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Copyright, work for hire, and other rights issues


Publishing contracts, copyright, work for hire, licensing, fair use, public domain, permissions, rights clearance, contract negotiations, rights grabs, and the like (with a U.S. focus). I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice, but an effort to share basic rights information, especially for creative work. (I did spend three years participating in the Conference on Fair Use (CONFU), which is probably what got me started on this website. I realized how much I didn't know and therefore how much other writers and editors also didn't know -- and didn't know they didn't know -- hence the website. Hope this makes it easier.

Discussion groups and listservs on copyright and intellectual property
Organizations focused on intellectual property issues

Fair use: A primer, followed by links to good explanations and examples
Important fair use court cases
Codes of Best Practices and Fair Use Guidelines
See also "Controlled digital lending" below.

Copyright, an overview
---How, why, and when to register copyright
---Public domain works
---How long does copyright last? When do works enter the public domain?
--- Reversion of rights to author (vs. assigning rights in perpetuity to publisher)
--- Termination of rights (a second bite of the apple for the author)
--- Who owns the copyright? What does copyright protect?
--- Important copyright issues, FAQs, and explanations
--- Copyright and academia
--- Copyright issues in the digital world, plus legal guides
--- Names, titles, domain names, and trademarks
--- How patents and trademarks differ from copyright
--- Orphan Works legislation
--- Work for hire (work made for hire)

Moral rights
Plagiarism detection and plagiarism checkers
Piracy and counterfeit books (large-scale plagiarism)
DMCA Takedown Notices, Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and Related Issues

Contracts, including book contracts
Books about contracts, copyright, fair use, clearing permissions, and other issues important to writers, editors, and other "creatives"
Clearing rights and finding rightsholders (licensing organizations and rights clearinghouses)
--- Clearing permissions (permissions and releases)
--- Clearing rights for books, scripts, screenplays
--- Clearing rights for music and sound
--- Clearing rights in visual arts
Authors' rights (and publishers' rights grabs)
Artists' looming battle with recording industry on copyright termination rights
Rights and contracts for academic authors (how not to give up all rights to academic journals)
Rights and royalties, issues about (and what happens to works after authors die)

Net neutrality
DMCA Takedown Notices, Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and Related Issues
Digital rights management (DRM)
Controlled digital lending
First-sale doctrine meets digital world of rentals and licensing
Google Book Settlement Now settled! Time to register your claim.

Author-agent agreements/contracts
Authors' wills, trusts, and estates
Book advances and royalties
Understanding subsidiary rights (foreign, film, audio, etc.)
Revolution in academia: Copyright and open access (blog post)

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If you found it on the Internet, is it public domain — meaning unprotected by copyright? No. And believing that material on a website or in an e-mail is freely copyable is one of many ways you can get yourself in trouble. Plus it's wrong.

Copyright and fair use guidelines have changed since the advent of digital copies and the Internet, which in effect make the Internet a big copying machine. But copyright law still exists — copyright is, indeed, provided for in the U.S. constitution — and it is important to understand both how to protect your own rights and how not to violate those of others. In many ways, U.S. authors are not protected as well as authors in other countries; U.S. copyright follows the Berne convention in many ways, for example, except in protecting authors' "moral rights." As with other sections of this website, I will add more links and information as I find time. The copyright and fair use "quiz" that I provide when I teach a course on copyright basics is a good way to find out what you know and don't know about copyright. If I can figure out a way to incorporate a self-administered quiz in the framework of this Authors Guild website template, I will do so. In the meantime, click here for a copyright tutorial quiz from an excellent University of Texas website. Save yourself grief by mastering the basics of essential terms: copyright, licensing, fair use, public domain, open source, Creative Commons, work-for-hire, and various forms of rights. See Copyright Crash Course Quick Guides

Writers: Be grateful to Dan Carlinsky, who years ago started teaching us that as copyright owners we own the rights to our works. We do not "sell" an article to a magazine but "license" it. Thanks, Dan, for starting an education campaign we really needed. You in publishing: Pay attention. You, too, may be an author one day. Creators of all types: You should generally "license" use of your work rather than sell (or give) the copyright to someone. And be knowledgeable about which rights you are licensing. As a freelance journalist, you are typically granting a periodical "first rights" or "one-time rights," but you are retaining the copyright (unless you give in to a greedy publisher--see Rights and contracts for academic authors and Copyright and academia). Photographers have been better than writers about watching out for their rights. A photographer, for example, licensing use of a photo in a book might charge various fees for additional licenses -- for use of the photo inside a book (one fee), on the cover (a second fee), in marketing materials (an additional fee), on merchandise such as a mug or tee shirt (yet another fee). And generally as a photographer you would want to retain the right to use the photo yourself -- as a print, say, and in your own promotional materials. That being said, it is also true that on the whole photographers' incomes have fallen in the digital age, partly because of the advent of quickly available and exchanged digital photos.

Remember: When you are clearing permissions, you need to specify which rights you are asking for. The more limited the rights, the smaller the audience or printing, and the lower the price of what you are selling, the lower the fee, generally.

And do read Mike Shatzkin's articles on new models of publishing, in the section on Publishing and e-publishing, as those changing models are going to affect how (much) income is shared with authors.

See also the Authors Guild's Project to “Restate” Copyright Law Under Scrutiny (and read the articles linked to, including the Copyright Office's blunt letter to ALI and ALI’s Great Copyright Caper: Has The American Law Institute Been Hijacked By Big Tech?. It appears that the worst fears about the Restatement of Copyright project are true—that it is an attempt to rewrite (change) the law in a way that further limits copyright protection.

Disclaimer: I am NOT a lawyer and this is NOT legal advice. This information is provided for informational purposes only. I hope some of the material here will help prevent your needing a lawyer--or paying a lawyer for information you can find online. Bottom line: respect copyright because it's the right thing to do and because if you don't you may be sued for infringement.

If you do need help and qualify financially, consider Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (VLA)

—— Pat McNees

Copyright: An Overview

“Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed.”~U.S. Library of Congress

• "Copyright protects 'original works of authorship' that are fixed in a tangible form of expression." ~ U.S. Library of Congress (an idea you express in conversation alone is not protected)

• "Copyright does not protect names, titles, slogans, or short phrases. In some cases, these things may be protected as trademarks." U.S. Library of Congress
• Intellectual property is intangible property created by the mind, as distinguished from real property (land, buildings, and anything attached to the land) and personal property (tangible property not affixed to or associated with the land, such as a necklace or computer). The four basic systems for protecting intellectual property involve copyright, trademarks, service marks, and patents.
• The U.S. Constitution empowers the U.S. Congress "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." (Art. 1, Sect. 8, Clause 8) 

The copyright clause allows Congress to protect and encourage the writings and discoveries of authors and inventors (no mention of publishers) -- only to the extent that they are original or inventive, and not just improvements on existing knowledge. Limitations on that protection (such as First Amendment rights and fair use) have been determined through decisions of the Supreme Court. The whole point is to encourage the advancement of knowledge. With the exception of some academic publishers and work-for-hire projects, it is the author who owns the copyright; the publisher licenses the right to publish the author's work, but the author can get that license back, under certain conditions. (See Reversion of rights.)
Rights Granted Under Copyright Law (BitLaw). The Copyright Act grants five rights to a copyright owner:
~ the right to reproduce the copyrighted work;
~ the right to prepare derivative works based upon the work;
~ the right to distribute copies of the work to the public;
~ the right to perform the copyrighted work publicly; and
~ the right to display the copyrighted work publicly.
BitLaw's explanations of these rights are helpful.
Copyright: An Overview (Cornell, brief)
FAQs about copyright (U.S. Copyright Office)
Copyright Timeline: A History of Copyright in the United States (Assoc. of Research Libraries)
Why Is It Easier to Copyright an Unhealthy Yoga Routine than a Healthy One? (Kal Raustiala and Chris Sprigman, Freakonomics, 12-8-11). Bikram Choudhury, founder of Bikram Yoga, a popular and high-priced chain of yoga studios, sues rival studios who teach the Bikram method, or offer Bikram-style classes without Bikram-certified instructors. "Choudhury claims that his yoga sequence, when performed as directed and at the correct temperature has significant health benefits -- ranging from the alleviation of diabetes to multiple sclerosis and obesity. But a central feature of copyright law is that creations that have a function cannot be copyrighted. The more Choudhury's health benefits are true, in other words, the weaker his claim to copyright is. And that claim is pretty weak to begin with....Functionality is the master concept that divides copyright (which covers art, literature, and other non-functional things), and patent (which covers new machines, processes, and other functional things)."
Common Myths About Copyright (Marion Gropen, The Profitable Publisher)
So, why you do NOT register copyright before publication (Janet Reid, Literary Agent)
The Future of Copyright post Brexit (Andy Johnstone, The 1709 Blog, 3-29-17) "given that copyright is not a core competence of the EU, I suggest this provides the UK with an opportunity to pick out the best bits of the current European acquis but at the same time to discard some of the more bizarre developments..."
Copyright and Fair Use (Stanford University Libraries, with overview material drawn from Richard Stim's book Getting Permission: How To License & Clear Copyrighted Materials Online & Off
Copyright Web Sites (Stanford University Libraries' excellent links)
Joint Ownership of Copyrights (Study prepared for the Subcommittee on Patents, Trademarks, and Copyright, for the U.S. Senate, 1960). Interesting history and cases.
Intellectual Property Law (Virtual Chase's extensive list of links to resources on the subject)
Copyright Law Changes That May Affect You (Stanford University Libraries, Copyright and Fair Use)
Fairly Used Blog (Stanford University Libraries, Attack on Open Access)
Lolly Gasaway's "Copyright Corner" from Special Libraries Association's Information Outlook (links here to Lolly's good articles on just about everything you might want to know about--on topics ranging from academic freedom to circumvention, from Creative Commons to deep linking, from moral rights to webcasting). Darn! This site seems to have disappeared.. Here's an oral history interview with Professor Laura "Lolly" Gasaway about her career in law librarianship and legal education. This bibliography lists "Get copyright right : a collection of copyright corner columns from SLA's Information outlook" but I don't see a way to buy or borrow that book.
Copyright Ownership: Who Owns What? (Stanford Copyright & Fair Use Site answers key questions: What are the exceptions to the rule that the creator of a work owns the copyright? Who owns the copyright in a joint work? Can two or more authors provide contributions to a single work without being considered a joint authors for copyright purposes? What rights do copyright owners have under the Copyright Act? Can a copyright owner transfer some or all of his specific rights?
FAQs about Copyright (Publishing Law Center)
• Can an idea be stolen? Is there such a thing as "idea theft"? (David Sheets, SPJ's Independent Journal, 4-22-12). Yes, though it is not as common as beginning writers think. Can you do anything about it? Probably not. Copyright does not protect ideas--it protects the expression of ideas. As Sheets writes, "The truth is, nobody 'owns' a story idea."
In the Courts: Can Distinctiveness of Musical Identity Be Protected Under U.S. Law? (Barry Werbin, WIPO Magazine, on the cases of Astrud Gilberto, Nancy Sinatra, Tom Waits and commercials that used songs or voices they'd become associated with)
Circuit court rules that Salinger's character, Holden Caulfield, is copyrightable Andrew Albanese (PW,6-17-09), Temporary Restraining Order Issued in Salinger Case. An interesting article on several counts.
Copyright Challenge (a good quiz for students)
Copyright for Indexes, Revisited (Nancy Mulvany, in 1991, arguing that indexes are generally not works for hire, so the indexer may copyright them.)
Copyright Protection for Short Phrases (Copyright & Fair Use, Stanford University Libraries)
Copyright for Librarians (an online course for librarians, a joint project of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society and Electronic Information for Libraries (EIFL), a network of library consortia in 50 countries)
Copyright in the Courts: The Da Vinci Code ( (Uma Suthersanen, WIPO Magazine, 6-06). Two authors of nonfiction works sued Dan Brown for copyright infringement. They lost; this article explains why.
What Happens When A Big-Name Author Is Sued For Copyright Infringement (Claire Fallon, Huffpost, 9-21-17) "Dallas author Charles C. Green’s lawsuit against author Chad Harbach for alleged similarities between Green’s unpublished manuscript and Harbach’s best-selling 2011 debut The Art of Fielding. As the lawsuit advances, Green’s legal team will have to prove that there is a more than suspicious level of similarity between the two books and also that Harbach had access to the original work at all."~Authors Guild
Copyright Crash Course (University of Texas Libraries)
Understanding Copyright for Photographers--and Beyond (Carolyn E. Wright, Article Center,
Using Photographs of Copyrighted Works and Trademarks (WIPO Magazine, 4-06, on unauthorized reproductions)
Copyright Primer for Editorial Photographers (Michael Grecco, Editorial Photographers)
Copyright, A Fair(y) Use Tale (clever video explanation making "fair use" of Disney cartoons)
The Editor's Interest (An American Editor, 3-1-11). "A question that sometimes arises, usually when an editor has difficulty getting paid for his or her work, is: What can the editor do to collect payment? I've been a long-time advocate of the position that the editor has a copyright interest in the edited version of the manuscript, a card that the editor should play in payment disputes."
The Real Purpose of Copyright (John N. Berry III, Library Journal, 7-1-2000). New laws converted a limited exclusive right into long-term ownership
Works Not Covered by Copyright (Digital Media Law Project, formerly Citizen Media Law Project)
The Real Reason for Germany's Industrial Expansion? No Copyright Law (Frank Thadeusz, Spiegel Online, 8-18-10). Bet he gets some arguments?
Shifting Boundaries of Intellectual Property: Copyright, Intellectual Property, and Publishing on the WWW (Jeff Galin, University Of Pittsburgh)
• Integrated Circuitry Topography (Layout Designs) as trade-related intellectual property
~Appendix L of GATT, Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property, U.S. Copyright Office
~Glossary definition, Canadian Intellectual Property Office
~Canadian Guide on the subject
What Chemists Need to Know about Copyright (American Chemical Society learning module)
Updating Copyright Laws to Address Concerns of Google's Cached Page Service (Hal Abelson, Ethics and Law on the Electronic Frontier, 12-10-03)
Intellectual Property Aspects of Web Publishing
The Legalities of Linking (Jennifer Kyrnin, Lifewire, 11-19-18) What a link is and is not (it is not an endorsement, for example). What people complain about, explained: Deep linking, links with advertising, framing what is linked to so that it appears to be on your site.
Links and Law and Links and Laws: Myths Tim Berners-Lee, April 1997 (personal views)
IP Insider (updates from the Intellectual Property Law Practice Center)
What communicators (PR, advertising and marketing professionals) should know about intellectual property (Barbara I. Berschler, Esq.,, for Capital Communicator, Part 1, 12-14-09). Here's Part 2, Some situations in which IP issues may arise and some possible approaches to take.

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How, why, and when to register copyright

In the United States, as soon as you create a work and fix it in tangible form, copyright law protects it. You don't need to register copyright. In the past, U.S. law required authors to affix a copyright notice to their works; Congress eliminated that requirement in 1989. But if you want to collect damages for copyright infringement, you must register copyright, and it makes sense to publish a copyright notice if only so people know who to apply to for permissions, to acquire subsidiary rights, etc. If a registered work is later infringed, the creator can recover actual damages (the fee that would normally have been paid for the use), as well as statutory (punitive) damages and legal fees. A work that is infringed and has not been registered can only generate actual damages (and in most cases the cost of the lawsuit far exceeds recoverable moneys).
       To register a work, submit a completed application form, a nonrefundable filing fee, ($35 to $55 -- see fees for copyright registration, recordation, and other services); and two nonreturnable copies of the work (mandatory deposits) within three months of publication. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section on registration. E-filing takes much less time. Paper filing takes time partly because all mail (U.S. Postal Service) has to be screened offsite, as a security measure.

For more information about various aspects of copyright:
Frequently Asked Questions about Copyright (U.S. Copyright Office--very helpful)
See also CIPs and PCIPs, ISBNs and ISSNs, ISNIs, LCCNs and PCNs, WorldCat and other product identifiers. (LCCN is Library of Congress Control Number; PCN is Preassigned Control Number) Get the LCCN before the book is printed as it and other key cataloging information goes on the copyright page.
Why Waiting Too Long to Register Your Copyright Is a Big Mistake (Liani Kotcher |on Jane Friedman's blog, 10-28-2020) "In order to recover two special types of damages in a lawsuit—statutory damages and attorney fees—you must register before the infringement occurs."
Authors Can Register Copyright in Multiple Short Online Works Together Starting August 17, 2020 (Authors Guild, 8-13-2020) Starting Aug. 17, 2020, authors will be able to register the text of up to 50 “short online works” (such as blog posts or articles under 17,500 words) with the U.S. Copyright Office using a single registration application and with a single filing fee of $65. Previously, this option to register multiple works with one application and filing fee was only available for pieces that were unpublished or published as “contributions to periodicals”—namely newspapers, magazines, newsletters, or other “regularly scheduled” mediums. Online works and other works that did not fit the Office’s narrow definition of “contributions to periodicals” had to be registered individually, each with a separate filing fee of $35 or $55. New Copyright Office Rule Allows Copyright Registration of Online Works with a Single Application (AG, 6-25-2020)
The Myth of Poor Man’s Copyright (Jonathan Bailey, Plagiarism Today, 8-25-06) "Rather than send your work to Uncle Sam, you put it in a nice, shiny envelope and mail it to yourself. Upon its return it has both your name and a nice date stamp, proof positive that the work belonged to you on that date and was created before that." The problem: This doesn't work, for several reasons.
The Fourth Estate Decision and Copyright Registration (Regan A. Smith, General Counsel and Associate Register of Copyrights, on Copyright Creativity at Work, Library of Congress, 9-1-2020) 'In an opinion by Justice Ginsburg, the Supreme Court held in favor of the registration approach. She explained that “‘registration . . . has been made’ within the meaning of 17 U.S.C. §411(a) not when an application for registration is filed, but when the Register has registered a copyright after examining a properly filed application.” That is when registration occurs, and when “a copyright claimant may commence an infringement suit.” The Court concluded that this is “the only satisfactory reading of §411(a)’s text.”'
"The average time it takes for the Office to process a registration is dependent upon a number of factors, including the type of claim, whether it is submitted in paper or electronic form, and whether the Office has to correspond with the applicant to clarify elements of the application. The Office corresponds on roughly 30 percent of copyright applications, and in FY2016, 8.8 percent of all claims were eventually closed due to the applicant’s failure to respond to correspondence."
This blog discusses the decision, and some of the current (and future) options available for rights owners looking to register their copyright claims.
What is preregistration? What works can be preregistered? (
11 Things Every Writer Should Know About Copyrights (Helen Sedwick) Excellent Q&A's.
Copyright Page Samples You Can Copy and Paste Into Your Book (Joel Friedlander, The Book Designer, 1-15-10)
Copyright Page Requirements for Books Printed Overseas (Joanne Bolton, on The Book Designer, 1-12-09) 'Customs wants the consumer to know if a book, and in most cases other tangible goods, are manufactured in another country....The rules, in the case of book manufacturing, are that the words “Made in Korea,” or “Printed in China” or something similar must be set in the same size type as the address of the publisher.'
The Supreme Court Determines Copyright Claimants Must Register Their Works Before Suing (Cleary Gottlieb, 3-11-19) 'The Supreme Court last week resolved a long- standing circuit split over when copyright claimants can bring suit. For years courts have struggled with the Copyright Act’s requirement that claimants can sue for infringement only after “registering” their works. Some courts held that filing an application was enough to satisfy the registration requirement, while others held that the U.S. Copyright Office must actually have issued the registration. In Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp. v. LLC et al., 2019 WL 1005829 (U.S. Mar. 4, 2019), the Supreme Court agreed with the latter approach, ruling that the necessary “registration” of a copyright does not occur until the Copyright Office makes a determination to issue a registration for the work.'

     See also The Fourth Estate Decision and Copyright Registration (Regan A. Smith, General Counsel and Associate Register of Copyrights, on Copyright Creativity at Work blog, Library of Congress, 3-14-19) 'Until Fourth Estate, courts were divided on whether a plaintiff needed to just file an application to get into court (the “application approach”), or whether they needed to wait for the Copyright Office to register or refuse the application before bringing a lawsuit (the “registration approach”).
       In an opinion by Justice Ginsburg, the Supreme Court held in favor of the registration approach. She explained that “‘registration . . . has been made’ within the meaning of 17 U.S.C. §411(a) not when an application for registration is filed, but when the Register has registered a copyright after examining a properly filed application.” That is when registration occurs, and when “a copyright claimant may commence an infringement suit.” The Court concluded that this is “the only satisfactory reading of §411(a)’s text.”
Top 10 Myths, Lies and Misinformation about Copyright (Joel Friedlaner, The Book Designer, 2-10-10)
Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices ( 9-29-17) The U.S. Copyright Office revised and released an update to its administrative manual, the Compendium of U.S. Copyright Office Practices, Third Edition, on September 29, 2017. Some of its updates include the Office’s use of an applicant’s email address as its primary mode of contact, an update to the Best Edition requirement that allows works exclusively published digitally to be submitted in a digital format, and its 2014 rule holding that a work’s “date of publication” for purposes of terminating rights transfers is the date the work is to be published under the contract, not the actual date of publication.
What can and can’t be copyrighted? (New Media Rights, FAQs about copyright law II, 10-10-17)
Circular 66. Copyright Registration of Websites and Website Content (PDF, Explains how to identify the author of a website, how to identify copyrightable content on a website, what "publication" means in the context of a website, and what to submit as a deposit with a website registration. Common registration issues have to do with definitions of what "publication" means on a website (see page 4). You may be able to register a website or a specific web page if it satisfies certain statutory requirements.
Fair use, copyright, social media, and multimedia
Clearing rights and finding rightsholders
Copyright Basics Video (Copyright Clearance Center)
Permissions and releases
Copyright discussion groups and listservs
Links on copyright, work for hire, licensing, fair use, and contract negotiations
Group Registration of Unpublished Works (Copyright Office) and Help: Group Registration of Unpublished Works (also Copyright Office).
Copyright application forms (all categories, U.S. Copyright Office)
Copyright application for visual works, including photos (PDF)
Copyright, the Card Game (UK Copyright Literacy's engaging and downloadable approach to copyright education)
Copyright: Sample Forms and Strategies for Registering your Online Content (Sarah Bird, The Daily SEO Blog, 3-24-08)
Current U.S. copyright registration fees
Tutorial for registering copyright on images (American Society of Media Photographers)
Filing a copyright application (for literary, artistic, dramatic and/or musical works)
How your copyright application is processed
5 Legal Advantages of Registering a Copyright (Lahle Wolfe, The Balance, 9-8-16) How registering a copyright can make it easier to assert your rights.
A guide to copyrights, Canada (Canadian Intellectual Property Office)
Canadian Copyright FAQ (OurDigitalWorld) and General rules for Canadian copyright (schematic)
Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO)
Application for copyright registration in Canada
Copyright Registration in Canada (order this free guide from the Business Development Centre, a private firm)
Copyright Website and Copyright Wizard (private copyright-registration service owned by Benedict O'Mahoney). A few interesting links you might not find on the official copyright sites.
ISBNs (International Book Number System) and other product identifiers for books, software, mixed media etc in webpage on Self-Publishing and Print on Demand.
Copyright Page Samples You Can Copy and Paste Into Your Book (Joel Friedlander, The Book Designer, 1-15-10)
Blogger's Guide to Copyright and DMCA (Natalie Mootz,
A Legal Guide for Bloggers: Copyright, the DMCA, and Fair Use Images (Ben Mulholland,, 10-9-17)

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Public domain works

When do works of intellectual property enter the public domain (become copyright free)?
Copyright Term and the Public Domain in the United States (Peter Hirtle's invaluable chart, Cornell University Library's Copyright Information Center)
When U.S. Works Pass Into the Public Domain (Lolly Gasaway's wonderfully clear chart). This Copyright Duration Chart is close, but not as specific.
What Is Public Domain? (And Why 2019 Is a Big Year) (Brad Frazier, novelist and intellectual property lawyer, on Jane Friedman's blog, 1-14-19) A good explanation of public domain, and why authors and artists should consider their copyrights when doing their estate planning.
Public Domain Guide (Luke Pensworth, DailyWireless, 11-26-2020) With a Creative Commons (CC) license, the creator retains ownership but allows usage under certain conditions. These options have codes to identify them. Scroll down for a clear explanation of the various Creative Commons codes.
The Public Domain Review (one place to find what's just entered the public domain).
New Life for Old Classics, as Their Copyrights Run Out (Alexandra Alter, NY Times, 12-29-18) On Jan. 1, 2019, these titles entered the public domain: “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran, "along with works by thousands of other artists and writers, including Marcel Proust, Willa Cather, D. H. Lawrence, Agatha Christie, Joseph Conrad, Edith Wharton, P. G. Wodehouse, Rudyard Kipling, Katherine Mansfield, Robert Frost and Wallace Stevens." Yes, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" is public domain now. SEE ALSO Published Works Enter the Public Domain in the United States for First Time in Twenty Years (Kelly McKenna, Creativity at Work (the Copyright Office blog), 1-7-19) Authors included in this year’s class of public domain works (though not necessarily every work by them) include: Kahlil Gibran, Edgar Rice Burroughs, P.G. Wodehouse, Joseph Conrad, F. Scott Fitzgerald, E.M. Forster, Carl Sandburg, Virginia Woolf, William Butler Yeats, Hugh Walpole, Nikolay Gogol, Maxim Gorky, Zane Grey, H. Rider Haggard, Aldous Huxley, Rudyard Kipling, Ring Lardner, D.H. Lawrence, Sinclair Lewis, Willa Cather, G.K. Chesterton, Anton Chekhov, Agatha Christie, Jean Cocteau, Sherwood Anderson, and H.L. Mencken.
Welcome to the Public Domain (very useful page from Stanford University Libraries)
When Is 1923 Going to Arrive and Other Complications of the U.S. Public Domain ( Peter B. Hirtle, who created Cornell's public domain chart). On some confusing bits: 1. The confusing case of government works. 2. Published versus unpublished. 3. And what about 1923? 4. The myth of the pre-1923 public domain. 5. Even older copyrighted works. 6. The peculiar case of sound recordings. 7. What about foreign works?
The Copyright Battle Over the Bisexual Pride Flag (Jonathan Bailey, Plagiarism Toda, 4-29-2020) Michael Page was doing volunteer work for BiNet USA and, by his account, was inspired to create a symbol that bi people could rally around. BiNet produced the flag, and, 22 years later, is claiming copyright to it, saying it is going to begin enforcing its rights (to halt its commercialization). It has become, for many, a symbol of great power and importance. Page made it very clear that he wanted the flag to be used broadly, saying that: "The Bi Pride Flag is the only bisexual symbol not patented, trademarked or service marked." An interesting history.
Project Gutenberg Improperly PD’d Copyrighted Works, Authors Claim (Curtis Agency, Publishing in the 21st Century , 11-28-10) By misreading copyright law Project Gutenberg may have infringed the rights of some authors and improperly put their books into the public domain, say science fiction author Greg Bear and Astrid Anderson Bear, his wife and daughter of another SF author, Poul Anderson. Gutenberg’s release of several Poul Anderson works into the public domain provoked an investigation by the couple, who have issued the statement reproduced below in its entirety. The estate for Poul Anderson contends that Project Gutenberg misunderstood copyright law when it published as PD "The Escape," because it was printed in a magazine in 1953 and never renewed. But "The Escape" was later published as part of the well-known novel BRAINWAVE and copyright for that was renewed, and Anderson was well aware of copyright requirements. PG has put a hold on public domain determinations for non-renewals, says Dr. Greg Newby, PG's CEO, according to this article.
Project Gutenberg Blocks Access in Germany to All Its Public Domain Books Because of Local Copyright Claim on 18 of Them (Glyn Moody, TechDirt, 3-7-18) S. Fischer Verlag filed suit against Project Gutenberg's publication of ebooks by 3 authors, in particular Thomas Mann, which are still in copyright in Germany--Mann will enter public domain in Germany in 2025. Project Gutenberg has blocked access to its books in Germany.
Books from 1923 to 1941 Now Liberated! (Brewster Kahle, BoingBoing?, 10-10-17) "The Internet Archive is now leveraging a little known, and perhaps never used, provision of US copyright law, Section 108(h) , which allows libraries to scan and make available materials published 1923 to 1941 if they are not being actively sold. Elizabeth Townsend Gard, a copyright scholar at Tulane University calls this “Library Public Domain.” She and her students helped bring the first scanned books of this era available online in a collection named for the author of the bill making this necessary: The Sonny Bono Memorial Collection. Thousands more books will be added in the near future as we automate. We hope this will encourage libraries that have been reticent to scan beyond 1923 to start mass scanning their books and other works, at least up to 1942." See Creating a Last Twenty (L20) Collection: Implementing Section 108(H) in Libraries, Archives and Museums (Elizabeth Townsend Gard, SSRN, 10-10-17)
Sonny Bono Memorial Collection (Last20) "We believe the works in this collection are eligible for free public access under 17 U.S.C. Section108(h) which allows for non-profit libraries and archives to reproduce, distribute, display and publicly perform a work if it meets the criteria of: a published work in the last twenty years of copyright, and after conducting a reasonable investigation, no commercial exploitation or copy at a reasonable price could be found. This provision was enacted at the same time as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act."
Public Domain in the United States (Cornell Law's excellent chart on when copyright terms expire under various circumstances--published works, unpublished works, works by foreign nationals, sound recordings, architectural works, etc.)
The Public Domain in the United Kingdom (and Other Countries) by Tony Laidig, whose blog Public Domain Blog us full of interesting things like Pimping the Public Domain (where you can download a PDF document about marketing nostalgic PD merchandise.
The Society of Authors (UK) Guides and Articles, many, many useful articles and guides, including Quick Guide to Copyright and Moral Rights (PDF). Slight charge for nonmembers on many items.
Is It Protected by Copyright? (Digital copyright slider, by Michael Brewer, American Library Association). Slide red carat sign along right to identify when a work was published and the answer will pop up bottom left.
Bound by Law? Tales from the Public Domain (clever online comic book explanation of copyright law, by Keith Aoki, James Boyle, and Jennifer Jenkins, for the Duke Center for the Study of Public Domain)
Famous writers and books in the public domain (Cinemoose)
List of public domain music (Public Domain Information Project, PD Info). On their website, under Royalty-free Music , PD Info says "There are no public domain sound recordings in USA." There is a difference between the (sheet) music and recorded music! If you have PD sheet music, your best bet may be to hire someone to play the music and record it yourself.
Songs You Never Dreamed Were in the Public Domain (96 songs from the 50s and 60s, whose copyrights were never renewed-- and other bits about PD music)
5 Misconceptions About Public Domain Work (eBay guide 2-8-10)
The Hole in Our Collective Memory: How Copyright Made Mid-Century Books Vanish (Rebecca Rosen, The Atlantic, 7-30-13). A book published during the presidency of Chester A. Arthur has a greater chance of being in print today than one published during the time of Reagan. "Copyright correlates significantly with the disappearance of works rather than with their availability."
The Tangled History and Mysterious Legality of "Happy Birthday" (Glenn Fleishman, Fast Company, 9-28?-15) "A judge's ruling in a suit filed two years against the ostensible current rights holders for the lyrics to that song...found that Warner-Chappell lacked valid rights to the lyrics, whether or not they remained under copyright protection, even as it collected fees to the tune of $2 million a year.... The lyrics—but not the music—may still have outstanding legal protection almost 125 years after they were allegedly conceived. Worse? It may never be known for sure whether those rights exist." Follow-up: "Happy Birthday" song officially recognized in public domain (CBS/AP, 6-27-16) Not until 2016 did Warner/Chappel Music stop collecting licenses for the song. "The company has agreed to pay back $14 million to those who have paid licensing fees to use the song."
‘Happy Birthday’ Copyright Invalidated by Judge (Ben Sisario, NY Times, 9-22-15) "A judge ruled on Tuesday that the long-claimed copyright on “Happy Birthday to You,” the most popular tune in the English language, is not valid."
The Public Domain (Opinion, NY Times, 10-11-11). In Golan v. Holder, a lawsuit "brought by orchestra conductors, educators and others who challenged Congress’s ability to restore copyright protection to foreign works that had been in the public domain for decades" (including Prokofiev's “Peter and the Wolf”). Congress had restored copyright as part of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act. From Wikipedia summary: "The US Supreme Court held on January 18, 2012 that Section 514 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act does not exceed Congress's authority under the Copy­right Clause, and the court affirmed the judgment of the lower court by 6-2, with the opinion written by Justice Ginsburg.[3][4] The practical effect of the decision is to confirm that works once free to use, such as Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, are no longer in the public domain and are subject to use only with the permission of the copyright holder, such as through paid licensing."

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How long does copyright last?
When do works enter the public domain?

How long does copyright last? From the U.S. Copyright Office: "The term of copyright for a particular work depends on several factors, including whether it has been published, and, if so, the date of first publication. As a general rule [bullets added}:
---For works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection lasts for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. (What happened to the "life plus 50 term"?) See the next entry.
Disney’s Influence on United States Copyright Law (Josh H. Escovedo, The IP Law Blog, 2-17-16) "Disney’s lobbying paid off in 1976 when Congress passed legislation which changes the copyright scheme such that individual authors were granted protection for their life, plus an additional 50 years, and for works authored by a corporation, the legislation granted a retroactive extension for works published before the new system took effect. The result was that the maximum term for already-published works was extended from 56 years to 75 years, thereby extending Mickey Mouse’s protection out to 2003. "If the extensions ended there, then obviously Mickey Mouse would be in the public domain right now. But 5 years before Mickey Mouse’s copyright was set to expire, Congress changed the scheme again. In 1998, Congress passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, which lengthened copyrights for works created on or after January 1, 1978 to “life of the author plus 70 years,” and extends copyrights for corporate works to 95 years from the year of first publication, or 120 years from the year of creation, whichever expires first. Once again, Mickey Mouse’s copyright protection lived to fight another day." a href="" target="_blank">Senator Orrin Hatch’s Introduction of The Copyright Term Extension Act of 1997. Copyright on the Disney movies was going to expire and the Disney Studios wanted longer protection. Copyright, developed to protect authors and other "creators," was now also to serve the "copyright industries," which contribute so much to GDP.
---For an anonymous work, a pseudonymous work, or a work made for hire, the copyright endures for a term of 95 years from the year of its first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first.
---For works first published prior to 1978, the term will vary depending on several factors. To determine the length of copyright protection for a particular work, consult chapter 3 of the Copyright Act (title 17 of the United States Code).
---Works created on or after January 1, 1978, are not subject to renewal.
How long does copyright last and other FAQs, for UK (Design and Artists Copyright Society, DACS, UK -- see especially questions on moral rights) See also Duration of Copyright UK, Literary, Dramatic, musical and artistic works (infographics from "Copyright for Archivists" by Tim Padfield)
For the First Time in More Than 20 Years, Copyrighted Works Will Enter the Public Domain (Glenn Fleishman, Smithsonian Magazine, Jan 2019) Why in 1998 the public domain froze in time for 20 years at 1922, thanks to Disney and Mickey Mouse. "Whose woods these are, I think I know”—we can now quote Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” to our heart's content, because it's in the public domain.
Copyright Catalog Search page (U.S. Copyright Office)
The Online Books Page (look up copyright registration and renewal records by year). This is geared to people seeking "free books on the Web," so it might be biassed in that direction.
How Can I Tell Whether a Copyright Was Renewed? (the Online Books Page, edited by John Mark Ockerbloom)
More information on the term of copyright can be found in Circular 15a, Duration of Copyright, and Circular 1, Copyright Basics.
The U.S. copyright office offers a search service to investigate whether a work is under copyright protection. Go here for a search request estimate (currently $165 per hour or fraction thereof, 2-hour minimum).
Copyright Renewal Database (Stanford Library, searchable database of copyright renewal records U.S. Copyright Office received between 1950 and 1992--that is, covering works published in the period 1923-1962). Works published before 1923 are generally in public domain; works published after Jan.1, 1964, generally have copyrights automatically renewed, by statute. For works published between those dates, copyright had to renewed after the first term of registration or copyright expired. Tracking down which copyrights expired or were renewed took time and trouble; this database makes searches easier.
How Can I Tell When Copyright Was Renewed? (the Online Books Page, edited by John Mark Ockerbloom)
• The U.S. copyright office offers a search service to investigate whether a work is under copyright protection. Go here for a search request estimate (currently $165 per hour or fraction thereof, 2-hour minimum). See also the entry How long does copyright last?
Reclaiming Your Copyright After Thirty-Five Years (Jane Little, Dear Author, 5-13-12) "The purpose of Section 203 is to provide authors a natural reversion of rights so that they get a second bite at the bargaining apple. It allows any author, or a person assigned by the author, to terminate the original grant during a five year period beginning 35 years after the publication was made or 40 years after the grant of rights, whichever comes first." See Reversion of Rights to Author -- and Terminating Rights (a Second Bite of the Apple).

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Important copyright issues, documents, FAQs, and explanations

The Authors Guild Fair Contract Initiative.

