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From Karen Saunders

Your Branding, Marketing & Self-Publishing Coach

20 Copyright and Clearance Tips for Self-Publishers

A recent Colorado Independent Publishers Association meeting featured copyright and permissions presentations by John R. Tandler of Ryley, Carlock and Applewhite, and Joyce L. Miller of The Copyright Detective.

Here are my notes from this very informative meeting on copyright clearance

  1. Not everything can be copyrighted. Only items that can be “fixed in a tangible medium” which then can be reproduced. For example, music that is recorded onto a tape or printed on a sheet, words that are printed on paper, a painting that is on canvas, a photo that is printed on paper or stored digitally all can be copyrighted. But words spoken in a presentation, ideas, procedures, concepts, facts, or discoveries can NOT be copyrighted.
  2. There are 4 types of copyrights: copyrights, trademarks, patents and trade secrets.
  3. A single literary title of a book cannot be copyrighted, unless it has “secondary meaning.” Secondary meaning is applied only to those famous well-known titles such as Gone With the Wind. But a series title can be copyrighted. A series is defined by two or more books.
  4. The person who created the work is the copyright owner UNLESS the piece was created while in a “work-made-for-hire” agreement.
  5. There are 3 types of situations where something may be considered work-made-for-hire: 1) by employees during their normal scope of duties 2) by non-employees (contractor/freelancers) where a written agreement by the buyer and creator states it is a work-made-for-hire. 3) if it is listed among these 9 specified areas: a contribution to a collective work, part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, a translation, a supplementary work, a compilation, an instructional test, a test, answer material for a test, an atlas.
  6. The owner of a copyright can license or transfer specific rights of the work to others. These rights can be very limited or very broad. When licensing the work, you should be very specific. For example, you can transfer the right for a person to use one of your photographs on the cover of their book for a limited run of 25,000 copies. This would not transfer the right to use the photo on their website, T-Shirt, coffee mugs, etc.
  7. A book is copyrighted the instant it is printed on paper. You don’t need to put the copyright symbol with the little “c” on the page. But if you are planning to take someone to court over copyright infringement, you must have your book registered with the US Copyright office.
  8. “Fair Use” only covers purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, comment, parody, and research.
  9. There are 4 factors that go into “fair use,” and weight is given to each factor. These 4 factors include 1) Why it was used 2) The nature of the work 3) The percentage of the work used 4) The effect on the market.
  10. Plagiarism is reproducing the work without attribution or credit.
  11. Copyright clearance is formal written permission given for specific rights for a third party to use the work. You should always be clear on the scope of permissions you are requesting.
  12. You should get a copyright clearance for everything and anything you don’t already own the copyright for. It should be concise and detailed.
  13. Keep a written log of all your copyright clearances with dates, contact names, and phone numbers.
  14. Ultimately the publisher is responsible for any copyright infringement, but the author, employees and contractors can be held liable.
  15. Plan ahead to secure permissions, and be prepared for denial, fees, selecting alternatives and lengthy time for research.
  16. Searches for copyright holders may lead you to other publishers, publications, organizations, agencies, societies, museums, heirs or estates.
  17. Just because you secured the copyright permission to use the work in your printed book doesn’t mean you have the permission use it in an ebook or translated book, marketing pieces or advertising.
  18. Just because something is on the Internet doesn’t mean it is public domain.
  19. You also may need to get a release for each individual pictured in a photo.
  20. Copyright law does not state that a certain number of words can be copied without permission.