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Media perils and liability insurance 101

March 5, 2015

Tags: insurance, media perils, publishers liability, errors and omissions

by Pat McNees, updated 6-14-17, 8-8-16
Media perils liability insurance (or publishers liability insurance) may provide you with protection for such traditional claims as copyright infringement; libel; defamation, plagiarism; invasion or privacy or publicity or infringement of privacy or publicity rights; misappropriation of trademark, title, or slogan; defamation; misappropriation of property rights; personal injury; contextual errors and omissions. What is covered depends on your policy so if there is any chance of your being vulnerable to a lawsuit, study your options. You are protecting mainly against lawsuits, and I am no lawyer, so I report only on what I have learned over the years. I cannot recommend a particular insurance firm or broker, but just finding one is not easy so I list a few. If you don't need the basics explained, scroll down to the section on Where to find liability insurance for authors and indie publishers

Be careful what you agree to in publishing contract

Authors: To begin with, be careful what you agree to in a contract:. Many authors routinely strike out or modify the part of any contract that holds the client or publisher blameless for any suits related to a particular story. Clearly it makes no sense for writers to agree to indemnify and hold blameless the client or publisher. Some publishers' contracts include indemnification clauses that hold the publication blameless and assign the burden of liability to the writer (even though editors may change the content). But even for a nuisance lawsuit, legal costs can be substantial. Ask that such a clause, or any indemnification clause, be struck from the contract, or change the wording so that the writer is liable for content only "as submitted or approved by the writer," as one health writer suggests--see also the language suggested in the following important position paper (which probably needs updating but explains the principles:
How to Deal with Warranty and Indemnification Clauses (Writers & Editors site)
Contract terms (especially but not only in book publishing) '

Media perils and publishers liability insurance, broadly

What Every Publisher Should Know About Publisher's Liability Insurance (attorneys Lloyd J. Jassin and Steven C. Schechter, CopyLaw)
Liability Insurance Nyet (Rich Adin, Business of Editing, An American Editor, 5-22-13). When a client insists that a freelance editor have errors and omissions insurance, what does the editor do? Explain why it makes no sense for editors.
Get Covered: Media Insurance for Writers (Tara Lynne Groth, Women on Writing, Nov. 2010)
Media perils insurance protects against lawsuits over libel, copyright infringement (Jennie Phipps, What Freelance Success Says, 5-19-11)

Where to find liability insurance for authors and indie publishers


WriteInsure, through Axis Pro/Argo Insurance Group (media and entertainment liability coverage, professional and miscellaneous errors and omissions, and cyberspace liability). Leading underwriter of media liability insurance. Available through Authors Guild and ASJA, among other organizations. Axis Pro offers four levels of coverage through WriteInsure, ranging from $100,000 per claim (with an aggregate payment limit of $300,000) to $1,000,000 per claim (with an aggregate payment limit of $1,000,000). The program covers legal expenses incurred in defending a claim and any monetary damages or settlements you may be required to pay. The "self-insured retention" (similar to a deductible) ranges from $2,500 to $5,000, depending on the amount of coverage you purchase. See WriteInsure's Frequently Asked Questions (PDF).
Media Liability Insurance (Authors Guild). The Guild has an agreement with AxisPro to offer its members professional liability insurance (through the insurance brokerage firm, John Buttine, Inc.). Download the FAQ for more details and see application form for Axis Pro's WriteInsure liability policy, for three covered activities: freelance writing (including commentary on third party websites and blogs), book authorship, and/or your own blog.
SPJ offers access to insurance and financial services through consultants Harry W. Riley III and David N. Brown. Also offers life insurance through MetLife.
Publiability. Mike Mansell (Granite Insurance Brokers) specializing in media liability insurance for publishers since 1977
Affordable media liability insurance is available for members of the National Federation of Press Women (through Walterry Insurance Brokers). Walterry offers Chubb's MediGuard errors and omissions liability insurance for broadcasters as well as for newspaper publishers.
AxisPro's Loss Prevention Guide (this PDF booklet provides basic info on defamation, defamation, invasion of privacy (more complex than you might expect), trademark infringement, and copyright infringement).
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MusicPro Insurance (for instruments and computer equipment)

Comment below if anything useful is missing.
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Comments

  1. September 22, 2015 7:18 AM EDT
    Thanks! This was very helpful as a new Indie author. I'm based in the UK, but as more of my sales very well may be in the US, I've been advised to look at getting insurance in the US. Your site provides terrific information and resources. Thanks, again! Sara Pascoe www.sarapascoe.co
    - Sara Pascoe
  2. September 24, 2015 6:14 PM EDT
    These are not geared to writers, editors, or the publishing industry, but may be broadly helpful: Freelancers, Here's How To Protect Your Business Assets From Liability (Laura Shin, Forbes, 4-29-15)
    - PMcNees
  3. September 30, 2015 5:20 PM EDT
    I checked today with my homeowner's insurance. An extra $9 per year to extend the $300,000 liability coverage to include defamation, and an extra $34 to increase it to $1,000,000. Plus I qualified for a previously unknown 5% discount, so my annual bill actually goes down!
    - Will MacPheat
  4. September 30, 2015 6:05 PM EDT
    Very helpful comment, Will. Do you mind saying, with whom do you have your homeowner's insurance? And what kind of material are you writing? -- Pat

    Will responded (and I quote with his permission) "Liberty Mutual. Writing what would be called memoirs, about my dealings with the legal system. The second one gets pretty touchy as it has to do with a psychologist and probably a couple lawyers who violated numerous ethics with me. Everything is true, or if not true their own words or put in terms of allegations. But that doesn't stop them from suing. The agent is one I've dealt with for a good 10 years and I was very explicit about what I wanted to cover."
    - Pat McNees
  5. August 15, 2016 11:11 AM EDT
    A colleague who gave classes at a local Masonic Hall was required to cover her students while on their property. They recommended Hiscox Insurance. She signed up online, it was easy, and she paid by the month, only for those months when she taught, about $45 a month. She signed up here:
    http://www.hiscox.com/small-business-insurance/.
    I thought, How do we know if they provide good coverage? But she was buying it because they required it, not because she thought it made sense to have coverage during a class in which no one was doing things physically dangerous. Out of curiosity, I looked online to see if Hiscox got any positive or negative reviews and found both negative and positive reviews on one "reviews" page.
    - PM
  6. June 14, 2017 9:31 AM EDT
    Question from Oliver: If I do not wish to join authors guild or any other organization like it, might I still be eligible for media liability insurance as an individual? If not, is there some sort of business model that I can form in order to acquire such insurance? Sort of self-employed author.
    Pat's response: I don't know the answer to that question, Oliver. I expect you can buy liability insurance somewhere, and all of my advice is geared chiefly to self-employed (freelance) writers. But I assume that you would pay more as an individual than you would as a member of a group -- that seems to be how insurance works (they get more membership fees, and spread the risk).
    - Oliver