Study this before negotiating/signing a book contract.Read about these issues:

---Advances Should Remain Advances.
---Authors, Keep Your Copyrights--You Earned Them.
---Claim the Royalties You Deserve.
---Deleting the Non-Compete.
---End the Discount Double-Cross.
---Half of Net Proceeds Is the Fair Royalty Rate for E-Books.
---A Publishing Contract Should Not Be Forever.
---A Manuscript’s Acceptability Should Not Be a Matter of Whim.
---Option Clauses Shouldn't Hold Authors Hostage. Even worse are options that give the publisher the right to the author’s next book-length work “on the same terms” as the first.
---Stop Forcing Authors to Take Unlimited Financial Risks: Warranty and Indemnification Clauses. Controlled Digital Lending Is Neither Controlled nor Legal.
Authors Guild Issues Model Trade Book Contract (3-12-2020) The 2020 online version is the first update to the Model Trade Book Contract in nearly a decade. See also Controlled Digital Lending

Book Cover Art: Ownership, Use & Copyright (Creative Law Center) In both traditional publishing and indie/self-publishing, the cover art is a piece of intellectual property separate from the book itself. And in both cases, the ownership of the cover art and how it can be used is controlled by the interplay between copyright and contract law.
Freelancers: California Writers & Journalists Losing Work Due to New Court Ruling (Authors Guild, Industry News, 12-13-18) "Writers and journalists may be losing out on work as a result of an April 2018 California Supreme Court ruling that restricts who can be declared a freelancer. While the ruling in Dynamex Operations West Inc. vs. Superior Court of Los Angeles was intended to prevent employers from reclassifying certain types of workers as contractors as a way to avoid providing them with the same benefits and opportunities as full-time workers, the ruling has had unintended negative consequences for those workers who are and wish to have the option to remain independent contractors.... [Randy] Dotinga and other journalists and organizations are joining forces to lobby the new California state legislature to clarify the rules so that legitimate freelance journalists can continue to work as freelancers and not lose work due to publications’ fears that they will have to treat all journalists as employees and provide employee benefits and pay employment taxes." See also Just who is an independent contractor? (Lisa Renner, Capitol Weekly ("Covering California government and politics"), 9-17-18) "The ruling on Dynamex Operations West Inc. vs. Superior Court of Los Angeles provides a new three-part “ABC” test to determine who can be an independent contractor. The ruling says that the worker must (A) be free from control and direction from the hiring business, (B) must perform work outside the scope of the hiring entity’s usual business and (C) the worker must have an independent business of the same nature of work (demonstrated by taking out a business license or marketing services, etc.). The biggest change is Part B, which was never included under previous law." See more on this case under Freelancing, in the section Problems in the Gig Economy.
Stop the States’ Copyright Plunder (Adam Mossoff, Wall Street Journal, 11-4-19) "If you took a photo and Harvard put it on its website without permission, you could sue the university for copyright infringement and win. Not if the University of Texas did the same thing. The Supreme Court has a chance to end the double standard that allows state institutions to run roughshod over copyrights, the legal fountainhead of American creativity...Videographer Frederick Allen documented the excavation of Blackbeard’s famous pirate ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge....The North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources published Mr. Allen’s works on its website despite signing an agreement recognizing him as the copyright holder. So he sued the state for infringement." The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Allen v. Cooper on Tuesday Nov. 5, 2019.
Authors Guild Protests Audible’s New Caption Feature (7-18-19) Audible states that its new “Audible Captions” feature will only display “small amounts of machine-generated text,” but existing ACX and Audible agreements do not grant Audible the right to create text versions of audio books, whether delivered as a full book or in segments. Nor is there an exception to the copyright law that would permit Audible to do this.
EU adopts tough new online copyright bill (Raf Casert, SFGAte, 3-26-19) “European Union lawmakers approved a copyright bill Tuesday to give writers and artists more protection of their creative rights and incomes, an intensely contentious measure that could have major trans-Atlantic implications for American technology companies....Opponents argued it would stifle freedom and creativity online....If the bill is enacted, companies including Apple, Facebook and Google parent Alphabet probably would have to pay European artists more and do more to keep work that appears online from being used without permission. The most controversial section would make companies responsible for copyrighted material that is uploaded to their platforms....lobbying against the bill by internet giants was said to be so intense even after EU members gave their provisional support last month that the bill’s passage wasn’t considered a sure thing Tuesday....Outside parliament, a French band performed music to push the point that artists need higher payments and better copyright protection.”
European Parliament Approves Controversial Copyright Overhaul (Andrew Albanese, PW, 3-26-19) "After some five years of contentious debate and negotiation, the European Parliament today voted to approve a sweeping copyright reform bill supported by publishers and media companies, but which critics say could harm free expression online and fundamentally alter the way the internet works. By a 348 to 278 margin, MEPs approved a final version of the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, including two controversial provisions: Article 11, which will require web aggregators (like Google News) to negotiate with media companies for sharing snippets of their works; and Article 13, which observers say will require web platforms hosting user-generated content to filter uploads for intellectual property violations."
A Bill to Create a Small Claims Court (Copyright Alliance, 2017). On Oct. 4, 2017, a team of Dems and Republicans introduced the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act of 2017. This legislation creates a voluntary small claims board within the Copyright Office that will provide copyright owners with an alternative to the expensive process of bringing infringement claims in federal court. This new board, called the Copyright Claims Board (CCB), would have a cap on damages of $15,000 per work infringed and $30,000 total. Related: Authors Guild's Top Legislative Priorities, 116th Congress:
---Ongoing Copyright-Related Legislation, 116th Congress and
---New Copyright-Related Legislation (116th Congress).
Two New Major Copyright Revisions Signed Into Law This Week (Authors Guild, 10-19-18) The Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act (MMA) " makes important revisions to copyright law to accommodate the changes in music licensing practices that resulted from the rise of digital music streaming services. The law provides for a new collective licensing scheme that ensures that licensing income will be paid to songwriters, recording artists, and for the first time, sound producers and engineers for streaming and downloads of their work. It also creates a federal right to pre-1972 sound recordings for the first time and makes them subject to the same statutory licenses as post-1972 sound recordings."
The other revision signed into law is the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) administered the original treaty—the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled.
Music Modernization Act, Recognizing the Value of Music Creators (Terry Hart, Copyright Alliance, 5-15-18) While the bill is still being negotiated: "The Music Modernization Act makes important updates to Section 115 of the Copyright Act that allows for blanket licensing of mechanical rights in musical works by digital services; creates a mechanical licensing collective that would administer those licenses and be operated by a board comprised of music publishers, songwriters, trade associations and licensees to administer the blanket licenses; and shifts to a “willing buyer/willing seller” standard for setting royalty rates and terms, by considering rates negotiated in the marketplace. The legislation also would make key changes to rate-setting proceedings for ASCAP and BMI songwriters by allowing for consideration of royalty rates for digital audio transmissions of sound recordings and randomly assigning a district court judge to hear rate-setting disputes....The bill includes another important step toward realizing that principle. Under current law, digital streaming platforms are able to profit from certain pre-1972 sound recordings without compensating the artists and copyright owners of these recordings. Extending the digital performance right to include all pre-1972 sound recordings helps ensure that the law recognizes and protects the contributions of all creators, and that legacy artists in particular are appropriately compensated for their work."
Congress, It’s Time to Pay Musicians (Kabir Segal, NY Times, Opinion, 1-28-18) Right now, radio stations don’t have to pay artists whose songs they play on the airwaves (the stations pay performance royalties to the music publishers and the songwriters). The United States is the only developed country where this is the case. This act would require stations to pay artists and record companies a royalty. It also includes the Allocation for Music Producers Act, which would enshrine in law the right for producers to receive royalties due them. The Fair Play, Fair Pay Act has bipartisan support. But the legacy radio broadcasters oppose this measure.
Copyright Infringement Penalties (Purdue University, based on Copyright Infringement -- Penalties (U.S. Dept. of Justice, U.S. Attorneys Manual). From Purdue's summary: "Infringer pays the actual dollar amount of damages and profits. The law provides a range from $200 to $150,000 for each work infringed. Infringer pays for all attorneys fees and court costs." I don't know how often people are taken to court, but is infringing worth it?
Life Story Rights – Clearance and Acquisition for Literary Works (Matt Knight, Sidebar Saturdays, 11-18-17) Writing about another person's life you must be aware of three types of rights: Defamation (in particular libel and slander), the right of privacy (the right to be left alone), and the right of publicity.
"Privacy is invaded when private facts not in the public’s interest are publicly disclosed. While the truth can deflect a defamation claim, often the truth when disclosed can be the basis for an invasion of privacy claim." "Misappropriation of the right of publicity is using someone’s name, likeness, or identifying characteristics for advertising, merchandising, endorsements, promotional, or commercial purposes without permission."
• Can you use someone else's questionnaire or survey form? Pay up or retract? Survey creator's demands for money rile some health researchers (Adam Marcus, Retraction Watch, 9-12-17) along with If you use this research tool without permission, you’ll hear about it (Retraction Watch) A "recent retraction of a 2016 paper in a journal published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, apparently over permission to use an evaluation scale designed to test whether patients take their medications as prescribed...was only the tip of the iceberg – a representative of the evaluation scale (titled “Chief Investigator”) told us he has contacted hundreds of so-called “infringers” over the last year who used the scale without permission. The authors must then apply retroactively and show they’ve used it correctly, and may even have to pay fees. Or, in the case of the retraction we saw (and at least one other in 2016), pull the paper."
It's former student vs. Lewisville ISD in battle over photo copyrights (Elvia Limón, Dallas News, 3-23-18) A former Flower Mound High School student photographer has sued Lewisville ISD for the copyrights to his work two years after school officials forced him to shut down his photography website.
Copyright (Information Services explanations of copyright, University of Brighton, UK). This is UK-oriented, but very good at explaining the principles of copyright, fair use, etc.
Crooner in Rights Spat (Louis Menand, New Yorker, 10-20-14) An excellent overview of copyright principles and a provocative analysis of the "dispute between analog-era and digital-era notions of copyright," of historical changes in copyright principles, of the "limited-term, public-domain conception [called] the Anglo-American conception and the much stricter real-property, moral-rights conception the European conception." "Hollywood," writes Menand, "along with the music industry and the publishing industry, which are the other major analog-era corporate interests, makes money by producing and distributing content. Silicon Valley makes money by aggregating other people’s content. Hollywood fears pirates; Silicon Valley fears paywalls. Silicon Valley accuses Hollywood of 'monopoly' and 'artificial scarcity,' and talks about the democracy of the Internet. Hollywood accuses Silicon Valley of 'free riding' and 'contributory infringement,' and talks about protecting the dignity of the artist. But each side is only trying to defend its business model." The concerns of freelance writers differ greatly from those of academic writers. And so on, with a clear-eyed overview of issues. (The crooner example is just that: an example.)
The International Publishers Association at WIPO: Drawing a Line at Copyright Exceptions (Porter Anderson, Publishing Perspectives, 7-16-18) Each year, the World Intellectual Property Association holds an international meeting on copyright law. The takeaway: “Don’t try to develop international regulations in copyright exceptions [in education]. Leave them to each nation.” 'There are specific issues, Kolman points out, in which a treaty-level exception can have its proper place. As an example, he refers to the Marrakesh Treaty, with which Publishing Perspectives readers are very familiar, in which a copyright exception is created at the international treaty level to support, as its title puts it, “access to published works for persons who Are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled.”''
Breakthrough in (UK) copyright law reform confirmed (Naomi Korn & Benjamin White, CILIP, 5-15-14) The new exceptions to copyright that have just been through the House of Commons and the House of Lords, will gain royal assent in June. Drafted in recognition that copyright laws were out of kilter with the digital age. Of possible interest re U.S. copyright reform.
Reda Report Adopted: A turning point in the copyright debate (June 2015) "Today the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament passed an amended version of my copyright evaluation report." Copyright "reform is urgently needed not just to improve the Digital Single Market, but also to facilitate access to knowledge and culture for all people in Europe." Issues: minimum standards for the rights of the public, which are enshrined in a list of exceptions to copyright that up to now have been completely optional for the Member States to implement"; "completely new exceptions also on the table:
    to allow libraries and archives to digitise their collections efficiently,
    to enable the lending of e-books over the Internet and
    to allow the automatical analysis of large bodies of text and data (text & data mining)."

"Instead of meaningfully reducing copyright terms, which would have curbed the “20th century black hole” effect where a large part of our recent cultural history has become unavailable because it is no longer commercially viable yet still protected. The Committee could only bring itself to reject any further extensions in copyright terms, and to eliminate national additions to the copyright term, such as the 30 extra years that France awards to the works of war heroes."
     Issues not resolved: "freedom of panorama" "a troubling amendment ...stating that commercial use of reproductions of works in public spaces should require express permission by the rightsholder." and "narrowly rejected an amendment that called for allowing audio-visual quotation in every member state, extending this right beyond textual quotes to other forms of cultural expression" (so use of GIFs will be illegal on YouTube and podcasts in many countries).
This is only a partial summary.

Copyright and Licensing Toolkit (Future Learn, Web2rights). This site is UK-made and oriented, geared to librarians and universities, but its clear organization and explanations may come in handy in U.S. also. A fact sheet on contracts and copyright, for example, explains that although "copyright forms the bedrock of the legal basis" for using text, images, sound, etc., different parties also enter into contracts, which may extend or clarify the limits of "monopoly rights" and so on. And contracts are governed by a different branch of law than copyright--"much of contract law is based on common law, i.e.,precedent from previous case decisions, rather than by statute law." And of course, copyright law is changed now and then and with so much going on in the digital environment the statute law is likely to change again at some point. Excellent reference tool, more so in UK than US, but well done.
The Next Great Copyright Act (26th Horace S. Manges lecture, by Maria A. Pallante, Register of the U.S. Copyyright Office. Notes on, and reactions to, the lecture:
~ARL Policy Notes (main points of the talk, Greg Cram, Rights Clearance Analyst, The New York Public Library)
~The Clyde Fitch Report Major copyright issues Congress must consider include exclusive rights, incidental copies, enforcement, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), digital first sale, exceptions and limitations, licensing, deposits for the Library of Congress, offsetting copyright term, making room for opt outs, and making the law more accessible, i.e. readable.
~Takeaways (Future of Music Coalition) "Pallante called the lack of a public performance right for over-the air (AM/FM) broadcasts “indefensible.” We agree; by not compensating performers for radio play, America is in the company of North Korea and Iran."
~Columbia Law School "The last intense policy period in copyright law occurred in the mid-90s with the passage of the Copyright Term Extension Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which, among other things, extended copyrights and criminalized technology that circumvents copyright controls, respectively. But as technology continues to evolve, Pallante said it is time to revisit those laws and analyze their effects."

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Copyright Law of the United States and Related Laws Contained in Title 17 of the U.S. Code. Includes amendments.
Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900) (, UK), from the invention of the printing press (c. 1450) to the Berne Convention (1886) and beyond.
USC Title 17 (preliminary release, as posted by Cornell's Legal Information Institute)
Copyright Act of 1976, the core of U.S. copyright law now (plus amendments), went into effect Jan. 1, 1978. This link is to a helpful Wikipedia entry.
Title 18--Crimes and Criminal Procedure, U.S. Code (Appendix H). [This entry is incomplete and puzzles even me. I know it's here for a reason but I'm not sure why.]
Copyright Claims in Architectural Works (Circular 41). An original design of a building created in any tangible medium of expression, including a constructed building or architectural plans, models, or drawings, is subject to copyright protection as an “architectural work” under section 102 of the Copyright Act (title 17 of the United States Code), as amended on December 1, 1990. Copyright protection extends to any architectural work created on or after December 1, 1990. Also, any architectural works that were unconstructed and embodied in unpublished plans or drawings on that date and were constructed by December 31, 2002.

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Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA, of 1998) Also known as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act or the Mickey Mouse Protection Act, as well explained on Wikipedia: This act "effectively 'froze' the advancement date of the public domain in the United States for works covered by the older fixed term copyright rules," so works that would otherwise have entered the public domain (including Disney movies) would not.
In a piece called 5 Ways The Google Book Settlement Will Change The Future of Reading, Annalee Newitz wrote: "Known to policy-makers as the Copyright Extension Act, it was the result of intensive lobbying by the entertainment industry, led in part by Disney, to extend the copyright on any work created after 1923. Many of Disney's classic pieces of content, like Mickey Mouse cartoons, were about to pass into the public domain. So the company was naturally interested in keeping control of the Mouse as long as it could....The Act also gave birth to a loosely organized but powerful movement of copyright reformists....Over the past decade, many of these reformists migrated to jobs in Silicon Valley, where easily-copied digital media are constantly forcing the question of what copyright really means in the information age."
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (DMCA) (PDF, U.S. Copyright Office). See section on DMCA and takedown notices further down on this website.
FBI Anti-Piracy Warning Seal. Effective August 13, 2012, the new 41 CFR Section 128-1.5009 authorizes use of the APW Seal by all U.S. copyright holders, subject to specific conditions of use. Copyrighted works can include, but are not limited to, films, audio recordings, electronic media, software, books, photographs, etc.
Distance Education and the TEACH Act (2002). The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act (2002) redefines the terms and conditions under which accredited nonprofit U.S. educational institutions may use copyright-protected materials in distance education--including on websites and by other digital means--without permission from the copyright owner and without payment of royalties. See also the UCCopyright (University of California) on the TEACH Act.
TEACH Act Checklist (University of Texas Libraries), and UTL explanation of the TEACH Act
Copyright in the U.K. (Intellectual Property Office, U.K.)
• Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Copyright Treaty /a>
WIPO directory of intellectual property offices around the world
Copyright Watch (Electronic Frontier Foundations searchable database of copyright laws from around the world)
European Commission (helpful information and links to information about European Union countries)

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Who owns the copyright? What does copyright protect?

Copyright Ownership: Who Owns What? (Stanford University Libraries) As a general rule, the copyright in a work is initially owned by the work’s creator, but this isn’t always the case. Questions addressed by Rich Stim on the Stanford Copyright & Fair Use site: What are the exceptions to the rule that the creator of a work owns the copyright? Who owns the copyright in a joint work? Can two or more authors provide contributions to a single work without being considered a joint authors for copyright purposes? What is the difference in rights between a joint work and a collective work? What rights do copyright owners have under the Copyright Act? Can a copyright owner transfer some or all of his specific rights?
Vegan Meat Company’s Anti-Union Speeches Are Being Scrubbed from the Internet (Lauren Kaori Gurley, Vice, 8-28-2020) Recordings from anti-union meetings at the socialist-branded vegan meat company No Evil Foods have been deleted from platforms, including YouTube and SoundCloud. But "Copyright is not a restriction on speech or expression or news gathering," Katharine Trendacosta, the lead policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation told Motherboard. "It’s meant as a way to protect the rights of artists. To use it to [prevent journalists from reporting the news] is not the way it was intended." It is also not clear who specifically owns the copyright of these recordings.
Copyright Ownership and Transfer (Chapter 2, Title 17, Copyright Law of the United States) Ownership of copyright is distinct from owner of the material object copyrighted. "The ownership of a copyright may be transferred in whole or in part by any means of conveyance or by operation of law, and may be bequeathed by will or pass as personal property by the applicable laws of intestate succession."
What happens to a copyright when the copyright holder dies? (New Media Rights, 6-28-17) See also Copyright Ownership and Transfer (Chapter 2, Title 17, Copyright Law of the United States), on
Your literary estate
Searching the Copyright Office and Library of Congress Records (Stanford's excellent guide on how to search U.S. government records)
What does copyright protect? ( My website? My domain name? My recipe? The name of my band? A name, title, slogan, or logo? My idea? My unpublished work? A diary I found in my grandmother's attic? My sighting of Elvis? Architecture? A star named after me?
Accused of ‘Terrorism’ for Putting Legal Materials Online (Adam Liptak, NY Times, 5-13-19) After Carl Malamud’s group posted the Official Code of Georgia Annotated online, the state sued for copyright infringement. Providing public access to the state’s laws and related legal materials, Georgia’s lawyers said, was part of a “strategy of terrorism.” The state, through a legal publisher, makes the statutes themselves available online, and it has said it does not object to Mr. Malamud doing the same thing. But people who want to see other materials in the books, the state says, must pay the publisher. The other materials includes annotations. Georgia, for instance, has "a law on the books making sodomy a crime," but the annotation says that "the law has been held unconstitutional 'insofar as it criminalizes the performance of private, unforced, noncommercial acts of sexual intimacy between persons legally able to consent.'” States are privatizing some functions like publishing state laws, and the publishing firms are wrongly trying to monetize information that belongs to the people, says Malamud, who wants the Supreme Court to rule on the issue,
The Surprisingly Long List of Things That Can't Be Copyrighted (KeriLynn Engel,, 3-31-18)
5 Things That Can’t Be Copyrighted (Jonathan Bailey, Plagiarism Today, 1-8-10) Titles and names, ideas, works by the U.S. government, factual works (works without "authorship") such as a calendar, and fashion. Read why.
Sixteen Things Writers Should Know About Quoting From Letters (Mark Fowler, Rights of Writers, 2-4-11) The writer of the letter (and later the writer's estate) owns the copyright, so must grant permission to publish it in its entirety, if that is desired. (You and others can quote sparingly from it, under the fair use exception.) The recipient of the letter owns (and can sell) the physical letter but does not have control of the content (and does not automatically have permission to reprint the letter). Excellent responses to questions that come up all the time, and links to case law, and this quote from the Chicago Manual of Style: "Fair use is use that is fair--simply that....The right of fair use is a valuable one to scholarship, and it should not be allowed to decay through the failure of scholars to employ it boldly." (Scholarly use is more of a defense than commercial use.) If the author of a letter dies, an estate or descendant of the letter writer can grant permission to reprint a letter only if it also inherited copyright and not just the physical letter.
• Can an idea be stolen? Is there such a thing as "idea theft"? (David Sheets, SPJ's Independent Journal, 4-22-12). Yes, though it is not as common as beginning writers think. Can you do anything about it? Probably not. Copyright does not protect ideas--it protects the expression of ideas. As Sheets writes, "The truth is, nobody 'owns' a story idea."
Common Law Copyright in Spontaneous Oral Conversation (Paul M. Morley, William & Mary Law Review, Vol. 11, I, Article 10, 1969) After the death of Ernest Hemingway in 1961, a dispute arose over the ownership of the content of conversations which A.E. Hotchner had had with Hemingway. Defendant Hotchner had been a close friend of Hemingway's during the last 13 years of Hemingway's life. During that time "Conversations between Hemingway and the defendant were filled with reminiscense, anecdote, and literary opinion, and Hotchner had made accurate notes of each conversation soon afterward, often employing a tape recorder during the conversations." Years later, when Hotchner published his memoir Papa Hemingway. A Personal Memoir, Hemingway's wife and Random House (his publisher) sued Hotchner, contending that quotations from Hemingway's conversations were his literary creation and property, and that Hotchner's recordings and notetaking "only performed the mechanics of recordation." (He also organized them into a book.) The court ruling (here) supported Hotchner, largely because Hemingway when alive allowed and even encouraged Hotchner (who wrote positively about him) to write about their private conversations. This ruling is notable also for dismissing Hemingway's widow's contention that Hotchner's book invaded her privacy. Said the court, "[o]nce a person has sought publicity he cannot at his whim withdraw the events of his life from public scrutiny." (Estate of Hemingway v Random House)
Copyright and taped interviews (Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press) "Under the federal Copyright Act, to be copyrightable, a work must possess originality and be fixed in a tangible medium. Ideas cannot be copyrighted, but the particular expression of an idea may be. Because of these requirements, much interview material often has a weaker claim to copyright....Journalists can own a copyright interest in an interview. Still, the nature of a journalist’s copyright interest in interview material is not well-defined....Interviewees may potentially be copyright owners in an interview, and courts have accepted transfers of copyright interest in an interview from an interviewee to an interviewer as valid. For that reason, a journalist is best protected when they can secure a written promise from an interviewee, assigning the interviewee’s copyright interest in the interview material to the reporter....where a journalist is not responsible for recording an interview, but instead receives a taped interview from a third party, they do not own the copyright in the material when they use it....fair use, while always a context-sensitive decision, often favors reporters’ rights to use material they tape-record for reporting. Interview material, which contain facts and ideas, is considered more available for fair use than other copyrighted material under the second factor of fair use doctrine, which examines the nature of the copyrighted work."
Who "Owns" an Interview? (Mark Fowler, Rights of Writers, 1-7-11) "So, writers, you almost certainly own some kind of copyright interest in the interviews you conduct -- unless it is a work for hire for an employer or contracting party. But ownership of the copyright is not the end of the story in terms of your control over how the interview is used. ...In terms of best practices: it's wise, when taping your interviews, to get a statement from your interviewee on the tape that the interviewee is okay with your taping his or her words. If you and the interviewee have some special understanding with regard to copyright ownership (or other matters relating to the interview), it's best to memorialize that understanding beforehand on tape or in writing (if only in an exchange of emails). "
Are You Worried Your Ideas or Work Will Be Stolen? (Jane Friedman, 10-19-11) "It is not possible under current U.S. law to copyright or protect an idea. (You also cannot copyright a title.) So, how much precaution should you take to keep your ideas secret?"
The Photographer's Guide to Copyright (PhotoShelter) Get tips to keep your work safe, plus read in-depth interviews from photographers and experts from ASMP.
'Monkey Selfie' Lawsuit Ends With Settlement Between PETA, Photographer (Jason Slotkin, The Two-Way, NPR, 9-12-17) And Should A Monkey Own A Copyright? (Barbara King, NPR, 2015) In 2011, a macaque in the jungles of Indonesia happened upon a wildlife photographer's camera and snapped a series of "monkey selfies." A dispute over the photo's ownership came when it was posted on Wikipedia's free-to-use website. David Slater, the photographer, asked that it be taken down. Wikipedia argued that the photo was uncopyrightable because an animal took it. The animal rights organization PETA filed a lawsuit claiming that the copyright should belong to Naruto (the monkey) not to Slater (the camera's owner). U.S. District Judge William Orrick wrote in a tentative opinion that there was "no indication" that the U.S. Copyright Act extended to animals. The parties settled, and an appeals court ruled that Naruto lacked statutory standing to claim copyright infringement. 
Who Owns That Song? How to Research Copyright Ownership (Jamie Davis-Ponce, SonicBids Blog, 3-16-15) A list of places to begin your search, among other things.
Whose Story Is It, Anyway? Obtaining a Subject's Life-Story Rights (Tom Isler, International Documentary Association, 3-24-08) You should read this whole piece, if a documentary is involved, but here's the bottom line, I think: "...studios that don't secure life-story rights from subjects are opening themselves up to potential lawsuits-claims of libel, defamation or invasion of privacy. Thus, life-story rights deals, at their core, are promises by subjects not to bring such claims against the studios." This is not about who owns an interview, but if you are making a documentary or a film (etc.) for distribution to the public, it is not so much a question of who owns the copyright to an interview, but DO you have permission to use it, or parts of it, in work you plan to release to the public. For which the Desktop Documentaries section on Copyright Issues and Clearances states firmly: "When you make a film, everything MUST be cleared. You must have clearances for all of the following: Script, music, locations, contributors, products, company logos. Only when all these things have been cleared can a documentary be legally copied, shared or broadcast on TV or the Internet." That site describes various types of essential release forms & contracts, and Desktop Documentaries sells a "starter pack of essential legal forms and contracts specifically designed for documentary filmmakers" Legal Forms & Contracts for Documentary Filmmakers. See also 8 Legal Tips for Documentary Filmmakers (Orly Ravid, IndieWire, 7-9-15)
Cinema Law: What are the Rights of a Documentary Subject? (Gregory R. Kanaan, MovieMaker, 11-28-15) "A documentary subject’s rights are dictated by two interrelated factors: the rights granted by contract with the filmmakers, and the rights granted by law...the law requires filmmakers to get their subjects’ permission to screen the finished product for an audience. Failure to do this means they could be in violation of their subjects’ publicity rights, and that could open them up to defamation and invasion of privacy claims."

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How patents and trademarks
differ from copyright

The four basic systems for protecting intellectual property involve copyright, trademarks, service marks, and patents.
What Are Patents, Trademarks, Servicemarks, and Copyrights? (U.S. Patent Office) A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor, issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. There are three types of patents: utility patents, design patents, and plant patens.  A trademark is a word, name, symbol, or device that is used in trade with goods to indicate the source of the goods and to distinguish them from the goods of others. A servicemark is the same as a trademark except that it identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than a product.  Copyright is a form of protection provided to the authors of "original works of authorship" including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished
Trademark 101: How You Can Lose Your Trademark (Xavier Morales, Secure Your Trademark, 1-17-2020) "Trademarks, unlikely copyrights, require continued enforcement and maintenance in order to remain valid....many different non-intentional acts that can precede the loss of trademark rights, but they all relate to the owner’s failure to protect the mark."
Trademark Is Not a Verb: Guidelines From a Trademark Lawyer (Brad Frazer on Jane Friedman's blog, 6-15-12) 'In a broad sense, “intellectual property,” as contrasted with real property (dirt) and personal property (cars and computers), has four main subgroups,' writes Frazer, explaining the difference between patents, copyrights, trade secrets, and trademarks, adding: ("By the way, circle R is used with trademarks that have been registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. TM is for those that have not."). Equally useful info in his Copyright Is Not a Verb (also on Jane Friedman's blog, 8-17-12).
Why Is It Easier to Copyright an Unhealthy Yoga Routine than a Healthy One? (Kal Raustiala and Chris Sprigman, Freakonomics, 12-8-11). "Functionality is the master concept that divides copyright (which covers art, literature, and other non-functional things), and patent (which covers new machines, processes, and other functional things).
Primer on intellectual property: patents, trademark, and copyright (National Paralegal College)
An introduction to patents and trademarks (Master's in Paralegal Studies Online, George Washington University--thanks to Cindy Powell and her Cadette Scouts for this link).
General information concerning patents
US Patent Office search engine (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office)
In new case, Supreme Court revisits the question of software patents ( Timothy B. Lee, Washington Post 3-28-14) Is software an invention? A chance to settle this patent war. "If you write a book or a song, you can get copyright protection for it. If you invent a pill or a better mousetrap, you can patent it. But for decades, software has had the distinction of being eligible for both copyright and patent protection." An interesting overview of the issues the Supreme Court will be addressing.
Ivan Hoffman's overview outline of intellectual property law
Trademark and Other Intellectual Property Resource Guide ( Links and information about trademark law, copyright, trade secrets, patents.
Trademarks, Copyrights, Patents: Invention Guide for Kids (Mark Brown,
Name Choices Spark Lawsuits (Emily Maltby, "Start-Ups Can Get Mired in Costly Trademark Scuffles With Bigger Firms," WSJ, 6-24-10)
Trademarks (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office)
Trademark Law (an overview, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University)
TESS tips (tips about the Trademark Electronic Search System, which contains the records of active and inactive trademark registrations and applications)

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Fair Use, A Primer

Under the "fair use" principle of copyright law, you may make limited use of someone else's copyrighted work without asking permission or infringing on their copyright. Fair use, a significant limitation on a copyright owner's exclusive rights, balances free speech against the rights of the copyright holder--for example, the public is entitled to freely use limited portions of copyrighted materials for purposes of commentary and criticism. Fair use is an affirmative defense: If a copyright owner disagrees with your interpretation of what's fair use of their material, your dispute may have to be settled by litigation or arbitration. Judges use four factors in resolving fair use disputes:
1) The Transformative Factor: The Purpose and Character of Your Use Are you creating something new or just copying? Using it for commercial purposes is less likely to be considered fair use than if it's used for nonprofit educational purposes (research, teaching, comment and news reporting), and using unpublished work is less likely to be considered fair use. Parody, if transformative and not just derivative, would usually be considered fair use.  
2) The Nature of the Copyrighted Work  That is, "using a more creative or imaginative work (such as a novel, movie, or song) is less likely to support a claim of a fair use than using a factual work (such as a technical article or news item)."
3) The Amount and Substantiality of the Portion Taken  The more you take, the less fair your use is likely to be, but 'courts look at both the quantity and quality of the copyrighted material used. Using even a small amount of a copyrighted work may not be fair if the selection was an important part—or the "heart"—of the work.' Quoting very small amounts of fiction in reviews is generally considered fair use.
4) The Effect of the Use Upon the Potential Market Are you competing with the source you are copying from? "Courts consider whether the use is hurting the current market for the original work (for example, by displacing sales of the original) and/or whether the use could cause substantial harm if it were to become widespread." Giving the author credit doesn't let you off the hook. "Courts evaluate fair use claims on a case-by-case basis, and the outcome of any given case depends on a fact-specific inquiry. This means that there is no formula to ensure that a predetermined percentage or amount of a work—or specific number of words, lines, pages, copies—may be used without permission."~Copyright Office 
* (The "Fifth" Fair Use Factor: Are You Good or Bad?)  "Despite the fact that the Supreme Court has indicated that offensiveness is not a fair use factor, you should be aware that a morally offended judge or jury may rationalize its decision against fair use." (from Stanford University's page on Fair Use)

Fair Use (Stanford University Libraries' excellent chapter on fair use (free online) plus its excellent Summaries of fair use cases (real life examples of both 'fair use; and 'NOT fair use.'
The four factors for evaluating fair use (
Fair Use Checklist (Cornell University's PDF file, to help you determine whether you may make or distribute copies of a copyrighted work without permission)
Thinking Through Fair Use (excellent University of Minnesota Libraries interactive tool for evaluating if a particular use is fair use). Also useful from U of Minn Libraries:
~Can I use that?, a map of use issues
~Can I use that? , as outline of issues, with links to further explanations
~Using Copyrightable Materials (uses you can and cannot make without permission)
What Every Writer Ought to Know About Fair Use and Copyright (attorney David L Amkraut, guest posting on The Book Designer, 2-8-10)
A Writers' Guide to Fair Use (Howard G. Zaharoff, from Jan.2001 Writer's Digest) Practical explanations of the four factors.
Fair Use Evaluator (an interactive tool for evaluating if something is fair use, Office for Information Technology Policy of the American Library Association)
A Writer’s Guide to Fair Use and Permissions + Sample Permissions Letter (Jane Friedman, 7-15-19) Especially helpful on permissions.
Is It Fair Use? 7 Questions to Ask Before Using Copyrighted Material (Brad Frazer, posting on Jane Friedman's blog, 8-28-15). His main point: How risk-averse are you? That's a factor because anyone can sue you. The principles discussed here are a defense again lawsuits, but some factors weigh more and some less.

The 'Fair Use' Rule: When Use of Copyrighted Material Is Acceptable (Nolo).

Fair use factors are explained helpfully with these rules as headings:
Rule 1: Are You Creating Something New or Just Copying?
Rule 2: Are You Competing With the Source You're Copying From?
Rule 3: Giving the Author Credit Doesn't Let You Off the Hook
Rule 4: The More You Take, the Less Fair Your Use Is Likely to Be
Rule 5: The Quality of the Material Used Is as Important as the Quantity
Works Not Covered By Copyright (Digital Media Law Project)
Guidelines for Risk Assessment for Digital Content (UCLA Library). Libraries are a good resource, because their clients have needs and they need to know copyright. Scroll down to page 7 for a diagram of what they consider "low risk" for fair use of materials online, and what's medium and high risk--because it's all contingent on the chances someone will sue you if they think your use of their material is "unfair use." High risk includes material from an author with a "high public profile," a creator who is alive or has a literary estate that is known to actively defend copyright, and if the "Material appears to have been published/broadcasted, and/or prepared for commercial gain rather than to advance academic knowledge or in a not for profit environment." Low risk is where "most of the items are in the public domain," "include some orphan works," or "Creator is dead, has no literary estate, and Materials were created with academic and/or personal intent", and "Deed of gift allows for digitization and/or assigns copyrights to the UC Regents and the project DOES include items with 3rd party copyrights." Also analyzed: medium risk and no risk. If you think someone has violated your copyright you can file a DMCA takedown notice. If you think someone's takedown notice is unjust, because your use was "fair use," here's Nolo's advice on how to dispute the notice.
Copyrights and Copywrongs (Melinda Clayton, Indies Unlimited, 8-1-14) Q&A with New York attorney Jared Spiegel. "There may be a fair use defense for using a small passage of copyrighted material in your work, but there is no absolute word limit, or in the case of music, time limit, that will automatically qualify for fair use. Song titles on the other hand, are fair game and can be used freely without permission from the copyright holder (this also applied to album titles, poem titles, artist names, and movie titles)."
"Legal Definitions: "Fair Use" and "Fair Dealing" (International James Joyce Foundation). Q: If a work remains in copyright, limited quotation is legal within fair use (U.S.) and fair dealing (U.K., etc.) provisions.What are the legal definitions of fair use (U.S.) and fair dealing (U.K., and the like)? (They are stricter in British copyright practice, applying mostly to photocopying brief passages for research and to quotations in "criticism or review." Briefly covers Ireland, Canada, and Australia, too.)
Fair Dealing (UK), part of Exceptions to Copyright (Gov.UK)
Fairness Found: How Canada Quietly Shifted from Fair Dealing to Fair Use (Michael Geist). "Unlike the open-ended fair use model, fair dealing models typically identify specific categories or purposes for which fair dealing is permitted." Thanks to Pattie Whitehouse for the link.
What is fair dealing and how does it relate to copyright? (Simon Fraser University Library)
Legal Issues in Self-Publishing: What Authors Need to Know (Bernard Starr's interview with attorney Paul Rapp., Huff Post, 12-24-12). There is no fixed definition of fair use, for use of quotes, says Rapp. "If the quote drives your narrative, or if you are commenting on the quote or its author, or using a quote to support an argument then it's most likely going to be a 'fair use' of the quote, and therefore non-infringing....The one tricky area is when people use quotes that are just window dressing. Like when an author quotes the lyrics of a song -- even just couple of lines from a song at the beginning of a chapter, as Stephen King often does. Most music publishers take the position that you need permission because this kind of use, they claim, is not driving the narrative or otherwise a fair use. And they may be right -- the fair use doctrine is horribly imprecise." In gray area uses he suggests authors try to get permission as the licensing fee is often fairly minimal.
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF, helps creators who are being attacked in cases where their work is clearly protected as parody or fair use)
Patricia Aufderheide talks about copyright and fair use (CMOS Shop Talk, from The Chicago Manual of Style). The author of Reclaiming Fair Use: How to Put Balance Back in Copyright provides a very pragmatic account of how fair-use decisions are made and what the practical implications are for potential users of copyrighted material, with real-life examples. Referring to various codes of best practices, she writes "The codes give you the reasoning for applying it to your kind of work, but give no specific rules. Codes stay within the logic of fair use and current legal interpretation, and permit you to use this expressive right in the same way you employ your First Amendment rights—with judgment according to the situation. And like your right to have a harshly critical position on public policy (up to the point of treason), to make references to sexual activity (up to obscenity), and to say terrible things about other people (up to libel), whether it is fair use or not depends on the context of your use."
Codes of best practices in social media, multimedia, and various disciplines
The Conference on Fair Use: Interim Report (CONFU, December 1998). A sizeable taskforce from private and public organizations met monthly (1993-95) to try to work out fair use guidelines for navigating the electronic highway. (Representing authors, I was a participant, along with Jill Wechsler, representing ASJA, and Paul Aiken, representing the Authors Guild.) This is a report on the interim outcome, as regards digital images, distance learning, educational multimedia, electronic reserve systems, interlibrary loan and document delivery, and the use of computer software in libraries, with a few more specialties. You can find several of them as follows: Codes of Best Practices and Fair Use Guidelines Two of them follow:
--- Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries (Center for Social Media)
--- Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Poetry (Center for Social Media)
--- The Law of Fair Use and the Illusion of Fair-Use Guidelines (Kenneth Crews, Ohio State Law Journal, 2001, PDF). From the research library viewpoint, the shortcomings of CONFU.)
--- Fairly Used Blog (Stanford University Libraries, emphasis on Open Access)<
---Copyright and academia (especially Open access)
--- Copyright for Higher Education: Codes of Best Practices in Fair Use (The Master's University library guide seems to stay up-to-date on its links to various codes of best practices.)
Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers) about Copyright and Fair Use (Chilling Effects Clearinghouse)
Can court reporters' transcripts be used in a novel?Court Records and Proceedings: What is Public and Why? "Excluding confidential records, public court records are available to anyone and may be used for news publications, academic research and non-profit organizations. They may not, however be used for commercial purposes of any nature. Requests can be made through mail, online or in person, and records may be copied for a small fee."
Fair Use and Permissions (links to Nolo articles on using copyrighted work)
Linking, Framing, and Inlining (Nolo) Every website developer should know when using deep links, frames, and others' graphics is allowed, and when it can lead to trouble.
Fair Use (Wikipedia's entry is helpful--especially its section on Common Misunderstandings)
Finally: A Guide for Journalists to Navigate Fair Use of Copyrighted Material (Jonathan Peters, MediaShift, 6-10-13):
Set of Principles in Fair Use for Journalism (Center for Social Media and Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property at American University, with support from Robert R. McCormick Foundation)
Fair Use, Free Use, and Use by Permission: How to Handle Copyrights in All Media by Lee Wilson
Fair Use: What Every Writer Ought to Know (David L. Amkrau provides several scenarios illustrating what's likely to be infringement or fair use, guest-blogging on Joel Friedlander's
When Do You Need to Secure Permissions? (Jane Friedman, 1-23-12, explaining fair use)
Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Scholarly Research in Communication (Center for Social Media, American University)
Daily Kos's primer on how to post pictures on the Internet without getting hauled into court
Chilling Effects' FAQ About Copyright and Fair Use . This pays more than ordinary attention to issues on the Web (e.g., "What is the look and feel of a site?" and "Does the fair use doctrine permit users to download MP3 files to make temporary copies of copyrighted sound recordings to 'sample' the music before deciding whether to purchase the recording?")
Copyright, Free Speech, and the Public's Right to Know: How Journalists Think about Fair Use (PDF, Patricia Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi, Center for Social Media, School of Communication, American University)
Educational Fair Use Today (PDF file, Jonathan Band, Association of Research Libraries). Fair use ruling more likely in educational setting where uses involved repurposing and recontextualization.
Study This: Copyright Law Hurts, Helps Economy (David Kravets, Wired, 9-13-07, a report on the "Fair Use Economy," which is good or bad, depending on which industry is reporting. On the one hand, "The report issued by the Computer & Communications Industry Association is concluding that one-sixth of the United States' gross domestic product was spawned because of fair use exceptions recognized in copyright law." On the other, "Imagine how much GDP will expand, and how much revenue will be lost to pirating, once the Beatles recordings hit Apple's iTunes Music Store."
Doc-makers get specific about copyright fair use (Steve Behrens,, 11-22-05)
How Much of Someone Else’s Work May I Use Without Asking Permission?: The Fair Use Doctrine, Part I (Lloyd L. Rich, Publishing Law 1996). See also Interpretations and Guidelines – The Fair Use Doctrine Part II
Reclaiming Fair Use: How to Put Balance Back in Copyright by Patricia Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi. (Library Journal: "...sound advice on users' rights to copyrighted material in their survey of fair use, a "safety valve" built into copyright law. They remind readers that copyright was created to benefit the public, not to enrich producers..."
Will Fair Use Survive? Free Expression in the Age of Copyright Control (PDF, Marjorie Heins and Tricia Beckles, Brennan Center for Justice, NYU School of Law). "The disconnect between prevailing law and the claims made in many cease and desist or take-down letters is striking." "Just knowing you may have a good fair use argument doesn’t always give you the courage to use a news clip, when you know the corporation that owns the clip has a posse of attorneys on staff just waiting to pounce.”
The text and data mining copyright exception: benefits and implications for UK higher education (JISC) Helping you understand the legal implications of the new UK text and data mining copyright exception.
Search the Fair Use Index (US Copyright Office)

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Important Fair Use and Rights Cases

(including Betamax/Sony, Authors Guild/Hathi Trust, Harper & Row/Nation, Google Scanning, MLK's 'Dream', Faulkner vs. Woody Allen, Georgia State e-reserves, Campbell/Acuff)

