiate that the author would convey her story in such a way to share her success, but also to protect her legally from any subsequent defamation claims from the other party by not portraying the other party in a poor light. 

Do you need permission to include other people? 

If you’re using a person’s name, photo or likeness for purposes of your story or if you’re including references to a person, client testimonials, certain shared experiences or case studies, you need to obtain their permission first and be clear about any expectations of compensation. You will want to be sure that you document their permission in writing in advance with an acknowledgment of their approval for you to use their name or photo with language that they are not getting compensation for use and that they release you from any future claims for compensation, defamation or other matters arising from or relating to your use of their name or likeness.

When considering this, keep in mind that there are different laws that apply to a public figure and an individual person. You should consult legal advice in this regard to ensure that you’re taking the right steps before sharing your work and before you publish.

Recap

Before you embark on the exciting process of writing and publishing your next book, be sure to know which laws apply to your title and written work, post your copyright notice on your work, obtain your copyright from the U.S. Copyright Office, get permission from any third parties you portray in your book, and ensure that you have considered any chance for defamation claims. It is always good practice to work with a qualified attorney to best protect your work. Chase Law Group can help guide you through the process in the publication of your book. Feel free to contact us and we can help set you up for success.