Guest Post: Can Copyrights Be Inherited?

By Josh T.

In the United States, a writer’s work is automatically copyrighted under their ownership once it’s in consumable form. The copyright lasts as long as the writer is alive and 70 years after their death whether it’s published or not, which is more than enough to establish someone’s claim to a work. What happens with a writer’s intellectual property after they’re gone, however, can be out of their control. A simple way to be certain your copyrights stay in the right hands, at least for a time, is to pass them on to a chosen heir. How are they inherited, however? Continue reading


Guest Post: Keep Calm, Your Authorship is Protected: What Publishers and Authors Should Know About Copyright and Plagiarism


By Alisa Korzh

Alisa Korzh is a marketer and copywriter for Unplag, a site that checks for plagiarism online. Below she covers the basics of copyright.

Writers and publishers work with texts on a daily basis, but not everyone knows a lot about copyright. There is undeniably a whole host of myths around copyright issues. That’s why misunderstandings happen.

There are a few basic facts about copyright that anyone can understand. You don’t need to be an expert in law to know your rights and protect your works form illegal copying. Here are the must-know things to keep in mind: Continue reading

Indie Authors: Legal Considerations

By Jonund (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Jonund (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

As an indie author, there are a lot of things to take into consideration. In addition to all the things that go along with being a writer (writing, editing, etc.), authors have to be aware of all the business and legal sides.  Continue reading

Guest Post: Piracy on the High Ether


By Valley Brown – author of Speeding Tickets

Piracy can be a serious issue for indie authors of ebooks. Valley Brown explains her personal experiences with digital piracy, and what she did to fight it.

The Internet is a vast ocean swarming with pirates. So I had been warned by any number of publishing professionals and experienced authors. Being a newbie author with an appalling lack of discoverability, I doubted I had to worry about that little problem for some time. Wrong.

August 2014: A Google Alert popped up in my Inbox. “Speeding Tickets by Valley Brown” was available as a free download on Google Docs. What?

I had never used Google Docs, and I certainly hadn’t put my book up there for a free download! I followed the link. The only legitimate PDF version of my book was available for sale through Smashwords, but they had no sales for my account. The supplier of this PDF version had a totally foreign name, which appeared to be of Eastern European origin. Through the Google Doc site, I was able to register a complaint for copyright infringement, after proving that I was indeed the owner of said intellectual property.

The online form – there was no way to contact a live human for this issue – stated the results of the claim would be sent to Chilling Effects and that a notice would be put up in the place of the removed material. I soon received an automated email reply from Google letting me know that they were taking this seriously, but due to the high volume of claims they dealt with, it might take them a while to investigate, and then to take the offending site down. Great. While my paperwork is lost in the ether-queue, hundreds or even thousands of people could be downloading pirated copies.

This was a real problem to me. I had barely any sales on this first book, even after (or maybe I should say especially after) having made the Kindle version free for three days the year before. It had not begun to pay its own expenses. The last thing I needed was someone cheating me out of income the book needed to earn. Within a week, Google took the book down. I had no way of knowing how many – if any – copies were downloaded, but at least I was safe. Not.

September 2014: Another Google Alert! Quite possibly the same individual had put my book up yet again for free download on Google Docs. Again, I filed a complaint with Google. Again, they took the book down. I was irritated at having this happen a second time, and so soon. Surely this person would be banned from Google Docs for life. Right.

January/February 2015: Another Google Alert. Seriously? The scenario repeated itself. I repeated the complaint. Google responded, a bit more quickly than the previous two instances. I could only shake my head. Why my book? It was still an unknown little tome adrift in the online ocean. My son, who is far savvier and techie than I, informed me there are a lot of individuals out there who spend countless hours pirating books and other forms of entertainment, all to share these luxury items with the less-wealthy around the web.

This perplexed me. Was this a form of flattery, or had I simply been ensnared in a wide net with who knows how many other unsuspecting authors? I had no way to know. And then…

March 2015: The now-familiar Google Alert arrived in my inbox. This had become more than annoying, more than ridiculous, and I let Google know it in my comments. The book was removed in a matter of hours, not days. Somehow, a live person must have seen the comments and raised an eyebrow over them.