"Fair use," says the Authors Guild, "is a defense to copyright developed by American courts to reconcile copyright protection with free expression. It’s rather vaguely defined and its application varies greatly from case to case. Many other countries, including Australia, recognize a similar but much more carefully enumerated exception to copyright known as fair dealing."
Summaries of Fair Use Cases (Stanford University Libraries) Very useful! Summaries of a variety of fair use cases. Studying actual examples is the best way to understand the principles of fair use as practiced in real life!
Faulkner vs Woody Allen leads to surprise ending (Jerry Mitchell, The Clarion-Ledger, 3-11-17) '“The past is not dead! Actually, it’s not even past. You know who said that? Faulkner. And he was right.' That quote is from Woody Allen's film “Midnight in Paris,” which grossed more $150 million at the box office. A year later, Faulkner’s estate sued Sony Pictures Classics, alleging the movie had violated copyright laws by using a quote from the author. The judge ruled "fair use." That wasn't the surprise ending.
Seuss-Star Trek Mash-Up Crashes and Burns at Ninth Circuit (Bianca Bruno, Courthouse News, 12-18-2020) Dr. Seuss Enterprises sued publisher ComicMix in 2016 over the crowd-sourced Star Trek mash-up “Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go,” written by Star Trek episodes writer David Gerrold. The children’s book publisher claimed the mash-up competed with the Seuss classic (“Oh, the Places You’ll Go”) in the graduation gift market. The court agreed and also ruled the mash-up was not a parody and was not transformative. See also Federal Court Sides with Dr. Seuss (Authors Guild, 1-15-2021) The Ninth Circuit performed a detailed analysis of the four fair use factors, especially on the meaning of transformative use and its place within the fair use doctrine.
Watership Down author's estate wins back all rights to classic novel (Sian Cain, The Guardian, 6-1-2020) In a case at London’s high court, Richard Adams’ estate in May 2020 won a longstanding claim against Martin Rosen, director of the 1978 animation of Watership Down. "Rosen, who owned the motion picture rights to Watership Down under his original 1976 contract, had entered into contracts worth more than $500,000 (£400,975) while claiming that he held all rights to the novel. Rosen also made $85,000 from an unauthorised licence for an audiobook adaptation, and also failed to pay the estate fees and merchandising royalties from the 2018 BBC/Netflix television adaptation, on which he served as an executive producer." The court ruled that he had wrongly claimed that he owned all rights to the book and that his original contract for rights to the film was terminated.
Appellate Court leaves open question of good faith in copyright litigation (Mike Nepple, Thompson Coburn, 6-24-19) An alleged infringer downloaded an image from Flickr but claimed that he was acting in good faith and that his use of the image was "fair use." The appeals court "rejected the alleged infringer's argument, arguing that good faith is irrelevant to a fair use defense because copyright infringement is a strict liability offense that does not require proof of a defendant’s state of mind."
Appeals court rules that Google book scanning is fair use (Joe Mullin, Ars Technica, 10-16-15) After nearly a decade of litigation, a landmark win. "The Authors' Guild sued Google, saying that serving up search results from scanned books infringes on publishers' copyrights, even though the search giant shows only restricted snippets of the work. The Authors' Guild sued Google, saying that serving up search results from scanned books infringes on publishers' copyrights, even though the search giant shows only restricted snippets of the work.
     "In its opinion (PDF), a three-judge panel rejected all of the Authors' Guild claims in a decision that will broaden the scope of fair use in the digital age. The immediate effect means that Google Books won't have to close up shop or ask book publishers for permission to scan. In the long run, the ruling could inspire other large-scale digitization projects." Wrote Anne C. Heller in the March 2020 Biographer's Craft, "Making Full Use of Fair Use," "It was the culmination of a long string of cases about when and how search engines and other computer technologies can be used to analyze in-copyright works under fair use. The opinion in that case is a master class in fair use thinking and it ties together all the insights that had come before it, ultimately finding that digital analysis of texts, even millions of texts, is exactly the kind of thing fair use is supposed to protect."
Salinger v. Random House, Inc. (1987) Quoting from unpublished letters was found not be fair use, but as Heller writes for Biographer's Craft, " In 1992, legislation promoted by an unusual coalition of publishers and fair use advocates corrected this mistake, making clear that unpublished status “shall not itself bar a finding of fair use” that is otherwise justified under the statute."
Abbott and Costello Heirs Lose Appeal Over Broadway Play's Use of "Who's on First" Routine (Eriq Gardner, Hollywood Reporter, 10-11-16) 'Hand of God' producers beat lawsuit — not because of fair use, but because the heirs haven't demonstrated ownership of a valid copyright. "Abbott and Costello registered a copyright on their routine in 1944, but didn't renew it...the defendants argued that Universal didn't have the right to renew the copyright because only Abbott and Costello — as the authors — could." See full opinion (TCA Television Corp. v. McCollum). H/T to Bob Zeidman for these links.
U.S. Copyright Fair Use Index ( Explained here:
Lombardo v. Dr. Seuss A September 2017 decision in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York declared that Who’s Holiday, a play that uses the characters, plot, and setting of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but recontextualizes them in a modern world of poverty, teen pregnancy and substance abuse, was a fair use of elements of the beloved Dr. Seuss book. (Authors Guild summary)
Brown wins Da Vinci Code case (The Guardian, 4-7-06) "A high court judge today rejected claims that Dan Brown's bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code breached the copyright of an earlier book. Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh had sued publishers Random House claiming that Mr Brown's book "appropriated the architecture" of their book, The Holy Blood And The Holy Grail, , which was published in 1982 by the same publishing house....In his ruling, the judge said the claimants' version of their book's central themes had been designed retrospectively to help their case. There was no "architecture" or "structure" to be found in The Holy Blood And The Holy Grail as contended by Mr Baigent and Mr Leigh. "Even if the central themes were copied, they are too general or of too low a level of abstraction to be capable of protection by copyright law," the judge said.
Copyright and Fair Use Cases (Stanford University Library's comprehensive list, links to, and summaries of, all relevant federal cases)
Summaries of Fair Use Cases (Stanford University Libraries, Copyright & Fair Use)
• The Betamax Case, (Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 1984). How courts reasoned about the first-use doctrine in the decision on the American film industry's first legal response to the home video revolution: "time-shift" programming (copying a program to watch later, in the home) was fair use. "At first, the major studios believed that the only logical way to market videocassettes was direct sales, reasoning that consumers wanted to buy cassettes and create 'libraries' in much the same way as they acquired record albums. But people preferred renting to buying and as the situation stood, retailers and not film producers initially wrung most of the profits from the market. After purchasing a cassette for around $40 wholesale, a retailer could rent it over and over at a nominal charge. In contrast, the film company's profit would be small, less than a few dollars after materials, duplication, and distribution costs had been covered." That decision legally enabled development of the consumer electronics industry. For more details, see Wikipedia on Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, IncElectronic Frontier Foundation (on how the Betamax case figures in lawsuits against peer-to-peer copying on other electronic devices). In July 2013, reports the Washington Post, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in Fox Broadcasting v. Dish Network, says digital recorders that allow automatic skipping of ads do not violate copyright. ("Commercial-skipping does not implicate Fox's copyright interest because Fox owns the copyrights to the television programs, not to the ads aired in the commercial breaks," wrote Judge Judge Sidney Thomas. (See In Dish Network Case, Ninth Circuit Applies Dated Precedent to New Copyright Claim(The Recorder, 7-24-13).
Sixteen Things Writers Should Know About Quoting From Letters (Mark Fowler, Rights of Writers, 2-4-11) First, basics: 1. If I send you a letter, unless I have an agreement with you to the contrary, I continue to own the copyright. 2. As the recipient of the letter, you own the letter itself -- the paper and ink. 2. As the recipient of the letter, you own the letter itself -- the paper and ink. You cannot publish the entirety of the letter without my consent (except for one possible limited exception). And so on--including which uses of letters are fair use.
Harper & Row v. Nation Enterprises. Nation magazine scooped former President Gerald Ford's memoir on his account of his decision to pardon Nixon. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that "fair use is not a defense to the appropriation of work by a famous political figure simply because of the public interest in learning of that political figure's account of an historic event."
Court Filing Ends AG v. HathiTrust Copyright Litigation (Authors Guild, 1-8-14). Court papers filed yesterday evening brought to an end the Guild’s copyright infringement lawsuit against the group of research libraries known as the HathiTrust. The Guild claimed the library group infringed by reproducing copyright-protected books for inclusion in its HathiTrust Digital Library, a searchable database. The case arose in June 2011 when the HathiTrust announced its “Orphan Works Project,” which would begin freely distributing digital copies of “orphan works”—books that are still under copyright, but whose rightsholders cannot be found. The Guild had demonstrated that the copyright owners of most of the books were easily found, forcing HaithiTrust to acknowledge that its search methodology was flawed. HathiTrust abandoned the Orphan Works Project shortly after the lawsuit was filed.
A legal sweep (Inside Higher Education, reporting on Authors Guild vs. Hathi Trust: In its suit, the Authors Guild objected to the libraries' decision to make limited use of its holdings -- such as making digital book copies available to disabled students and allowing researchers to search the full digital texts for keywords -- without paying for permission. "Protecting the rights of disabled students appeared to play a crucial role in the judge's decision." The judge also ruled that "using the digital copies to power a discovery tool that queries the full texts of all the works in the database was sufficiently 'transformative' as to qualify it for exemption under the fair use provision." See also:
Narrow Fair Use Ruling Permits Limited Library Uses, Shoots Down Replacement (Authors Guild 6-11-14). The Second Circuit decision in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust "while approving two very limited uses of the database—for word search and display to the disabled—emphasized that the decision did not extend to the display of the text of the books to all HathiTrust users, or even authorize universal display of snippets.
Documentary Filmmakers Win Exemption From Digital Millennium Copyright Act (PRWeb, 7-28-10). "Documentary Filmmakers Granted Access to Previously Off Limits DVD Content, Restoring Their Fair Use Rights" -- From the Library of Congress: Rulemaking on Exemptions from Prohibition on Circumvention of Technological Measures that Control Access to Copyrighted Works.
“Orphan Works” Unresolved in HathiTrust Ruling (Authors Guild blog). Oct. 12, 2012: Ending a year-long lawsuit over a shared digital repository based at the University of Michigan, US District Court Judge Harold Baer ruled that the mass book digitization program conducted by five major universities in conjunction with Google is a fair use under US copyright law. Under that program, Google has converted millions of copyright-protected library books into machine-readable files, duplicating and distributing the digitized books to university libraries. The universities pooled the digitized books into an online database organized by the University of Michigan known as HathiTrust. "We disagree with nearly every aspect of the court’s ruling. We’re especially disappointed that the court refused to address the universities’ “orphan works” program, which defendants have repeatedly promised to revive. A year ago, the University of Michigan and other defendants were poised to release their first wave of copyright-protected, digitized books to hundreds of thousands of students and faculty members in several states. The universities had deemed the authors of these books to be unfindable." Within two days of filing its suit, the AG found "that the “orphans” included books that were still in print, books by living authors, books whose rights had been left to educational and charitable institutions in the U.S. and abroad, books represented by literary agents, and books by recently deceased authors whose heirs were easily locatable." For more, see Orphan Works legislation.
LCA Comments on Authors Guild v. HathiTrust Decision (ACRL Insider, 10-11-12). Judge Baer decided that the HathiTrust Digital Library's (HDL) use of digitized works is a fair use permitted under the Copyright Act. The judge's key holding: "I cannot imagine a definition of fair use that would not encompass the transformative uses made by [HDL] and would require that I terminate this invaluable contribution on the progress of science and cultivation of the arts that at the same time effectuates the ideals espoused by the [Americans with Disabilities Act]." "The HathiTrust Digital Library is operated by a consortium of universities...Many of the 10 million digital volumes in HDL were provided by Google in exchange for the universities' allowing Google to scan books in their collections for the Google Library Project. Among other holdings:
--The creation of a search index is a transformative use under the first fair use factor: "The use to which the works in HDL are put is transformative because the copies serve an entirely different purpose that than the original works: the purpose is superior search capabilities rather than actual access to copyrighted material."
--The use of digital copies to facilitate access for the print-disabled is also transformative. Because print-disabled persons are not a significant potential market for publishers, providing them with access is not the intended use of the original work.
--The goals of copyright to promote the progress of science are better served by allowing HDL's use than by preventing it. (See article for full list.)
Google Scanning Is Fair Use Says Judge (Andrew Albanese, PW, 10-11-12). "The Authors Guild filed its copyright infringement suit, in September of 2011, a parallel action to its case against Google, alleging that the HathiTrust, a digital preservation effort created by a collective of research libraries, was built with millions of 'unauthorized' scans created by Google." Baer found "that the scanning of books for the purposes of indexing is indeed a transformative act, with Baer acknowledging that copying entire works is after all necessary to offer full-text searching and access to the print disabled." And "the decision stands a major win for libraries, universities, and proponents of digitization." This cuts to the heart of the AG's suit against Google, which is currently stayed, pending a procedural appeal.
Why MLK’s 'Dream' Is So Hard to Find Online (National Journal, 8-19-13). Martin Luther King Jr.. filed copyright registration on his "I Have a Dream" speech soon after he gave it. The famous part was not in the written script, but the speech was recorded. An odd court ruling has forced news organizations to pay a fee for showing more than "fair use" parts of the speech.
Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc. v. Passport Video Passport Video created a 16-hour documentary on the life of Elvis Presley, The Definitive Elvis Presley, which used unlicensed video footage, still photographs, and music owned by Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. and other companies and individuals. The Ninth Circuit "found no fair use because the biography was not consistently transformational, was commercial in nature, and was likely to affect the market for the copyrighted works."
Remix as “Fair Use”: Grateful Dead Posters’ Re-publication Held to Be a Transformative, Fair Use (summary and analysis, Conference on College Composition and Communication). The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the lower court, finding that the use of several Grateful Dead Poster images and other images appearing in a band biography was a “fair use” under section 107 of the US copyright statute. The publisher Dorling Kindersley used without permission seven images of Grateful Dead concert posters or tickets in the book Grateful Dead: The Illustrated Trip. The publisher tried to get permission from the band’s promoter, Bill Graham, for use of some images from Grateful Dead concerts but permission agreements weren't reached because Graham wanted too high a fee. The publisher used the images anyway under fair use, and the court held that it was fair use, because (under the four factors) the images were used in a timeline and for historical purposes rather than for the posters’ original purposes of concert promotion; the biographical book did not exploit the creative aspects of the posters; even though entire images were used, their reduced size was consistent with Dorling Kindersley’s transformative use; and Dorling’s use didn’t harm the potential market because no actual market harm was sustained, and, in this case, the court wouldn’t find market harm based on “hypothetical loss” of revenue. Dorling Kindersley was reusing the original material in a different, historical context, and they were using only the amount needed to give readers a flavor of the time. "The publishing house’s transformative purpose was key to the judicial decisions."
Judge dismisses lawsuit over Faulkner line in 'Midnight in Paris' (Ryan Faughnder, Los Angeles Times, 7-18-13) In a 17-page ruling, Michael P. Mills, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, said the use of the quote qualifies as a fair use. "At issue in this case is whether a single line from a full-length novel singly paraphrased and attributed to the original author in a full-length Hollywood film can be considered a copyright infringement. In this case, it cannot."
Long-Awaited Ruling in Copyright Case Mostly Favors Georgia State U. (Jennifer Howard, Chronicle of Higher Education, 5-3-12). "A federal judge in Atlanta has handed down a long-awaited ruling in a lawsuit brought by three scholarly publishers against Georgia State University over its use of copyrighted material in electronic reserves." Mostly the decision favored the university, but "Judge Evans proposed a 10-percent rule to guide decisions about what constitutes fair use in an educational setting. For books without chapters or with fewer than 10 chapters, 'unpaid copying of no more than 10 percent of the pages in the book is permissible under factor three,' she wrote in her ruling. For books with 10 or more chapters, 'permissible fair use' would be copying up to one chapter or its equivalent." An excellent analysis of the outcomes.
Fair Use Panel Cautions Against Adopting Georgia State Ruling as Definitive (Josh Hadro, Library Journal, 6-26-12). The ruling acknowledges a fair use case for education e-reserves and uploads on course managements systems, but the 10% rule is very "context-sensitive." Entertainment attorney Dean Cheley gives this "exceedingly clear set of criteria for fair use defense" to his clients, mostly including nonfiction filmmakers:
~Are you using the material to illustrate a specific point that you’re trying to make?
~Are you only using so much as is necessary to make that point?
~Is it clear to the audience what that point is?
Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music (92-1292), 510 U.S. 569 (1994) (PDF, Legal Information Institute, Supreme Court opinions and decision. See also: Wikipedia account of this U.S. Supreme Court case (1994) that" established that a commercial parody can qualify as fair use. That money is made does not make it impossible for a use to be fair; it is merely one of the components of a fair use analysis. Wikipedia's summary explains how the four factors were applied. Contents. In particular, look at Three Years after Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc.: What Is Fair Game for Parodists? (PDF, Kathryn D. Piele, Loyola of Los Angeles Entertainment Law Review, 9-1-97). Piele discusses the implications of the case, including its distinction between parody and satire (parody making fun of the work itself, and satire using the original work as a vehicle to criticize something else, such as society itself, the latter NOT being fair use). It also brings in other cases, including Dr. Suess v. Penguin Books ("discounting the defendants' argument that its book about the O.J. Simpson case parodied the original Dr. Seuss works, and holding that the work broadly mimicked Dr. Seuss's characteristic style to simply retell the Simpson case"). And Sun Trust Bank v. Houghton Mifflin about the book The Wind Done Gone, the court upholding the parody defense, as it specifically criticized the depiction of slavery and relationships between blacks and whites in Gone With the Wind.
Case Summaries of Fair Use Cases (Copyright Advisory Office Columbia University Libraries). Particularly good on cases related to academia, photocopying research articles for use in a private firm (Texaco), teaching copies for classroom, quoting excerpts in scholarly presentations, posting items on websites for public access, using excerpts from sound recordings in videos, manipulating photo images for multimedia.

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Controlled digital lending

Open Library: An Update (Authors Guild) "Since 2011, the Internet Archive has sought donations of hard-copy books from libraries and individuals for purposes of scanning them, with promises of respecting copyright....Working with U.S. libraries and organizations serving people with print disabilities, Open Libraries can build the online equivalent of a great, modern public library, providing millions of free digital books to billions of people.”...But, contrary to their statement that they are “honoring the rights of creators,” they are not respecting creators’ copyrights. They do not limit Open Library to people with print disabilities. Rather, they are displaying and distributing full-text copies of copyrighted books to the entire world without authorization, in flagrant violation of copyright law."
Concerns Over Anti-Author Bias in ALI’s Copyright Restatement (Authors Guild, 9-24-2020)

"Last week, Chris Sprigman, the lead drafter of the American Law Institute’s (ALI) controversial Restatement of Copyright Law, wrote a series of tweets attacking authors for taking a stance against the Internet Archive’s practice of unauthorized digitization and lending of books, demonstrating a complete lack of understanding of the Constitutional foundations of copyright law and the supply side of the copyright system, which is premised on the ability of authors’ to be compensated for their work. Ordinarily, we would ignore ill-informed attempts like Sprigman’s to embarrass authors, but considering his role in leading the drafting of ALI’s Restatement of Copyright Law, we believe a more thorough response is in order.

     "For those who don't know about the ALI's "Restatements", they are highly regarded definitive summaries of a particular body of law. Judges and lawyers use them as references for the black letter law on a particular area. They articulate the underlying principles the specific area of law (such as contract, torts, etc.) by surveying the common law—"the law developed and articulated by judges in the course of deciding specific cases" as ALI defines it. The ALI states that it "operates to give precision to use of legal terms, and make the law more uniform throughout the country."
      "Sprigman's resistance to the comments of those who disagree with his view is even more alarming in light of his tweets attacking authors for wanting to defend their rights and defending the Internet Archive's assaults on copyright law and authors' rights. For years, Internet Archive has been digitizing books donated to it or on behalf of libraries without the permission of the authors or publishers of those books. Holding itself out as an online library, it makes these digital copies available to anyone throughout the world through its websites, claiming that because they made only a single copy of any book in their possession and that only one person can "take out" the digital file at a time, their practice approximates the operation of an actual library and therefore must be legal."
Controlled Digital Lending Is Neither Controlled nor Legal (Authors Guild, 1-8-19) “Controlled Digital Lending” or “CDL” is a recently invented legal theory that allows libraries to justify the scanning (or obtaining of scans) of print books and e-lending those digital copies to users without obtaining authorization from the copyright owners. A position statement on CDL, along with an accompanying white paper, was issued this past October by legal scholars, the culmination of several academic meetings on the subject. The statement and paper argue that it is fair use for libraries to scan or obtain scans of physical books that they own and loan those books through e-lending technologies, provided they apply certain restrictions akin to physical library loans, such as lending only one copy (either the digital copy or the physical copy) at a time and only for a defined loan period.
Position Statement on Controlled Digital Lending "In order to properly position CDL within the analysis above, libraries should (1) ensure that original works are acquired lawfully; (2) apply CDL only to works that are owned and not licensed; (3) limit the total number of copies in any format in circulation at any time to the number of physical copies the library lawfully owns (maintain an “owned to loaned” ratio); (4) lend each digital version only to a single user at a time just as a physical copy would be loaned; (5) limit the time period for each lend to one that is analogous to physical lending; and (6) use digital rights management to prevent copying and redistribution.
The scenarios below are examples of practices that would not be considered properly implemented CDL or qualify for the analysis outlined above:
• A library digitizes an in-copyright book and makes it publicly available without any DRM allowing users to proliferate available copies of the work.
• A library owning one print copy of an in-copyright book digitizes it and makes it available to multiple users simultaneously, with or without DRM.
• A library digitizes an in-copyright book it has borrowed through interlibrary loan and makes it available to its users, even if only to one user at a time, and controlled through DRM.
• A commercial entity implements CDL and lends digitized versions of books it has purchased to customers for a fee or supported by advertising, even if only to one user at a time, and controlled through DRM.
A White Paper on Controlled Digital Lending of Library Books (legal scholars David R. Hansen & Kyle K. Courtney. Conclusion: "Controlled digital lending offers an incredible opportunity for opening up access to library collections. The Statement illustrates a growing list of libraries and librarians who support CDL as a concept. We acknowledge that law is not entirely settled. There are no cases directly on point, and some contrary authority in the context of commercial activities. Yet, there are strong arguments supported by caselaw for why CDL, appropriately tailored to reflect physical market conditions, should be permissible under existing law under the doctrine of fair use. We conclude that a library is acting within fair use if it digitizes and lends to users the full text of a copyrighted book, provided it does so within carefully implemented limits and safeguards (i.e. all the controls identified in the Statement), and provided that the library’s primary purpose for making and using the digitized book is limited to uses that are within the distribution and related rights that all libraries have under the first sale doctrine, as applicable to the original book in the collection." The Hot Sheet did some spot-checking of the Open Library and, after opening an account, "we were able to read online and download encrypted digital editions of several works by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Debbie Macomber, Alain de Botton, and Jodi Picoult. [Emphasis added.] To be clear, Open Library has created these digital editions themselves from print copies (quality varies tremendously, we might add) and does not pay the author or publisher for such use..."
Capitol Records, LLC v. ReDigi Inc. (Wikipedia) "In ReDigi, the court held that the first-sale defense did not apply to ReDigi because first-sale only affects the copyright holder's distribution right, not reproduction right. Since ReDigi was held to have violated Capitol's reproduction right, the court reasoned that the first-sale defense did not protect ReDigi from liability for unauthorized reproduction.""ReDigi appealed to the Second Circuit. Oral argument was on August 22, 2017, and the court issued a decision on December 12, 2018.[7] Again the copyright holders won, on the theory that it is impossible to transfer any digital file from a user's storage medium without making a copy that is controlled by copyright's ongoing "reproduction right", as opposed to the "distribution right" that is extinguished by the First Sale doctrine."

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First-sale doctrine in a world of re-selling, rentals, and licensing

I bought the physical book or CD -- what rights does that give me?

First-sale doctrine (Wikipedia entry). The first-sale doctrine limits the distribution rights of copyright and trademark owners by allowing the purchaser of a copyrighted product to re-sell the physical product or phonorecord (e.g., recorded music). The right does not apply to unlawfully reproduced audio or video tapes or other forms of digital recording.
Reselling Digital Goods Is Copyright Infringement, Judge Rules (David Kravets, Wired, 4-1-13) "A federal judge is declaring as unlawful a one-of-a-kind website enabling the online sale of pre-owned digital music files....The case weighed the so-called first-sale doctrine, the legal theory that people in lawful possession of copyright material have the right to resell it. U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan, ruling in a suit brought by Vivendi’s Capitol Records, said the doctrine did not apply to digital goods."
• Huge Supreme Court decision: Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & SonsJustices Permit Resale of Copyrighted Imports (Adam Liptak, NY Times, 3-19-13) The Supreme Court issued a truly major decision about international re-selling of books. See also Grimmelmann: Issues in Kirtsaeng 'Significant' (James Grimmelmann, PW, 3-20-13. an excellent explanation of issues). "Since the textbooks Kirtsaeng was importing were printed with the permission of the copyright holders, they were legal, and so were his imports." (Pirated books and music are not legal.) ... "However one comes out on first sale and imported textbooks, the issue, in books and beyond, is too significant to end here. Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante is already proposing significant reforms to the Copyright Act." (See The Next Great Copyright Act.).
Meanwhile, here's another take on the Kirtsaeng decision: "Supreme Court to Wiley publishers: your insane theory of copyright is wrong" (Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing, 3-19-13) "The US Supreme Court has handed down a verdict in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, one of the most important copyright cases of the century. In it, the publisher John Wiley & Sons sought to block the import of legally purchased cheap overseas editions of its books by arguing that "first sale" (the right to resell copyrighted works) only applies to goods made in the USA. However you feel about cheap overseas editions and their importation into the USA, this was a disastrous legal theory. Practically everything owned by Americans is made outside of the USA and almost all of it embodies some kind of copyright. Under Wiley's theory, you would have no first-sale rights to any of that stuff -- you couldn't sell it, you couldn't even give it away. What's more, the other "exceptions and limitations" to copyright would also not apply, meaning that it would be illegal to photograph anything made outside of the USA (no di minimum exemption) or to transform it in any way (no fair use, either). Thanks goodness the Supremes got this one right!" Here is the decision (KIRTSAENG, DBA BLUECHRISTINE99 v. JOHN WILEY & SONS, INC. , decided 3-19-13).
Earlier, PW had reported in in As Wiley Case Heads to the Supreme Court, Libraries Join “Owners Rights” Coalition (Andrew Albanese, PW, 10-24-12), "Next week’s Supreme Court case will address the fallout from an August, 2011 ruling in John Wiley & Sons, Inc. v. Supap Kirtsaeng in which Kirtsaeng, a Thai-born U.S. student was successfully sued by Wiley for importing and reselling in the U.S. foreign editions of Wiley textbooks made for exclusive sale abroad. In its verdict, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit affirmed, by a 2-1 margin, that Kirtsaeng could not avail himself of the first sale doctrine because the law says that products must be 'lawfully made.'" The Second Circuit ruled that "foreign-made works" were not "lawfully made." PW: "That decision has raised alarms for a number of businesses, including libraries and the used book trade, and online sellers like Amazon, and eBay."
Why Ownership Rights Matter (background, from Owners' Rights Initiative)''
Supreme Court Holds that the “First Sale” Doctrine Protects Importation and Sale of Books and Recordings Lawfully Manufactured and Acquired Abroad (Bingham, 3-26-13). "The expanded resale market permitted under Kirtsaeng has the potential to lead to increased piracy of intellectual property. This is because it may not always be clear to resellers and consumers in the United States whether they are purchasing a lawfully made work manufactured for sale in a foreign market or an unauthorized pirated copy. The “first sale” doctrine does not apply pirated copies, and nothing in the Court’s opinion in Kirtsaeng changes the restrictions on selling such unauthorized works."
• See the Betamax case, Authors Guild vs. Hathi Trust under Fair Use (scroll to cases at end of Fair Use section.
Vernor v. Autodesk: Software and the First Sale Doctrine under Copyright Law (Marcelo Halpern, Yury Kapgan, and Kathy Yu) (Intellectual Property & Technology Law Journal, Vol.23, No. 3, March 2011). The Ninth Circuit ruled recently that "an individual who purchased and then resold secondhand software was not the 'owner' of that copy of the software and therefore could not resell it when the license agreement accompanying the software restricted such resale."

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Fair use, copyright, social media, and multimedia

Codes of Best Practices and Fair Use Guidelines
See general entries on fair use above this box.

Between 1993 and 1995, Jill Wechsler and I (representing ASJA) participated in a Conference on Fair Use, which met all day, once a month, for about three years. The late Paul Aiken (who as a lawyer was far more knowledgeable than we) was there representing the Authors Guild, to which I also belonged, and we spent all day discussing issues with smart people from many creator, producer, user, and scholarly disciplines. At first 40 groups and later 95 deliberated, in "working groups," on how to establish guidelines for fair use in the new electronic media, particularly for educational and library uses of copyrighted works. We discussed various scenarios in distance learning, multimedia, electronic reserves, interlibrary loans/document delivery, image archives, uses of software in libraries, downloading for personal use, transient copying, and browsing. We also discussed concerns of the visually impaired and the need for digital preservation of materials.

There was much disagreement. Researchers wanted information to be free; authors and publishers wanted to be paid for their products, but also depended on the fair use doctrine to advance knowledge. Documentarians, librarians, and researchers wanted selections from movies to be fair use; the motion picture industry felt otherwise; they grudgingly settled on an acceptable "safe harbor," in which a "fair user" might feel safe from lawsuits. University professors wanted to copy chapters from books to hand out, free, to their students (and apparently still do); textbook authors counted on textbooks as sources of retirement income, and publishers had an interest in policing copying abuses. For that matter, the Patent Office (part of the executive branch) hosted the conference, and its director, Bruce Lehman, was raising rates for registering patents; the Copyright Office (part of the legislative branch) tries to keep its copyright registration rates low, so individuals can afford to register their creative works. We were told Bruce Lehman wanted to merge the Patent and Copyright offices, UNDER Patents, probably, but that merger didn't happen (and a good thing it didn't--because many inventors are now priced out of the patent market). And Fair Use is really a copyright issue, but heck -- this was a multidisciplinary task force.

The discussions about fair use that took place over those three years led us all to explore the nature of U.S. copyright policy from all angles, especially those of varying vested interests of CONFU's participants. Many of the following guidelines probably got their start in that period -- and very few guidelines were finalized at that time. Note: guidelines are NOT LAW, and many of these guidelines are considered drafts. Remember, “fair use” is essentially an exception to copyright protection (or, more accurately, a defense to a copyright infringement claim) that allows limited "copying" of a "fair use" portion of a copyrighted work without payment to or permission from the copyright holder -- for noncommercial educational purposes, for news reporting, and for other limited and “transformative” purposes, such as to comment upon, criticize, or parody a copyrighted work. Whether it is fair use also depends on the purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes.

Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use (Center for Media & Social Impact)
Educational Uses of Non-coursepack Materials (Stanford University Libraries)
Guidelines for fair use in the electronic environment (University of Texas Libraries) On fair use of materials on reserve for supplemental class reading.
Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries (Center for Social Media, American University)
Frequently asked questions about fair use Center for Media & Social Impact, CMSI)
Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts (College Art Association. Check out this video: Fair Use at Work in the Visual Arts (Center for Media & Social Impact)
Proposed Educational Guidelines on Fair Use. Includes Proposed Guidelines for Digital Copying; Proposed Guidelines for Using Digitized Images in Lectures, Scholarly Presentations, or Publications; and Proposed Guidelines for Students or Instructors Preparing Multimedia Works. Note that one federal appeals court questioned the use of the "10% standard," emphasizing a flexible case-by-case fair use analysis.
The CONFU Digital Image and Multimedia Guidelines: The Consequences for Libraries and Educators (a paper by Christine L. Sundt)
Fair use guidelines for educational multimedia (posted by University of Washington)
Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia
Fair Use and Distance Learning in the Digital Age (Journal of Electronic Publishing). Scroll down for four basic principles, and "When in doubt, ask permission — even for print publications."

The Center for Media & Social Impact at American University has posted excellent resources, especially on best practices in fair use of various multimedia, including the following documents:
Documentary Filmmakers' Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use
Success of the Statement of Best Practices (CMSI) What has happened since the Documentary Filmmakers’ Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use was released on November 18, 2005?
Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the
Visual Arts
(College Art Association)
Set of Principles in Fair Use for Journalism
Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Scholarly Research in Communication (CMSI)
Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries (CMSI)
Statement of Best Practice in Fair Use of Dance-Related Materials (Dance
Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for OpenCourseWare (CMSI)
Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video (CMSI, American University).
Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries (CMSI)
Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Poetry (CMSI)
Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education (CMSI)
Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Scholarly Research in Communication (CMSI)
Code of Fair Use in Media Literacy Education FAQ (CMSI)

These two statements came along in 2017 and 2019 and didn't arise at the time of the original CONFU discussion:
Fair Use: A Statement on Best Practices for Biographers (Biographers International, BIO, 2019)
Fair Use for Nonfiction Authors: Common Scenarios with Guidance from Community Practice (Brianna L. Schofield and Robert Kirk Walker, Authors Alliance, 2017) But see Authors Guild vs. Authors Alliance

Recut, Reframe, Recycle: Quoting Copyrighted Material in User-Generated Video (CMSI)
The Cost of Copyright Confusion for Media Literacy (YouTube)
Unauthorized: The Copyright Conundrum in Participatory Video (CMSI)
The Good, The Bad and the Confusing: User-Generated Video Creators on Copyright
Digital Futures: A Need-to-Know Policy Guide for Independent Filmmakers (CMSI)
Legalities 19: Portfolio Rights (Owen, Wickersham & Erickson, P.C.; originally on AIGA.)

 Clearing rights and finding rightsholders


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Reversion of Rights to Author

Do not sign away "all rights in perpetuity."


See also Termination of rights (a second bite of the apple for the author)

Until recently, there was a standard "reversion of rights" clause in book contracts, by which rights to the book would revert to the author six months after the author's request, if the book was no longer in print or sales had dwindled to almost nothing. With POD printing available, publishers are now eager to hang on to those rights, selling one book at a time, POD--with measly returns to writers, who could make more reprinting the book on their own, once sales diminish to a trickle. So read up and DO NOT sign away "all rights in perpetuity."

    As Bert Krages explains on the Authors Guild forum: 'Although the term "grant of rights" is used frequently in publishing agreements, "grant" most often means in a legal sense that there is a transfer of ownership. However, in many such agreements "grant" is frequently used in contexts that suggest it really means "license," which is a more limited permission to publish a work. In the context of magazine publishing, it is better to license the right of first publication than to grant the entire right subject to reversion upon first publication. That way, if issues come up later, the author will be in a better position if he or she does not have to contend with a possible position that the publisher owns the entire rights pending first publication. Seemingly minor tweaks to contract language can sometimes prevent frustration down the road. For example, inserting "automatically" before "revert" will clarify the intent of the parties and help avoid situations such as when a subsequent publisher wants a confirmation letter from the first publisher, who is too busy or uncaring to bother drafting one.'
Reclaiming Your Copyright After Thirty-Five Years (Jane Litte, Dear Author, 5-13-12) "Congress, who is responsible for setting the parameters of the copyright law in the United States, recognizes the economic imbalance between authors and publishers and has tried to include provisions to correct the imbalance. One of those provisions under the current copyright law is the right of termination of a previously granted copyright....The purpose of Section 203 is to provide authors a natural reversion of rights so that they get a second bite at the bargaining apple. It allows any author, or a person assigned by the author, to terminate the original grant during a five year period beginning 35 years after the publication was made or 40 years after the grant of rights, whichever comes first."
Publishing Reversion Clauses (Dean Wesley Smith on what to ask for in a reversion-of-rights clause--with an excellent overview of why this issue is important. Read the whole thing!)
The Importance of Reversion Clauses in Book Contracts (Victoria Strauss, Writer Beware, 4-27-12). The digital age has made the reversion of rights clause more important to both authors and publishers.
Rights Reversion (Kristine Kathryn Rusch, The Business Rusch, 10-24-12) How to get your rights back from a book publisher.
DIY: Reversion of Rights (Alex Palmer, Publishers Weekly, 4-5-15) A good explanation of the "reset button" in the Copyright Act, which allows authors or their descendants to regain rights to books registered with the Copyright Office. Scroll down for it. The reset button 'allows authors or their descendants to regain rights to books registered with the Copyright Office or published before 1978.

"Those works are entitled to protection 95 years from the date copyright," explains Lloyd Jassin. "However, there is something known as the termination window -- a five year period 56 years after registration or publication, whichever is earlier, in which you can serve a notice of termination on a publisher, or publisher's successor...."My advice is to read the out-of-print clause carefully," says Jassin. 
• Contracts 101: The Reversion of Rights Clause (Jane Friedman, Scratch Magazine, Hunger issue: Q1 2014, now out of business.) Specify how you'll terminate the relationship with your publisher before saying yes to the publishing deal. "Remember: For any type of contract, if your contract grants copyright to the publisher (or is a 'work for hire' agreement), then the reversion-of-rights clause does not apply, because you’re giving up all rights to the work, forever, without further recourse." See long excerpt here.
Reversion of Rights (Rachelle Gardner, 11-29-10) "Today, we are very clear in our contracts about what defines out-of-print and triggers a reversion of rights....As you can see, with the possibility of a passive income stream coming from e-books they don’t have to promote, print, ship or store, publishers are going to want to hang on to the rights as long as possible....As an agent, I want to balance that with what’s best for the author, and try not to let the publisher keep rights past the point where they are reasonably exploiting those rights."
Simon & Schuster Changes The Rules: Goodbye Reversion of Rights! (Kassia Krozser, Booksquare 5-19-07). "Reversion of rights... should be the most important topic on the minds of all authors in this current business environment."
Reversionary Rights in Book Contracts (Ivan Hoffman)
Missouri Rewrites Plot, Rehiring Editor in Chief of the University Press (John Eligon, NY Times, 10-5-12). When 41 authors who had works published by the university press asked for the rights to their works back unless the editor-in-chief, Mr. Clair Willcox, was rehired, the University of Missouri reversed its plans to close the university's publishing house and re-hired the editor.
A Publishing Contract Should Not Be Forever (Authors Guild, 7-28-15) "Time-limited licenses are just the first step in making sure that publishing contracts aren’t forever. The second step--ensuring that publishers can’t sit on subsidiary rights that they’ve licensed but fail to exploit--is at least as important. After all, publishers have a strong incentive to make those deals: they typically retain fifty percent of the proceeds. But the way most current contracts work, publishers who fail to do anything with rights such as paperback, audiobook, and foreign edition rights don’t have to give those rights back to the author until the agreement ends—another “forever” deal. That’s ridiculous....The solution is simple: All subsidiary rights an author grants to a publisher should be subject to reversion after the author’s demand if they are not exercised or exploited within eighteen to twenty-four months of publication." 

•  Bad Contracts Are Not Forever (YouTube video, 55 minutes, Authors Guild, 10-22-19) "Many authors are unaware of a key provision of the U.S. copyright law that lets them recapture their rights after thirty-five years. Section 203 of the Copyright allows authors a second bite of the apple: a right to terminate any assignment, license, or transfer of copyright (except works made for hire)." Copyright attorney Ed Klaris and Authors Guild attorney Umair Kazi explain the formalities for getting your rights back.

Termination of rights
(a second bite of the apple)

Section 203 "termination of transfers," which took effect in 2013, involve a different procedure based on special provisions in the U.S. Copyright Act. Don't confuse reversion of rights under a particular book contract with Section 203 termination of transfers, which applies to authors' rights under the U.S. Copyright Act.
AG, Creator Groups Respond to Copyright Office’s Proposed Rule Changes to Ease Notice of Termination Requirements "The Authors Guild submitted comments in response to the Copyright Office’s proposed changes to its requirements for serving and filing notices of termination. Sections 203 and 304 of the Copyright Act give authors the right to terminate any grant of rights or contract after 35-40 years (or 56-61 years in the case of copyrights secured before 1978) by sending the grantee a notice of termination and recording it with the Copyright Office. The recent proposed changes would make the process of recording the notices easier by, among other things, giving the Copyright Office discretion to record notices that are untimely, and setting the date of recordation to the date on which the Office receives a copy of the notice instead of the date it receives the notice, fee, and other elements. Nine other creator organizations joined the Guild’s comments, which you can read here."
A Guide to Terminating Transfers under Section 203 of the Copyright Act (Margo E. Crispin, Authors Guild) Section 203 applies to a grant of any right under copyright, made by an author on or after January 1, 1978. It does not apply to works made for hire.
***• Terminating Transfers. A Second Bite of the Apple: A Guide to Terminating Transfers Under Section 203 of the Copyright Act (PDF, Margo E. Crispin, Authors Guild, 4-2012). Download the PDF here (11 pages). “Section 203 of the Copyright Act allows the creator of a copyrighted work, who, during her lifetime, has transferred all or some of the rights to the work on or after January 1, 1978, to terminate the transfer and regain the rights after a certain period of time — generally, at least 35 years from the date of grant or from publication. The earliest Section 203 terminations of transfers will take effect in 2013. Section 203 was enacted to give authors the opportunity to regain rights they may have signed away when they had little bargaining power. It gives authors a second bite of the apple, a second chance to exploit the rights in and benefit from the works they created.” It is important to read all the details because you MUST serve the notice of termination within a very specific window of time (see "When should I serve the notice of termination?"). Consult a copyright attorney, for sure, on this one.
Chapter 2:Copyright Ownership and Transfer (from "Copyright Law of the United States," (Title 17) Sections 201-205.
Copyright Termination: How Authors (and Their Heirs) Can Recapture Their Pre-1978 Copyrights (Lloyd J. Jassin,

[Back to Top]

Copyright issues in the digital world

What's fair use and fair online, on the air,
in blogs, ebooks, and on websites and search engines?

