Legal Considerations for Authors

By Sachinwarankar (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Sachinwarankar (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
For writers and publishers, there are a lot of interesting things to consider when it comes to the law.

For writers looking to go the traditionally published route, there’s a lot to keep in mind contract-wise, including, according to Kristine Kathryn Rusch, control, fairness, and clout. She explains that you want as much control over your project as possible, though some contracts may not allow for negotiation, so you’ll have to ask yourself if that contract is something you really want. Also, things will not always be fair, but you don’t need clout to negotiate, you just need to get past the idea that you need a certain level of success before you can negotiate and just go for it. The worst thing that can happen is the person you’re negotiating with can say “no.”

Porter Anderson covers the topic of if authors can compete with “non-compete” clauses. One example case is if an author wrote a sci-fi series that’s traditionally published, and then wants to self-publish ebooks about some of the characters from the series. Apparently not all publishers are on board with this strategy.

In the blog world, this past summer there were a lot of articles talking about how Google deleted Dennis Cooper’s 14-year-old blog because a violation to the TOS. ArtForum wrote that his blog had his latest GIF novel, which was due to be published in the fall. Eventually, according to The Guardian, after a couple months of legal disputes, plus support from fans, and a petition, Cooper recovered all his lost data from Google and started a new blog, where he reposted all his work.

Writers should also consider fair use in their work. NiemanLab wrote about how it cost two authors $1,884 to quote 300 words from New York Times articles in their book. When in doubt, it’s best to stick to using your original work only, according to Bookworks, though you can use creative commons content.

There’s also piracy. Scott La Counte covers seven ways writers can protect themselves from piracy, on Ingram Spark. Tips include setting up Google alerts, using digital watermarks, and using text scanning services.

Next up are disclaimers. According to The Book Designer, disclaimers don’t necessarily have to be dry, and they can always be useful.

On a related note, The Bookseller wrote about licensing models for fan fiction. In the game world, there are multi-channel networks (MCNs), which negotiate license from game publishers and then take a percentage of ad revenue from the fan created content that use content from those games. In book publishing, the main fan fiction model right now is Kindle Worlds, which lets writers create content around certain books and sell that work on Kindle.

And last, a new law that went into effect this month in California requires that anyone who sells a book for more than $5 and is signed must be able to provide the name and address of the book’s previous owner to the purchaser, according to the NY Times. Many booksellers are worried about the lack of privacy and are hoping the law will be clarified.

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