Four times in seven months. That’s a lot, I think. I’m thankful I had Google Alerts set up for all my books, name and pen name. They catch a lot of tidbits that are nothing to fret over, but they also caught all of these piracy incidents. It begs the question: what DIDN’T they catch?

I’m just waiting around for the next one, for it surely is inevitable, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. With all the sophisticated software available (as free downloads, even), no form of digital/electronic IP is safe from being pirated. I trust that the majority of people out there don’t steal, that they respect and value our writing enough to pay us for our labors. Thank God for those readers. They allow us to pursue our dreams, and it is a privilege to share with them.

Incidentally, you should visit Chilling Effects sometime. The number of copyright-infringement complaints registered involving Google are endless. Mine were in company with such well-known names as The Zac Brown Band and Coldplay.

ValleyBrownSmallPromoPhoto(credited)11March2011Valley Brown lives in Southwestern Indiana with her husband (who swears she killed him off in Book One – “Speeding Tickets”). She is a member of Romance Writers of America, including Indiana RWA. “The Rocky Road” romantic suspense series celebrates mature women who realize life is one big amazing journey and that love is always worth a second chance. Valley openly admits lusting after Red Velvet Cake Ice Cream, but chocolate and coffee will always be her first loves.

Valley’s books on

YouTube Book Trailer:

The Rocky Road Series by Valley Brown

Indie Authors: Book Rights

This month I’ve started working seriously on my passion project, I Know Dino. One of my goals is to get a few dinosaur ebooks out, starting with a picture book I’ve been working on for a while about how Brontosaurus is not a real dinosaur (even though it used to be my favorite).

Last weekend, I found an amazing illustrator on Fiverr and have started work on actually finishing and putting together my Brontosaurus book. This got me to thinking of how to go about handling the rights, which got me to thinking about how indie authors handle copyright and their rights to their work. Continue reading

Intellectual Property and the Indie Writer

Courtesy of Ulfbastel, Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Ulfbastel, Wikimedia Commons

By Ron Glick

This post was originally published on Ron Glick, an indie author of 9 comic trivia books and 5 novels, shares his insights and experiences with intellectual property. Read his latest novel, Dorothy Through the Looking Glass.

In recent months, the subject of intellectual property rights has become a very big issue for me personally. I swear, the last half of 2013 must have been an unwritten copycat movement that I never received the memo on. Out of nowhere, I found myself defending my own intellectual properties on various fronts, all from claims originating in this time frame. However, to make matters worse, it opened my eyes to exactly how under-informed independent (or indie) authors really are on the subject.

As writers, we all recognize the value of a brand. We rely on creating something marketable and unique to grab the attention of our audiences, but it frightens me at how little the indie writer market seems to understand of exactly how sovereign we are in preserving the concepts we create. Worse, not a single indie writer I have discussed this issue with in recent months is even aware of the necessity to aggressively defend what they have created. Continue reading

Other Self-Publishing Tips

Self-publishing can be a challenge. To do it successfully, you basically run the business of you. Below are some additional things, aside from the writing, editing, marketing, and conversion, to keep in mind. Continue reading

Fun(ny) Copyright Cases

Learning about publishing law may be a lot of work, but it sure is entertaining. In my last class, we discussed a couple of particularly interesting cases, one of which involves the video you see above.

South Park is no stranger to lawsuits. But their most recent one concerns copyright infringement upon a hit YouTube video from 2007. In 2008, South Park released an episode entitled, “Canada on Strike,” which featured a recreation of Samwell’s hit video. South Park called their video, “What, What, in the Butt.”

Obviously, South Park is claiming parody under fair use as a defense. This is, after all, what South Park is all about. But did they copy excessively? Is this a case of copyright infringement? What do you think?

The next case involves the (now dead) magazine, Cooks Source. In their October issue, the magazine used word-for-word an article written by Monica Gaudio–without her permission–on their Facebook page, online magazine, and print issue. When Monica wrote the magazine editor, asking for an apology and a small donation to Columbia’s School of Journalism, this was the response she got:

“Yes Monica, I have been doing this for 3 decades, having been an editor at The Voice, Housitonic Home and Connecticut Woman Magazine. I do know about copyright laws. It was “my bad” indeed, and, as the magazine is put together in long sessions, tired eyes and minds somethings forget to do these things.
But honestly Monica, the web is considered “public domain” and you should be happy we just didn’t “lift” your whole article and put someone else’s name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me… ALWAYS for free!”