Congress Passes CASE Act (Authors Guild, 12-22-2020) Last night's passage of the CASE Act as part of the $1.4 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021—Congress’s year-end government funding package—gives authors and other creators a major tool to fight piracy and copyright infringement by creating a small claims dispute resolution process in the Copyright Office, an alternative to costly federal litigation. The Case ACt gives authors a practical channel for seeking remedies for the violation of their rights. Until now, authors and other creators have had no way to enforce their rights except to bring expensive federal lawsuits. This has left writers with no ability to fight pirates or big companies, who can outlitigate them, for stealing their work,” said Authors Guild President Doug Preston. "The CASE Act creates a forum called the Copyright Claims Board within the U.S. Copyright Office to hear copyright claims of up to $15,000 per claim and an aggregate of $30,000. The cost of bringing a claim will range between a minimum of $100 and a maximum of the filing cost of an action in federal district court (currently $350), and the claims will be heard by a panel of three Copyright Claims Officers appointed by the Librarian of Congress, at least two of whom must have experience representing both owners and users of copyrighted works."
Senate Judiciary Committee Passes CASE Act Legislation Streamlining Copyright Disputes (Marc Schneider, Billboard, 7-18-19) The CASE Act is closer to becoming law; it has to clear both the Senate and the House first. The CASE Act creates a copyright small claims court, allowing for arbitration, within the Copyright Office. Creators could elect to use the system and either represent themselves or seek the help of law students on a pro bono basis. Damages would be capped at $15,000 for each work infringed, and $30,000 in total. The system would be staffed by three full-time "Copyright Claims Officers" to be appointed by the Librarian of Congress.
The CASE Act: Your Questions Answered (Authors Guild) AG executive director Mary Rasenberger and general counsel Cheryl Davis broke down the facts in a recent Q&A session. Some of the questions answered: How much support does the CASE Act currently have in Senate and House? Is there a statute of limitations on filing a CASE claim? Does the CASE Act protect authors against theft from plagiarizers using print-on-demand and other new media (video, audible) to plagiarize an author's original, copyright-registered writings? If it is totally voluntary, how useful can it be? What safeguards will the Act include to prevent abuse or intentional bottle-necking of the system? Since it can all be done by mail or phone, what keeps bad players from launching hundreds or thousands of claims?
Even More Bad Faith from @RonWyden on Copyright Small Claims Legislation (Artist Rights Watch, 1-14-2020) [Tweet: "Cap on stat. damages in the Copyright Act is $150K. Cap in the #CASEAct is $15K. Cap in Oregon small claims ct is $10K. @RonWyden proposes reducing CASEAct stat damages to $750--a 95% reduction. That barely covers fees for bringing the case. That's not negotiating in good faith." Senator Ron Wyden is up to his old tricks–he’s got a secret hold on the CASE Act and is taking his usual ridiculous positions just to see if he can get away with it. Do at least scan this long entry.
The CASE Act and Why It Matters to Authors (AG executive director Mary Rasenberger (on right) and general counsel Cheryl Davis (on left), Authors Guild, YouTube video, 9-18-19, 57 minutes) Background info and Q&A.
How the CASE Act Benefits Authors (Mary Rasenberger, PW, 9-20-19) The Authors Guild director says that, if passed, the bill would provide an inexpensive way for creators to defend their copyrights.
Copyright Alliance thanked the Senate Judiciary Committee "for making it a legislative priority, one that will benefit hundreds of thousands of U.S. photographers, illustrators, graphic artists, songwriters, and authors, as well as a new generation of creators including bloggers and YouTubers." 'As currently written, the act would create a small claims tribunal within the US Copyright Office,' writes The Hot Sheet. 'However, this tribunal would be open to cases brought not only by authors but also by large corporations and other entities.' Kerry Maeve Sheehan of the Alliance writes, “We’ve already seen how copyright trolls and big content companies have sometimes abused the federal court system to raise questionable infringement accusations and threaten those accused with high statutory damages. By not limiting enforcement through the small claims process to individual creators, the CASE Act makes it even easier for these entities to get quick default judgments and disproportionately high damages awards.”
Audible's Captions Program Stirs Fears, Frustration Among Publishers (Rachel Deahl and Jim Milliot, PW, 7-19-19) AG: “The Association of American Publishers and the Authors Guild issued statements that also said Audible’s contracts do not give the company the right to create a text product. ‘Existing ACX and Audible agreements do not grant Audible the right to create text versions of audiobooks, whether delivered as a full book or in segments,’ the Guild statement noted. ‘The Captions program appears to be outright, willful copyright infringement.’”
The Supreme Court Determines Copyright Claimants Must Register Their Works Before Suing (Cleary Gottlieb, 3-11-19) See also Justices wade deep into the copyright weeds (Jessica Litman, Argument Analysis, SCOTUS blog, 1-9-19) Tuesday’s argument in Fourth Estate v. featured competing interpretations of the phrase “registration of the copyright claim has been made” in 17 U.S.C.§ 411(a), which requires copyright registration as a prerequisite for filing an infringement suit. Holding: "Registration occurs, and a copyright claimant may commence an infringement suit, when the Copyright Office registers a copyright."
Appeals Court Grapples With Digital Files, and the Business of Selling "Used" Songs (Eriq Gardner, Hollywood Reporter, 8-22-17) The Second Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on Tuesday in an important copyright case. The case centered around music reseller ReDigi’s appeal of a 2013 decision holding that selling second hand copies of music files is infringing. The current law, which ReDigi seeks to change, is that digital files cannot be transferred under copyright’s “first sale” doctrine, which allows purchasers of copyrighted material to sell their copies in a secondary market. Authors Guild note; In the unlikely event ReDigi wins, lending and selling purchased ebooks is sure to be next.
Legal Guide for Bloggers (Electronic Frontier Foundation)
Legal Danger for Bloggers: Two Misconceptions, Three Resources, One Suggestion (Susan Weiner, ASJA, The Word, 11-28-12)
10 Big Myths about copyright explained (Brad Templeton) An attempt to answer common myths about copyright seen on the net and cover issues related to copyright and USENET/Internet publication.
Legal Threats Database (Digital Media Law)
Lawsuits Against Bloggers (Digital Media Law)
Lawsuits Involving Forum Posts and User Comments (Digital Media Law)
Bloggers Beware: You CAN Get Sued For Using Pics on Your Blog - My Story (Roni Loren, 7-20-12). Follow-up responses to FAQs on the Blog Photo Debacle
Social Media Monitoring: Are You Listening to Me? Deirdre Reid lists tools to monitor online mentions of your name, your username, your company and other keywords.
Where to Get Photos For Your Blog (Meghan Ward's Writerland, 6-21-12). with a guide to all the Creative Commons logos and codes.
Creative Commons licenses "Creative Commons is a non-profit that offers an alternative to full copyright." "Keep the internet creative, free and open." Creative Commons issues various types of licenses. They all require proper attribution to the creator of the work; they may also require that you link back to the original. Their chief attribute: You don't have to clear permissions if your use abides by certain guidelines, so given a choice between selection A and selection B, a publisher might prefer the one that is licensed by Creative Commons.
CC-BY, Copyright, and Stolen Advocacy (Rick Anderson, The Scholarly Kitchen, 3-31-14)"...there are many good things about CC-BY and good reasons to adopt CC-BY licensing in one’s work, especially if one is a scholar or scientist, and I believe authors should have maximum freedom to publish under those terms if they so choose. But there can also be good reasons to hesitate...If you tell the world 'use my work in any way you wish, just make sure you identify me as the original author,' you’re authorizing not only responsible academic and professional reuse and distribution, but also any other kind of reuse that might fit an academic, social, or political agenda with which you do not wish to be associated. Because Robinson published his article under traditional copyright, he has legal recourse against those who have misappropriated his work; if he had published it under CC-BY he would have no recourse at all, because — in publishing terms — the kind of use being made of his work is exactly what CC-BY is designed to allow."
Frequently asked questions (Creative Commons)
Creative Commons licensed pics (search for something you can get clearance on)
Best practices for attribution (Creative commons)
Fair Use, The Rights of Personality, and Unintended Consequences (Joel Friedlander, 5-20-10, advising you to READ those contracts before you sign them. "When dealing with a rights license, be careful you don’t give away more than you bargained for. And treat other people’s rights with equal zeal. We’re in this together."
What can you do when your work is copied online?, Legalities 34 in the excellent Legalities series on the AIGA website for the design community. See also Online Works: Registration and Copying (Legalities 9, AIGA)
The Slow Death of the American Author (Scott Turow, president of the Authors Guild, NY Times Opinion pages, 4-7-13) The new, global electronic marketplace is rapidly depleting authors' income streams. In March 2013, the Supreme Court decided to allow the importation and resale of foreign editions of American works, which are often cheaper (so royalties are lower). E-books are much less expensive for publishers to produce, but instead of using the savings to be more generous to authors, the six major publishing houses all rigidly insist on clauses limiting e-book royalties to 25 percent of net receipts--roughly half of a traditional hardcover royalty.
Podcasting Legal Guide (Colette Vogele, Mia Garlick, The Berkan Center Clinical Program in Cyberlaw, Harvard University), excellent on copyright, licensing, fair use, and publicity rights
Digital Journalist's Legal Guide (Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press). for anyone disseminating news online, from an independent blogger to a reporter for a major media outlet, as well as media lawyers.
Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act (OCILLA, Wikipedia entry about a conditional safe harbor for online service providers)
Reselling Digital Goods Is Copyright Infringement, Judge Rules (David Kravets, Wired, 4-1-13) "A federal judge is declaring as unlawful a one-of-a-kind website enabling the online sale of pre-owned digital music files....The case weighed the so-called first-sale doctrine, the legal theory that people in lawful possession of copyright material have the right to resell it. U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan, ruling in a suit brought by Vivendi’s Capitol Records, said the doctrine did not apply to digital goods."
Revolution in Resale of Digital Books and Music: Imagining a Swap Meet for E-Books and Music (David Streitfeld, Technology, NY Times, 3-7-13). "The retailer’s button might say 'buy now,' but you are in effect only renting an e-book — or an iTunes song — and your rights are severely limited. That has been the bedrock distinction between physical and electronic works since digital goods became widely available a decade ago....Sales of digital material are considered licenses, which give consumers little or no ability to lend the item. The worry is that without such constraints digital goods could be infinitely reproduced while still in the possession of the original owner. ...Amazon, which caused an uproar with writers and publishers when it started selling used books in 2000, made it as easy as clicking a button. 'Digital resale would change it even more,' Mr. Levine said."
Court Declares Newspaper Excerpt on Online Forum is a Non-Infringing Fair Use (Kurt Opsahl, Electronic Frontier Foundation, 3-10-12)
50 Years of the Video Cassette Recorder (Sylvie Castonguay, WIPO Magazine 11-06). The technology that triggered the first "format wars" and raised new copyright questions, establishing jurisprudence on fair use. Check the links.
For the Love of Culture: Google, copyright, and our future (Lawrence Lessig's fascinating long essay on the stranglehold copyright has on documentary film, and the implications of increasingly complex copyright laws for culture, New Republic, 1-26-10). Listen also to his TED talk: Laws that choke creativity (March 2007, on generational differences in attitudes toward, and use of, technology). See also Larry Lessig Threatened With Copyright Infringement Over Clear Fair Use; Decides To Fight Back (Mike Masnik, Techdirt, 8-23-13). "Given that it's Lessig, and with the involvement of the EFF, this is obviously going to be a case worth watching, but given the full details of the case, it may be a key one in establishing when 512(f) can be used to push back against bogus DMCA takedowns."
E-book rights. From where I sit, you can’t actually “sell” an ebook, writes Mike Shatzkin. His main point: Customers are not really buying those eBooks; they're licensing them. This has important implications for authors. When I buy a physical copy of a book, I can lend it to as many people as I want; I can't do that with an eBook, which is the clear sign that I've paid for a license to read, not a book. Publishers don't make that clear (in plain English), says Shatzkin, and should. This has important implications for publishing contracts, where royalties are paid on numbers of books sold (typically at a maximum of 15% per copy). Licensing of subsidiary rights (e.g., to book clubs) traditionally involves a 50-50 split in income, with half to the author and half to the publisher. Don't sign anything without full knowledge that you might be signing away substantial income. For more on this and related issues, see E-book rights, developments, conflicts, and struggles for market
Google Search, Copyright Penalties (Stephanie Morrow, LegalZoom, Feb. 2013). To discourage the promotion of websites that use copyright infringing content, Google will be lowering their search result listings on Google. Advice on how to behave online.
Copyright Issues for Social Media (Renee Hykel, 12-12). Be careful what you re-tweet!
A Matter of Ethics by Nathan Bransford (4-5-10). A response to the controversial New York Times "Ethicist" post defending the ethics of illegally downloading an e-book when you own the hardcover. "I think we need to get past the idea that an electronic format is value-less relative to print. It has value....An e-book is a fundamentally different product than a hardcover."
• Clearing rights and finding rightsholders
Bits Debate: Mixing It Up Over Remixes and Fair Use (Saul Hansell, Bits, NY Times, 1-16-08). Wednesday's question: What is fair use in the digital age? How much can I remix, quote, make fun of, or summarize without infringing on a copyright? Rick Cotton: "The debate about content protection in the digital world — and most particularly about content protection on the broadband Internet — is really and truly NOT a debate about fair use. The millions upon millions of pirated, infringing copies of entire movies, TV shows, games and software that are epidemic in today’s digital world have no claim whatsoever to being fair use."
FAQs (and answers) about linking (Chilling Effects)
FAQs (and Answers) about John Doe Anonymity (Chilling Effects)
Bits Debate About Copyright (Saul Hansell, NY Times blog on fair use, the Internet, remixes, and other digitally perplexing topics)
Chilling Effects (clearinghouse that monitors the legal climate for Internet activity)
Internet + Intellectual Property Justice Project
Brussels court rules against Google in copyright case (Thomas Crampton, NY Times, 2-13-07). A court in Brussels ruled that Google violated copyright laws by publishing links to stories from Belgian newspapers without permission, a case that legal experts said could have broad implications in Europe for the news services provided by search engines. "Legal experts in the United States said the ruling would not have a direct impact in that country, but noted that the validity of the methods used by Google News have not yet been tested by U.S. courts."
Getty Images (& Other) Settlement Demand Letters. What to do when Getty sues you for infringement when you wrongly post an image on your website. See also Lawsuit Accuses Getty Images of Deceiving Customers into Buying Licenses for Public Domain Images (Peter S. Lubin and Patrick Austermuehle, Chicago Litigation blog, 6-10-19) Getty is known for "suing" small firms for infringement of copyright on works that are in the public domain--suing firms without the financial means or knowhow to fight them.
What Orphan Works Could Mean to Bloggers (Jonathan Bailey, The Blog Herald, 4-28-08) What Orphan Works legislation can mean to bloggers and what you can do to protect your work.
Copyright Infringement: What If Someone Is Stealing From You? (John W. Dozier, Practical ECommerce, 1-15-05)
Second Life Dragged Into Legal Dispute Over Copyright Of Virtual Horses And Virtual Bunnies (Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt, 1-6-11). Second Life is a free 3D virtual world where users can socialize, connect and create using free voice and text chat. EFF Lawyer Says Second Life Copyright Issues "In Some Ways Worse" Than Real Life . Second Life's owner, Linden Labs, has an official policy on intellectual property , and a corporate statement on takedown notices , also, under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
Ellen DeGeneres Sued for Copyright Infringement (Allie, 9-11-09), the plaintiffs "alleging the production has used 'well over one thousand sound recordings owned or controlled by Plaintiffs' without permission" during the segment when, to popular music, she dances over to her desk after her opening monologue.
Embedded Video and Copyright Infringement (Citizen Media Law Project 7-10-07). See also: Embedded YouTube Videos - Copyright Infringement?(shibashake, HugPages)
The Digital Decade's Definitive Reading List: Internet and Info-Tech Policy Books of the 2000s (Adam Thierer, The Technology Liberation Front 12-29-09). Here's the group's blog pieces about copyright .
Faulkner vs. National Geographic's Effect on Author's Rights in Electronic Transfer (Allison Hundstad, Richmond Journal of Law & Technology, 2006). For those with the patience to read about copyright cases, analysis here starts on p. 9, which links the National Geographic case to the Google Book Search in terms of erosion of authors' rights, saying, "The Faulkner decision seems contrary to Congress’s purpose in creating the Copyright Act of 1976."
The Fine Art of Copyright (L. Gordon Crovitz, WSJ Opinion, 3-16-09). The "case of a photo-turned-poster of Barack Obama is a reminder that just because technology makes something possible doesn't make it right.
Fine Print Blurs Who's in Control of Online Photos (Joshua Brustein, NY Times 5-22-11)
Ellen DeGeneres Sued for Copyright Infringement (Allie, 9-11-09), the plaintiffs "alleging the production has used 'well over one thousand sound recordings owned or controlled by Plaintiffs' without permission" during the segment when, to popular music, she dances over to her desk after her opening monologue.
Embedded Video and Copyright Infringement (Citizen Media Law Project 7-10-07). See also: Embedded YouTube Videos - Copyright Infringement?(shibashake, HugPages)

Beware the copyright trolls. High-tech journalist Tam Harbert on Las Vegas-based Righthaven LLC and other firms who are less interested in preventing copyright infringement ("cease and desist") than in collecting for it ("insist," that is, send us the money).Attention: Righthaven, the "copyright troll." [Note: This firm is now in big trouble.] Read this profile of the Las Vegas firm Righthaven, which is making a business of suing nonprofits and individuals who reprint whole newspaper articles and images on their websites without clearing permission: Righthaven: saving the newspaper industry, one lawsuit at a time (Ars Technica, 9-9-10). The people Righthaven sues, says Ars Technica, are often the sources for the very stories they're suing about. Funded by the Las Vegas Review Journal, Righthaven sues random websites for copyright infringement for posting articles, or snippets of articles on their sites, often with a linkback, writes TechDirt in Righthaven Loses First Lawsuit; Judge Says Copying Was Fair Use. Unfortunately, says TechDirt, the case was not dismissed in another court, where a site was sued for content posted by a user on a user-generated site. Righthaven buys the license to articles wrongly reprinted on several websites, registers their copyright, then sues for damages the owners of websites that post the articles. In one case, a judge dismissed the suit because the posting was probably fair use:Judge tells copyright troll Righthaven no, it's fair use (Nate Anderson, ars technica,10-21-10). Most sites cave in and pay up (typically a few thousand dollars), because their owners can't afford court battles. Righthaven also seeks forfeiture of the website domain of those it sues. Righthaven is exploiting a loophole in copyright law, explains Wired Magazine , suing only sites "that have not registered a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown agent. The $105 filing fee more often than not would prevent a lawsuit in the first place." See The $105 Fix That Could Protect You From Copyright-Troll Lawsuits (David Kravets, Wired, 10-27-10). Download this form (PDF) from the Copyright Office and file it!
And then the worm turns: Righthaven's lawyers now targets of State Bar investigation (Ars Technica, 1-13-12).
Newspaper Chain’s New Business Plan: Copyright Suits (David Kravets, Wired, 7-22-10)
Digital Millennium Copyright Act, DMCA Takedown Notices, and Related Issues
Court Declares Newspaper Excerpt on Online Forum is a Non-Infringing Fair Use (Kurt Opsahl, 3-10-12). The judgment – part of the nuisance lawsuit avalanche started by copyright troll Righthaven – found that Democratic Underground did not infringe the copyright in a Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper article when a user of the online political forum posted a five-sentence excerpt, with a link back to the newspaper's website.
The $105 Fix That Could Protect You From Copyright-Troll Lawsuits (David Kravets, Wired, 10-27-10). "Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a website enjoys effective immunity from civil copyright liability for user content, provided they promptly remove infringing material at the request of a rightsholder. That’s how sites like YouTube are able to exist, and why allows users to post comments to our stories without fear that a single user’s cut-and-paste will cost us $150,000 in court. But to dock in that legal safe harbor, a site has to, among other things, register an official contact point for DMCA takedown notices, a process that involves filling out a form and mailing a check" to the U.S. Copyright Office. Advises Kravets: "If you run a U.S. blog or a community site that accepts user content, you can register a DMCA agent by downloading this form (.pdf) and sending $105 and the form to Copyright RRP, Box 71537, Washington, D.C., 20024."


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Discussion groups and listservs
on copyright and intellectual property

CENDI, an interagency working group of senior scientific and technical information (STI) managers from 14 U.S. federal agencies
CNI Copyright Archives (August 1992 - February 2007), old discussion list on copyright, intellectual property rights, and public access to information in digital age (sortable by date, name, thread, subject)
Copyright & Fair Use communities (Stanford University Libraries links)
+• Copyright: The Law and Guidelines (University of Albany links)
Copycense (deep archives on issues related to libraries and licensing)
CPSR-GLOBAL listserv (a list serve about global issues of the digital era)
Lawlists- List of all law related listservs (Lyonette Louis-Jacques, Scroll down for Major Listservs and Usenet Newsgroups (Electronic Discussion Groups)
Law lists and discussion groups (Law lists and discussion groups, WashLaw, Legal Research on the Web)
Liblicense-L mailing list (discussion of Electronic Content Licensing for Academic & Research Libraries, sponsored by Yale University Library)
Liblicense: Licensing Digital Content (licensing digital content--a resource for librarians). See its excellent Licensing Resource Links (guides and tools, laws, organizations)
LIS-Copyseek (a closed discussion list for permission permission seekers, part of JISCM@il, a gazillion email discussion lists for UK education and research communities)
NewsNet (newsletter, U.S. Copyright Office,, about copyright-related legislation and other activities)
Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property Copyright Listserv (PIJIP-COPYRIGHT)
[Back to Top]

• How, why, and when to register copyright
• Copyright, an overview
• How long does copyright last? When do works enter the public domain?
• Public domain works
• Important copyright issues, FAQs, and explanations
• Work for hire (work made for hire)
• Fair use: A primer, followed by links to good explanations and examples
Important fair use court cases
• Fair use, copyright, social media, and multimedia: Codes of Best Practices and Fair Use Guidelines
• Copyright and academia
• Copyright issues in the digital world, plus legal guides
• Discussion groups and listservs on copyright and intellectual property
• Organizations interested in intellectual property issues
• Piracy
• Plagiarism
• Authors' rights (and publishers' rights grabs)
• Rights and contracts for academic authors (how not to give up all rights to academic journals)
• Moral rights
• Contracts, including book contracts
• Books about contracts, copyright, fair use, clearing permissions, and other issues important to writers, editors, and other "creatives"
• Reversion of rights to author vs. assigning rights in perpetuity to publisher
• Artists' looming battle with recording industry on copyright termination rights
• Rights and royalties management, licensing, issues about
(and what happens to works after authors died)
• First-sale doctrine meets digital world of rentals and licensing
• Digital rights management (DRM)
• Orphan Works legislation
• Names, titles, domain names, and trademarks
• Clearing rights and finding rightsholders (licensing organizations and rights clearinghouses)
• Clearing rights in visual arts
• Clearing rights for music and sound
• Clearing rights for books, scripts, screenplays
• Permission and releases
• Net neutrality
• Google Book Settlement (pro and con)
•Digital Millennium Copyright Act, DMCA Takedown Notices, and Related Issues

Organizations actively interested in intellectual property rights and issues

American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA)
American Library Association (ALA)
American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA
The Association of Research Libraries (ARL)
American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP)
Authors Guild . Listen to AG's executive director Mary Rasenberger on rights AG fights for, for all writers (C-SPAN, Book TV, 5-11-16)
Authors Guild vs. Google Settlement Resources
Authors Coalition of America, LLC (an association of independent authors' organizations representing text writers, songwriters, visual artists, illustrators and photographers -- created in 1994 to repatriate and distribute the creator's share of foreign non-title-specific royalty payments for American works photocopied abroad). See list of coalition's member organizations.
Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) collects secondary royalties on behalf of over 90,000 writers across the UK and abroad and pays them directly, as well as lobbying on issues of importance to writers
Business Software Alliance (BSA)
Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI), founded by broadcasters in 1939.
Coalition for Networked Information (CNI)
Collecting Societies & Copyright Community and Other Useful Links for UK (DACS)
Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) The CCC is affiliated with book publishers, so even if they collect payments owed entirely to the author, they will send them to the publisher. CCC makes it easy for content users to license legitimate use of an author's work, but if the division of income between publisher and author is not clear, good luck getting the author's rightful share, say many authors.
Copyright Collaborative helps artists and creative businesses understand, manage and protect their intellectual property against infringement.
The Copyright Hub (a UK-based organization, funded by British government and private sector, that is trying to lower the transaction costs of licensing copyrighted items by making the process of giving and getting permission – the basic building block of the copyright process – fit for purpose in the age of the Internet.
Copyright Royalty Board .
Design and Artists Copyright Society (UK -- a nonprofit visual arts rights management organization, established by artists, for artists)
Digital Future Coalition
Electronic Frontier Foundation Intellectual Property Resources (defending your rights in the digital world)
International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA, a private sector coalition of seven trade associations representing U.S. producers of content and materials protected by copyright laws, including computer software, films, television programs, music, books and journals)
Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) (members include the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, and the Association of College and Research Libraries)
Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC)
Music Library Association's Copyright Information Page
National Writers Union (NWU)
Owners' Rights Initiative (ORI), supporting the First Sale Doctrine (the "right of a buyer of a material object in which a copyrighted work is embodied to resell or transfer the object itself"). See As Wiley Case Heads to the Supreme Court, Libraries Join “Owners Rights” Coalition (PW, 10-24-12)
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA)
SESAC: Licensing, Fines, Laws, and More (Cloudcover Music)
Sidebar Saturdays A blog where the practice of law meets the profession of writing. Posted weekly by writers who are attorneys. Designed to help fellow writers with questions about publishing law or legal scenarios in their fiction.
Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) (formerly Software Publishers Association, or SPA)
Strategic Content Alliance (SCA, UK) Building bridges to digital content--with the aim of reducing the barriers that currently inhibit access, use and re-use of digital content so that users can gain best value from public investment. SCA/IPR : Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and Licensing
Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet (Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. House of Representatives)
U.S. Congress. How to contact your elected U.S. representative or senator Contact your elected U.S. representative or senator (find them here)
Visual Resources Association

See also

• Clearing rights and finding rightsholders (licensing organizations and rights clearinghouses)

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Piracy and counterfeit books

(large-scale plagiarism, fake books on Amazon, unlawful publication)

Why on Earth Is Someone Stealing Unpublished Book Manuscripts? (Elizabeth A. Harris and Nicole Perlroth, NY Times, 12-21-2020) A phishing scam with unclear motive or payoff is targeting authors, agents and editors big and small, baffling the publishing industry. And what's pirated is an early version of the manuscript, typos and all. This scam was covered in 2018 by Ed Nawotka at Publishers Weekly Phishing Scam Seeking Manuscripts Spreads Worldwide (PW, 10-16-18)
Members of the Authors Guild Join With Amazon Publishing and Penguin Random House in Suit Against Ebook Piracy Site (AG, 7-8-2020) Lee Child, Sylvia Day, John Grisham, and other members of the Authors Guild, together with Amazon Publishing and Penguin Random House LLC, filed a suit against book piracy entity Kiss Library in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. Judge Marsha J. Pechman of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington issued the TRO pursuant to which domain registrars must disable the domains controlled by Kiss Library and turn over all documents connected to sites and their operators within five days. See also How to Fight E-book Piracy (Mary Rasenberger, PW, 9-18-2020) The Authors Guild’s CEO offers insight on how to battle book pirates.
Print Books Are Target of Pirates on the Web
Print Books Are Target of Pirates on the Web (Motoko Rich, NY Times, 5-11-09) Ursula K. Le Guin was irked to find copies of her work online. "For a while now, determined readers have been able to sniff out errant digital copies of titles as varied as the “Harry Potter” series and best sellers by Stephen King and John Grisham. But some publishers say the problem has ballooned in recent months as an expanding appetite for e-books has spawned a bumper crop of pirated editions on Web sites like Scribd and Wattpad, and on file-sharing services like RapidShare and MediaFire."
Book Pirates Market Fake Titles Under Author's Names in Indi (William Claiborne, NY Times, 11-25-82)
What To Do If Your Self-Published Novel Is Pirated Online (Writer's Relief, 3-2-18)
Copyright in the Time of Corona (Milt Toby, ASJA Confidential, 5-5-2020) "The National Emergency Library is an unwarranted expansion of the Internet Archive, a controversial non-profit online repository that opened its digital doors in 1996. Conceived as a “digital library of internet sites and other cultural artifacts,” according to its website, the Internet Archive soon shifted its formidable attention to books. Over the next 15 years, the book scanning operation grew exponentially." It "co-opts a pandemic as an excuse to increase its reach into authors’ pockets by scanning their books and making them available to readers for free."
Tell Internet Archive to Remove Your Books from the So-Called National Emergency Library (Authors Guild, 3-31-2020) Instructions for issuing a takedown notice. The Internet Archive’s (IA) announced during the coronavirus crisis that it is now making millions of in-copyright books freely available online without restriction on its Open Library site under the guise of a National Emergency Library. IA has no rights whatsoever to these books, much less to give them away indiscriminately without consent of the publisher or author. Instructions here for issuing a takedown notice, but first: Check and see if copies of your books are available for e-lending and download without authorization.
Changing Tides: Novel Approaches to Combating Digital Piracy (YouTube, Authors Guild, 4-10-18) Learn about new methods that book pirates and counterfeiters are using to produce and disseminate pirated books, novel strategies some authors are using to curb piracy, and ways authors can limit the availability of pirated copies of their books on the internet.
Congress can protect creative artists from piracy. Why won’ t the Senate pass the bill? (Douglas Preston, Hartford Courant, 11-10-19) Online piracy has severely affected creative artists such as Mr. Preston, he writes, but a bill that could help is waiting for action in the Senate. Congress knows about the problem and is actually working to solve it — including by moving forward a new bill called the CASE Act that would give writers and artists vital new tools to enforce their rights and stop piracy of their work. The CASE Act 'has strong support from both Republicans and Democrats. It just passed the House by an overwhelming 410-6 vote and has been unanimously voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. So why isn’t the CASE Act the law? ...Because companies like Google and its fellow travelers like the Re:Create coalition and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are trying to kill this legislation with false and alarmist arguments — claiming, for example, that someone who re-tweets a meme might have to pay $15,000. Google's business model allows it to earn just as much scraping data and selling ads alongside pirated books, music, photos and films as it does from licensed works. This “profiting from piracy” business model diverts huge income streams from struggling, small-time creators to Google.'
Amazon to ramp up counterfeit reporting to law enforcement (Jeffrey Dastin, Reuters, 1-13-2020) "In the past, the world’s largest online retailer has informed authorities of counterfeit peddlers when it thought it had enough information for police to pursue a culprit. Now, the company plans to disclose merchant information to European and U.S. federal authorities every time it confirms a counterfeit was sold to customers, increasing the frequency and volume of reporting to law enforcement..."
My Book Is Being Pirated! What Can I Do? (Melinda Clayton, Indies Unlimited, 6-8-15) Send a DMCA Takedown Notice.
How to Remove a Pirate Site from a Google Search (Melinda Clayton, Indies Unlimited, 6-23-15)
Removing content from Google (Google support). See Melinda Clayton's instructions above.
Form to report counterfeited books to Authors Guild
Ebook Piracy: How to Fight Back (Dave Chesson, Kindlepreneur, July 2017) What to do if someone steals your ebook.
Online book-selling scams steal a living from writers (Douglas Preston, OpEd, LA Times, 7-26-19) One factor in the decline of author income 'is the surge in book-selling scams: counterfeiting, author “doppelganging,” title cloning, ebook piracy, cut-and-paste plagiarism and other rip-offs — many of which take place on digital platforms like Amazon, Ebay and Google...[some] schemes that are sneakier and harder to patrol. Author doppelganging, for example, occurs when someone starts publishing books just like yours, using your name, in order to game Amazon’s search algorithms....the law places the burden on the author or publisher to police the web.'
Paging Big Brother: In Amazon’s Bookstore, Orwell Gets a Rewrite (David Streitfeld, NY Times, 8-19-19) "On Sunday, Amazon said in a statement that “there is no single source of truth” for the copyright status of every book in every country, and so it relied on authors and publishers to police its site. How it treats Orwell is especially revelatory because their relationship has been fraught.“Some counterfeiters are going as far as to claim Orwell’s classics as their own property, copyrighting them with their own names.” In 2009, Amazon wiped counterfeit copies of “1984” and “Animal Farm” from customers’ Kindles, creeping out some readers who realized their libraries were no longer under their control. "An Amazon spokesman, Drew Herdener, said in an e-mail message that the books were added to the Kindle store by a company that did not have rights to them, using a self-service function. 'When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed the illegal copies from our systems and from customers’ devices, and refunded customers,' he said." (It's not that hard to determine who the legitimate publisher is for books--or it certainly shouldn't be for a company like Amazon.)
What Happens After Amazon’s Domination Is Complete? Its Bookstore Offers Clues (David Streitfeld, NY Times, 6-23-19) “The Sanford Guide to Antimicrobial Therapy” is a medical handbook that recommends the right amount of the right drug for treating ailments from bacterial pneumonia to infected wounds. Lives depend on it. For the past two years the guide's publisher has confronted a flood of counterfeits — many of which were poorly printed and hard to read — in Amazon’s vast bookstore. "But Amazon takes a hands-off approach to what goes on in its bookstore, never checking the authenticity, much less the quality, of what it sells. It does not oversee the sellers who have flocked to its site in any organized way." Following up on Streitfeld's story: How Amazon benefits from counterfeit books (Kaitlyn Tiffany, Vox, 6-24-19) Publishers are giving more money to Amazon to protect themselves from plagiarists.
Authors Guild to Congress: Close Internet Piracy Loopholes, Implement “Notice and Stay-Down” (7-9-15) The Guild asks Congress for a “Notice and Stay-Down” regime: once a webhost knows a work is being infringed, it should not continue to receive “safe harbor” immunity from claims of infringement unless it takes reasonable measures to remove all infringing copies of the same work--not the "whack-a-mole" approach of authors or publishers filing a takedown notice for every infringing copy. (Pirates just move to a new URL.)
The Current State of Counterfeiting and Recommendations (Authors Guild, 7-31-19) On July 29, the Authors Guild submitted comments to the Department of Commerce (“DOC”) in connection with the DOC’s upcoming report on “Combating Trafficking in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods.” The DOC asked copyright owners and other stakeholders for their comments to help address counterfeiting and piracy as they increasingly rise in online third-party marketplaces. The more the DOC understands about the impact counterfeiting and piracy has on authors—who are badly suffering as a result of internet piracy—the better able it will be to assist in crafting potential remedies.
Steal This Book? There’s a Price (Richard Conniff, Opinion, NY Times, 9-15-19)
Amazon Says It is Not a 'Lawless' Retail Platform As Charged by 'NYT' (PW, 6-25-19) Amazon responded to claims in a New York Times article that it takes a lax approach to policing the sale of counterfeit books on its website, saying, in a blog post , that it "strictly prohibits the sale of counterfeit products" and takes "take proactive steps to drive counterfeits in our stores to zero." The "flare-up over the counterfeit books has echoes to the controversy created when Amazon began permitting third-party sellers to take control of the buy buttons for books. While Amazon's policy said the books sold by third parties must be new, many publishers questioned if that was really the case."
Counterfeit Books Are Undermining Legitimate Publishers (Sheridan publishing group) How to spot a fake. See also Anti-counterfeit best practices for textbook publishers.
How to Avoid Buying Counterfeit Books on Amazon (Nancy Mertzel, Mertzel Law, 7-10-19) "On the bright side, all Amazon-shipped products have a 30-day return policy if it turns out that your purchase is a fake." This is a particular problem if you buy one of the counterfeit books about counterfeit "medical handbook where recommended dosages for medications were illegible."
The Copy Culture Survey: Infringement and Enforcement in the US (The Piracy Years, 11-15-11) A Copy Culture survey sponsored by The American Assembly, with support from a research award from Google.
Changing Tides: Novel Approaches to Combating Digital Piracy (YouTube video of 1 hour webinar: Umar Kazi, Cheryl Davis, Sarina Bowen, Authors Guild, 4-10-18) Discussion of new methods book pirates and counterfeiters are using to produce and disseminate pirated books, of the novel strategies used by some authors to curb piracy, and of ways authors can limit the availability of pirated copies of their books on the internet.
Copyright Match Tool for YouTube videos Creators of original YouTube videos use this to monitor piracy of videos that are on YouTube Partnerships program. The software allows you to know the channel user's identity, contact that individual and immediately submit a copyright infringement and video removal request. YouTube takes action within a day or two.
Pirated ebooks threaten the future of book series (Alison Flood, The Guardian, 11-6-17) With 4 million or 17% of all online ebooks being pirated, novelists including Maggie Stiefvater and Samantha Shannon say theft by fans puts their books at risk. 'We're told to be grateful we even have readers.' Stiefvater had seen fans sharing pdfs online and was “intent on proving that piracy had affected the Raven Cycle”. Maggie Stiefvater and Samantha Shannon talk about how their fans downloading pirated ebooks discourages authors from writing and defeats the creation of precisely those books that fans want to read. H/T Authors Guild. But see Neil Gaiman's article for an opposite opinion. See more examples of and articles about Piracy under Plagiarism (on this same website page).
Plagiarism, Then and Now (Nora Roberts, Fall Into the Story, 2-22-19) After telling the story of her own romance novels being plagiarized (see story under Plagiarism), Roberts writes about why romance novels in particular are being plagiarized: "This culture, this ugly underbelly of legitimate self-publishing, is all about content. More, more, more, fast, fast, fast. Because that’s how it pays. Amazon’s—imo—deeply flawed system incentivizes the fast and more. It doesn’t have to be good, doesn’t have to be yours—as I’m learning hiring ghosts is not really rare. Those who live and work in this underbelly don’t care about the work, the creativity, the talent and effort and time it takes to craft a story. Just the money, and what they must see as bragging rights....The culture that fosters this ugly behavior has to be pulled out into the light and burned to cinders."
Authors Guild to Congress: Close Internet Piracy Loopholes, Implement “Notice and Stay-Down” (Authors Guild, 7-9-15) From 2009 to 2013, the number of Internet piracy alerts AG received increased over 300%. In the next year alone, from 2013 to 2014, it doubled. The publishing industry loses $80 to $100 million to piracy annually, according to AAP. AG reminds Congress that "Internet piracy directly harms authors’ ability to make a living. It asks them to consider key changes to the U.S. Copyright Act to give authors a productive remedy for online infringement—not the ineffective, Sisyphean system currently in place, known as “Notice and Takedown.” As soon as a pirated copy is taken down, it is usually put right back up. "We are asking for a 'Notice and Stay-Down' regime: once a webhost knows a work is being infringed, it should not continue to receive 'safe harbor' immunity from claims of infringement unless it takes reasonable measures to remove all infringing copies of the same work." Contact your representative to let them know you support this.
Call to Action: Get Google to Remove from Search Results (Authors Guild) The pirate website “” is back online, hosting thousands of books for illegal download. A number of authors have sent takedown notices to the website using its DMCA form, but often infringing copies are re-uploaded. For a start, authors have to collectively send a message to Google to delist links to the site’s illegal downloads from search results. If you are an Authors Guild member, AG can send this notice on your behalf.
Muso – a friendly way to fight piracy (Helienne Lindvall, The Guardian, 4-9-14) Finding your music on infringing sites feels like being burgled, but a producer and songwriter has come up with a solution. See MUSO (automated content protection) Sign up for free, put in all your title information, and for a fee ($260 a month) they send out takedown notices, track the takedowns, and report back to you.
Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates, as reviewed "Required Reading" by Fred von Lohmann for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
• David Gaughran, on this Twitter thread, wrote a series of challenges to Amazon, whose algorithms have facilitated plagiarism. Gaughran's own book was plagiarized in a book self-published on Amazon under Gaughran's name and title but with $$ going to the book "publisher" (which had "about 100,000+ pirated books uploaded under one publisher account. Amazon, he tweets, should police plagiarism and fraud, especially the high flyers on Kindle Unlimited (whose bonuses tempt them to game the system). Amazon, he advises: "Change the payment model. Paying per page, along with such a high cap on pages, is what made scamming explode. Most of the scammers aren't authors, and they will return to selling diet pills and real estate courses if we tackle the compensation model in some way."
We're Missing Something Big in This Cristiane Serruya Story (Kilby Blades, 2-19-19) Amazon offers incentives that make plagiarism seem worth the risk. "When readers see a single name on a series of books, they assume that the same single human has written them all....So, what is a lot of this really about? Capitalizing on what is known about the current Amazon algorithm: that it favors authors with new releases and steady sales. Selling from a constantly-growing library, consistently will boost you higher in the rankings than selling the same number of books from an aging library with more volatility. The incentive for opportunists, of course, is to release as many books as frequently as possible under a single author name." Plagiarism in the romance world is done by hiring very cheap ghostwriters, who take plagiarism shortcuts on the "name" author's behalf. We see a parallel process in all the "collaborative" fiction produced by famous factory novelists such as James Patterson (see James Patterson: how the bestseller factory works (Alice Vincent, The Telegraph, 3-20-14) James Patterson is the world's bestselling author since 2001. But how is he releasing 15 novels this year alone?
Why Authors Are Earning Less Even As Book Sales Rise (Adam Rowe, Forbes, 8-11-18) "Piracy is another factor: PDF-sharing site OceanofPDF was shut down last week following hundreds of takedown notices from major publishing houses. Anyone dedicated enough to bother pirating a book is likely a potential customer, even if the pirates themselves claim authors are 'elitist' for expecting payment for their work."
What YA Publishers and Authors Can Do to Fight E-Book Piracy (Karen Springen, PW, 7-18-14) What can YA publishers and authors do to get more readers to buy books instead of illegally downloading them?
Neil Gaiman on radio drama, online piracy and social media ( Neil Gaiman, British Council, 7-21-14) "I used to really get upset when people would copy my stuff and put it up on the web....And then I noticed -- and it was Russia that turned me around on this -- something really weird. Russia is the country where they’ve got the biggest amount of piracy and file-sharing going on, Russia is where all of the sites are, where all of my books are available. And yet, the sales of my books in Russia are going up and up and up. There are more editions and there are more little publishers in that part of the world publishing me and the books are starting to become best-sellers." Greater exposure motivates readers to buy an author's books. Paulo Coelho offered the same message: Why I pirate my own books (2-7-08).
Are You Worried Your Ideas or Work Will Be Stolen? (Jane Friedman, 10-19-11)
My German publisher’s RIP-Off! of the best little outdoor guide
(Kathleen Meyer) Sample pages from a pirated German edition of Meyer's longtime bestselling outdoor guide.
Why Authors Shouldn’t Worry About Piracy (Joanna Penn, The Creative Penn, 2-23-17)
3 Reasons Authors Shouldn’t Worry About Piracy but How to Protect Yourself Anyway (Joanna Penn on Jerry Jenkins blog)
Are eBooks the new Content Farms? (Mike Essex, Koozai, 3-8-11) "My bet is it will be eBooks that become the next format to be manipulated, especially as they hide away from the prying eyes of Google....They have little to no copyright detectors....scammers can cover the same topic in multiple ways" and he gives the example of books on health insurance, and suggests what to do about eBook piracy.
The E-Book Piracy Debate, Revisited (David Pogue, Technology, NY Times, 5-9-13). "Even though we don’t know for sure, there’s mounting evidence that e-books are more like music files than DVD movies: removing copy protection doesn’t hurt and might help. And there’s very little evidence that copy protection is stopping piracy. That doesn’t mean the issue is settled either way. The point is, there’s very little evidence. More publishers in more categories should perform more experiments like Tor’s. Let’s quit opining about what will happen, and find out." Another good point: "... Apple and Amazon have had such success with the single click-to-buy button. To avoid piracy, it’s not enough to offer people a good product at a fair price. You also have to make buying as effortless as possible."
Online Piracy Is More Popular Than Ever, Research Suggests (Ernesto, TorrentFreak, 3-21-18) A broad and detailed report from piracy tracking outfit MUSO shows that visits to pirate sites went up last year....TV remained the most popular category and most pirates prefer streaming over torrents or direct downloading.... For the first time, more people were accessing pirated TV content via mobile devices (52%) where desktops used to be the favorite device. In the music category, this difference is even more pronounced, with 87% using mobile devices.
Pirates, Beware: Industry, ISPs Launch Copyright Alert System (Ira Teinowitz, The Wrap, 2-25-13). The entertainment’s industry new piracy warnings to computer users started flowing as the industry and internet service providers finally launched their long-promised Copyright Alert System, an effort by the movie, TV and recording industries and major cable providers to move much more swiftly to issue warnings whenever copyright owners discover that an account is being used to access or download pirated content.
Sample DMCA Take Down Letter (Gene Quinn, IPWatchdog, Inc., 7-6-09)
Notice and take down (Wikipedia entry)
Some Thoughts About Piracy (Mike Shatzkin, Idealogue 11-25-09)
Book Piracy: A Non-Issue (Paul Carr, TechCrunch 8-23-11). "There is piracy (such as companies copying and selling books en masse) and there is nonpiracy (like borrowing books from the library).I am not sure this problem can be attacked with toughness and muscle as effectively as it would be with creativity and delivering to the market something the pirates just can’t keep up with." How about an ebook for which you are entitled to updates forever--say, on "The Vaccine Book"?
Kindle e-book piracy accelerates David Carnoy, C/NET 2-18-11). What's the dark side of the success of e-readers and e-books? In a word, piracy.
Confessions of a Book Pirate (C. Max Magee, The Millions 1-25-10)
What You Need to Know About SOPA in 2012 (that is, the Stop Online Piracy Act)
Stop Online Piracy Act, text of the bill before Congress.
Redditors discuss why they pirate e-books (TeleRead, 7-27-12)
How Do Music Pirates Get Caught? (Paul Gil,
Download Uproar: Record Industry Goes After Personal Use (Marc Fisher, Washington Post, 12-30-07) Industry sues for downloading songs from CDs to personal computers.
Happy Anniversary Pirates: 20,000 Copyright Lawsuits and Counting (David Kravets, Wired, 8-29-07). The Recording Industry of America learns that suing music fans en masse doesn't work against peer-to-peer (P2P) networks. Kill one Napster and seven Bit Torrents emerge.
Music Industry to Abandon Mass Suits (Sarah McBride and Ethan Smith, Wall Street Journal, 12-19-08)
Center for Copyright Information (a collaboration between the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America and five of America’s biggest Internet service providers: AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon. The organization hopes to systematize how digital copyright infringement is handled.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act, DMCA Takedown Notices, and Related Issues
Coming Soon: A Softer Approach to Online Piracy (Victor Luckerson, Time/Business, 6-26-12). "Here’s how the new system works: An Internet user downloading media illegally gets flagged by the copyright holder (a record label or movie studio). The copyright holder doesn’t know who you are, but they can detect your IP address if you’re on an open file-sharing network. They tell your Internet service provider that they’ve noticed some questionable activity coming from your address. The ISP will email you a copyright alert, which informs you that your account has been used for illegal file-sharing and directs you to legal avenues to acquire movies or music."
Protests against SOPA and PIPA (Wikipedia) On January 18, 2012, a series of coordinated protests occurred against two proposed laws in the United States Congress—the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) are bills that were introduced into the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate in the last quarter of 2011. Both are responses to the problem of enforcement of U.S. laws against websites outside U.S. jurisdiction. While the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and other existing laws have generally been considered effective against illegal content or activities on U.S.-based sites, action is more difficult against overseas websites. This is a complex topic for which this Wikipedia entry provides useful links and information.

