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Legal Information for Authors

One of the speakers for our annual Publish with Purpose virtual summit in 2022 was Jonathan Kirsch, a publishing, privacy and intellectual property attorney and general counsel for the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA).

As a publisher, we often field questions from our authors about what certain legal terms mean and how it affects them, as well as what they can and cannot include in their published works. So, we decided that it was time to consult a professional to demystify this information for authors.

We compiled a list of all of the questions we typically hear, and our founder, Tara R. Alemany, took the opportunity to ask Jonathan what they meant and how they applied to the publishing industry.

Rather than keeping this interview tucked away in our vaults, where only summit attendees could access it, we decided to make this particular interview public since it’s valuable legal advice for authors to know.

Legal Tips for Authors

Want to skip to a specific question?

Here’s a quick guide to our interview topics:

  • 03:56 – What is copyright and what does it mean?
  • 05:56 – When you register your copyright, what does that do for you?
  • 06:43 – Can you register the copyright for books that were released more than 90 days prior?
  • 08:59 – What does public domain refer to?
  • 10:30 – How does a public domain status affect derivative works?
  • 12:17 – What does fair use refer to?
  • 14:02 – What are the four factors that determine fair use?
  • 18:48 – Are epigraphs (or chapter quotes) permissible for fair use?
  • 23:58 – Where can you research whether something is in the public domain or not?
  • 24:57 – When writing about real people and events, is it sufficient to change their names and location?
  • 29:39 – What if the real events or person you wrote about were written in a positive light?
  • 30:03 – How does invasion of privacy factor into this?
  • 30:47 – What if the person you’re writing about is already dead?
  • 31:30 – When someone provides an endorsement for a book, can it be used for marketing materials as well as in or on the book, or do you have to specify upfront how it’s going to be used?
  • 32:36 – Is an email sufficient for the purposes of granting permission?
  • 37:07 – How do you identify the current copyright holder of something you want to quote?
  • 37:44 – What are “orphaned works” when it comes to copyright?
  • 40:02 – How are damages measured in a copyright infringement case?
  • 42:29 – Can you use consumer reviews posted on public websites for your marketing materials and website?
  • 46:52 – When should you notate a quotation?
  • 49:52 – If you’ve paid someone to produce something used in the book (for example, an illustration or photograph), is the invoice sufficient protection?
  • 52:24 – What is plagiarism?
  • 55:10 – How much of your book can you use for promotional purposes?

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