Two weeks later, the magazine closed. My whole class laughed at this one–obviously there is something wrong when the magazine editor thinks that just because something is published on the Internet, it’s public domain. There are literally tons of cases that prove her wrong. Epic fail.

Here’s the full story on Gawker: Magazine Editor Steals Article, Tells Writer ‘You Should Compensate Me!’

12/12/10: This Week in Publishing

In Scandanavia, readers and libraries want more e-books and are getting e-books from other countries. But publishers distrust libraries, thinking they help piracy, and they are facing a dilemma with pricing and copyright protection.

SCANDINAVIA: e-Book market uncertainty

Even though there’s a lot of news about more schools using e-textbooks, a recent study shows that e-textbook sales are actually still low.

US: Despite the hype, e-textbook sales remain low

Still, e-books are making an impact. Print book sales are declining, down 8 percent in September, and nearly 4,000 independent bookstores have shut down since the 1990s. Several well-established indie bookstores had to close this week in Minnesota.

Local bookstores fall to ‘e-book revolution’

Despite what the New York Times said, publishers and BookScan figures prove that children’s picture books are still popular and thriving, representing more than 10% of the children’s market overall–which is the same as in 2005.

Don’t Write the Obit For Picture Books Yet

Just for fun, here’s a breakdown of how one writer managed to fool his editor’s into thinking he’d read and reviewed a book that hadn’t been published yet. The Onion’s A.V. Club has since apologized.

How to Review a Book Without Reading It

Lastly, Angry Birds recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, and its popularity has suggested a larger shift in entertainment and in the kinds of brands that can win wide popularity.

Angry Birds, Flocking to Cellphones Everywhere

Publishing and Law: Marketing

No that has nothing to do with publishing law. But it was the sign in the bathroom at HBO, where I had my class, and I thought it was kind of funny. And I do love a good sign.

Anyway, this week we had a guest speaker: Rick Kurnit. He is an attorney at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz PC, and he is incredibly knowledgeable. But rather than recite my ten pages or so of notes, I’ll just pick out some of his more entertaining and useful quotes.

“If the (ad) agency is competent, which is about half of them, they would limit their liability.”

“The world is filled with preliminary materials. These are dangerous.”

“That which you can do as a judgment proof college student is very different from what you can do as a corporation.”

“What you do as a college student is fair use essentially because there’s no money to be made by suing you.”

“Typically you change [ads] to generic or you go to parody/fair use which other people call stealing.”

“It doesn’t matter if [the ad] is for social commentary or good, you MUST comment on the underlying work” (if you don’t want to lose in court).

“It’s perfectly legal to appropriate concepts and ideas so long as the execution is entirely different.”

“What you do with people’s beloved trademarks may have limits.”

“What’s art? We’ve got judges now deciding what’s art.”

“So he’s still there making decisions about popular culture about which he knows nothing, but that’s what judges do.”

“I advise everyone not to do business in California” (you can get sued most easily there, apparently).

“When you get a claim, it’s a good idea to consult a competent lawyer. By my count that’s about 20% of lawyers.”

“The problem with lying when you’re making claims is, when do you stop?”

We also discussed at length Fair Use and Parody, which is a defense against copyright, so long as the underlying idea of the original work is what you are using to make your point. You can also get in trouble if the Court deems you’ve used an excessive amount to make your point. Very tricky. Anyway, two funny, and successful parody, cases involve “Good Night Bush” and “Naked Gun 33 1/3.”

“Good Night Bush”

This book is considered to be a parody, and the argument was that “Good Night Moon” was one of the few books former President George W Bush read, and that if he hadn’t read that book, he never would have made to decision to go to war in Iraq.

“Naked Gun 33 1/3”

A movie starring Leslie Nielsen, “Naked Gun 33 1/3” created a poster of Leslie in the same pose as the famous 1991 Vanity Fair cover of naked, pregnant Demi Moore. The argument for this was that Demi Moore’s photo was about how at the cusp of the new millennium, society is more accepting of women and their naked bodies, and Leslie Nielson’s photo was for a movie about how men are still Neanderthals and can’t accept the beauty of pregnant, naked women. The 2nd District Court bought it and claimed it was fair use.