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Basically, plagiarism is "a verbatim republication of work that was originally published elsewhere, without clear attribution to the original publication." (quoting Ellyn Angelotti, Poynter; emphasis added).
Getting digital attribution right, Part 1 (Ellyn Angelotti, Poynter, 11-19-13, downloadable PDF) "Control+C, Control+V. These two simple keystrokes -- copy, paste -- have created a culture that makes it easy for online publishers to share others' content and use it in their own work." On using publicists and press releases as resources, not unattributed sources, and practical guidance on attribution from Arizona State University on everything you must do when you "copy and paste" information. See also Angelotti, Part 2 "Aggregation and curation, two techniques that often overlap, have become popular forms of publishing -- and places where problems with attribution often arise." Patchwriting also explained.
• See also a very full section on Plagiarism, self-plagiarism, recycling, patchwriting, and sloppy research under Ethics, libel, freedom of the press.
A classic, or a fraud? (Philip L. Fradkin, LA Times, 2-3-08) Plagiarism allegations aimed at Wallace Stegner's 'Angle of Repose' won't be put to rest. "Stegner used the private letters of Mary Hallock Foote and additional portions of her unpublished memoir intact, edited or combined with invented material for the basic structure of his narrative. He included page-long passages and entire paragraphs unaltered, slightly changed or invented, and borrowed specific details of her life for his most memorable character, Susan Burling Ward...Stegner had permission to use the material and ... he acknowledged its use, sort of.... Stegner altered Foote's life to fit his needs for a multidimensional novel of the American West." He told the family he would alter the story, mixing fiction with fact, but the novel implies a romantic liaison that didn't happen in real life, which the family found objectionable. In the introduction to a paperback edition of the novel issued in 2001, Jackson J. Benson, a Stegner biographer, writes about this controversy. This article is worth reading if you're planning to base a novel on a true story. See also Artist-Author Mary Hallock Foote and her Angle of Repose (Casey Bush, Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission, 2003). "The same year that Angle of Repose won the Pulitzer Prize, Foote's autobiography, A Victorian Gentlewoman in the Far West was published by the Huntington Library at the urging of Foote's descendents who objected to the great liberties that Stegner took in telling her story.Straddling fact and fiction, Angle of Repose was also met with charges of plagiarism in academic circles."
Malcolm Gladwell faces new charges of using others’ information without attribution. (Paul Raeburn, Knight Science Journalism, MIT, 12-19-14) The chief problem: no attribution.
Supervising plagiarism by students (Imperial College of London)
Plagiarism, Then and Now (Nora Roberts, Fall Into the Story, 2-23-19) Roberts learned that her books were being cut-and-paste plagiarized (pirated) when a reader posted a concern about the similarities in her book Sweet Revenge, originally published in 1988, reissued in 1997, with Janet Dailey’s Notorious, published in hardcover in ’96, in paper in ’97. (H/T to Josie Brown for these four links about plagiarism in genre fiction.
Not a Rant, But a Promise (Nora Roberts, Fall Into the Story, 2-23-19) "There are black hat teams, working together, who routinely hire ghosts on the cheap, have them throw books together, push them out–many and fast–to make money, to smother out competition from those self-pubbed writers who do their own work. Those who do their own work can’t possibly keep up with the volume these teams produce by these fraudulent tactics. They tutor others how to scam the system. Some of them pull whole books in the public domain, stick a new image and name on. Sometimes Amazon’s algorithm catches it, sometimes it doesn’t." Ghostwriters: Don't take these gigs. "These bad actors also hire ‘click farms’, where people using multiple devices click through books on KU, to make more money. And to reach award levels to make the scammers big bonuses."
Brazilian romance writer accused of plagiarizing from Courtney Milan, other novelists (Los Angeles Times) On Twitter, bestselling novelist Courtney Milan accused Cristiane Serruya of lifting passages from Milan's 2012 novel "The Duchess War" for Serruya's book "Royal Love." On Twitter, Milan and other authors and readers began posting passages from Serruya's work that appeared to be lifted from other sources, sometimes using the hashtag #CopyPasteCris. "Serruya tweeted that her book did, indeed, contain plagiarism, which she blamed on a ghostwriter she had hired through Fiverr, a service that matches freelance creative professionals with those who want to hire them for gigs." She later deleted her Twitter account, but others got screengrabs of that tweet.
Cristiane Serruya is a copyright infringer, a plagiarist, and an idiot. (Courtney Milan on her blog, 2-18-19)
In Literature, Who Decides When Homage Becomes Theft? (Ligaya Mishan, NY Times, 10-8-18) Appropriation goes both ways, and increasingly it’s being seen as a creative freedom for writers who have been excluded from the literary canon.
A Pushcart Prize-Nominated Poet Has Been Accused Of Plagiarism By Numerous Poets (Kristian Wilson, Bustle, 12-3-18) Poet Rachel McKibbens has accused Pushcart Prize-nominee Ailey O’Toole of plagiarizing multiple poems from her book. Other poets have since also come forward with their own accusations. (H/T Authors Guild)
The 5 Weirdest Lawsuits About Authors Stealing Ideas (Electric Literature, 9-26-17) J.K. Rowling has been accused of idea theft, and vice versa, so many times that there’s a whole Wikipedia page for “legal disputes over the Harry Potter series.”
Trump Institute Offered Get-Rich Schemes With Plagiarized Lessons (Jonathan Martin, NY Times, 6-29-16). And his ghostwriter never talked to him. (website and blog focused on plagiarism)
SENSE (July-Sept 2017) Scroll down for How to Pursue Plagiarism (Joy Burrough-Boenisch and Jackie Senior discuss plagiarism with Marije de Jager) with a sidebar on online plagiarism checkers.
What Is Plagiarism?
4 guidelines to avoid plagiarizing (Vicki Krueger, Poynter, 8-4-16)
The Unoriginal Sin: Differences Between Plagiarism and Copyright Infringement (Mark Fowler, Rights of Writers blog 7-4-11)
The Difference between Plagiarism, Piracy, and Copyright Infringement (Jackie Barbosa 11-4-10)
Understanding & preventing plagiarism in college (Organization for Online Learning)
Hands Off, It's Mine: The case for protecting original work from plagiarists and 'remixers' Jeremy Philips' WSJ article about Mark Helprin's Digital Barbarism: A Writer's Manifesto
Plagiarism Is a Community Issue
Someone Used My Research without Acknowledgement (Richard Labunski, History News Network, 5-21-12). Labunski details how another author, published by Regnery, claimed to have written the only work about the election of 1989, Madison, Monroe, and the Bill of Rights--but that he based most of of it on Labunski's earlier book and failed totally to credit Labunski, who was particularly upset that he failed to acknowledge Labunski's painstaking work compiling data about that election. The author didn't copy words, but he did steal the fruits of Labunski's labor and pass it off as his own. Maybe that's not plagiarism but it is intellectual theft.
Amazon's Plagiarism Problem (Adam Penenberg, Fast Company 1-12-12). Amazon's erotica section is a magnet for copyright infringement, and "Amazon doesn't appear too eager to stop the forbidden author-on-author action."
Why are there so many errors in The Anthology of Rap? The editors respond. It Was Written. Paul Devlin (Slate, 11-10-10) on how so many errors crept into this Yale University Press publication. (They apparently "leaned heavily" on material full of errors.)
Critics And Writers Are Defending An Accused Plagiarist. Here’s Why They’re Wrong. (Talya Zax, Forward, 10-6-17). From that piece: “Reproducing another person’s work, whether published or unpublished” counts, according to Ohio University, from which Bialosky has a Bachelor’s degree. Yes, they specify, that includes Wikipedia. Also included, per Johns Hopkins University, where Bialosky obtained a Master’s degree: “Inappropriate downloading of materials (text, images, charts, etc.) from Internet sources without proper attribution.” The University of Iowa, where Bialosky received her M.F.A., clarifies that plagiarism counts as plagiarism regardless of whether it’s accidental or intentional. The range of consequences, which can include, for graduate students, disqualification from the degree program in which they’re enrolled, are the same.
See William Logan's review of the book (from Tourniquet Review, 10-4-17) "Worse, she has plagiarized numerous passages from Wikipedia and the websites of the Academy of American Poets and the Poetry Foundation. Her borrowings are highlighted in bold."

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Plagiarism detection
and plagiarism checkers

Handling plagiarism at the manuscript editor's desk (Mary Ellen Kerans and Marije de Jager, ResearchGate, Aug 2010) This essay describes the most common types of plagiarism in science publications and shows how manuscript editors can educate authors to steer clear of the practice of copy-and-paste writing. In the July-Sept. 2017 issue of eSense, see page 8 in the article "How to pursue plagiarism," Marije de Jager lists the plagiarism detection software that she found most effective in a survey she carried out in 2015. The best tool, iThenticate (an offshoot of Turnitin) is expensive, but may be worth the investment for a publication that needs to be sure its authors have not plagiarized material. Many free tools are not reliable or accurate, says de Jager. Three more affordable tools are more reliable than most free plagiarism checkers (and there are more accurate premium/paid versions available for a monthly fee):
---Dustball: The Plagiarism Checker. All of these tools are aimed at material that appears online and are useless at detecting material plagiarized from books and other print publications. See the article for her criticism of the free plagiarism checkers.
---I am told that EasyBib's plagiarism checker (a free plagiarism checker developed by librarians for use by students), along with Citation Machine, and BibMe, have been purchased by Chegg and are now plagued by ads. The educator who told me this (thanks, Hans) recommends Citation Generator ( instead. "It's quicker (and easier) to use than Easybib, it's free, it doesn't require registration, and has recently been approved by our study tech board."
• Plagiarism checkers (five among many sites you can run copy through to check for plagiarism--and for grammar errors):
---Grammarly's plagiarism checker

See also another full section on plagiarism here, with more of a focus on plagiarism as an unethical practice, particularly in academia.
• You'll also find lots of plagiarism helpers online, with names like "The Best Spinner vs. the Magic Article Rewriter." What are the clues that this was written by someone for whom English is a second language: "almost 100% of every content about anything has already been written or said at least once somewhere around the web. That being said it seems quite logic to do the research for any topic you want to write on where? Correct. On the Internet. So when you do that and then write your own article, you are actually rewriting articles that have been written already. You feel like it's your work, and it is. But it has been done before. By someone else. This is where The Best Spinner comes in. Since we agree that you are rewriting other peoples contents anyways, why not let a program do your work or at least help you doing it." Oy!

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Authors' Rights (and Publishers' Rights Grabs)
Know your rights. Read the articles below,
including those on reversion of rights and termination rights.

• Be aware of the distinction between rights and copyright. Here's Victoria Strauss's take on the subject, for Writer Beware (7-2-12): Rights vs. Copyright
How Tom Petty Taught Me To Fight Authority (Courtney E. Smith, Refinery 29, 10-5-17) You must read this one, especially if you're in the music industry.
#DisneyMustPay Alan Dean Foster (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, 11-18-2020) When Disney purchased Lucasfilm they acquired rights to three of Foster's books, but stopped paying royalties, saying they didn't purchase liabilities as well as assets. The SFWA has initiated the campaign #DisneyMustPay to help author Alan Dean Foster fight for royalties due.
Los Angeles Times Wants Rights to Books Written by Staff(Authors Guild, 2-27-19) One of the nation’s leading newspapers is attempting an unprecedented rights grab. In the midst of contract negotiations with its newsroom staff, the Los Angeles Times, purchased last year by biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong, has proposed that its journalists, as a condition of employment, cede control of any books or other creative works made outside of their daily journalistic duties. The Los Angeles Times Guild, a trade union representing some 400 newsroom staffers, has called the proposal “a new low in the newspaper industry,” pointing out that no other major newspaper has such strict copyright restrictions. See An open letter to Los Angeles Times management about its intellectual property proposals (2-13-19)
Book Publishing Rights and Book Royalties: Questions Answered (Valerie Peterson, The Balance, 4-24-17) Understanding Fees and Rights
What Authors Should Do When Their Publisher Closes (Rachel Kramer Bussel, Forbes, 11-23-18)
New rights grab; Perpetual License for Derivative Rights (SFWA)
Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing: What You Need To Know (Valerie Peterson, The Balance, 4-24-17) Frank facts and advice from book marketing expert Bridget Marmion. An excellent explanation of authors' rights under two entirely different forms of publishing.
RIGHTS 101: What Writers Should Know About All-Rights and Work-Made-For-Hire Contracts (2003 position paper, American Society of Journalists & Authors)
Copyright Termination: How Authors (and Their Heirs) Can Recapture Their Pre-1978 Copyrights (Lloyd J. Dassin,, on a legal provision designed to protect authors of older works from having to “live” with a bad deal they entered into when they had little negotiating skill or leverage)
Pay the Writer (Harlan Ellison demonstrating on video how to respond to people who ask for rights to use your work for free, in exchange for free publicity)
44 Places Where Writers (and Other Creative People) Can Obtain Free or Low-Cost Legal Help (Mark Fowler, Rights of Writers, 12-31-10). Includes this state-by-state directory of Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts and FAQs and FAQs about mediation.
Mediation, Arbitration or Trial? Information to Make Your Decision With. (Andrea Murad, Entrepreneur, 2-19-16)
Rights vs. Copyright( Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware, 7-2-12). Read that and then this, by the same author: The Importance of Reversion Clauses in Book Contracts (Writer Beware, 4-27-12).

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Addendums, Rights Grabs & Agents (Yet Again) (Kristine Kathryn Rusch, The Business Rusch, 9-25-13). What to do (and understand) when a publisher or agent adds an addendum to a contract. Very few addendums help the writer.
5 Tips for Avoiding the Rights Grab (Samuel Lewis, Digital PhotoPro, 8-24-10). Get exposure for your work without losing ownership of it
Unconscionability Novelist Jason Konrath on "some of the more one-sided, onerous terms in a standard publishing contract." ""Joint accounting, or basketing, is another clause many authors (me included) got saddled with. Books 1, 2, and 3 will be held in a joint and open account, and Publisher shall not pay Author's share of royalties and subsidiary rights income on any Book of the Work until Author's share of royalties and subsidiary rights income for all Books exceeds the total advance.
"In layman's terms, if you have a three-book deal with an advance of $30,000, you don't make a cent in royalties until all $30,000 has earned out."
The Business Rusch: Royalty Statements (Kristine Kathryn Rusch, 4-13-11) "Right now, e-book rights are a subsidiary right, negligible and relatively unimportant. Between two and five years from now, e-book rights will become the dominant book right. If traditional publishers do not change their accounting methods now, then these accounting methods will end up costing writers hundreds of thousands of dollars per year."
"Some—some, not all—traditional publishing houses are significantly underreporting e-book sales. In some cases these sales are off by a factor of 10 or more."
The Business Rusch: Royalty Statement Update 2012 (Kristine Kathryn Rusch 5-2-12) Rusch explains how a publisher can finagle the figures with "basket accounting," lumping ebook sales together, not separately accounting for various kinds of ebooks at different rates, and so forth.

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Writers' Rights: Right? Jane Smith, blogging at How Publishing Really Works, reminds writers to master certain principles, including the difference between copyright and publishing rights and the difference between owning a thing and owning the copyright to it. See many useful links at end of article. See also: Copyright Day (Nicola Morgan, Help!I Need a Publisher!)and Let's Learn About Copyright: Get Blogging (Jane Smith) (the blog), a self-directed legal resource (not legal advice!), for those who can afford to take advantage of this contract assembly website (with multiple version tracking, comparison red lining, and online collaboration tools). I haven't tested it.
What is the “Authors Alliance?” T.J. Stiles, a member of the Authors Guild, criticizes the AA for its academic leadership and its proposals to reduce copyright protections for authors and restrict remedies for infringement. Here's Pamela Samuelson on the organization's launch (Samuelson is a UC Berkeley law professor and a founder of the Authors Alliance). In Fair Use Has a Posse, Cory Doctorow argues that academic authors want "to make their works more widely available in public policy debates." But what is "fair use" to academic authors (who depend on publication for tenure) may feel like giving away rights to an author who tries to make a living directly from writing.
Your rights as an independent contractor ( on the IRS's Common-Law Rules -- formerly Twenty Common Law Factors)

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Freelancers Fight State’s Independent Contractor Law (Andrea Shea, WBUR, Boston, 6-30-10). A law created to prevent exploitation of workers (among employers who avoid payroll, taxes, and benefits) creates genuine problems for freelancers and independent contractors on Massachusetts.
A Bill of Rights for Songwriters and Composers (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, or ASCAP)
Steve Jobs biographer does not have to turn over unpublished material to agency pricing class-action plaintiffs (Chris Meadows, TeleRead, 7-30-12)
Advocates, Addendums, and Sneaks, oh my by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, author of the Freelancer's Survival Guide, which you can read free online (or purchase as an ebook). Her message in this blog entry: You can't count on publishers to give you a fair contract and you cannot always count on agents to watch out for your interests, Read every line of every contract and educate yourself on what to watch for, or get a good intellectual property lawyer to do it for you.

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The perils of failing to read the fine print (Michelle Demers, Bad Egg blog, on how two clauses in a contract may operate independently -- so read them all, or have a lawyer do so!)
Keep Your Copyrights (Columbia Law School tries to help creators from giving away rights to intellectual property)
Freelance Rights blog (initially discussing settlement in the landmark lawsuit over unauthorized reuse of freelance authors' previously published newspaper and magazine articles--and later discussing Google Book Settlement)
No!Spec (educating the public about speculative (spec) work
Ghostwriters, Creators, Cheats (the case of the prolific author Alexandre Dumas and Auguste Maquet, the collaborator who helped him write The Three Musketeers and its sequels. WIPO Magazine). See also Book collaboration and ghostwriting (Writers & Editors website)
E-book rights, developments, conflicts, pricing, and struggles for market. This page on the Writers & Editors site links to stories of prime importance to authors. Book publishers are trying to grab electronic rights from authors whose contracts 20 years ago didn't anticipate such a thing as electronic books--and authors MUST educate themselves about the issues involved, particularly because in the new electronic age it may make more economic sense to self-publish than to be content with the measly sums that will come from print-on-demand books the publisher arranges for, just to hang on to all rights on a book.
Collaboration agreements (Writers & Editors)

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• How publishers view rights. "One of the the first rules I learned when I came into publishing decades ago was 'acquire rights broadly, license rights narrowly,' ” writes Mike Shatzkin in Three words of wisdom: standards, rights, & data. He continues: "That is practice which was unambiguously the wisest commercial course until our current and developing age of digital delivery. Now agents (or publishers) having licensed rights 'narrowly' can cause books not to be available to customers who would be happy to buy them when they easily could be doing so." Another complication of the digital age: "The challenges with rights are, first, having them, and second, making sure a file’s metadata spells them out clearly."
Authors Rights: A Manual for Journalists (PDF file, European Federation of Journalists)
FAQs about publishing law ( on common legal issues affecting writers, publishers, editors, and the Internet community )
Position Paper on Yale University Copyright Policy (prepared by university librarian Scott Bennett for the Cooperative Research Committee)
International PEN's Declaration on the Rights and Responsibilities of Translators
Pay the Writer (Harlan Ellison, clip from the documentary "Dreams with Sharp Teeth")
New Kindle Audio Feature Causes a Stir (Geoffrey A. Fowler and Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg). Amazon's new experimental text-reading feature reads text aloud with a computer-generated voice. "They don't have the right to read a book out loud," said Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild. "That's an audio right, which is derivative under copyright law."
Kindle Text-to-Speech Issue Is a Lot of Talk (Dan Moren, Macworld 2-11-09, makes an argument to counter the Author Guild's, about whether computer-generated text readers are a threat to authors' audio rights.)
Rights of Writers • (Mark A. Fowler's helpful blog). Answers such questions as Can I Mention Brand Name Products in My Fiction? Can I Have Don Draper Make a Cameo Appearance in My Novel? and "Any Damn Fool Can Be Accurate -- and Dull": Can I Be Liable to My Readers for Lying About Myself? . Many excellent explanations and answers to common questions.
Who Owns an Interview? (Mark Fowler, Rights of Writers, 1-7-11).

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Copyright and taped interviews (Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press)
Who Owns the Copyright in an Interview? (Bob Tarantina, Entertainment & Media Law Signal, 2-4-11, answers the question for under Canadian law).
Who Owns Oral History? A Creative Commons Solution (Jack Dougherty and Candace Simpson, On the Line, 8-11-12). Read the comments, too. An important discussion: "When an oral history narrator shares her story in response to questions posed by an interviewer, and the recording and transcript are deposited in an archive, who holds the rights to these historical source materials? Who decides whether or not they may be shared with the public, quoted in a publication, or uploaded to the web? Who decides whether someone has the right to earn money from including an interview in a commercially distributed book, video, or website? Furthermore, does Creative Commons, a licensing tool developed by the open access movement to protect copyright while increasing public distribution, offer a better solution to these questions than existing oral history protocols?"
• Who owns your Twitter post? Judge Rules That Protester Can’t Oppose Twitter Subpoena (Colin Moynihan, City Room, NY Times 4-24-12). Tweeter Harris "lacked the standing to oppose the subpoena because Twitter’s policies required that he agree to grant the company a 'worldwide, non-exclusive royalty-free' right to distribute messages, which are publicly viewable. He labeled “understandable, but without merit” the defendant’s contention that he had a privacy interest in his tweets."
Condé Nast query: What makes a rights grab? (Authors Guild, 1-15-13). "Condé Nast’s new boilerplate contract for freelancers, under which it acquires a free 12-month right to option dramatic and multimedia rights to articles appearing in its magazines and then, if it exercises that option, shares less than half the usual amount with the author... Taking dramatization rights breaks with industry practice. The publisher is compensating the freelancer for his or her journalism, not for speculative movie and tv deals."
Condé Nast Moves to Seize, Lowball Freelancers’ Film/TV Rights (Authors Guild, 1-14-13). Condé Nast owns such leading publications as Bon Appétit, GQ, The New Yorker, Self, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and Wired, among others. Authors and agents are pushing back.
Condé Nast Writer Deals Stir Dispute (Christine Haughney, NY Times, 1-13-13). "Condé Nast articles led to the movie “Argo,” which so far has generated $166 million in worldwide box-office sales, “Eat Pray Love,” which made $204 million in global sales and “Brokeback Mountain,” which brought in $178 million. But now, Condé Nast, whose magazines are battling a punishing business environment, wants to capture more of the film and television profits, which previously went to writers who owned the rights to these works. The new contracts have angered writers and their agents who argue that it’s another cut at their already rapidly shrinking compensation."
Random House Claims Digital Rights to Past Books (Jeffrey Trachtenberg, WSJ 12-12-09) Random House claims that "the exclusive right to publish 'in book form' or 'in any and all editions'" includes digital rights. But Random House lost its 2002 suit to prevent RosettaBooks publish author-licensed e-book editions of works by William Styron, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and Robert Parker. Agent Nat Sobel says courts have agreed with the position that contracts 20 years ago didn't include electronic rights. This is a big issue.

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Work for hire (work made for hire)

RIGHTS 101: What Writers Should Know About All-Rights and Work-Made-For-Hire Contracts (141 KB)

(by Karen Dustman, Pat McNees, and other members of ASJA's contracts committee).

The terms publishers offer often confuse writers. This 2003 position paper from the American Society of Journalists and Authors is a primer on the difference between "first North American serial rights," "all rights," "non-exclusive [all] rights" and "work-made-for-hire" and their practical implications for writers. No longer on the ASJA website, it is posted here with ASJA's permission. Karen Dustman and I worked on this as part of ASJA's contracts committee.

Works Made for Hire Under the 1978 Copyright Act (PDF, Circular 9, U.S. Copyright Office) Besides work created as part of employment, there is work for hire created by independent contractors. A work created by an independent contractor can be a work made for hire only if
(a) there is a signed, written agreement between parties specifying that the work is a work made for hire and
(b) it falls within one of the nine categories of works listed here:
* a contribution to a collective work
* a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work
* a translation
* a supplementary work (to another author’s work, such as a foreword, chart, index, or table)
* a compilation
* an instructional text
* a test
* answer material for a test, or
* an atlas.
The law defines a “supplementary work” as a work prepared for a publication as a secondary adjunct to a work by another author for the purpose of introducing, concluding, illustrating, explaining, revising, commenting upon, or assisting in the use of the other work, such as forewords, afterwords, pictorial illustrations, maps, charts, tables, editorial notes, musical arrangements, answer material for tests, bibliographies, appendixes, and indexes.

A work that falls into one of these categories is not work for hire by default; the contract must specify that it is work for hire. As the writer, you can try to negotiate for ownership of the copyright but technical publishers usually want to own the product outright, says Umair Kazi, staff attorney for the Authors Guild.
Many indexers and other subcontractors prefer an "assignment of rights" clause in an agreement rather than a "work for hire" clause: To ensure getting paid, they specify that they assign all rights to the client only when the work has been paid for.
Sound Recordings as Works Made for Hire (Statement of Marybeth Peters, The Register of Copyrights before the Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property Committee on the Judiciary, May 25, 2000)
Work Made for Hire Agreements and Derivative Works (Ivan Hoffman, J.D.)
Work for Hire (Wikipedia's useful entry--mind you, you can't totally trust Wikipedia, because it's written and edited by many hands)
Copyright for copy writers (Sarah Laskow, CJR, 7-10-13). “Work-for-hire” contracts in a digital age: Work-for-hire contracts mean that requests and, more importantly, fees for reprints go to the publisher.
Work Made for Hire Agreements and Derivative Works (Ivan Hoffman, BA, JD)
Work for Hire (Wikipedia's helpful entry)
Working with Freelancers: What every publisher should know about the "work for hire" doctrine (and informative for the authors, too)
Don't Sign Away Your (Copy) Rights: Stop Work-for-Hire (Professional Artists League)
The Work-for-Hire Minefield (Steve Gillen, Independent Book Publishers Association, Nov. 2012) Great explanation from the viewpoint of the corporation wanting to establish "work for hire" status."Writing to spec, flat fee in lieu of royalties, absence of author attribution—no one of these is sufficient to establish a work as for-hire, and all of them together aren’t sufficient either."
Work for Hire (Music Law)
Sound Recordings as Work for Hire (statement of Marybeth Peters, Register of Copyrights, before the Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property, Committee on the Judiciary, 5-25-2000). Very interesting statement of history.
What does "work for hire" mean for designers? (attorney Frank Martinez, AIGA, 3-6-03) See also, on AIGA site,
Legalities 4: What is Work Made For Hire?

Film Schools Teach Wrong Copyright Lesson
(Corynne McSherry, Electronic Frontier Foundation, 9-20-07). Students, don't let a greedy university pull the wool over your eyes, as this University of Hawaii FAQs page tries to do.
Academic Exception (Glossary, Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard). "Academic exception is the exception for teachers and academics to the general rule that employers hold copyright in the creative works produced by their employees in the course of their employment. Unlike the a work-for-hire situation, academics typically retain the copyrights in the scholarly work they produce, and may retain, sell or assign those copyrights, or dedicate them to the public domain, at their discretion." And here is that glossary's entry for Work for Hire. See also Copyright and Academia (Writers and Editors)

Rights and contracts for academic authors

Scholar's Copyright Addendum Engine to help you generate a PDF form that you can attach to a journal publisher's copyright agreement to ensure that you retain certain rights (Science Commons)
Copyright and Your Dissertation or Thesis: Ownership, Fair Use, and Your Rights and Responsibilities (Kenneth D. Crews, ProQuest, 2013) An online manual aimed at helping reader learn and understand the copyrght issues relevant to doctoral dissertations.
Author Rights: Using the SPARC Author Addendum to secure your rights as the author of a journal article (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition). Also available as a poster. See more SPARC Resources for Authors, addressing practical questions and issues, such as Can I post my articles on my course Web sites or in institutional repositories? Can I share my work freely after assigning exclusive copyright to a publisher? Is it okay for me to post my work in NIH’s PubMed Central?
Authors' Rights (Scott Bennett, Journal of Electronic Publishing, Vol 5, Issue 2, 12-99). How things are changing for academic authors, who in the past have given up their rights, in exchange for credits they valued for career advancement. See also this chapter on the academic publishing business, an excerpt from The Digital Scholar: How Technology is Transforming Academic Practice by Martin Weller.
Proposal Seeks to Safeguard Publishing Prospects of Scholars Forced to Put Work Online (Authors Guild, 8-15-13) The American Historical Association is calling on universities to adopt new policies giving students the option of embargoing their dissertations for up to six years," because... “the book is the measure of scholarly competence used by tenure committees.” The pros and cons of putting dissertations online.
Managing your rights as an author: Who owns the rights to your scholarship? (Transforming Scholarly Communication, University of Minnesota). Onward, academic authors!
Journal Authors: intellectual property landlords - or migrant workers? (Dan Carlinsky, for American Society of Journalists & Authors)
Who Should Own Scientific Papers? (Steven Bachrach,R. Stephen Berry, Martin Blume,Thomas von Foerster, Alexander Fowler, Paul Ginsparg, Stephen Heller, Neil Kestner, Andrew Odlyzko, Ann Okerson, Ron Wigington and Anne Moffat, in Science 4 September 1998:
Vol. 281 no. 5382 pp. 1459-1460 DOI: 10.1126/science.281.5382.1459)
Know Your Rights: Using copyrighted works in academic settings (using the works of others for teaching and learning)
Who Owns an Interview? (Mark Fowler, Rights of Writers, 1-7-11). Toward end of Authors' Rights (and Publishers' Rights Grabs) are more entries on who owns which rights to interviews.
Seizing the Moment: Scientists' Authorship Rights in the Digital Age (Mark S. Frankel's report on study for American Association for the Advancement of Science)
Authors and Their Rights (Association of Research Libraries), excellent links to sites with material on authors' rights, for faculty-authors
Academic writing and textbook publishing (separate section on Writers and Editors website)
Collaboration agreements (Writers & Editors)
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Contract terms (especially but not only in book publishing) including reversion of rights clauses
and indemnity clauses

A Publishing Contract Should Not Be Forever (Authors Guild, Fair Contract Initiative) Three basic changes to book contracts are urgently needed: (1) time-limited book contracts, (2) a way to let authors reclaim unexploited rights, and (3) updated out of print clauses.
Ten Book Contract Traps We Can Help You Avoid (Authors Guild, Improving Your Book Contract)
Three clauses freelancers should know (and negotiate), according to lawyers (Maya Kroth, CJR Watchdog, 5-25-18) 1) Copyright: licensing agreements or work-for hire? Know when to walk. 2) Payment structure (on acceptance, Kill fee, etc.). 3) Liability waivers and indemnity. And by the way: I am a freelance journalist. Do I need to buy liability insurance? (Annalyn Kurtz, CJR,11-13-17) "Do not make the mistake of buying a basic general liability policy online, without considering some intricacies of media law."
Indemnity clauses leave freelancers open to lawsuits (Dawn Fallik and Jonathan Peters, Poynter, 5-1-15) 'Instead of defending its contributor, as it would have if she were a staff writer, Forbes told Estevez she was on her own, invoking a provision of its standard freelance contract stating that web writers are “responsible for any legal claims arising” from their work. Another provision says that web writers must “indemnify Forbes and hold (it) harmless against any liability, cost or expense…incurred as a result of” their work.' An excellent overview of problems with magazines' indemnity clauses.
Half of Net Proceeds Is the Fair Royalty Rate for E-Books (Authors Guild, Fair Contract Initiative) See Checking In on the Digital Royalty Debate (Rachel Deahl, PW, 12-6-13) "By finding ways to keep their top authors in-house without raising the e-book royalty rate above 25%, the big houses have, in effect, killed the debate. And this comes at a time when most publishers’ profits have improved because of e-books. Richard Curtis, a literary agent and founder of the e-book publisher E-Reads, repeated an oft-said refrain when he noted that “the 25% [e-book royalty] rate has been the chief cause of publishers’ return to prosperity.” Argue for 50%, not 25%, on ebook royalties.
Amazon caves to Authors Guild over Kindle's text-to-speech reading (Jack Schofield, Technology blog, The Guardian, 3-1-09) The Authors Guild has objected to the Kindle 2's text-to-speech feature and Amazon -- which also sells audiobooks -- is giving publishers the ability to stop it working. Before that: The Kindle Swindle? (Roy Blount Jr., NY Times, 2-24-09) " I am president of the Authors Guild, whose mission is to sustain book-writing as a viable occupation. This borders on quixotic, given all the new ways of not getting paid that new technology affords authors. A case in point: Amazon’s Kindle 2, which was released yesterday....Serves readers, pays writers: so far, so good. But there’s another thing about Kindle 2 — its heavily marketed text-to-speech function. Kindle 2 can read books aloud. And Kindle 2 is not paying anyone for audio rights." See also Caving into bullies (aka, here we go again) (Lawrence Lessig, 2-28-09) "But the bigger trend here is much more troubling: Innovative technology company (Amazon (Kindle 2), Google (Google Books)) releases new innovative way to access or use content; so-called “representatives” of rights owners, Corleone-like, baselessly insist on a cut; innovative technology company settles with baseless demanders, and we’re all arguably worse off."
Authors Guild to Publishers: Get Ready for Pushback on E-Book Royalties and "Cobwebbed" Contract Terms (Authors Guild) Among issues discussed: "We’re seeing less and less of the sorts of advances that can constitute a livelihood and keep the lights on while the hard work of authorship is being done. And with the dwindling of advances, we’re in danger of seeing the disappearance of the midlist author."
Delete the Non-Compete (Authors Guild Fair Contract Initiative) Many standard publishing agreements contain sweeping non-compete terms that can be used to restrict what else an author publishes and when. That’s an unacceptable restriction on authors’ livelihoods. No publisher would agree, at an author’s request, to forgo publishing another author’s book on a particular subject.
Fair Contract Initiative (Authors Guild)
Improving Your Book Contract: Negotiation Tips for Nine Typical Clauses (Authors Guild). The Authors Guild provides free contract review from Legal Services for members (sometimes with a bit of a wait), and the Guild's Model Trade Book Contract & Guide, updated in 2020, is sent to members when they join AG. The last version was in 2014. Covers all the major book contract clauses that you are likely to encounter in your writing career, including Term of copyright and rights reversion; advances & royalties; subsidiary rights; transparency in accounting & royalty statements; and copyright infringement (particularly important when there's so much piracy going on).
Traditional Book Contracts: Less than Minimum Wage for Authors? (Savvy Book Writers, Part 1 in a 3-part series, 8-15-13) The Traps in Publishing Contracts (Part 2, 8-16-13), and Do You Understand Your Publishing Contract? (Part 3, 8-17-18).
Business Musings (novelist Kristine Kathryn Rusch, KrisWrites, has many blog posts on contracts, dealbreakers, and estates, especially helpful for others writing fiction)
Book Publishing's Fact-Checking Failure, as Illustrated by the Sally Kohn Controversy (Constance Grady, Vox, 4-20-18) What is the proper procedure when fact checking and using “on the record” conversations? Book publishing has no system in place for fact-checking. What is the proper procedure when fact checking and using “on the record” conversations? In most book publishing workflows, fact checking is not anywhere in the process, it is simply based on the author’s notes. "So how do publishers generally handle it if factual errors creep into a book? Basically, the same way they handle plagiarism: They make it the author’s problem. One of the standard parts of any book contract is the warranty and indemnity clause. By signing on to that clause, an author is guaranteeing that their book is their own, original project, not plagiarism, that it doesn’t infringe on anyone else’s rights, and — if the book is nonfiction — that its facts are accurate. And if it turns out that any of these claims are untrue, the liability is all on the author.
Reduce the Sting of Warranty and Indemnity Clauses in Publishing Contracts (Matt Knight, Sidebar Saturdays, 10-22-16)
Contracts 101: The “grant of rights” clause (Jane Friedman, Scratch Magazine, Monetization issue, Q4 2013) The first article in an excellent series. Read the whole thing!
Contracts 101: Subsidiary Rights (Jane Friedman, Scratch Magazine, Faith issue, Q2 2014)) In your eagerness to finalize that book contract, do not sign away subsidiary rights, which "can present real earnings potential over the long term, especially for book authors whose stories become popular internationally or are successfully adapted to another medium."
Option Clauses Shouldn't Hold Authors Hostage (Authors Guild, 9-23-15) Option clauses in publishing agreements generally they give the publisher first dibs on the author’s next book. Egregious clauses (to avoid) include those granting "last refusal" instead of "first refusal"; granting publisher the right to the author’s next book-length work “on the same terms” as the current title; requiring the author to submit a completed manuscript (as opposed to a proposal and/or sample chapter) of the next book for the publisher’s consideration--read the full discussion! Contract should require the publisher to make a decision within a certain number of days (e.g., 30) of receiving the author’s proposal or sample chapter(s) and allow the author to go elsewhere if no agreement is made within a limited number of days (e.g., 15) of the publisher’s offer.
Contracts 101: The Non-compete Clause and the Options Clause (Jane Friedman, Scratch Magazine, Security issue, Q3 2014). You may not be able to avoid one, but negotiate a better one.
Will My Publisher Let Me Self-Publish Too? (Rachelle Gardner, 5-6-13) Not likely; they have an investment to protect. Followed up by • Agents Represent Authors (5-8-13).
C is for non-Compete (agent Steve Laube, 6-10-13). The agent's and writer's goal, in negotiating the non-compete clause, should be to "find ways to limit its scope and yet still satisfy the protection the publisher desires."
Contract Killer, a/k/a Killer Contract (Andy Clarke, 24 Ways, 12-23-08--a contract for website designers). A contract between you and your customers "doesn’t have to conform to the seemingly standard format of jargon and complicated legalese. You can be creative. A killer contract will clarify what is expected of both sides and it can also help you to communicate your approach to doing business. It will back-up your brand values and help you to build a great relationship between you and your customers. In other words, a creative contract can be a killer contract." See the updated Contract Killer
Collaboration agreements (samples and explanations of key clauses, Writers and Editors site)
Literary agent Rochelle Gardner on various contract clauses, for authors (Excellent practical explanations of important contract clauses, including whether royalties are paid on the book's cover price or on the net price--the price at which the publisher sells to the retailer)
You do NOT want your royalties based on net; the chances of your getting any royalties is greatly reduced. Get royalties based on cover price.
Textbook contracts: How to determine a good royalty rate offer (Textbook Authors Association, 5-18-09) Read and absorb the comments from 5 "experts" before signing your contract!
10 Useful Legal Documents For Designers (PDF/DOC) (Veronica Picciafuoco, Smashwords, 8-15-13). Free PDF download: 10 basic agreements for a variety of common business situations that creative professionals face.
Advocates, Addendums, and Sneaks oh my! (Kristine Kathryn Rusch, The Business Rusch, 5-4-11). Publishers give better contracts to authors with clout, lesser contracts to newbies; agents vary in how well they advocate for their authors.
Rights vs. Copyright (Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware, 7-2-12).
Negotiating Your Book Contract: 20 "Must" Topics to Talk About (Brenda Warneka, Absolute Write)
Book Contract Trouble Spots ( See, for example, the section on cross-collateralization, which is important if you do more than one title with a publisher.
Book Publishing Contracts: Checklist of Deal Terms (Howard H Zaharoff, Morse-Barnes-Brown Pendleton,
Distinguishing the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in Publishing Agreements (an entry on attorney Mark Fowler's blog, Rights of Writers, 2-26-11)
Editing Clauses in Publishing Contracts: How to Protect Yourself (Victoria Strauss, Writer Beware, 5-16-12)
Keep Your Copyright (a resource for creators) has a highly instructive feature that allows you to search for clauses by type of contract or grant, or type of creator, some sample contracts (good and bad), model contracts (particularly helpful on academic contracts), some before and after clauses, and so on. Check the site!
How to Deal with Indemnification Clauses (ASJA position paper, 2003, posted on Writers and Editors website)
Liability Shifts: How freelancers stand to lose their worldly goods (Writer's Contracts, sic). Here's why you should read those indemnity and liability clauses carefully, and be wary of warranting things you can't afford to warrant. Sometimes you will see a clause like this: "The Author recognizes that money damages alone would not adequately compensate the Company in the event of breach by the Author of this Agreement, and the Author therefore agrees that, in addition to all other remedies available to the Company at law, in equity or otherwise, the Company shall be entitled to injunctive relief for the enforcement thereof." These two definitions may be helpful:
---Equitable remedies (West) "Remedies are of two types, legal and equitable. An example of a legal remedy is monetary damages. An example of an equitable remedy is an injunction."
---Specific performance (Wikipedia)

Q&A: What Does This Indemnification Clause Really Mean? (Jesse Salvar, Law Law Land, 2-24-12)
Indemnity clauses and liability insurance (The Writer, 1-31-02)
Problems with Publishers' Contracts (Adler & Robin Books)
Book Publishing Contracts: Checklist of Deal Terms (Howard G. Zaharoff)
Contract Red Flag: Net Profit Royalty Clauses (Victoria Strauss, Writer Beware, 5-31-11)
How to Read a Publishing Agreement (David Koehser, intellectual property attorney)
Wikipedia on Royalties. This long, informative entry contains a crystal-clear explanation of the $ difference between royalties on cover price and royalties on net. Scroll down to the chart labeled Book-publishing Royalties - "Net" and "Retail" Compared
Royalty calculations in book contracts (Ivan Hoffman, attorney). You will find links to dozens of Hoffman's articles about contracts, copyright, fair use, foreign rights, and various forms of rights and legal issues. For example, The Ten Key Negotiating Points in an Author-Publisher Agreement.
Editing Clauses in Publishing Contracts: How to Protect Yourself (Victoria Strauss, Writer Beware 5-16-12)
Getting Out of Your Book Contract (Maybe) (Victoria Strauss, Writer Beware 6-23-11).
Publishing Contract Checklist (Timothy Perrin,
Rights 101: What Writers Should Know About All-Rights and Work-Made-For-Hire Contracts
Authors Guild legal services (among services available to members of the AG: a review of your book contract)
Publishing Industry Terms and Contracts: Some Resources, and Some Advice (Victoria Strauss, Writer Beware, very helpful)
Six Essential Issues in Any Ebook Contract Negotiation (The Passive Voice, who has more blog entries on contracts . (He's also a lawyer but "this is not legal advice."
Rx For Contracts (Daniel Steven,, for Mystery Writers of America)
A Guide to Oral History and the Law by John A. Neuenschwander ((Oxford Oral History, with chapters on legal release agreements, subpoenas and FOIA requests, defamation, privacy issues, copyright, oral history on the Internet, institutional review boards (IRB), and duty to report a crime, with sample legal release forms, oral history evaluation guidelines (Oral History Association), and more.
Six types of Creative Commons licenses. "Every license helps creators — we call them licensors if they use our tools — retain copyright while allowing others to copy, distribute, and make some uses of their work — at least non-commercially. Every Creative Commons license also ensures licensors get the credit for their work they deserve. Every Creative Commons license works around the world and lasts as long as applicable copyright lasts (because they are built on copyright)."
What Not to Miss When Drafting and Negotiating Your Book Publishing Contract (Lloyd J. Jassin, from the publisher's viewpoint)
Publishing Contracts (eight clauses agent Rachelle Gardner is most likely to negotiate for an author--an agent is more likely to negotiate changes than an author, which is one reason authors use agents)
Negotiating book contract terms and royalties (Morris Rosenthal, self-publisher)
Samples of good and bad clauses in publishing contracts (KeepYour, samples displayed in unusual ways)
Separate vs. Joint Accounting (former agent Nathan Bransford, 11-19-12). On a two-book deal, you want a separate account with your publisher for each book--not a joint account).
The Importance of Reversion Clauses in Book Contracts (Victoria Strauss, Writer Beware, 4-27-12). See section on reversion of rights, a different topic, below.
Mustering the courage to turn down a publishing contract (Kfir Luzzatto, guest blogging on Write Beware, 11-13-12)
Are you a moral writer? Agent Richard Curtis (in E-Reads 1-16-11) reports and comments on new morals element in HarperCollins' termination clause:
If (i) Publisher determines that any of the representations of Author set forth in Section 6(a) is false, or (ii) Author breaches the covenants set forth in Sections I(f), I(g), 2(c), or 2(d), or (iii) Author commits a breach of any covenant contained in the Special Provisions section of Part I above for which Publisher is given a right of termination, or (iv) Author’s conduct evidences a lack of due regard for public conventions and morals, or Author commits a crime or any other act that will tend to bring Author into serious contempt, and such behavior would materially damage the Work’s reputation or sales, Publisher may terminate this Agreement and, in addition to Publisher’s other legal remedies. Author will promptly repay the portion of the Advance previously paid to Author, or, if such breach occurred following publication of the Work, Author will promptly repay the portion of the Advance which has not yet been recouped by Publisher."
Writer Beware's excellent advice and warnings about small presses, including vanity publishers disguised as small presses . Writer Beware, a service of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, is particularly helpful on fiction, but along the left you'll see links to articles on topics such as literary agents , self-publishing: print-on-demand and electronic, and the truth about literary agents' fees .
Bewares, Recommendations, and Background Check forum Absolute Write Water Cooler, where you will find many other cool features for writers.
PEN's model contract for translators. See also PEN's PEN America's answers to FAQs (How do I go about acquiring the rights to a foreign title I am interested in translating and shopping around to publishers? What is a work-for hire? Is it ever acceptable? What happens when a translation to which I have the copyright goes out of print? How do I assert my rights?)
Useful Legal Documents For Designers (PDF/DOC) (10 basic agreements for a variety of common business situations that creative professionals face, gathered and presented by Veronica Picciafuoco, Smashing). You can download them free, individually or as a single document. Here are two of the links:
Standard Master Agreement for Design Services (AIGA, the professional association for design)
Short-Form Design Contract (Jacob Myers, on Docracy)

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Moral rights

"Moral rights are rights of creators of copyrighted works generally recognized in civil law jurisdictions and, to a lesser extent, in some common law jurisdictions. They include the right of attribution, the right to have a work published anonymously or pseudonymously, and the right to the integrity of the work....In the United States, the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA) recognizes moral rights, but applies only to a narrow subset of works of visual art."~Wikipedia (a useful summary of various aspects of "moral rights")
Moral Rights in Works of Visual Art in the U.S. (PDF, Lesley Ellen Harris) "The purpose of moral rights is to protect the personality or reputation of an author (and not necessarily the owner) of a copyright-protected work....Note that moral rights are separate from economic rights and even authors who have assigned their economic rights may have moral rights. In some countries, moral rights may be waived (Canada) whereas in other countries (France) authors may not waive their moral rights and may always exercise them."
Deconstructing Moral Rights (Cyrill P. Rigamonti, International Law Journal, 2006)
Graffiti Artists Have Moral Rights (Authors Guild, 3-2-18) After five years and at a cost of millions of dollars to the building’s owner, a dispute over the elimination of graffiti art on a building has finally been resolved, in the artists' favor, because of a "moral rights clause in the Copyright Act that grants visual artists (and only visual artists) the right to prevent mutilation or modifications of their artwork that would harm their artistic reputations, or that would destroy works of 'recognized stature.'...Unlike visual artists, the moral rights of authors and other creators are not protected by U.S. law. Although the Copyright Office is studying the need to protect such rights (especially since international obligations require such a moral right), authors do not yet have a legal remedy to ensure that they receive proper attribution and that the integrity of their work is preserved."
Moral Rights Basics (Betsy Rosenblatt, Harvard Law School, 1998) Moral rights refers to "the ability of authors to control the eventual fate of their works," protecting the personal and reputational, rather than purely monetary, value of a work to its creator. Under U.S. Law, moral rights receive protection through judicial interpretation of several copyright, trademark, privacy, and defamation statutes, and through 17 U.S.C. §106A, known as the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA), which applies exclusively to visual art. In the U.S. it typically refers to the right of an author to prevent revision, alteration, or distortion of her work, regardless of who owns the work.
Moral rights in the United States. Wikipedia, subsection of Moral rights (copyright law).
Moral Rights of Authors in the USA (Ronald Standler, 1998). Basic message: The U.S. doesn't recognize moral rights that are strongly upheld in some other countries (such as Italy and "Some of these problems could be avoided by a carefully drafted contract," writes Standler. "However, in reality, any written contract is likely to be drafted by the stronger party and offered to the weaker party as a Hobson's choice, without the opportunity for bargaining. Such contracts might later be attacked as an "adhesion contract". The essence of the problem in most of the above situations is that all of the power and control is in the hands of the stronger party, who is then in a position to abuse or exploit the weaker party. A written contract is unable to change this imbalance of power, or the consequences that flow from the exploitation of the weaker party."
A few things you should know about copyright. "The 'Moral Rights' are the right to a by-line or credit, and the right to object to distortion of your work," reads one line in item 8 in this interesting fact sheet from the London freelance branch of the National Union of Journalists (UK). Another sentence of interest: "You do have moral rights in, for example, a book - so long as it contains the magic phrase 'Moral Rights Asserted'."
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Artists' looming battle with recording industry
on copyright termination rights

Effective 2013, these termination rights apply to both books and music

Terminating Transfers: A Second Bite of the Apple A Guide to Terminating Transfers under Section 203 of the Copyright Act ( Margo E. Crespin, for Authors Guild). PDF
Publishers brace for authors to reclaim book rights in 2013 (Jeff John Roberts, paidContent, 11-27-12). A copyright law that lets authors break contracts after 35 years will start taking effect in January. The law, which is meant to give authors like Stephen King and Judy Blume a “second bite at the apple,” could provide yet another disruption for traditional publishers.
Your Copyright Termination Right Explained in Plain English: A Passing Opportunity to Recapture Publishing Rights ( Lloyd J. Jassin, 2010)
Navigating US Copyright Termination Rights (Brian D. Caplan, for WIPO)
Avoiding the Copyright War of 2013 (Caz McChrystal, Music Business Journal, July 2009 Music Law) "Section 203 of the Copyright Act allows an author to terminate an exclusive or nonexclusive transfer of a copyright executed on or after January 1, 1978; however, this termination right does not apply to works made for hire. Therefore, transfers of sound recordings by artists to their record labels are subject to the termination right only if those recordings were not made for hire."
Legislator Calls for Clarifying Copyright Law (Larry Rohter, NY Times, 8-28-11). "When copyright law was revised in 1976, recording artists and songwriters were granted 'termination rights,' which enable them to regain control of their work after 35 years. But with musicians and songwriters now moving to assert that control, the provision threatens to leave the four major record companies, which have made billions of dollars from such recordings and songs, out in the cold. As a result the major record labels — Universal, Sony, EMI and Warner — are now fighting the efforts of recording artists and songwriters to invoke those rights."
Record Industry Braces for Artists’ Battles Over Song Rights (Larry Rohter, NY Times, 8-15-11). "When copyright law was revised in the mid-1970s, musicians, like creators of other works of art, were granted 'termination rights,' which allow them to regain control of their work after 35 years, so long as they apply at least two years in advance....With the recording industry already reeling from plummeting sales, termination rights claims could be another serious financial blow." The recording industry claims the records are "works for hire" -- the musicians, their employees.
Dear Musicians: The RIAA Is About To Totally Screw You Over (Again!) (TechDirt). "Copyright law includes a 'termination right,' which cannot be contractually given up, which allows the original content creator to 'reclaim' the copyright on their works 35 years after it was created. The only real exception is in cases where the work qualifies as 'work for hire.'" The musicians expect a showdown with the recording industry.
Termination of Transfers Provision Applies to All Authors, Not Just Musicians (Tonya Gisselberg, Seattle Copyright Watch, 9-8-11). "That “little-noted” provision is 17 U.S.C. §203, Termination of transfers and licenses granted by the author. For grants made on or after January 1, 1978, §203 allows an author, or her surviving family or estate if the author is dead, to terminate a copyright grant after 35 years from the date the grant was made, if a certain procedure is followed."
Marybeth Peters (Tonya Gisselberg, Seattle Copyright Watch, 9-24-11). The former U.S. Register of Copyrights spoke about recording artists’ public performance rights in the non-digital broadcasts of their sound recordings, among other things.

Legislator Calls for Clarifying Copyright Law (Larry Rohter, NY Times, 8-28-11). Representative John Conyers Jr., senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, has called for a "revision of U.S. copyright law to remove ambiguities in the current statute about who is eligible to reclaim ownership rights to songs and sound recordings."
Copyright Termination Rights: The Looming Battle for Music Industry (Lesley Chuang, The Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Blog). 2013 is going to be a big year for the music industry!


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Rights and Royalties (info and issues about
and problems with authors' and artists' estates)

Star Wars Novelists Seek Years of Missing Royalty Payments From Disney (Erich Schwartzel, Wall Street Journal, 12-19-2020) 'Book authors tied to big film franchises stopped receiving checks after Disney acquired Lucasfilm and Twentieth Century Fox.... In response to queries about the “Alien” checks, a Disney attorney told Mr. Foster that the company had acquired the rights to these books, but not the obligations to pay out royalties. But in the case of “Alien,” Ms. Hansen said, the rights to Mr. Foster’s novels had been reassigned several times, with no interruption of royalty checks, before Disney bought Fox.' For a short version of story, see MarketWatch (12-20-2020)
Claiming the Royalties You Deserve (Authors Guild) "A detailed analysis of a royalty statement, even one performed by an accounting professional, may not help an author determine whether the statement is accurate, since traditional royalty statements rarely include all the information needed." What can you do if you suspect you are not getting what you deserve? You can continue to accept royalty statements that you don’t understand (and possibly lose money) or you can engage a third party to perform a royalty audit.This article explains how to do that.
Agenting 101: Royalties  What's the difference between royalties from net proceeds and royalties from list or cover price. (Kristin Nelson, Pub Rants, 7-10-06) Big Publishers calculate royalties from the list or cover price, explains agent Nelson. "Independent publishers (and smaller houses) often calculate royalties from net proceeds received (otherwise known as cash received).

     Let’s say you have a hardcover book priced at $24.99 and the first 5000 copies are based on a 10% of cover price royalty. This means, as the author, you would receive on your royalty statement (after you have earned out your advance of course), 10% of $24.99 which would be $2.49 for each book sold."
       "When a publisher operates on net proceeds received, then you, the author, would only get a royalty on what the publisher received after the discount. For example, if the publisher sells the $24.99 hardcover to a distributor at a 40% discount, then you as the author would only be getting 10% of $15.00 (approximately—$24.99 – $9.98 = $15.01).That would mean you would only be receiving $1.50 per book....In reality, if the publisher is operating on Net, you should ask for 16% (instead of 10%) for the first 5000 copies and then do the math from there on up. (Because 16% of $15 is $2.40 per book—pretty close on to the cover price royalty calculation.)"

     Adds Umair Kazi, an attorney with the Authors Guild: 'There's no harm in asking to be paid on list price--sometimes presses do accept. Even if you cannot get this change, be sure to define "net receipts" as amounts earned after taxes and discounts. Undefined "net receipts," a vague definition, or an overbroad definition (such as one that deducts production costs, commissions, etc.) does not work in your favor.'

    In short, royalties based on list or cover price is good for authors; royalties from net proceeds received (otherwise known as cash received) is good for publishers, bad for authors.
The Business of Publishing (Alan Jacobson, Writer's Toolkit) "Typically, an author can expect to receive the following royalties: Hardback edition: 10% of the retail price on the first 5,000 copies; 12.5% for the next 5,000 copies sold, then 15% for all further copies sold. Paperback: 8% of retail price on the first 150,000 copies sold, then 10% thereafter."
      Rachel Deahl  writes that "Similar escalators are built into the rates for trade paperbacks and mass markets, with trade paperbacks starting at a rate of 6%–7% and mass markets starting at a rate of 8%." (Could Publishers and Agents Agree on a Flat Royalty Rate? (PW, 6-3-16) "Insiders say the problem is still e-book royalties....While authors and agents have stood firm on their position that the standard rate of 25% (which refers to the percentage of net sales authors receive on e-books sold) must change [upward], publishers haven’t budged."  Authors should expect much more for ebooks:
Half of Net Proceeds Is the Fair Royalty Rate for E-Books (Authors Guild, 7-9-15) "Traditionally, the author-publisher partnership was an equal one. Authors earned around 50% of their books’ profits. That equal split is reflected in the traditional hardcover royalty of 15% of list (cover price, that is, not the much lower wholesale price), and in the 50-50 split of publishers’ earnings from selling paperback, book club, or reprint rights....But today’s standard contracts give authors just 25% of the publisher’s “net receipts” (more or less what the publisher collects from a book sale) for e-book royalties. That doesn’t look like a partnership to us. We maintain that a 50-50 split in e-book profits is fair because the traditional author-publisher relationship is essentially a joint venture." (And very few production costs for the publisher)
Electronic Rights. Lloyd L. Rich's publaw piece on publishing agreements (grant of rights and royalty clauses) seems to be aimed at publishers but raises at least one issue authors and agents should also be pondering: Are electronic rights sales income, from which author gets a royalty (10 to 15%), or subsidiary rights, meaning the publisher and author split the income 50/50?
Universal Music Settling Big Class Action Lawsuit Over Digital Royalties (David Pandagriff, The Passive Voice, 9-6-18) From Billboard: "An important chapter in the legal history of the music business may be coming to conclusion soon as Universal Music Group is close to submitting a settlement resolving claims that it cheated recording artists of royalties from digital downloads." Artists contended "that record labels should be treating digital download income off of venues like Apple’s iTunes as 'licenses' rather than 'sales.' By accounting the other way, the artists get about 15 percent of collected income rather than 50 percent they allege is due." The principle here also applies in book publishing, where publishers issuing ebooks are paying only 25% royalties instead of the 50% a licensing agreement would call for
Claiming the Royalties You Deserve (Juli Saitz, Authors Guild, 2-28-18) "The imbalance in power between author and publisher often begins with the complexities of the publishing agreement. Unless an attorney is involved in that process, authors tend to accept the terms set forth in the publishing agreement as standard, without questioning specific terms."
5 phases of a royalty audit (Eric Schmieder, Textbook & Academic Authors Association, 3-6-18) 'In her TAA webinar, “The Anatomy of a Royalty Audit”, royalty auditor Juli Saitz, senior managing director for Ankura Consulting Group, shared the five phases of a textbook royalty audit: preparation, paperwork, communication with the publisher, document analysis, and the publisher’s response.'
Executors or Executioners? Why Is My Biographer of Shel Silverstein Headed for the Sidewalk's End? (Joseph Thomas, Slate, 10-11-13). Thomas writes about "the hard truth of the literary biographer: It’s crucial to establish friendly relations with the estates of deceased (and more rarely, living) artists whose work is protected by copyright. You see, scholars have to request permission to reproduce more than a few lines of a copyrighted poem or song lyric. Or, more precisely, we don’t have to, but our publishers (largely academic, nonprofit university presses) tend to insist that we ask permission in order to protect themselves from lawsuits."
Keepers of the Flame: Literary Estates and the Rise of Biography by Ian Hamilton. What happens when there is a conflict between how much a biographer wants to tell, how clearly the subject of a literary biography has expressed his wishes about privacy, and whether the estate honors those wishes.
William Faulkner's Heirs Aim to Preserve His Legacy and Profit From It (Stefanie Cohen, WSJ, 7-26-13). Effort to Capitalize on Faulkner's Estate Raises Questions About What Happens to Works After Writers Die (must reading for authors, heirs, and universities and museums displaying authors' artifacts)
Judge dismisses lawsuit over Faulkner line in 'Midnight in Paris' (Ryan Faughnder, Los Angeles Times, 7-18-13) In a 17-page ruling, Michael P. Mills, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, said the use of the quote qualifies as a fair use. "The court has viewed Woody Allen’s movie, 'Midnight in Paris,' read the book, 'Requiem for a Nun,' and is thankful that the parties did not ask the court to compare 'The Sound and the Fury' with 'Sharknado.'"
The Business Rusch. Fiction writer Kristine Kathryn Rusch (4-13-11) on inaccurate e-book royalty statements issued by the Big Six traditional publishers, and a follow-up column a week later: Royalty Statements Update (4-20-11)
British photographers' concern over new 'micropayment' system (Patrick Smith, Press Gazette 6-30-08). Photographers fear their pictures could lose value due to a new 'micropayment' scheme created by a picture stock library to license images online.
Copyleft (Wikipedia on liberal licensing schemes in which author surrenders some but not all rights, thereby retaining some moral control over the material)
Creative Commons,a nonprofit organization that develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation (creators say which rights they reserve and which they waive, as alternatives to the "permission" culture and tight controls on rights to films and music). Here's the Creative Commons license. This Wikipedia entry is interesting for its discussion of the issues.
GNU General Public License (a Free Software license, Creative Commons). Here is Wikipedia's entry on the license, and another entry on the GNU project, a free software, mass collaboration project.
Copyright Clearance Center ready to compete with AP’s News Licensing Group (Rick Edmonds, Poynter, 2-4-11).
Recording Artists Project (Harvard RAP). Providing musicians with empowering, pro bono legal counsel.
Why the music-licensing model won't save newspapers by Jeff Bercovici (Daily Finance, 6-4-09)
DRM or not: a debate that won't be over anytime soon (Mike Shatzkin's excellent discussion of digital rights management, the software that controls what you can do with an ebook or any electronic property)
Performance royalties for films , one of several informative video clips from an ASCAP-related forum on The Life Cycle of a Song: Mechanical Royalties and Problems with Royalty Rates Today, 2008)
Mechanical license and compulsory mechanical license (Wikipedia)
• Clearing rights and finding rightsholders

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First-sale doctrine in a world of re-selling, rentals, and licensing
I bought the physical book or CD -- what rights does that give me?
First-sale doctrine (Wikipedia entry).
• The first-sale doctrine limits the distribution rights of copyright and trademark owners by allowing the purchaser of a copyrighted product to re-sell the physical product or phonorecord (e.g., recorded music). The right does not apply to unlawfully made audio or video tapes.
Reselling Digital Goods Is Copyright Infringement, Judge Rules (David Kravets, Wired, 4-1-13) "A federal judge is declaring as unlawful a one-of-a-kind website enabling the online sale of pre-owned digital music files....The case weighed the so-called first-sale doctrine, the legal theory that people in lawful possession of copyright material have the right to resell it. U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan, ruling in a suit brought by Vivendi’s Capitol Records, said the doctrine did not apply to digital goods."
• Huge Supreme Court decision: Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & SonsJustices Permit Resale of Copyrighted Imports (Adam Liptak, NY Times, 3-19-13) The Supreme Court issued a truly major decision about international re-selling of books. See also Grimmelmann: Issues in Kirtsaeng 'Significant' (James Grimmelmann, PW, 3-20-13. an excellent explanation of issues). "Since the textbooks Kirtsaeng was importing were printed with the permission of the copyright holders, they were legal, and so were his imports." (Pirated books and music are not legal.) ... "However one comes out on first sale and imported textbooks, the issue, in books and beyond, is too significant to end here. Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante is already proposing significant reforms to the Copyright Act." (See The Next Great Copyright Act.).
Meanwhile, here's another take on the Kirtsaeng decision: "Supreme Court to Wiley publishers: your insane theory of copyright is wrong" (Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing, 3-19-13) "The US Supreme Court has handed down a verdict in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, one of the most important copyright cases of the century. In it, the publisher John Wiley & Sons sought to block the import of legally purchased cheap overseas editions of its books by arguing that "first sale" (the right to resell copyrighted works) only applies to goods made in the USA. However you feel about cheap overseas editions and their importation into the USA, this was a disastrous legal theory. Practically everything owned by Americans is made outside of the USA and almost all of it embodies some kind of copyright. Under Wiley's theory, you would have no first-sale rights to any of that stuff -- you couldn't sell it, you couldn't even give it away. What's more, the other "exceptions and limitations" to copyright would also not apply, meaning that it would be illegal to photograph anything made outside of the USA (no di minimum exemption) or to transform it in any way (no fair use, either). Thanks goodness the Supremes got this one right!" Here is the decision (KIRTSAENG, DBA BLUECHRISTINE99 v. JOHN WILEY & SONS, INC. , decided 3-19-13).
Earlier, PW had reported in in As Wiley Case Heads to the Supreme Court, Libraries Join “Owners Rights” Coalition (Andrew Albanese, PW, 10-24-12), "Next week’s Supreme Court case will address the fallout from an August, 2011 ruling in John Wiley & Sons, Inc. v. Supap Kirtsaeng in which Kirtsaeng, a Thai-born U.S. student was successfully sued by Wiley for importing and reselling in the U.S. foreign editions of Wiley textbooks made for exclusive sale abroad. In its verdict, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit affirmed, by a 2-1 margin, that Kirtsaeng could not avail himself of the first sale doctrine because the law says that products must be 'lawfully made.'" The Second Circuit ruled that "foreign-made works" were not "lawfully made." PW: "That decision has raised alarms for a number of businesses, including libraries and the used book trade, and online sellers like Amazon, and eBay."
Why Ownership Rights Matter (background, from Owners' Rights Initiative)''
Supreme Court Holds that the “First Sale” Doctrine Protects Importation and Sale of Books and Recordings Lawfully Manufactured and Acquired Abroad (Bingham, 3-26-13). "The expanded resale market permitted under Kirtsaeng has the potential to lead to increased piracy of intellectual property. This is because it may not always be clear to resellers and consumers in the United States whether they are purchasing a lawfully made work manufactured for sale in a foreign market or an unauthorized pirated copy. The “first sale” doctrine does not apply pirated copies, and nothing in the Court’s opinion in Kirtsaeng changes the restrictions on selling such unauthorized works."
• See the Betamax case, Authors Guild vs. Hathi Trust under Fair Use (scroll to cases at end of Fair Use section.
Vernor v. Autodesk: Software and the First Sale Doctrine under Copyright Law (Marcelo Halpern, Yury Kapgan, and Kathy Yu) (Intellectual Property & Technology Law Journal, Vol.23, No. 3, March 2011). The Ninth Circuit ruled recently that "an individual who purchased and then resold secondhand software was not the 'owner' of that copy of the software and therefore could not resell it when the license agreement accompanying the software restricted such resale."

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Copyright and academia
(open access, scientific products, intellectual property, dissertations and theses)

A Graduate Student's Guide to Copyright: Open Access, Fair Use, and Permissions (freely distributable under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license--with full attribution)
Whose Dissertation Is It, Anyway? (Rick Anderson, The Scholarly Kitchen, or TSK, 12-20-13) Underlying the debate about who gets to decide whether embargoes of a dissertation are permitted, and if they are, who gets to decide how long they are, is the question of who owns the intellectual work created on campus. "The OAH Executive Board strongly supports the right of authors to make their own decisions about the manner in which their doctoral dissertations will be published and circulated. The board urges history departments and graduate school administrations to support that right without qualification, understanding that embargoed dissertations will be available for public consultation upon the expiration of the designated embargo period."
Dissertation Embargoes and the Rights of Scholars: AHA Smacks the Hornet's Nest (Rick Anderson, TSK, 7-26-13) Correcting misinterpretations, Anderson writes that the American Historical Association "asks that young scholars be permitted to choose for themselves (up to a limit) how and when their original work will be made available to the public–and says that those who do choose an embargo should be required to deposit a print copy so that it can be made available to scholars in that more limited way during the embargo period."
Scholarly Group Seeks Up to 6-Year Embargoes on Digital Dissertations (Stacey Patton, Chronicle of Higher Education, 7-24-13) "The American Historical Association has published a new policy statement that "strongly encourages" graduate programs and university libraries to allow new Ph.D.'s to extend embargoes on their dissertations in digital form for as many as six years....“we are operating in a world of anecdotes, ghost stories, and fear. We don’t have very good data showing what the impact is on sales when dissertations appear online.”
Revolution in academia: Copyright and open access (Pat McNees, blog post with links to other resources)
Ownership of Intellectual Property (part of MIT Policies & Procedures). See especially Ownership of Copyrights in Theses. Example of a clear explanation of when the thesis writer does and does not own the copyright--and under which conditions that right might be curtailed.
Revisiting: Is Access to the Research Paper the Same Thing as Access to the Research “Results”? (David Crotty, The Scholarly Kitchen, 8-11-15) "In the biomedical realm, Open Access (OA) is a well-established phenomenon. But for the humanities researcher, OA is a new frontier, one that was put together by an entirely different part of academia with different needs and different ideas about research “results”. There is great skepticism and increasing anger brewing in the humanities community about being subject to inappropriate policies, particularly any that impose a Creative Commons CC BY license on published work. I thought it was worth revisiting this 2013 post that looks at the separate intellectual property needs of these very different fields."
Copyright in Academia: How Does It Work (informative slideshare presentation by Geoffrey Pinski and Howard Tolley, University of Cincinnati).
Copyright and Your Dissertation or Thesis: Ownership, Fair Use, and Your Rights and Responsibilities by Kenneth D. Crews. A detailed guide to copyright compliance for graduate students.
Copyright guidance from UK universities
Information Literacy (run by information professionals from key UK organisations actively involved in the field of information literacy. On Twitter, see CILIP InfoLit Group (@infolitgroup)
Fair Use, a Primer (Writers and Editors). Study this well.
Welcome to the Public Domain (Copyright & Fair Use, Stanford University Libraries, which has an excellent Overview on Copyright & Fair Use
Copyright X (Professor William Fisher's open course at Harvard is fully available to the public online, free). See for example his lecture on Technological Protection Measures (for example, strategies deployed by the music industry to prevent mass copying: encryption, CSS, the Secure Digital Music Initiative, SDMI, and the Real Audio and Real Video Formats), as viewed from the perspective of basic theories of intellectual property. (this site, geared to UK copyright ways to "create, understand, educate," includes ideas that could be adapted to U.S. copyright education (I particularly like the Myth vs. Reality game-playing cards.
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Orphan Works Legislation

"A true orphan work is a book whose rightsholder doesn’t exist, or doesn’t care, or can’t be found. That happens. When a book really becomes an orphan, it would benefit everyone for the rights to enter the public domain." It is wrong to define "orphan works as books that are in copyright but out of print." The mere condition of being out of print isn’t irreparable." ---Authors Guild
Important Fair Use Cases (see in particular those related to the Hathi Trust)
The Shrinking Orphan Works Problem (Joseph Esposito, The Scholarly Kitchen, 10-18-11). "'Orphan works' is a term used to describe the situation in which the owner of a copyrighted work cannot be identified and located by someone who wishes to make use of the work in a manner that requires permission of the copyright owner." This leaves people who would like to reuse such works in copyright limbo." See his earlier piece: The Rapture of Demand — Caring for Orphan Works Left Behind (6-8-11) "Google’s mass digitization project brought orphan works into prominence, as Google proposed to scan them without first hacking through the copyright thicket....An orphan is a book of uncertain copyright status. This is not the same thing as a book that is out of print, with which orphans are sometimes conflated....Nor are orphans the same thing as backlist."
Orphan Works and Mass Digitization (PDF, US Copyright Office, 2015) A report of the Register of Copyrights. Read the Authors Guild summary and review, including 'a much-anticipated analysis of issues at the heart of the writing community’s two major copyright cases of the past decade: Authors Guild v. HathiTrust (settled in January), and the ongoing Authors Guild v. Google. The Report describes the legal difficulties faced by those seeking to use “orphan works” and/or to engage in mass digitization projects. It also provides recommendations for potential solutions.'
Orphan Row: Now It's Your Turn (AG, 2011) The list, alphabetized by author, of HathiTrust’s “orphan work candidates.” See which authors and estates you can find.
Orphan Works (Wikipedia entry: "An orphan work is a copyrighted work for which the copyright owner cannot be contacted. In some cases the name of the creator or copyright owner of an orphan work may be known but other than the name no information can be established. Reasons for a work to be orphan include that the copyright owner is unaware of their ownership or that the copyright owner has died or gone out of business (if a company) and it is not possible to establish to whom ownership of the copyright has passed." Good links to sources.
Statement of Marybeth Peters, The Register of Copyrights, before the Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property, Committee on the Judiciary (3-13-08)
The Importance of Orphan Works Legislation (Marybeth Peters, Register of Copyrights, U.S. Copyright Office, 9-25-08). This "legislation would allow good-faith users of copyrighted content to move forward in cases where they wish to license a use but cannot locate the copyright owner after a diligent search."
Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act of 2008 This bill to provide a limitation on judicial remedies in copyright infringement cases involving orphan works passed the Senate, died in Congress, 2008. Status shown here at (a civic project to track Congress)
What Orphan Works Could Mean to Bloggers (Jonathan Bailey, The Blog Herald, 4-28-08) What you can do to protect your work.
Corporate Theft (Brad Holland of the Illustrator's Partnership talking about how the Orphan Works bill affects every artist and photographer, on YouTube)
Orphan Works Resource Page for Artists (Illustrators' Partnership) See also entries for the Google Book Settlement, which is very much associated with the issue of orphan works.
Little Orphan Artworks (Lawrence Lessig, NY Times, 5-20-08). "CONGRESS is considering a major reform of copyright law intended to solve the problem of 'orphan works' — those works whose owner cannot be found. This 'reform' would be an amazingly onerous and inefficient change, which would unfairly and unnecessarily burden copyright holders with little return to the public."
Why the Collectors Who Made Vivian Maier Famous Can’t Cash In on Her Work (Jessica Meiselman, Artsy, 7-11-17) On June 30, the executor of Vivian Maier's estate filed a lawsuit against three commercial galleries exhibiting and selling the late photographer's images. ... The case is the latest in a long-running legal dispute over the rights to photographs by Maier, who died penniless and without known heirs. The suit also highlights a crucial aspect of copyright law: purchasers of a physical artwork are restricted in their rights to sell and market the piece.
Orphan Works (UK) (Dinusha Mendis,

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Names, titles, domain names, and trademarks

You cannot copyright or trademark a title. You can trademark a series name.

What Are Patents, Trademarks, Servicemarks, and Copyrights? (U.S. Patent Office)
What does copyright protect (U.S. Copyright Office). Among questions answered on that site:
--How do I copyright a name, title, slogan or logo?
"Copyright does not protect names, titles, slogans, or short phrases. In some cases, these things may be protected as trademarks. Contact the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, 800-786-9199, for further information. However, copyright protection may be available for logo artwork that contains sufficient authorship. In some circumstances, an artistic logo may also be protected as a trademark. "
--Can I copyright my domain name?
"Copyright law does not protect domain names. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a nonprofit organization that has assumed the responsibility for domain name system management, administers the assignation of domain names through accredited registers. "
On the same website page, see also the answers to: How do I protect my recipe? Can I copyright the name of my band? How do I protect my idea? Can I get a star named after me and claim copyright to it?
Can You Trademark Your Title? (Authors Guild, 5-25-18) The law is clear that you cannot trademark individual book titles, but a title for a series of books can be trademarked since it serves the role of a brand. Recently, a romance writer Faleena Hopkins managed to obtain a trademark registration for the word “cocky” in connection with a series of romance books, effectively giving herself a monopoly over a term that is common in the genre. In addition to threatening other romance authors with potential trademark infringement lawsuits, she had Amazon take down pages for other authors’ books because they used “cocky” in their titles. We advised Amazon about potential legal problems with the validity of the trademark, such as the fact that the term was already in wide use in the marketplace before the trademark application. See also the Guardian story (Alison Flood, 5-8-18).
Titles and the Law: Can I Call My Novel "The Great Gatsby"? (Mark Fowler, Rights of Writers, 2-17-11). Titles of any kind (book, song) aren’t copyrightable but they might in some circumstances be subject to trademark or unfair competition laws. "In short, using a title that has previously been used on another book is, more often than not, perfectly lawful. In a relatively rare instance where your title is likely to create confusion with a previously published book, your publisher will likely urge you to adopt a different, safer title..." (This applies in U.S.--British courts may differ.)
LeBron James in Trademark Tangle Over Barbershop Web Series (Michelle Fabio, Forbes, 4-18-18) LeBron James’s video series set in a barbershop continues to get lots of buzz, though a trademark infringement lawsuit probably isn’t the kind of publicity the NBA star appreciates. Sebastian Jackson, through his company Adventure Enterprises, has sued James’ company, Uninterrupted, alleging that Uninterrupted and its associates “stole” the barbershop concept from him to create "The Shop."
The Slants Win Supreme Court Battle Over Band's Name In Trademark Dispute (Bill Chappell, NPR, The Two-Way, 6-19-19) Members of the Asian-American rock band The Slants have the right to call themselves by a disparaging name, the Supreme Court says, in a ruling that could have broad impact on how the First Amendment is applied in other trademark cases. "The disparagement clause violates the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause," Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his opinion for the court. Contrary to the Government's contention, trademarks are private, not government speech."
Can You Use a Book Title That’s Been Used Before? (Brian A. Klems, Writer's Digest, 2-28-13)
Domain Name Law & Domain Name Disputes (Lawyer Charles Runyan, on domain names and trademarks)
Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers) about Domain Names and Trademarks (Chilling Effects)
Trademark Law & Book Titles: How to Use Trademark Law to Create Multiple Passive Income Streams & Avert Legal Battles (Lloyd J. Jassin,
Trademarks and Irregulars, Part 1: Understanding and Protecting Trademarks (Erin Brenner, Copyediting, 5-26-15) . See also Part 2: Protecting Trademarks (6-2-15) and Part 3: Regularizing Irregulars (6-9-15). Does Curly-Wurly become Curly-Wurlys or Curly Wurlies, and other thoughts about using the right language with trademarks.
A Guide to Proper Trademark Use
International Trademark Association (INTA).
And Now, the Tricky Part: Naming Your Business (Emily Maltby, WSJ, 6-29-10) and Name Choices Spark Lawsuits (Emily Maltby, "Start-Ups Can Get Mired in Costly Trademark Scuffles With Bigger Firms," WSJ, 6-24-10)
Trademarks (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office)
Trademark FAQ (, and see their entry on the benefits of trademark registration.)
Trademark Law (an overview, Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University)
Protecting Slogans (Ivan Hoffman)
TESS tips (tips about the Trademark Electronic Search System, which contains the records of active and inactive trademark registrations and applications)
Trademarks Basics Fact Sheets (International Trademark Association) and don't forget the Wikipedia entry, especially the part on Maintaining Rights.

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Digital rights management (DRM)

DRM is any scheme that uses access-control technology to limit access, use, and sharing of digital content after the sale of copyrighted material. Those who want to can usually find ways to circumvent it, and making it hard to circumvent also makes things difficult for users, which may be why DRM is often relaxed.
How Digital Rights Management Works (Julia Layton (howstuffworks). What is DRM?
Digital rights management (Wikipedia)
Ebook DRM Protection: ebook formats & security options (Locklizard)
Q&A: What is DRM? (BBC News)
DRM or not? a debate that won’t be over anytime soon (Mike Shatzkin, Shatzkin Files 6-27-09)
DRM and romance novels: One takeaway from Digital Book World that is not to be missed (Mike Shatzkin, Idea Logical Company, 1-30-12). About DRM, yes, but also about the importance in niche markets of metadata.
iTunes, DRM and competition law (Reckon), updates on the article The iTunes Music Store: does competition law hold the key to a closed shop? (Reckon, LLP; Regulation & Competition Economics, Sept. 2004)
DRM is failure in action (Digital Bits Skeptic 1-18-09)
Copyright vs Community in the Age of Computer Networkstalk by Richard Stallman (Computer Science Club, University of Waterloo)

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Clearing rights and finding rightsholders
Links below are arranged in this order:
• Clearing rights in visual arts
• Clearing rights for music and sound
• Clearing rights for books, scripts, screenplays
• Permission and releases
See also the section on Fair use (when it is okay to use material without requesting permission or clearing rights).

The Basics of Getting Permission. Good primer, which explains among other things the difference between plagiarism and infringement.
A Writer’s Guide to Permissions and Fair Use (Jane Friedman, 6-21-17) It's important to know when you do NOT need to ask permission (including when something is clearly fair use), but the rules for fair use, while clear, aren't particularly explicit, so read up on both fair use and permissions, before you undertake publishing something which includes work by others protected by copyright.
Author’s Permission Guidelines (University of Chicago Press). Among other thing, covers when permission is needed (for your own published work; for texts; for works of art; and for film stills). For example, "Frame captures, also called film stills, are generally considered to fall in the realm of fair use for scholarly publishing. Essentially, a frame capture represents 1/24th of one second of a film, which hardly represents the whole heart of the work, and cannot be said to infringe upon the market for the film. Film stills should not be confused with Production or Publicity Stills, which are photographs taken on a film’s set, and which may be subject to copyright protection."
Getting Permission (Copyright Kids) Contact information for music publishers, record companies, film clip clearance, television clip clearance, and once over lightly for books, articles, photos and illustrations. For books, be sure to include the ISBN (on title or copyright page and/or on book cover).
Five Good Reasons to Clear Rights Properly and to Request Permission When Needed (Joy Butler, Guide Through the Legal Jungle), online
Searching the Copyright Office and Library of Congress Records When you have the information needed for searching, you can begin examining the records at the Copyright Office and at the Library of Congress. Each of these databases has valuable information about public domain status and copyright ownership.
The Permission Seeker's Guide Through the Legal Jungle: Clearing Copyrights, Trademarks and Other Rights for Entertainment and Media Productions by Joy R. Butler, an entertainment and business attorney, on "using someone else's intellectual property for financial gain" -- very helpful if you're clearing many rights.
Clearing Rights: Collective Licensing Around the World (PDF, Victoriano Colodrón, Online Magazine, Information Today, Nov./Dec. 2011)
Introduction to the Permissions Process (Stanford University Libraries)
Permissions, A Survival Guide: Blunt Talk about Art as Intellectual Property by Susan M. Bielstein) (an easy-to-use JISC- funded copyright and licensing resource in the UK)
Legal Lesson Learned: Copywriter Pays $4,000 for $10 Photo (Webcopy) "Our web copywriters were under the impression that images on the Web without any copyright notices were “public domain” and therefore free to use." Wrong. Expensive lesson learned.
Bloggers Beware: You CAN Get Sued For Using Pics on Your Blog - My Story (Roni Loren, 7-20-12)
Hollywood's Copyright Wars: From Edison to the Internet by Peter Decherney. U.S. book publishers started as pirates, using British novels, such as Dickens, without paying for rights; in the 1930s they waged an unsuccessful PR campaign to criminalize library borrowing. Changes in copyright law made recorded music, radio, and cable legitimate, when they had been considered piracy (from live entertainment). We have a pervasive "permissions culture" now, that is strangling documentary-makers, writes Decherney.
Clearance & Copyright: Everything You Need to Know for Film and Television by Michael Donaldson
Copyright and permissions basics for websites. This chapter from Nolo/Stanford's Copyright and Fair Use Overview focuses on unauthorized transfers of information to and from websites and website linking. Particularly useful: Linking and framing (which includes a permissions form).
Copyright and Licensing Toolkit for UK (Future Learn, Web2rights)
Law and Etiquette for Using Photos Online (attorne Sara F. Hawkins)
Helen Mirren Pushes for Recovery of Artwork Stolen by Nazis (Roll Call, 6-7-16) Mirren played Maria Altmann in the 2015 film Woman in Goldabout the Jewish refugee's efforts to recover family-owned artwork from the Austrian government. “It turned my attention to and fueled a personal resolve to do my part to try to open the eyes of others and help make people aware of the sad fact that — more than 70 years later — victims of the Holocaust and their families are still contemplating whether to seek restitution for what was stolen from them and lost under the most horrible of circumstances.” "What makes this particular crime even more despicable is that this art theft, probably the greatest in history, was continued by governments, museums and many knowing collectors in the decades following the war," Ronald Lauder said. "This was the dirty secret of the post-war art world, and people who should have known better, were part of it." A Google search will turn up more news on this topic.
We Stole Your Pictures, Now We’re Going To Sue You. Photographer Daniel Morel posted news photos on Twitter, claiming exclusive photos; moments later a second photographer uploaded them to his TwitPic account and claimed them as his. Suit and countersuit filed, as photographer 2 sold photos to agencies (including Agence France Presse), and Morel registered copyright so damages could be sizable. "With Morel’s lawyers claiming multiple infringements at $150,000 a piece AFP now face the possibility of a final bill far in excess of what the pictures would have cost if licensed legally."
Association for the Protection of Internet Copyright (APIC, also known as WebPosse). "Copyright protects original works of expression. These works include:Literary, Dramatic, including accompanying music, pantomimes and choreographic, Pictorial, graphic and sculptural. Motion pictures and other audiovisual, sound recordings, and
Checklist of legal considerations for use in created videos (Wiley Publishers). See links for various release forms, including release forms for minors, music permission agreement, location release form, materials permission agreement)
Connecting to Other Websites (good Stanford explanations of linking and framing, and a model linking agreement)
Getting Permissions for Your Favorite Quote (Linda Blundell, WordSmitten on literary permissions research)
Quick Guide to Permissions (PDF, Society of Authors, applicable to authors in UK). Who obtains copyright permissions? Is the work in copyright? When do I need permission? Who and what to ask, What if I cannot trace whoever is entitled to give permission? What if, having made every effort, I still cannot trace the copyright owner? How much will the fee be? and Model Permission Licence Letter.
Giving Credit and Requesting Permission (Tim O'Reilly, O'Reilly Media, chapter 7 from his book). Guidelines for using material other than your own. How do you know when you need permission? What doesn't need permission? Who owns the copyright? What pitfalls to avoid.
Oral History Consent Form (for interviewees, Jack Dougherty, form used for More Than One Struggle oral history project
FOB (firms out of business) ( database of publishing, literary and other firms out of business -- that is, printing and publishing firms, magazines, literary agencies and similar organizations that no longer exist -- and, where possible. which successor organizations might own any surviving rights. More About FOB, which is run jointly by the Harry Ransom Center (University of Texas, Austin) and University of Reading Library. The Harry Ransom Center also runs WATCH (Writers Artists and Their Copyright Holders), which a colleague tells me is a great idea but sadly out of date. The Authors Guild has tried to establish a similar database; I am not sure how good it is.

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If you are publishing photos of people, be aware of at least three kinds of rights you must consider: copyright law (federal law, who owns the copyright to the photo, who controls the rights, etc.); privacy law (varies from state to state: might be different for each photo, and depending on whether the people photographed are living or dead); and rights of publicity (vary by state: whether a person's photo, voice, signature, name, etc., is used to promote goods--such as a book--or services). (H/T Jeffrey Ankrom).
      Above all, owning a print of a photograph or even the original work of art does not in itself give you permission to publish that photo/artwork. Reproduction rights can be granted only by the copyright owner (or someone licensed by that person to grant permission to reproduce the work). Copyright for a photo is owned by the person who took the photo, not the person who owns a print of it, just as copyright for a letter is owned by the person who wrote the letter, not the person who received it. Before you clear rights on photos--especially old photos--educate yourself about photos and photo rights. Firms like Getty sometimes say you owe them an arm and a leg for using a photo when the same photo is available for a minimal fee from, say, the Library of Congress. (Sometimes Getty charges a fee even if the photo is in the public domain.)
Why the Collectors Who Made Vivian Maier Famous Can’t Cash In on Her Work (Jessica Meiselman, Artsy, 7-11-17) On June 30, the executor of Vivian Maier's estate filed a lawsuit against three commercial galleries exhibiting and selling the late photographer's images. ... The case is the latest in a long-running legal dispute over the rights to photographs by Maier, who died penniless and without known heirs. The suit also highlights a crucial aspect of copyright law: purchasers of a physical artwork are restricted in their rights to sell and market the piece. See also MPLS Photo Center settles copyright infringement suit (AP, 12-11-18)
Where to Find Free Photos Online: Know the Law! (, 6-1-15) "When you reproduce, display, distribute, or create a derivative work of (ie. alter) someone else’s photograph or artwork, you likely will be infringing the owner’s copyright. This is true even when you aren’t trying to make money with your project." "Some websites appear to offer free images, but they are “buyer beware.” If you want to sleep at night knowing that your uses are legitimate, go to reputable stock agencies that offer some low-cost images, such as: Fotolia, Shutterstock, iStockphoto, Dreamstime, Bigstock, Getty Images." See links to other good resources here: Finding photographs and other images (
Can I use that image? How to legally use copyrighted images (Infographic, Samantha Lile, Visme, 5-31-17) An easer-to-read-online infographic of Can I Use that Picture? The Terms, Laws, and Ethics for Using Copyrighted Images (Curtis Newbold, The Visual Communication Guy, 7-14-14), which you can order and hang on the wall.
Why Photos of the Eiffel Tower at Night Are Illegal (this 4.5 minute video provides an interesting explanation of panorama rights. "The European union allows its members to not have a Freedom of Panorama clause in their copyright laws, so France doesn't have one. As of 2016 you are allowed to take images and videos of copyrighted buildings for personal use, but any commercial use is copyright violation." You have to be careful not to use photos of buildings nearby the Eiffel Tower "designed by architects that are either alive or died within the last 70 years, so they still are copyrighted and the architects could sue." The "Eiffel Tower, its likeness, its design, everything is in the public domain" (because the architect died in 1923) "However, the lights on the Eiffel Tower weren't installed until 1985, therefore, since they're considered an artistic work, they are well within their copyright term." Design of the Eiffel tower is now public domain, but the lighting is in copyright."
Excuses, Excuses (PDF, Carolyn E. Wright, whose Photo Attorney blog Photo Attorney serves photographers' legal needs.) Copyright infringers offer excuses, outlined here, to avoid liability but these excuses don't stand up in court. Clear permissions!
American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), trade association for photographers whose work is available for publication. Note their pricing guides.
American Society of Picture Professionals (ASPP's Find a Pro database helps you find its members so you can work and network with professionals who create, edit, license, manage and publish visual content)
Artists Rights Society provides support for copyright licensing and monitoring for over 50,000 visual artists and estates of visual artists, museums (painters, sculptors, photographers, architects, and so on)
Art Museum Image Consortium (AMICO)
Digital Image Rights Computator (DIRC), a chart from the Visual Resources Association (VRA)
Art Resource (licensing reproduction rights for fine arts images)
• Cartoon syndicates include these two large organizations: Cartoon Stock and King Features (note difference between reprint rights and licensing).
Design & Artists Copyright Society (DACS, UK)
Images: a guide to finding visual resources (Copyright, Cornell University)
Photographers Index (for locating photographers worldwide)
Photography Registry (helps locate photographers so you can clear rights with them)
Visual Arts and Galleries Association (VAGA)
Intellectual Property and the Arts (College Art Association)
Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel Corporation (Cases of Interest) Issue: Whether color transparencies of paintings which themselves are in the public domain are sufficiently original to receive copyright protection. "If the courts did not require a genuine difference between the underlying work and the copy for which protection is sought, individuals would be able to monopolize public domain art works. Such protection would undermine the underlying interest of promoting the arts."
The MILE Project's Step-by-Step Guide to Clearing Rights for Digital Image Users. (MILE: Metadata Image Library Exploitation. The MILE Project "wants to make art available to everyone by improving metadata."
Where to Get Photos For Your Blog (Meghan Ward's Writerland, 6-21-12, with a guide to all the Creative Commons logos and codes)
“Yes, You Can!” – Where You Don’t Even Need ‘Fair Use’ (Peter Jaszi, Washington College of Law, American University, on CMSI, Center for Media & Social Impact). The answers to some of filmmakers’ most common clearance questions don’t really lie in the realm of “fair use” at all, but fall under the heading of “free use.” Some examples: 'Buildings that can be seen from public areas can be filmed for any purpose. Although there has been copyright in architectural works in the United States since 1990, the Copyright Act includes an exemption for filming. It doesn’t matter whether the building is the subject of the film or an incidental background.' and 'For most documentary projects, filmmakers don’t have to be concerned about the so-called “right of publicity” that exists under some state laws. The cases (and sometimes the statutes themselves) make it clear that the right bars only the commercial exploitation of celebrities’ “persona,” and First Amendment-protected expressive uses are specifically exempted.'
How To Track Down the Owner or Source of an Image to Get Permission to Use It on Your Own Website (LA Wolfe, Web Marketing for Attorneys)
G.M. Used Graffiti in a Car Ad. Should the Artist Be Paid? (Alan Feuer, NY Times, 7-17-18) Rebranded as “aerosol art,” graffiti "has become a marketable commodity." After General Motors used Adrian Falkner’s Detroit mural in an ad campaign, the artist sued the company, claiming it had infringed on his work’s copyright. Feuer discusses a few such suits, and the complexity of the issue.
Getty Images sued over 'deceptive' licensing public domain images (Brittany Hellen, Digital Photography Review, 4-2-19) CixxFive Concepts, a digital marketing company based in Dallas, Texas, has filed a class action lawsuit against Getty Images over its alleged licensing of public domain images. The lawsuit alleges that Getty Images has been "...fraudulently claiming ownership of copyrights in public domain images (which no one owns) and selling fictitious copyright licenses for public domain images (which no one can legally sell), including operating an enterprise of third-party contributors to perpetrate this egregious scheme."
Getty Images Loses Major Case Brought by Photographer Daniel Morel (Oscar Michelen, Courtroom Strategy, 1-17-13)
Getty Images (& Other) Settlement Demand Letters. What to do when Getty sues you for infringement when you wrongly post an image on your website.
How to Respond to a Getty Images Extortion Letter (Steve Schlackman, Art Law Journal, 7-25-14). Follow-up to Tips (on same).
The Getty Images Copyright Demand Letter – Scam or Legit? We Explain (Anne P. Mitchell, The Internet Patrol, 6-2-11)
Getty makes 35 million photos free to use. "Millions of images - including famous shots of Marilyn Monroe and Barack Obama - will now be available without cost to blogs and social media sites. [Note: this doesn't apply to books!] The photos will be "framed" with a code that links back to Getty's website.
Tin Eye(reverse image search -- powerful image recognition products and services)
Creative Commons licensed pics (search for something you can get clearance on)
Introducing Open Access at The Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York--see Met policy here). Art museums introducing Creative Common Zero licenses (CC0) for art works believed to be in the public domain include Walters Art Museum in Baltimore and Rijks Museum in Amsterdam. Please let me know if someone publishes a listing of such museums so I can link to it here.
Adding to Your Editorial Tool Kit: Image Research and Permissions (Kris Ashley, Veronica Oliva, and Tim Cox, panel for Bay Area Editors' forum, notes by Micah Standley, 3-24-09)

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Clearing rights for music is not for sissies. The two components of a sound recording, for example, are the underlying musical composition and the actual sound recording; each has its own copyright, and often there are two or more different copyright owners. There are also probably separate copyrights for the music and lyrics, not to mention synchronization rights (to embed copyrighted music in an audio-visual production), public performance licenses, and so on. On top of which, the music industry is generally aggressive about policing the world for wrongful uses of music or lyrics, and generally expect that you clear even a single line of music or lyrics. And if you use material without permission, you can expect heavy fines, lawsuits, etc. Keeping things simple, you might want to produce your own music; once a piece of music is recorded or performed, clearing permissions gets more complicated.

        Traditionally one tried searching the ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and BMI song title databases by song, title, songwriter, or publisher for information on songs and songwriters registered with these performing rights societies (liner notes on music may tell you to which society a writer belongs). If you didn't find a songwriter registered with ASCAP, you checked with BMI or SESAC ("Performing Rights" -- both owned by the music industry). Now (late 2020) there is Songview, a new comprehensive data platform, with which ASCAP and BMI are working together to make copyright data more accessible and transparent for all of their partners. Songs that are not represented by ASCAP may be represented by the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA). BMI and SESAC handle some rights, and the Harry Fox Agency (the chief music licensing agency, especially for recording rights) collects royalties from recording rights for most publishers. For groups producing live productions, remember that recording those performances produces a derivative work, for which additional rights must be cleared.
Songview "ASCAP and BMI are working together to make copyright data more accessible and transparent for all of our partners." (Dec. 2020)
ASCAP And BMI Partner to Launch Songview, A New Copyright Data Platform (Robert Dye, American Songwriter, 12-21-2020) "Now, the BMI and ASCAP online databases display the breakdown of ownership shares by ASCAP share percentage, BMI share percentage, and shares listed as Other, if applicable. Additional information featured in Songview includes: Songwriters and their affiliations, Publishers, Performers, alternate song titles, ISWC and IPI codes, BMI and ASCAP song IDs (if applicable), and publisher contact information. Reconciled songs appear with a green checkmark to indicate that ASCAP and BMI agree on the information and have the same data in each of their respective systems."
Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video (Center for Media & Social Impact)
Who Owns That Song? How to Research Copyright Ownership (Jamie Davis-Ponce, SonicBids blog, 3-16-15) Very helpful explanations of who to go to for what at these organizations/sites:
---ASCAP ACE Repertory
---Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI) enables real-time access to licensed Christian music and media while at once easing the burden of administration--a fair and equitable distribution channel for Christian churches, etc.
---ISWC (International Standard Musical Work Code)
---U.S. Copyright Office's online public catalog
---SONIC (Sound ONline Inventory and Catalog) The Library of Congress audio collection of information about audio works that have been registered for copyright purposes.
---WorldCat (designed to help you find items in libraries near you)
---AllMusic Tons of info, including credits, and you can listen to samples.
---Permissions clearance information (Copyright Kids) Contact info for music publishers, record companies, and for clearing film and television clips and books, photos, photos and illustrations. Sample permissions letters for music and movies.
The difference between ASCAP and BMI (Todd Brabec of ASCAP's excellent response on how they pay, how they split income up -- scroll down for more info about the life cycle of a song (mechanical royalties, remixes, samples, mash-ups, TV and film licensing, etc.)
Congress, It’s Time to Pay Musicians (Kabir Segal, NY Times, Opinion, 1-28-18) See important update under Important copyright issues: "The Orrin G. Hatch-Bob Goodlatte Music Modernization Act (MMA) " makes important revisions to copyright law to accommodate the changes in music licensing practices that resulted from the rise of digital music streaming services."
White Paper on Remixes, First Sale, and Statutory Damages (PDF, subtitle: Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy, Internet Policy Task Force, Department of Commerce, January 2016). Worth looking at, but as with the Conference on Fair Use held decades earlier, this is a case of the Patent and Trademark Office (executive branch of government) dealing with a copyright issue, which is the bailiwick of the legislative branch of government.
How to Get Permission to Use Song Lyrics in Your Book (Virginia Lloyd, Aerogramme Writers Studio. 5-19-13)
Music Rights Clearance: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You (Craig McTurk, Independent Documentary Association, 1-1-2000) Explains Sync Rights and Performance Rights, among other things.
A Practical Guide to Licensing and Clearances (PDF, GlobalImageWorks)
Can I Use Song Lyrics in My Manuscript? (Brian A. Klems, Writers Digest, 5-13-08) 'According to our legal expert Amy Cook, there isn’t any specific law about how much you can take under fair use, but it’s common for the music industry to say you need permission for even one line of a song. “The music industry is pretty vigilant about song lyrics,” Cook says. “This is especially true if you’re using the lyrics in a novel to progress the story or add atmosphere. If you’re a music critic reviewing a CD, you have more leeway under fair use.” ... "As for song titles, however, titles of any kind (book, song) aren’t copyrightable. But they occasionally can be subject to trademark or unfair competition laws."
Is It Fair Use? 7 Questions to Ask Before Using Copyrighted Material (Brad Frazer on Jane Friedman's blog, 8-28-15) See the Q&A example for determining if it's fair use to use the lyrics of "Little Red Corvette" by Prince in a novel you are writing.
How to Use Lyrics Without Paying a Fortune or a Lawyer (Helen Sedwick on The Book Designer, 3-27-15)
Blake Morrison on the cost of quoting lyrics (Blake Morrison, The Guardian, 4-30-10). 'I still have the invoices. For quoting one line of "Jumpin' Jack Flash": £500. For one line of "Wonderwall": £535'
The Right to Terminate: a Musicians’ Guide to Copyright Reversion (Fact Sheet, Future of Music Coalition and Adam Holofcenter, 2-16-12) A “second bite at the apple” for musicians and songwriters. "Unlike most countries, the United States copyright law provides musicians and songwriters an opportunity to regain ownership of works that they transferred to outside entities, such as record labels and music publishers. Congress established this “second bite at the apple” for authors of creative works after a period of 35 years. “Termination of transfer” is not automatic, however, and there are certain steps creators must take to regain the rights to their works."
Regaining ownership of copyright: traps for the unwary in UK and US copyright law (ReedSmith, 3-15-18) "The copyright laws of both the UK and the US include provisions for reversion and for termination of transfers of copyright that are only too easy to overlook when conducting due diligence or other chain of title investigations in commercial transactions. Music publishers in the UK were rudely reminded of the provisions in the early 1980s, when they found that a large number of compositions they thought they controlled for the full term of copyright had in fact either already reverted to composers’ estates and then been put into the hands of Redwood Music or would revert and then fall into Redwood’s control 25 years after the death of the author. The US provisions have been the subject of more recent litigation, most notably in the 2017 decision of the English court concerning the Duran Duran copyrights, the subject of one of our Client Alerts last year."
So You Want to Use Song Lyrics in Your Novel? 5 Steps to Getting Rights to Lyrics (Anne R. Allen's blog entry presents Michael Murphy's "Five Steps to Obtain Song Lyric Rights." Using music lyrics was natural for his back-to-Woodstock novel, Goodbye Emily. Murphy "found that some lyrics aren’t as expensive as the ones Blake Morrison [previous entry] mentioned, and it isn't that hard to get permission. Lyricists are our fellow writers and they deserve to get paid too. (And don’t forget you need permission to use recorded music in your book trailer—even if the music is in the public domain—because musicians deserve to be paid as well.)"
Frequently asked questions about music copyright (PD Info). See also Music, Copyright, and the Public Domain.
Types of Copyright (BMI on public performing right, public performance license, reproduction right, mechanical license, synchronization license, digital performance right in sound recordings
CD Baby Pro vs. TuneCore Publishing (The Full Report) (Ari's Take, 5-15-13) Provides definitions and practical advice useful for the rights owners: Publishing splits: For every song, there is a writer's cut (50%), split amongst everyone who wrote the song, and there is a publisher's cut (50%). Performance Royalties: Anytime there is a "public performance" of your song, you are owed a royalty. Performing Rights Organizations (PROs): ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, SOCAN, etc., organizations that collect performance royalties (NOT mechanical royalties - see below). Mechanical Royalties: When someone buys a song (or streams it) the songwriter is owed money. Sync Licensing: When a TV show wants to use your song, the show pays you a Sync License (composition) fee and a Master Use License (sound recording) fee for the rights to use the recording. Admin Publishing administrators who collect royalties for your songs. But read the whole page!
What Artists Should Know About Songtrust (Recording artist Brian Hazard explains the math and the who's who.) "Did you know that when a song you wrote is sold as a download, you’re due a mechanical royalty? In the US, that royalty is paid through your aggregator (CD Baby, TuneCore, etc). Internationally, you need a publishing administrator like Songtrust to collect it." But that's just the beginning of the explanation. Read it all, song rights owners.
Who owns your music publishing rights and how does the money get split? (Chris Robley, DIY Musician, 7-10-18) Your music publishing rights and you: What you own and who owes you royalties. If you’re a songwriter, a composer, a lyricist, or anyone else who creates original music, and you’ve not signed a deal with a music publishing company — YOU own your music publishing rights! What exactly are those rights?
Artists House Music, The Life of a Song. Watch video from this fascinating panel discussion held at a 2008 meeting of the American Bar Association’s Sports & Entertainment Law Forum, the panelists discuss how compositions generate fees and mechanical royalties from merchandising uses. Examples cited are lyrics printed on clothing as well as compositions and master recordings licensed for singing toys and a musical toothbrush. Scroll down right for more specific bits.
Rosanne Cash Testifies Before Congress In Defense Of Artists’ Rights (American Songwriter, 6-24-14) "There is a gap in copyright protection for sound recordings created before 1972 which allows digital streaming services to refuse to pay older artists even for digital performances of those sound recordings. Works recorded prior to 1972 are protected by state laws so they don’t enjoy the digital sound recording performance royalty provisions of the federal copyright act."
More Calls to Fix Music Royalty Rules, but No Accord (Ben Sisario, NY Times, 6-25-14) "The most vigorously debated topic was AM/FM radio stations’ longstanding exemption under United States law from paying royalties to performers and record companies. These stations pay songwriters, but, unlike stations in almost every other country, do not pay for the recordings they play. This has long angered record companies, but the law has become especially contested in the age of Internet and satellite radio, which pay both kinds of royalties."
How Musicians Get Paid (or Don’t) in the Digital Age (Carla Lucchetta, The Agenda, TVO, 7-10-18, in Canada) “You can die of exposure,” says Denise Donlon, a former music executive for Sony and CBS. Due to illegal downloading, musicians are now promised exposure instead of cash for their music, and it is harder than ever to transform renown into royalties. What do you do when everyone wants your work, but no one is paying up? In this video, taped when the author appeared on The Agenda to discuss her memoir, Fearless as Possible, Donlon discusses the digital disruption of the Canadian music industry. Musician Miranda Mulholland says, "A lot of things that we have in our Copyright Act and that our [Canadian] government has put in place were put in place to help start tech companies, to help make sure they had footing in a new environment. The environment has changed so drastically over the last 20 years — we really need to update them and take a look at who they're actually protecting. Because now we're protecting Silicon Valley, and we're not protecting creators."
Rosanne Cash: Streaming is “dressed-up piracy” (Kurt Hanson's Radio&Internet News, 10-2-14) “If you download and pay, it’s the same as buying a record. If you stream, it’s just dressed-up piracy.”
Frequently asked questions about music ( For example, Can I legally make CDs or tapes of recordings for others so long as I don't charge or otherwise make a profit? Do I need a license if I want to record and distribute a CD of myself singing a popular tune? Do you need a license to play music over the radio? Do I need permission to upload music to my web site? How much does it cost to get a mechanical license? a synch license?
USA Copyright Law for Sound Recordings (PD Info on public domain and royalty-free music). "The Copyright Act of 1976 created a copyright category called Sound Recordings that now provides federal copyright protection for CD's, MP3's, WAV files, records, and other music recordings made after February 15, 1972." and this: "...pre-1972 sound recordings have no federal copyright protection, but they are still well protected under state law. Virtually every sound recording in the USA is copyright protected at least until the year 2067." That's what it says, on a site geared to public domain and royalty-free music. The music itself may be public domain, but the sound recording of it (say, "Mary Had a Little Lamb") may be copyright protected under state law.
Mechanical license and compulsory mechanical license, explained (Wikipedia entry)
They Never Renewed: Songs You Never Dreamed Was in the Public Domain (The BZ/Rights Stuff & Tom Nichols) 96 songs from the 50s and 60s that made the Billboard Pop Charts and are public domain because rights were not renewed (during a period when renewal was necessary).
The Mini-Encyclopedia of Public Domain Songs, 1998 by Barbara Zimmerman and the Bz-Rights Stuff Inc Staff
License Songs for Your YouTube Videos at $1.99 Each (Samuel Axon, Mashable, 6-28-10)
Copyright Office notice of compulsory licenses (you can see who's getting mechanical licenses for what song, for a two-year period)
Who Owns That Song? How to Research Copyright Ownership (Jamie Davis-Ponce, Sonicbids blog, 3-16-15)
Who Owns the Rights to a Song? (wiseGeek)
***• How Performing Rights Organizations Pay Royalties to Artists (and how to make sure you’re getting paid) (Christiane Cargill Kinney, guest blog on The DIY Musician, 11-8-12). Understanding How Independent Artists Can Get The Most Out of Their Royalty Payments. Writes Kinney, "Performing Rights Organizations, also known as “PROs,” pay revenues to writers and publishers for public performances of their music, primarily through radio, television, and live performances. In the United States, the PROs are ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC. Each of these organizations negotiate and collect license fees from various entities that publicly perform music, and then they distribute royalty payments to their members. Understanding how the PROs calculate and pay revenues to their members is important to consider when deciding which PRO to join. Each of the PROs have detailed explanations of how they pay royalties to their artists, including foreign royalty payments and payments for internet public performances beyond the scope of this article, which you can read in full at the following links:
ASCAP payment system –
BMI (How We Pay Royalties)–
SESAC (Everything You Need To Know About Getting Paid)–
Using copyrighted material in your video YouTube's webpage about clearing permissions, fair use and fair dealing, etc. As for "derivative works," or remixes, it advises: "The phrase 'derivative works' refers to creations such as remixes, where you might take images or sound from a recording and edit it into something new. Although the new video is your own creation, the images and sound you've used still belong to someone else. It doesn't matter if you recorded it for free from television, purchased a DVD, purchased a video game, or recorded it yourself at an event—you may still need permission from the copyright holder(s) of the material you drew upon to make your new creation." See video Remix Culture: Fair Use Is Your Friend
10 Things You Need to Know About Placing Music on TV and in Films (Jason Blume, BMI, Songwriter 101, 4-25-14)
Lawsuit Seeking Greater Digital Royalties for Eminem’s Music Is Settled (Ben Sesario, NY Times, 10-30-12). Should royalties for downloads be treated the same as CDs or as licensed music, which pays substantially higher royalties? An important lawsuit on an important issue.
Mary Odden on John Prine (4-9-2020) On his death. "I read, maybe around the time of the album Honky Chateau, that he wrote poetry and he wrote songs and that they were two very different things....There is an essential unfairness between the practices and laws that govern the use of song lyrics and literature....Tradition and settled precedence of law give me the right to quote the actual words of not only Shakespeare or Twain, but contemporaries from Plath to Pollan....But if I quote John Prine or Joni Mitchell, or the “Blue, blue windows behind the stars” of Neil Young, thoughts arguably driven deeper into my cerebral cortex in my late-20th century coming of age than even words in books, then the song-hoarding harpies of ASCAP or BMI or another music publisher can sue the living bejeesus out of my now-victim publisher—and me....Worse, perhaps, a singer who performs another person’s songs is supposed to pay up, or else."
Fight Builds Over Online Royalties (Ben Sisario, Media & Advertising, NY Times, 11-4-12). A fight about the way digital royalty rates are set "pits the survival of Pandora Media and other Internet radio services against the diminished paychecks of musicians in the digital age....with streaming music starting to account for a significant chunk of the music industry’s revenue, and Pandora now a scrutinized public company, the issue has touched a nerve as never before. " See Copyright Royalty Board .
Clearing rights:
AARC (Alliance of Artists and Recording Companies) (protecting the rights of featured artists and sound recording companies in the areas of home recording and rental rights)
ASCAP (clearing rights for music and lyrics). See How to clear music for films and other and other frequently asked questions about ASCAP licensing and ASCAP Keeps You in Tune with the Copyright Law .
BMI (Broadcast Music Incorporated).
Compulsory License for Making and Distributing Phonorecords U.S. Copyright Office, Circular 73).
The Difference Between ASCAP and BMI (informative video interview with Todd Braher. One of many really helpful explanations on site of Artists House Music (helping musicians and music entrepreneurs create sustainable careers). Check out featured articles and video interviews
Harry Fox Agency (HFA). Click on "Songfile" for online song search and mechanical licensing tool, for if you want to make 2,500 or fewer copies of a recording as a CD, cassette, LP, or digital download)
IMRO (Irish Music Rights Organisation)
NMPA (National Music Publishers' Association), representing over 800 publishers.
PD Info (a site to help you identify public domain songs and music, royalty-free music you can license, and public domain sheet music reprints)
RightsFlow (a licensing and royalty service provider). Limelight, a service of RightsFlow, simplifies the process of clearing cover songs. Interview with Michael Kauffman of RightsFlow. Limelight "allows artists to secure the necessary mechanical license for 100% of the publishing spectrum and also ensures that they are compliant with the law and pay the songwriter/publisher 100% of royalties due."
SESAC (Society of European Stage Authors and Composers),performing rights organization
615 Music (where video people can get a blanket license to use songs from a 200 CD set of professional music)
Songfile (licenses cover songs for physical and digital formats such as CDs, downloads, ringtones and interactive streams)
Sound Exchange, collects and distributes digital performance royalties for featured recording artists and sound recording copyright owners (usually a record label) when their sound recordings are performed on digital cable and satellite television
Zoom License(music licensing for videography and digital imaging). See more at site of
Wedding and Event Videographers Association International (, professional wedding and event videographers
Frequently asked questions about public domain music.
Glossary of Music Licensing Terms (Music Supervisor)
Music Licensing for Museums (PDF factsheet, American Association of Museums)
I don't personally know how useful this fairly costly book is: The Mini-Encyclopedia of Public Domain Songs by Barbara Zimmerman (1998)
Music Top Myths(CSUSA--one example of a myth that is untrue: If I upload to my Internet site music from CDs that I have purchased, I am not violating copyright law).
Recording lectures: legal considerations ( Joint Information Systems Committee, or Jisc, UK) Clarifying the legal aspects of recording lectures at UK further and higher education institutions.


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Adding metadata to photos:
Please tell me about clear explanations that are not linked to here.
How to Add Copyright Management Information to Your Photos (Carolyn E. Wright, Photo Attorney, 6-22-11)
Why You Should Add Metadata To Your Photos (Carolyn E. Wright, Photo Attorney, 10-7-08)
Watermarking Slideshow PDF Files (Sean McCormack, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 8-2-07)
Why metalog (Controlled Vocabulary)
Mind Your Phraseology (Christina Wodtke explains "controlled vocabulary," Digital Web Magazine 8-13-02)
Examples of photo indexing for an electronic archive (Visual Edge '98)

• Clearing rights and finding rightsholders (licensing organizations and rights clearinghouses)
• Clearing rights for music and sound
• Clearing rights for books, scripts, screenplays
• Permission and releases
See also the section on Fair use

• Clearing rights and finding rightsholders (licensing organizations and rights clearinghouses)
• Clearing rights in visual arts
• Clearing rights for books, scripts, screenplays
• Permission and releases
See also the section on Fair use

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Anthologies, What you need to know (whether you are assembling the anthology or appearing in it)
Authors Coalition of America, LLC (an association of independent authors' organizations representing text writers, songwriters, visual artists, illustrators and photographers -- created in 1994 to repatriate and distribute the creator's share of foreign non-title-specific royalty payments for American works photocopied abroad). See list of coalition's member organizations.
Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS, United Kingdom)
The Authors Registry (a clearinghouse or payment agent for organizations wishing to distribute payments to individual U.S.-resident authors)
Book Publishers, Major U.S., Rights and Permissions Departments (with consoldation, there are five major U.S. book publishers, and many smaller publishers, many of them not listed here -- for those, search for "Rights and Permissions" and the name of publisher from whose work you wish to use material):
---HarperCollins (including Basic Books, Lippincott, Pearson, Perseus)
---Penguin Random House
---Macmillan (Farrar, Straus and Giroux and its divisions, imprints and affiliates including Hill and Wang, Faber and Faber, Inc., Scientific American Books, Sarah Crichton Books, and North Point Press)
---Simon & Schuster (see instructions for Free Press, Pocket Books, Scribner, Touchstone, Wall Street Journal Books
---Hachette Book Group (Little, Brown; Grand Central; Perseus Books)

Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO)
Christian Copyright Licensing International
Copyright Clearance Center (academic and business rights licensing)
Creative Commons (simple, standardized alternatives to the “all rights reserved” paradigm of traditional copyright)
Dramatists Guild of America, Inc. (professional association of American playwrights)
Dramatists Play Service, Inc (rights for plays and musicals)
FOB (Firms Out of Business), a database of publishing, literary and other firms out of business, run jointly by the Harry Ransom Center and University of Reading Library
Hollywood Creative Directory (contact info for the film, television and new media industries)
Locating copyright holders (Lloyd J. Jassin, Excellent links, by category. (I didn't check to see if they're all good, but if a link no longer works search for the name of the group listed.)
Movie Licensing USA (get license to show copyrighted movies in your school or library -- legally)
Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC) (offers a blanket license for the noncommercial exhibition of movies -- to corporations, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations)
Publishers Marketplace (find agents, editors, publishers, packagers and writers)
Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization (rights for live plays)
Samuel French (rights for plays and musicals)
Search copyright records
Society of Authors Guide to Copyright and Permissions (UK), guidelines, plus a good list of links to places in which to conduct diligent search for rights owners.
WATCH (Writers, Artists and Their Copyright Holders, run jointly by the Harry Ransom Center and University of Reading Library.
Writers Guild of America, West (WGA), which provides a valuable service:, WGA's official script and screenplay registration service and "the world's number one intellectual property service." Mail them your script,and when they get it they seal it in an envelope, record the date and time, and send you a numbered certificate, which gives you a dated record of your claim to authorship of a particular literary material--useful in court should there be any unauthorized use of the work. They seem to accept nonscreenplay manuscripts as well.


You may be able to find SOME of these books in your local library (or through inter-library loan).
The Copyright Handbook: What Every Writer Needs to Know (13th edition) by William S. Strong. Earlier edition was The Copyright Book: A Practical Guide by William S. Strong (MIT Press, 13th edition)
Carmack's Guide to Copyright & Contracts: A Primer for Genealogists, Writers & Researchers by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack
Clearance & Copyright: Everything You Need to Know for Film and Television (4th ed.) by Michael Donaldson + Lisa A. Callif
The Copyright Permission and Libel Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers by Lloyd J. Jassin and Steven C. Schechter
Copyright and Permissions: What Every Writer and Editor Should Know a 62-page booklet by freelance permissions editor Elsa Peterson (publisher Editorial Freelancers Association)
Getting Permission: How To License & Clear Copyrighted Materials Online & Off (Richard Stim, Nolo Press, 6th ed., an incredibly helpful book with special chapters and practical advice on music rights, artwork, trademarks, website permissions, academic permissions, and fair use--plus CD and 32 forms for clearing permissions of various kinds, linking agreements, interview releases, art for hire, etc.)
A Guide to Oral History and the Law (2nd ed.) by John A. Neuenschwander (Oxford Oral History, with chapters on legal release agreements, subpoenas and FOIA requests, defamation, privacy issues, copyright, oral history on the Internet, institutional review boards (IRB), and duty to report a crime, with sample legal release forms, oral history evaluation guidelines (Oral History Association), and more.
Hollywood's Copyright Wars: From Edison to the Internet by Peter Decherney. U.S. book publishers started as pirates, using British novels, such as those by Dickens, without paying for rights; in the 1930s they waged an unsuccessful PR campaign to criminalize library borrowing. Changes in copyright law made recorded music, radio, and cable legitimate, when they had been considered piracy (from live entertainment). We have a pervasive "permissions culture" now, that is strangling documentary-makers.
Hollywood vs. The Author ed. by Stephen Jay Schwartz, good reading ("inside Hollywood") with 19 authors writing about the joys and woes, angst and regret and humor of selling your book to Hollywood. Contributors include Michael Connelly, Lawrence Block, T. Jefferson Parker, Tess Gerritsen, Jonathan Kellerman, Naomi Hirahara, and Alexandra Sokoloff. A 'must read' if you are thinking of selling your book to Hollywood.
The Copyright Wars: Three Centuries of Trans-Atlantic Battle by Peter Baldwin. "Why does current U.S. copyright sentiment accord more with the views of Jack Valenti than of Thomas Jefferson? Understanding the fault lines of copyright in the digital age means returning to the debates of the 1830s, if not to even earlier struggles at the Enlightenment's dawn. Nobody could tell the tale with more consummate skill than does Peter Baldwin
Managing Intellectual Property in the Book Publishing Industry (World Intellectual Property Organization) Booklet No. 1 on Creative Industries. Part of a WIPOseries on creative industries, useful for its insights both to publishers and authors in this tour de force of cultural history."~David Nimmer, author of Nimmer on Copyright
Model Trade Book Contract and Commentary. The Authors Guild, revised edition, a particularly helpful reference guide explaining desirable clauses (and why) in trade book (not textbook) writers’ book contracts--updated in 2014 for the digital age (e.g., about ebook rights, etc.) Available free to members of the Authors Guild (and maybe worth joining for it alone).
Permissions, A Survival Guide: Blunt Talk about Art as Intellectual Property by Susan M. Bielstein
The Permission Seeker's Guide Through the Legal Jungle: Clearing Copyrights, Trademarks and Other Rights for Entertainment and Media Productions by Joy R. Butler, an entertainment and business attorney, on "using someone else's intellectual property for financial gain."
A Practical Guide to Software Licensing for Licensees and Licensors (6th edition) by H. Ward Classen (published by American Bar Association)
Reclaiming Fair Use: How to Put Balance Back in Copyright by Patricia Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi. "This is a useful work—thoughtful, clear, and generally free of legal jargon—and deserves to be read by scholars, bloggers, documentarians, journalists, and everyone else, since we are all touched daily by copyrights. They remind readers that copyright was created to benefit the public, not to enrich producers...”~Library Journal. "...clear, accessible and pithy and will be particularly helpful for creative artists, copyright users and legal neophytes.”~Times Higher Education
Self-Publisher's Legal Handbook: The Step-by-Step Guide to the Legal Issues of Self-Publishing by Helen Sedwick (self-published author and business attorney)
The Writer's Legal Companion: The Complete Handbook for the Working Writer, third edition, by Brad Bunnin and Peter Beren (Writes Dan Poynter: "covers contracts (intimidation, negotiating, terms), publishing in magazines (contracts, serializations), collaborations (problem areas, alternatives), agent relationships (finding, contracting), defamation (intrusive fact gathering, invasion of privacy, libel), copyright (the old law and the new, establishing, categories, length, derivative & collective works, notice, registration), protecting copyright (proving infringement, what to do), taxes & the freelance writer, resources (where to find a lawyer, how to choose, fees & bills), business (editor's role, the marketing process, non-traditional sales, premiums, special sales, the book trade, selling to libraries, subsidiary rights), new technology (eBooks, downloads, electronic media, negotiating), and much more."
The Copyright Handbook: What Every Writer Needs to Know by Stephen Fishman
The Writer's Legal Guide: An Authors Guild Desk Reference, 4th edition, by Tad Crawford and Kay Murray, as described by Authors Guild.
Legal Guide for the Visual Artist by Tad Crawford
Tales from the Drawing Board: IP wisdom and woes from Scotland’s creative industries (PDF online, Melinda Grewar, Barbara Townley, and Eilidh Young, Institute for Capitalising on Creativity, University of St Andrews, 2015) Case studies and issues involving computer games, dance & theatre, fashion and product design, film & television, music & publishing.

I have not looked at these books, but a couple of people have found them helpful:
Contracts Companion for Writers by Tonya Evans-Walls
Business and Legal Forms for Authors and Self Publishers by Tad Crawford.


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Clearing permissions

Principles as well as permissions and release forms

A Basic Guide to Getting Permissions + Sample Permissions Letter "Do you need to request permission?" (7-10-17) -- Jane Friedman's excellent decision tree, compressing essential dates and other info about U.S. copyright, public domain, fair use, etc., to decide "how to legally quote others in a commercial trade publication." Includes a sample permissions-request letter, plus links to permissions departments and information for the major U.S. publishers: HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, and Hachette. See also A Writer’s Guide to Permissions and Fair Use (Jane Friedman, 6-21-17)
Copyright Half-Truths: 12 Copyright Permission Myths (Lloyd J. Jassin, Copylaw--Publishing and Entertainment Law, 12-14-13)
Clearing Permissions FAQs (Association of American University Presses, or AAUP)
Copyright and Permissions (Publisher Wiley's primer for authors
When You Need Permission (Adrienne Montgomerie, Copyediting, 4-1-15) Emphasis: permissions in Canada.
Property and Model Releases (American Society of Media Photographers)
Sample talent release form, for video and other recordings (
Sample interview release form for oral history interviews (Smithsonian, FolkLife)
Getting releases signed in advance--before you start! When you are taping an interview or performance, or taking photos, or otherwise recording images for later use in a publication or production, be sure to read up first on which releases it makes sense to get in advance -- as you are conducting the interview or taking the picture, etc. I've provided links to some sample release forms below, but this is just to give you a sense of what is needed. You may want to consult a lawyer or at the very least a good professional organization or reference. (If I were doing photos, for example, I would consider joining ASMP, which does good rights education.) Among rights you do not want to violate: rights of privacy (using a nonpublic person's private information or images) or rights of publicity (using a person's image, voice, likeness, or name in a commercial endeavor); in some cases, rights of trademark; and of course claims of libel or slander (depending on what you record or photograph them doing), as well as claims of misuse of content. See
What Photographers Need to Know About Model Releases (Mindy Charski, Photo District News, 3-22-14) Excellent explanations, and, in passing, the practical realities of balancing various rights: First Amendment, publicity, promotion, privacy, etc. What exactly is "commercial use"? "A lot of times releases are used to make frictionless transactions."
Interviewer's Release Form (Veterans History Project, one of several forms and logs from VHP)
Interview Permission Form (University of Arizona Press)
Sample Interview Release (PDF, Duke University Press)
Templates for permission requests (University of Chicago Press, scroll down for templates for Text permission request, Art permission request (copyright permission), Art permission request (use permission)
Permission form for reprinting illustrations (Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University Press)
PROPERTY AND MODEL RELEASES (by Richard Weisgrau and Victor S. Perlman, ASMP, for images of real estate or personal property, including cars, pets, and works of art) and Why you need photo releases in advance(ASMP on rights of privacy, publicity, property, etc.)
Do I Really Need Model & Property Releases? (Sally Wiener Grotta, Wordsmiths, 11-24-06)
What's in a Release (ASMP)
Model Release for Adults (ASMP)
Model Release for a Minor Child (aSMP
Permission form for reprinting illustrations (Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University Press)
Sample Model Release Form (
Print release form FocusPoint Photography's release form allowing purchaser of high-resolution digital file from photography session to make prints for personal use; if FPP images are used for commercial or editorial purposes, permission must be sought.
Checklist of legal considerations for use in created videos (Wiley Publishers). See both checklist and links to Word docs for various release forms, including release forms for minors, music permission agreement, location release form, materials permission agreement)
• • Copyright and Permissions (Elsa Peterson, 62 pages,

Links to other resources on Writers and Editors website

Digital Millennium Copyright Act, DMCA Takedown Notices, Safe Harbors, and Related Issues


Signed into law in 1998, the DMCA is a U.S. copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). "It criminalizes production and dissemination of technology, devices, or services intended to circumvent measures that control access to copyrighted works (commonly known as digital rights management or DRM). It also criminalizes the act of circumventing an access control, whether or not there is actual infringement of copyright itself. In addition, the DMCA heightens the penalties for copyright infringement on the Internet." (Wikipedia)
DMCA contains a "safe harbor" clause for copyright liability, which relies upon a stringent take-down policy: If a website receives a cease and desist (C&D) or takedown notice and complies with that notice, it will not be held liable for damages. If it takes an "offending" link down, it can't be sued.

(In reality, some offending sites take down a site and soon after the same site pops up again with a new address.)
Senate Explores Changing DMCA (Roger Montti,Search Engine Journal, 12-4-2020) A Senate committee is investigating updating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), to modernize it to make it easier to protect copyrighted content while also defending fair use rights. Internet Archive offered vigorous response against proposed changes to Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The part relevant to "online publishers seeks to address differences in needs between smaller and larger stakeholders. What [Senator] Thom Tillis wants to do is streamline the takedown process and make it into a staydown system, where a copyright holder only needs to notify an Online Service Provider (OSP) once about infringing material. Thereafter, it becomes the OSPs responsibility to monitor for repeat infringements and take them down without having to burden the copyright holder." One proposal from copyrightholders: "Replace Takedown Notices with Staydown Notices."
OTI Condemns [Trump's] Executive Order That Would Promote, Not Prevent Censorship (Open Technology Institute, 5-28-2020) Don't censor my tweets, basically.  See David Greene's Twitter thread on Trump's EO ("The main thrust of the Executive Order is its attack on 47 USC § 230, the law that underlies the structure of our modern Internet and allows online services to host diverse forums for users’ speech.") and EFF's Twitter thread (Electronic Frontier Foundation) "The draft Executive Order disregards the 1st Amendment & improperly attempts to circumvent Congress by rewriting the law that underlies much of our modern Internet. It mischaracterizes existing law to punish platforms whose ability to curate content is constitutionally protected." See also DG's thread on possible advertising restrictions.
My Book Is Being Pirated! What Can I Do? (Melinda Clayton, Indies Unlimited, 6-8-15) Instructions on how and where to send a Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice and how to word it. See How to File a DMCA Takedown Notice (Sarah F. Hawkins, attorney), a template for filing a DMCA Takedown Notice.
Two Easy Steps for Using the DMCA Takedown Notice to Battle Copyright Infringement (Carolyn E. Wright,, for National Press Photographers Association, NPPA) Step 1: Finding the ISP that is hosting the website with your image. Step 2. Drafting your Takedown Notice. "So how do you find the hosting ISP? The Internet provides many options. A "who is" search on the website name, such as the one available at, may help. But another option, using a DNS lookup, such as, may provide better information
How to Remove a Pirate Site from a Google Search (Melinda Clayton, Indies Unlimited, 6-23-15)
Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act (OCILLA) (Wikipedia) 'OCILLA was passed as a part of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and is sometimes referred to as the "Safe Harbor" provision or as "DMCA 512" because it added Section 512 to Title 17 of the United States Code.'
Copyright Office DMCA Roundtables: Takeaways for Authors (Authors Guild, 5-25-16) Takeaway#1: Notice-and-takedown is just not working for authors. Takeaway #2: Courts have interpreted the DMCA to favor the tech sector. Takeaway #3: The DMCA has left original creators behind.
What is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)? (Wise Geek)
Takedown Hall of Shame (Electronic Frontier Foundation) Bogus copyright and trademark complaints have threatened all kinds of creative expression on the Internet. EFF's Hall Of Shame collects the worst of the worst.
Copyright Office Finds Aspects of the DMCA “Unbalanced” in Favor of Online Service Providers (Haynes and Boone LLP, Lexology, 5-27-2020) "An interesting blog about 512 protections."
The Digital Millennnium Copyright Act of 1998 (U.S. Copyright Office summary, Dec. 1998)
Don’t Lose Your DMCA Safe Harbor Protection! (James Gatto, Law of the Level, SheppardMullin, 11-15-16) Alas, I learned of this 2-17-18)
The Ultimate Guide to Fair Use and Copyrights for Filmmakers (Ron Dawson, Frame-io Insider, 8-30-17) "When is it okay to use a song, or a photo, or a movie clip, etc., and be within the bounds of the law? And what about all those thousands of videos uploaded to YouTube and Vimeo every week? How are they able to get away with what appear to be copyright violations?...A key aspect of the DMCA is the limitation of liability for internet companies with regards to copyrighted works distributed on the internet (e.g. sites like YouTube and Vimeo are not held liable for the gajillion copyright violations performed by others who use their services, so long as they respond immediately to copyright holders’ requests for action against violators").
What To Do When Google Bans Your Site Because of a Bogus DMCA Take-Down Notice (Sarah Bird,, 7-13-08)
Online Service Providers (Copyright Office's explanation of who can acquire a Service Provider Designation of Agent to Receive Notification of Claims of Infringement. (Here's a Directory of Service Provider Agents for Notification of Claims of Infringement. The Copyright Office has a new fully-electronic online system through which service providers can more efficiently submit and update, and the public can more easily search for and find, designated agents for DMCA takedown notices. Any service provider that has previously designated an agent with the Office will have until December 31, 2017 to submit a new designation electronically through the new online registration system.
Bad Google DMCA Takedown Is Hurting Us, Hosting Site Says (Andy, TF, or TorrentFreak, 3-30-14) Copyright notices are designed to take down infringing content, but in some cases they do much more than that. The operator of a file-hosting service says that an abuse of the DMCA means that his site has been disappeared by Google, and as a result thousands of members are being lost.
DMCA “Takedown” Notices: Why “Takedown” Should Become “Take Down and Stay Down” and Why It’s Good for Everyone (Stephen Carlisle, Nova Southeastern University, 7-23-14)
Copyscape, a helpful tool for searching the Internet for misappropriation of your text and images.
How to report violations on Twitter (send a DMCA takedown notice to Twitter's legal department--telling them the date you created the material being used and the date you first posted it online (or in print), provide screenshots or other evidence, and enclose your correspondence with the party misappropriating the material).
Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act (OCILLA) (Wikipedia's helpful explanation of the "Safe Harbor" provision of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
Me and the DMCA: An Author’s Take on Takedowns (E.A. Haltom,, Authors Guild, 11-11-15) Providing some help for self-published authors to prevent piracy of their ebooks (in the form of offers of free downloads of your book, etc.).
EFF Asks Supreme Court To Review ‘Dancing Baby’ Copyright Case (Electronic Frontier Foundation) EFF sued Universal on Lenz’s behalf, arguing that the company’s claim of infringement didn’t pass the laugh test and was just the kind of improper, abusive DMCA targeting of lawful material that so often threatens free expression on the Internet. The DMCA includes provisions designed to prevent abuse of the takedown process and allows people like Lenz to sue copyright holders for bogus takedowns.
Copyright Office DMCA Roundtables: Takeaways for Authors (Authors Guild, 5-25-16)
The $105 Fix That Could Protect You From Copyright-Troll Lawsuits (David Kravets, Wired, 10-27-10). "Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a website enjoys effective immunity from civil copyright liability for user content, provided they promptly remove infringing material at the request of a rightsholder. That’s how sites like YouTube are able to exist, and why allows users to post comments to our stories without fear that a single user’s cut-and-paste will cost us $150,000 in court. But to dock in that legal safe harbor, a site has to, among other things, register an official contact point for DMCA takedown notices, a process that involves filling out a form and mailing a check" to the U.S. Copyright Office. Advises Kravets: "If you run a U.S. blog or a community site that accepts user content, you can register a DMCA agent by downloading this form (.pdf) and sending $105 and the form to Copyright RRP, Box 71537, Washington, D.C., 20024."
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (PDF, summary by U.S.Copyright Office).
The Takedown Project, a collaborative effort housed at UC-Berkeley School of Law and the American Assembly to study notice and takedown procedures. Researchers in the US, Europe, and other countries are working collaboratively to understand this fundamental regulatory system for global online speech.
Site plagiarizes blog posts, then files DMCA takedown on originals (John Timmer, Ars Technica, 2-5-13). All stories about a disgraced researcher get pulled by WordPress. Here's Tom Levenson's story on the same situation (The Land of Broken Links, Balloon Juice, 2-6-13). "It’s an example of the ease with which private censorship can manipulate the IP legal regime to disappear uncomfortable speech. I don’t know how many of you know of the excellent site Retraction Watch , founded and run by Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky."
Libraries in Today's Digital Age: The Copyright Controversy. ERIC Digest (a clear explanation)
DMCA Safe Harbor (Chilling Effects)
Sample form for takedown notice (Authors Guild)
Google's explanation of filing a takedown notice for YouTube infringement
Frequently asked questions about DMCA Safe Harbor, including Question: So what is all the controversy about the DMCA?
Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act (OCILLA, Wikipedia entry about a conditional safe harbor for online service providers)
DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) Takes Away Rights for Libraries, Consumers (Sarah Andrews, Iowa Librarian, 2002)
LC Unlocks Doors for Creators, Consumers with DMCA Exceptions (Beverly Goldberg, American Libraries 8-16-10)
The 2010 DVD Exemption to the DMCA (Eli Edwards interviews Abigail De Kosnik, Gary Handman and Mark Kaiser of University of California, Berkeley, 8-2-10). The latest round of Digital Millennium Copyright Act exemptions, granted by the Librarian of Congress, has received a lot of press, partly for an exemption for bypassing DRM on DVDs and partly for the 2 exemptions that allow "jailbreaking" of smartphone operating systems (such as the iPhone) to allow non-authorized software and applications to run on the phone, or use the phone on a non-authorized wireless network.
Documentary Filmmakers Win Exemption From Digital Millennium Copyright Act (PRWeb, 7-28-10). "Documentary Filmmakers Granted Access to Previously Off Limits DVD Content, Restoring Their Fair Use Rights" -- From the Library of Congress: Rulemaking on Exemptions from Prohibition on Circumvention of Technological Measures that Control Access to Copyrighted Works.
Copy protection software causes controversy (John McCormick, TechRepublic 11-7-05)
What New DMCA Copyright Loopholes Mean to You (Emily Price, PCWorld 7-26-10)

"[T]he fact that our system of communication, teaching and entertainment does not grind to a standstill is in large part due to the fact that in most cases infringement of copyright has, historically, been ignored." -attributed to Sir Hugh Ian Lang Laddie. a judge of the High Court of England and Wales

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Net Neutrality: Who owns the Internet?

The FCC voted in June 2018 to gut net neutrality rules, letting Internet providers like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T control what we can see and do online with new fees, throttling, and censorship.
What is Net Neutrality, why does it matter and how can you fight for it? (Dave Albaugh, Comparitech, 6-15-17) This seems a clear explanation of why net neutrality is important, who's against it, what they stand to gain, and what consumers stand to lose. Worth a read. I am in no position to say who's right or wrong so I am linking to whatever pieces contribute to the discussion in what seems a rational way.
Brett Kavanaugh Chose Corporations Over the Public in a Major Net Neutrality Fight (Chad Marlow, ACLU, 8-17-18) "The essential question in the case was whether the government’s interest in enabling the public to speak out freely and access information online was “substantial” enough to justify a limited infringement of the rights of the ISP companies to manipulate their customers’ online access....Kavanaugh then set out to elevate the free speech interests of the ISPs. He framed the ISPs’ interest in being permitted to engage in online content discrimination as their First Amendment right to exercise “editorial discretion.” Kavanaugh argued that the Constitution’s framers would have wanted to protect modern ISPs in the same manner they sought to protect the editorial rights of newspaper and book publishers. But in the context of net neutrality rules, this analogy inappropriately conflates the role of online content providers — like YouTube and — who generate internet content, with ISPs, who merely provide access to it. ...Prior to voting on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, all senators need to ask themselves a critical question: Are you willing to accept a Supreme Court justice who values the free speech interests of corporations over the free speech and intellectual freedom of your own constituents?"
First House Republican moves to restore net neutrality (Ellen Satterwhite, District Dispatch, 7-17-18) Net neutrality is the idea that internet providers should not have the ability to curtail your internet results based on willingness to pay. This idea came under fire this past year and the FCC’s net neutrality regulations were repealed. Representative Mike Coffman (R-CO) is the first Republican to sign on to a request for House leadership to hold a vote on the Congressional Review Act to restore strong, enforceable net neutrality rules. Could this be the beginnings of bipartisan support for the new bill?
Ajit Pai Is Twisting the Meaning of the “Open Internet” (April Glaser, Slate, 6-11-18) Don’t be fooled by the FCC chairman’s Orwellian argument justifying the repeal of net neutrality. It’s the internet providers that stand to win the most from this scheme. "In his op-ed, Pai insists that the internet will now be protected as a place “where you are free to go where you want, and say and do what you want, without having to ask anyone’s permission.” That may be true for large internet providers like Comcast, which will now be able to throttle or censor traffic on its networks however it wants, but it’s not true for most U.S. internet users, who generally have few, if any, options to take their business elsewhere."
The Net Neutrality Repeal Is Official. Here’s How That Could Affect You. (Keith Collins, NY Times, 6-11-18) “Internet service providers now have the power to block websites, throttle services and censor online content,” Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democratic member of the commission who voted against the repeal, said in an emailed statement Monday. “They will have the right to discriminate and favor the internet traffic of those companies with whom they have pay-for-play arrangements and the right to consign all others to a slow and bumpy road.” The F.C.C. said it had repealed the rules because they restrained broadband providers like Verizon and Comcast from experimenting with new business models and investing in new technology.
Here's How the End of Net Neutrality Will Change the Internet (Klint Finley, Business, Wired, 11-22-17) 'Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon may soon be free to block content, slow video-streaming services from rivals, and offer “fast lanes” to preferred partners. For a glimpse of how the internet experience may change, look at what broadband providers are doing under the existing “net neutrality” rules....Because many internet services for mobile devices include limits on data use, the changes will be visible there first. In one dramatic scenario, internet services would begin to resemble cable-TV packages, where subscriptions could be limited to a few dozen sites and services."
The Web As You Know It May Soon Be Altered (Tony Romm, WashPost via NDTV, 6-11-18) Monday marks the official end of the U.S. government's net neutrality rules, which had required broadband providers such as AT&T, Charter and Verizon to treat all Web traffic equally. Two pivotal developments this week could dramatically expand the power and footprint of major telecom companies, altering how Americans access everything from political news to "Game of Thrones" on the Internet. "The combination of no net neutrality and video consolidation creates new bottlenecks that empower the traditional media industry to raise prices and limit online competition," said Gene Kimmelman, the president of Public Knowledge, a Washington, D.C.-based public interest group....The expiring net neutrality protections, adopted at the FCC under President Barack Obama in 2015, for years prevented the likes of AT&T and Comcast from slowing Web connections, blocking access to sites and services, or charging content companies for faster delivery of streaming movies or videos. Such arrangements, known as online "fast lanes" in the eyes of critics, threatened hefty tolls that only the largest businesses could afford to pay, net neutrality advocates warned."

Washington becomes first state in the nation to pass net neutrality regulations in defiance of FCC (Monica Nickelsburg, GeekWire, 2-27-18) The state of Washington passed its own net neutrality protections, the first state to do so in a direct rebuke to the other Washington. Washington became the first in the nation to pass a bill to effectively restore the net neutrality rules that were recently repealed by the FCC. Similar bills are pending in 25 other states, signalling widespread disagreement with the FCC’s “light touch” regulatory approach to the internet. The bills will likely face legal challenges at a federal level for their preemption of the FCC.
This California Bill Would Bring Back Net Neutrality With a Vengeance (Sean Captain, Fast company, 3-14-18) "The most detailed state internet-access bill in the country could be replicated by other states, defying the FCC....If the legislation passes, and allies in states like New York and New Jersey also introduce bills, a huge chunk of the U.S. population and economy would be subject to regulations that the federal government adamantly opposes. They would join Washington State, whose governor signed a tough net neutrality law on March 5."
Burger King explains net neutrality with a $26 Whopper (CBS/AP, 1-25-18)
Congress took $101 million in donations from the ISP industry — here’s how much your lawmaker got (T.C. Sottek and The Center for Responsive Politics, The Verge, 12-11-17) Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, and others spread their money far and wide to influence your government
Why we support net neutrality and the open Internet (Alex Howard, Sunlight Foundation, 7-12-17) These net neutrality principles, embraced by the Federal Communications Commission in 2015 and voted into force, are straightforward: no blocking of websites, no throttling of connections, no paid prioritization of content, and transparency into all three practices.
Net Neutrality Is Gone (Farhad Manjoo and Mike Isaac, NY Times, 12-15-17) Farhad and Mike's Week in Tech: The FCC's decision to repeal net neutrality.
Net Neutrality Protests Move Online, Yet Big Tech Is Quiet (Cecilia Kang, Daisuke Wakabayashi, Nick Wingfield, and Mike Isaac, NY Times, 12-12-17) While some technology companies used their websites to proclaim support for equal internet access, some of the giants, including Google and Microsoft, were lying low.
The Internet Is Dying. Repealing Net Neutrality Hastens That Death. (Farhad Manjoo, NY times, 11-29-17) Over the last decade, a few giant corporations became an inescapable part of online life. Gutting net neutrality would cement their power.
Net neutrality is now officially on life support. Here’s what happens next. (Aja Romano, Vox, 12-14-17) Net neutrality explained. The FCC voted in a 3-2 party-line vote to end net neutrality, despite overwhelming bipartisan support for it. "The implications of the repeal are vast and complicated. If it’s left unchallenged, it will almost certainly fundamentally change how people access and use the internet. But it could be a long time before we start to see the full effects of the FCC’s vote — and there’s even a ghost of a chance that the repeal might be overturned by the US Court of Appeals. . Title II is a decades-old regulatory clause that explicitly classifies internet service providers (ISPs) as telecommunications companies, meaning they’re essentially classified as utilities and subject to the same regulations that other telecommunication companies — also classified as utilities — must abide by. That basic regulatory standard is what people are referring to when they talk about net neutrality. Title II was first applied to ISPs in 2015, after a hard-won fight by internet activists.
FCC’s rushed, technically flawed decision will harm the economy ( Barbara van Schewick, The Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, 12-14-17) "Despite this opposition, the FCC rushed the order through, failing to hold a single public hearing. The one FCC public forum available, its online comments system, was overrun with fake comments attributed to real people without their consent. The FCC refuses to cooperate with the NY Attorney General’s investigation into more than 2 million identity-stealing comments, and has been completely uninterested in investigating how this public forum was poisoned and by whom. Today’s vote is a stain on the FCC. For decades, the FCC prided itself on being careful, deliberate and transparent in its mission to keep the internet open for free speech, commerce and innovation, while maintaining incentives for broadband providers to invest. This FCC has failed to live up to that standard."
FCC's Net Neutrality Change May Have Big Implications for Telehealth (Mei Wa Kwong, Interim Executive Director and Policy Advisor for the Center for Connected Health Policy, California Health Care Foundation, 12-13-17)
Congress took $101 million in donations from the ISP industry — here’s how much your lawmaker got ( T.C. Sottek and The Center for Responsive Politics, The Verge, 12-11-17)
Will bots break our ability to use the Internet for debate? (Beryl Lipton, Muckrock, 12-12-17) Fake comments to the FCC’s net neutrality discussion are a sign agencies need to prepare for attempts to prevent fake views from entering the official record of our public discourse
FOIAing the Trump Administration: The FCC and Net Neutrality (Frank Matt, Muckrock, 12-5-17)

Join Team Internet: Protect Net Neutrality (FreePress) The Trump FCC — like the rest of his administration — is doing everything in its power to serve corporations and harm the rest of us. Fight back to protect the Internet. Imagine Trump TV, magnified.
Why Writers Should Fight for Net Neutrality (Deji Olukotun, PEN America, 3-20-14) "Information passing over the net used to be treated neutrally. Your work as an online writer was guaranteed to be delivered in the same way as a company such as Exxon Mobil in reaching its end destination. After the FCC’s ruling, the companies providing the backbone of the internet no longer have to guarantee neutral delivery. This means that these companies can decide not to deliver your writing and make sure Exxon Mobil’s writing is delivered lightning fast. The situation becomes even more troubling if you are in the business of writing critical speech."
‘First We Pray, Then We Organize’ The Unlikely Coalition for Net Neutrality (Valarie Kaur, Huffington Post, 7-29-15, updated 7-29-16) "On Tuesday, July 28th, a diverse group of faith leaders and advocates posted the same video on the Twitter and Facebook feeds of more than one million people. Backers of the video came from a wide range of civil rights causes — racial justice, LGBTQ equality, economic justice, religious pluralism and more. What’s the unlikely hashtag that unites them? #NetNeutrality.
"The new video from Faithful Internet shows how the open Internet has become the lifeblood of today’s social movements — #BlackLivesMatter, #99Percent, #LoveWins and more. It celebrates the 2015 Open Internet Order for codifying #netneutrality — the principle that has kept the Internet free from undue corporate control....Specifically, it bans carriers like Comcast and Verizon from blocking or slowing down websites, or charging sites extra fees to reach people faster. That means Americans have an equal chance of being heard online."
Valarie Kaur's powerful video/speech led me to her piece about Net Neutrality.
F.C.C. Approves Net Neutrality Rules, Classifying Broadband Internet Service as a Utility (Rebecca R. Ruiz and Steve Lohr, Technology, NY Times, 2-26-15)
The Push for Net Neutrality Arose From Lack of Choice (Steve Lohr, NY Times, 2-25-15)
F.C.C. Net Neutrality Rules Clear Hurdle as Republicans Concede to Obama (Jonathan Weisman, NY Times, 2-24-15)
Why Everyone Was Wrong About Net Neutrality (Tim Wu, New Yorker, 2-26-15)

The FCC has proposed new rules that could have change the Internet we know and love by allowing broadband providers to create “fast” and “slow” lanes for Internet traffic. This could put small and independent service providers at a disadvantage. Support net neutrality by asking your congressperson to oppose the FCC’s proposal.
Net Neutrality (Common Craft's explainer video)
John Oliver on net neutrality: Call it 'preventing cable company f***ery'. (Daily Kos, 6-2-14). "The cable companies have figured out the great truth of America: If you want to do something evil, put it inside something boring." "What's being proposed is so egregious, activists and corporations have been forced onto the same side."
• Sign Petition to the FCC: The internet is a public utility (Daily Kos campaign)
Google's Growing Silence on Saving Open Internet Leaves Fight to Startups (Todd Shields, Bloomberg, 7-8-14) Or as Rand Fishkin tweeted: " Google & Facebook, after climbing a ladder based on net neutrality, are pulling that ladder up after themselves."
ALA Files Comments Supporting Net Neutrality (Dianna Dilworth, Media Bistro 7-22-14). American Library Association: “We are extremely concerned that broadband Internet access providers currently have the opportunity and financial incentive to degrade Internet service or discriminate against certain content, services and applications.”
Net Neutrality: What You Need to Know Now (Save the Internet). "On May 15, 2014, the Federal Communications Commission proposed rules that would allow rampant discrimination online....Under these rules, telecom giants like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon would be able to create a two-tiered Internet, with fast lanes for those who can afford it and dirt roads for the rest of us. These companies would have the power to pick winners and losers online and discriminate against online content and applications. And no one would be able to do anything about it. The agency can preserve Net Neutrality only by designating broadband as a telecommunications service under the law. Anything else is an attack on our rights to connect and communicate."
Keep the Internet Free and Open! (Common Cause, holding power accountable). "Fact sheet on net neutrality. Network neutrality is the principle that Internet users should be able to access any web content they choose and use any applications they choose, without restrictions or limitations imposed by their Internet service provider. "
The Coming Tug of War Over the Internet (Christopher Stern, Washington Post, 1-22-06)
Free American broadband! (S. Derek Turner, Salon, 10-18-05). "In France, you can get super-fast DSL, unlimited phone service and 100 TV channels for a mere $38 a month. Why does the same thing cost so much more in the U.S.? "
Hear Us Now! (blog about stopping the Comcast megamerger)
Internet Freeloaders (Adam L. Penenberg, Slate, 1-17-06). Should Google have to pay for the bandwidth it consumes?
Cable companies sponsoring anti-net neutrality campaign for FCC

[Go Top]


Google Book Settlement

Links to settlement info and discussions in re Literary Works in Electronic Databases Copyright Litigation.

This long fight seems to be over. Now is the time to stake your claim if you have one.
October 8, 2020 — Exclusion (Opt Out) Deadline
October 8, 2020 — Objection Deadline
October 8, 2020 — Claim Deadline
November 19, 2020 at 9 a.m. — Final Fairness Hearing

Google Plus Data Litigation If you are a participant in this class action, here are instructions on what to do next.
Authors Guild v. Google, Part I: Proposed Class Action Settlement (Electronic Frontier Foundation) Part I, which discusses the proposed class action settlement. See also Part II: Fair Use Proceedings The case began in 2005 when the Authors Guild sued Google for digitizing books as part of the Google Book Search program called "Google Print" at the time. Through partnerships with university libraries, Google intended to scan books, index the contents, and provide both library users and the public with the ability to search through books. The Authors Guild complained that Google was "engaging in massive copyright infringement" by scanning books and that also that Google would be guilty of copyright infringement by displaying the search results to book-seeking users.
The case was filed in the Southern District of New York and assigned to Judge Denny Chin. After Judge Chin rejected the proposed class action settlement, the case turned to questions about certification of the class and about fair use. In May 2012, Judge Chin issued an order certifying the class. The order also held that the Authors Guild had standing to sue on behalf of its members, a somewhat controversial proposition.
Court Says Authors Guild Has Standing to Sue Over Google Books, Despite It Not Representing Authors' Views (Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt, 6-1-12)
Bestselling Authors and Rights Organizations Support Authors Guild in Asking Supreme Court to Review Authors Guild v. Google Ruling (Authors Guild, 2-2-16) "Yesterday, bestselling authors, book publishers, rights organizations, and copyright experts from around the world filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the Authors Guild’s petition asking the Court to hear its case that Google must be held accountable for digitally copying millions of copyrighted books without permission or payment.
       "Authors and dramatists adding their names to a friend-of-the-Court brief filed in Washington, DC include Stephen Sondheim, Margaret Atwood, Tony Kushner, J.M. Coetzee, Malcolm Gladwell, Douglas Wright, Michael Frayn, Marsha Norman, and Yann Martel. Major publishers Elsevier and Hachette were among those filing a separate brief, while other briefs came from the Copyright Alliance and the Copyright Clearance Center, among others. All were filed by a February 1 deadline dictated by the Court.
       "'The court of appeals subordinated the very right that lies at the heart of copyright—the right to reproduce,' said the publishers’ brief."
Why Is It So Goddamned Hard to Make a Living as a Writer Today? (Douglas Preston, Authors Guild, keynote speech at the inaugural New Mexico Writers Dinner, Spring/Summer 2017) Google and Amazon, between them, have produced long-term price inflation for books and reduced income for the people who write them. As a result of their efforts, publishers are:
"cutting advances across the board.
focusing more on bestselling authors and celebrity authors.
dropping many midlist authors.
rejecting many books they once would have published.
spending less on promoting midlist authors and putting their promotional dollars into sure-fire bestsellers.
publishing fewer risky books, books with minority voices, books that might be controversial, books that might not appeal to a wide audience.
no longer taking risks with experimental fiction.
no longer publishing many first novels, no matter how good they are.
no longer investing in authors’ careers; if your book doesn’t sell, you get dropped —
no second chances."
Why Google Book Search Got Lost (Authors Guild, 4-14-17) A response to How Google Book Search Got Lost (Scott Rosenberg, Backchannel, 4-11-17) Google Books was the company’s first moonshot. But 15 years later, the project is stuck in low-Earth orbit. An interesting and informative (and corrective) set of articles.
How Google Stole the Work of Millions of Authors (Roxana Robinson, Wall Street Journal, 2-7-16) Let the Supreme Court decide: Was it fair to copy millions of books without paying writers? Google makes very commercial use of the material, but it claims that its book-search service is so beneficial to the public that the company shouldn’t have to pay their providers for the content.
Google & Books: An Exchange ( Edward Mendelson, Paul N. Courant, Ann Kjellberg, J. D. McClatchy, and Margo Viscusi, , et al., New York Review of Books, 3-26-09) in response to Google & the Future of Books (Robert Darnton, NYRB, 2-12-09) For those seeking details (pro and con), read all of these letters.
What the Google Books Victory Means for Readers (Dan Cohen, The Atlantic, 10-22-15) "So much has changed on the Internet, in libraries, and with books in the decade since the Authors Guild first filed suit....Ten years ago there were no Kindles, iPads, or postcard-sized smartphones to read on. Now the growth of e-reading is unmistakable....Although Google did tip entire library shelves into the scanner without regard for copyright status—triggering an unsurprising revolt from authors and publishers—the tech giant only shows small “snippets” of in-copyright works. The full digitized books are walled-off, making only certain uses possible....In a narrow sense, the decade-long litigation over Google Books ended with a judgment about the balance of these factors for a specific project: a large company scanning and indexing the contents of millions of volumes. But critically, and with greater and lasting impact, the case also helped to clarify fair use in general. Authors Guild v. Google stands to make fair use much more muscular....After all, as Judge Leval emphasized: 'While authors are undoubtedly important intended beneficiaries of copyright, the ultimate, primary intended beneficiary is the public.'"
Google’s Court Victory Is Good for Scholarly Authors. Here’s Why. ( Pamela Samuelson, Chronicle of Higher Education, 10-27-15) "The Authors Guild has lost the latest round of the copyright battle that it brought against Google more than a decade ago. And though the guild has decried the appellate court’s ruling as "damaging" to authors, it is nothing of the sort. This decision, despite the guild’s claim, is actually a substantial boon for authors, especially scholarly ones, for at least four reasons....Google Book Search does precisely what the overwhelming majority of authors of books in research-library collections would want for their books: It rescues them from the obscurity of print collections and makes them more findable online....The information that Google makes instantaneously available about relevant books "would otherwise not be obtainable in lifetimes of searching." And so on. Worth a read.
$18 Million Settlement of Freelance Suit Against Electronic Databases Granted Final Approval (Authors Guild 6-12-14)
Copyright Class Action Settlement Website
Updates from Freelance Rights (updates by Irv Muchnick, lead respondent in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case for writers' rights, Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick (see PW story, The Objector (4-5-10). And I quote: "Since 2005, Muchnick has been the lead objector to a proposed settlement stemming from the central rights dispute of the digital age—Tasini v. New York Times—the landmark case in which members of the National Writers’ Union sued the newspaper and some electronic aggregators for, well, piracy. For those who think the other major digital rights case of today—the Google settlement—is close to resolution, consider this: Muchnick joined the Tasini case in 1994. In 1997, as a district court judge, Sonia Sotomayor ruled in favor of the defendants. In 1999, an Appeals Court reversed Sotomayor. In 2001, the Supreme Court affirmed that reversal. Four years later, in 2005, a settlement was announced. It was quickly approved, but Muchnick, and a handful of other objectors, including Anita Bartholomew, represented by Charles Chalmers, appealed."
Writers Groups Want Publisher-Google Terms Made Public (Jim Milliot, PW, 10-10-12). ASJA, NWU, and SFFWA have "asked the Department of Justice to review last week’s settlement between the AAP and Google that ended the publishers’ seven-year copyright fight with the giant company....A major issue for the organizations is the fate of books published before publishing contracts contained language about the ownership of e-book rights, with the writers contending that in contracts where the rights are not spelled out, e-book rights remain with the author. According to the writers, when publishers agree to give Google access to backlist books, it’s likely that the publisher is taking money for rights owned by authors, not publishers."
AAP and Google: Please Take It Outside (Peter Brantley, PW, 10-10-12). "I applaud the publisher agreement with Google, as it moves the ball forward on making more literature available through search and discovery, as well as opening up a larger marketplace for backlist titles...But I agree with the authors groups on this: the key points of the AAP agreement need to be made public....Best for the parties to take the key points of this agreement outside, into the sunshine, for all to see. "
The Google/AAP Settlement: Less Than Meets the Eye? (Rick Anderson, The Scholarly Kitchen, 10-10-12). Until the Authors Guild’s class action suit is settled, the future of the Google Books project will remain very much up in the air.
Google Deal Gives Publishers a Choice: Digitize or Not (Claire Cain Miller, NY Times, 10-4-12). "After seven years of litigation, Google and book publishers said on Thursday that they had reached a settlement to allow publishers to choose whether Google digitizes their books and journals. ... "The publishers' private settlement, whatever its terms, does not resolve the authors' copyright infringement claims against Google," Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, said in a statement. "Google continues to profit from its use of millions of copyright-protected books without regard to authors' rights, and our class-action lawsuit on behalf of U.S. authors continues."
Publishers Settle Long-Running Lawsuit Over Google's Book-Scanning Project (Jennifer Howard, Chronicle of Higher Education, 10-4-12) Under the settlement, American publishers can now opt to remove their copyrighted books and journals from Google's library project or choose to make them available for use and sale.
Closing the Book (Steve Kolowich, Inside Higher Education, 10-5-12). According to Tom Turvey, director of strategic partnerships for Google’s search services division, the basic thrust of the accord is this: All the books with PUBLISHER-OWNED copyrights that Google initially scanned into its database from university libraries will now be either removed from the company’s database or made more easily available through the Google Books interface, which lets visitors read 20 percent of each book for free. [all caps added for emphasis]
Google strikes deal with publishers over universal library (Julianne Pepitone, CNN MoneyTech, 10-4-12)
Judge Denny Chin�s 48-page decision on the proposed settlement of the Google litigation, released March 22, 2011
Dreaming of a Virtual Library: Authors Guild v. Google (Scott Turow, Authors Guild, in letter to the editor, New York Times 4-6-11). (The day of decision: Scott Turow (Authors Guild) on Google Ruling
Judge Rejects Google Books Settlement (Amir Efrati, WSJ, 3-22-11)
TeleRead's summary of the bases for Judge Chin's decision (Paul Biba, TeleRead 3-22-11)
Judge rejects Google's attempt to create a universal library (Laurie Segall, CNN Money 3-22-2011).
"Google's settlement agreement is a complex, 166-page document. While the company took pains to protect the rights of copyright holders -- only tiny snippets are revealed from in-print books -- it put the burden on authors and publishers to police their works' inclusion in the archive. Google will remove books on request, but without an explicit request, it will otherwise digitize anything it can get hold of."
"That didn't sit well with Judge Chin. He also expressed concern over the agreement's handling of 'orphaned' books -- works that are still under copyright, but no longer in print.
"'The questions of who should be entrusted with guardianship over orphan books, under what terms, and with what safeguards are matters more appropriately decided by Congress than through an agreement among private, self-interested parties,' Chin wrote in his ruling."
Google Books: Headed for the Bonfire? (Erik Sherman, BNET Wired In blog, 3-23-11, which links to his earlier posts). Sherman writes: "The two sides negotiated a highly controversial settlement that drew extensive criticism from the Department of Justice, including the following:
* "Class action suits generally address past actions. This one allowed Google to display copyrighted works in the future for anyone who did not opt out of the agreement.
* "It seemed questionable that any representative could adequately represent all rights owners, especially those who were unreachable but who owned rights to books that were under copyright protection but out of print.
* "Google needed active permission to use the in-print works but not out-of-print. Rights owners that did not claim money within five years would forfeit their money to those already registered. So the deal was stacked in the favor of those with rights to books currently in print, even though Google wanted to scan and display the out-of-print books."
Google's Book Deal (Times editorial, 3-30-11)
Google Book Search Settlement Agreement


There are HUGE issues involved in this book settlement (see especially Mary Beth Peters on the dangers of changing copyright law about orphan works through litigation rather than legislation). This kind of issue may give you a headache, but you should read up on it if you have ever written and published a book. Deadline for filling out the Google Book Settlement Claim form (which is not user-friendly) has been extended. The court overseeing Authors Guild v. Google extended the time for authors and publishers to opt out of the settlement by four months, to September 4th (Judge Chin's order). The fairness hearing will be on October 7th. Check out Kristine Smith's instructions for filling out the form (link below). See also links to stories about Orphan Works legislation.

The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers support the agreement. Among those who oppose it are Mary Beth Peters, U.S. Register of Copyrights, calls the settlement "a compulsory license for the benefit of one company," and believes it's the wrong way to go about handling the "orphan works" issue. Orphan works are copyrighted works for whom the rights-holders cannot be identified or located -- the very rights-holders who are also unlikely to come forward and opt out of the settlement. As Brewster Kahle writes, summing up objections of others: "Google would get an explicit, perpetual license to scan and sell access to these in-copyright but out-of-print orphans, which make up an estimated 50 to 70 percent of books published after 1923. No other provider of digital books would enjoy the same legal protection.... We need to focus on legislation to address works that are caught in copyright limbo. And we need to stop monopolies from forming so that we can create vibrant publishing environments."

"In the short run," concludes intellectual property expert Pamela Samuelson, "the Google Book Search settlement will unquestionably bring about greater access to books collected by major research libraries over the years. But it is very worrisome that this agreement, which was negotiated in secret by Google and a few lawyers working for the Authors Guild and AAP (who will, by the way, get up to $45.5 million in fees for their work on the settlement�more than all of the authors combined!), will create two complementary monopolies with exclusive rights over a research corpus of this magnitude. Monopolies are prone to engage in many abuses.

"The Book Search agreement is not really a settlement of a dispute over whether scanning books to index them is fair use. It is a major restructuring of the book industry�s future without meaningful government oversight. The market for digitized orphan books could be competitive, but will not be if this settlement is approved as is."
~ conclusion from Legally Speaking: The Dead Souls of the Google Booksearch Settlement by Pamela Samuelson (O'Reilly Radar, 4-17-09)

The SFWA statement (see below) provides another clear outline of objections to the settlement. Those who object may want to sign Ursula LeGuin's Petition Letter to the Judge of the Google Book Settlement (to be sent to Judge Chin by January 28th, 2010, attached as an exhibit to the brief to be submitted to the court by the NWU, ASJA, and SFWA, who oppose the settlement).

One member of ASJA, encouraged to sign LeGuin's petition, responded: "I can't sign the petition because I do not agree. I feel the agreement is useful and worthwhile. It verifies that Google's preemptive scanning was wrong and prevents others from going about it the same way. It sets up a best practices standard and mechanism for the transition from print to digital publishing. I respect the people who oppose the settlement and I know they have put much thought and concern into the matter. But I have not found their arguments convincing."

So, should you have opted out? Here are a few of the last-minute aids to decision-making that ASJA posted for its members at the time of the January 2010 deadline for opting out:
• Here's where to opt out: Google Book Settlement (you no longer have to list all your works).
• GBS frequently asked questions
• Here is an explanation of your options by law professor Pamela Samuelson of UC Berkeley (who objected to the settlement, hoping to make the settlement deal fairer for academic authors).
• Here are some of the objection letters, posted on The Public Index.
• Here is a webcast of a Jan. 20 panel workshop in New York, which ASJA cosponsored with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the National Writers Union, and the Internet Society. Speakers are NYU Law professor James Grimmelmann, AG executive director Paul Aiken, Lynn Chu of Writers Reps LLC, with Ed Hasbrouck of NWU, Salley Shannon of ASJA, and Michael Capobianco of SFFW. Webcast (video and audio). This is DEFINITELY WORTH LISTENING TO: and podcast (audio only):
• Here's a podcast of a similar event in Berkeley, with Pamela Samuelson, the law professor, and Ed Hasbrouck (NWU's book division co-chair):

Here is the Justice Department's Feb. 4, 2010, statement: Despite Substantial Progress Made, Issues Remain. And here's the New York Times on the Justice Department's statement(Miguel Helft, 2-10-10): "In a 31-page filing that could influence a federal judge�s ruling on the settlement, the department said the new agreement was much improved from an earlier version. But it said the changes were not enough to placate concerns that the deal would grant Google a monopoly over millions of orphan works, meaning books whose right holders are unknown or cannot be found.
"The department also indicated that the revised agreement, like its predecessor, appeared to run afoul of authors' copyrights and was too broad in scope.
"The revised agreement 'suffers from the same core problem as the original agreement: it is an attempt to use the class-action mechanism to implement forward-looking business arrangements that go far beyond the dispute before the court in this litigation,' the department wrote."
Here's the Authors Guild response:( To RIAA or Not to RIAA, That was the Question), explaining why they didn't press litigation through to the end. AG cites the Pyrrhic court victories of the Recording Industry Association of America and the collapse of the music industry. "The ace in the hole for musicians is that they're not as dependent on copyright as book authors are. Music is a performing art: people buy tickets to see musicians. Writing is decidedly not a performing art. Nearly all authors give away their performances, through book tours and readings, and are glad for any audience they can find. For most authors, markets created by copyright are all we've got.Protecting authors' interests has always been our top priority: in this case a timely harnessing of Google was the best way to do it."

The following links are to explanations, arguments, etc., that have been available for some time:

American Library Association's files on the Google Book Settlement. Information for the library community--links to news, to A Guide for the Perplexed: Libraries and the Google Library Project Settlement, and much more

Authors Guild v. Google Settlement Resources Page (AG)

Authors Guild Memo to Agents and Authors: William Morris's Google Memo Off Target. AG corrects both Morris memo and various myths circulating about the settlement. AG says that by staying in the settlement you aren't limited to the (quite favorable) royalty rate we've negotiated; you have the right to veto your publisher's decision to make your in-print book available in any way through the settlement; you have the right to block all displays of your out-of-print books, even if rights haven't reverted to you, even if your publisher wants to display the books; you have the right to have your work in Google's searchable database and display only snippets to users, blocking all other uses by Google; you have the right to change your mind (allow books you'd previously blocked to be displayed; block books you'd previously allowed to be displayed) at any time. Do read this one.

Google Book Search Settlement Notice for Authors and Other Rightsholders. There's a page here for opting out of the settlement; the deadline for opting out is Sept. 4, 2009. The Final Fairness Hearing is Oct. 7, 2009. If you opt out, you may want to read this overview of the Google Books Partner Program, one alternative that allows you to be part of the Google action.

Google Books Settlement FAQ
Public Index (an open archive of documents filed with the court, including objections. Scott E. Gant's objection is particularly cogent.

Justia (a second site of open access to documents filed on the case in Federal District court)

The Laboratorium: New White Paper on Settlement Objections (clarified by James Grimmelman of New York University)

ASJA joints groundswell of opposition to Google Book settlement

The best bit of the Google Book Settlement (access to the scholar's treasure trove of out-of-print books), Nate Anderson, Ars Technica

Bill Keller's Best Frenemy (John Koblin, The New York Observer, 5-19-09, on Google's Relationship with NY Times)

A book grab by Google (Brewster Kahle, Washington Post, 5-19-09)

Chilling effect of Google tracking your online book browsing (Electronic Frontier Foundation)

Consumer Group Protests Google Settlement (Jim Milliot, PW, on Consumer Watchdog asking for delay on settlement because of orphan works issue and "most favored nation" clause)

DOJ Inquiry Over Book Deal Puts Google on Notice (Sam Gustin,

European Opposition Mounts Against Google�s Selling Digitized Books (Kevin J. O'Brien and Eric Pfanner NYTimes, 8-23-09)

# Federal District Court Filings (Author's Guild vs. Google, 2005-2009)

5 Ways the Google Book Settlement Will Change the Future of Reading. (Annalee Newitz, io9 Publishing, 4-2-10). An interesting summary from Gawker's science fiction/futurist blog about the implications of the settlement,only one highlight from which is quoted here:
"The Google Book Settlement could easily be the twenty-first century's most important shift in how we deal with copyright in the world of publishing. To understand it, you need a little back story on the previous giant shift in copyright law, which happened about twelve years ago.
* "Mickey Mouse Protection Act. In 1998, copyright was turned on its head by a piece of legislation often called the "Mickey Mouse Protection Act.Known to policy-makers as the Copyright Extension Act, it was the result of intensive lobbying by the entertainment industry, led in part by Disney, to extend the copyright on any work created after 1923. Many of Disney's classic pieces of content, like Mickey Mouse cartoons, were about to pass into the public domain. So the company was naturally interested in keeping control of the Mouse as long as it could....The Act also gave birth to a loosely organized but powerful movement of copyright reformists....Over the past decade, many of these reformists migrated to jobs in Silicon Valley, where easily-copied digital media are constantly forcing the question of what copyright really means in the information age.
One might say that the Google Book Settlement (GBS) is the result of this migration." Read on here.

Google and Book Publishers Settle (Andr�s Guadamuz, WIPO Magazine, July 2009)

Google Book Settlement Administrative Site

European publishers target Google (Richard Waters, Ben Hall, Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson, Financial Times, 8-12-09, on strong European opposition to the settlement) Free reqistration required

Google's Book Search: A Disaster for Scholars (Geoffrey Nunberg, Chronicle of Higher Education, 3-31-09). Nunberg writes:
"...50 or 100 years from now control of the collection may pass from Google to somebody else�Elsevier, Unesco, Wal-Mart. But it's safe to assume that the digitized books that scholars will be working with then will be the very same ones that are sitting on Google's servers today, augmented by the millions of titles published in the interim.
"That realization lends a particular urgency to the concerns that people have voiced about the settlement -- about pricing, access, and privacy, among other things. But for scholars, it raises another, equally basic question: What assurances do we have that Google will do this right?
"Doing it right depends on what exactly 'it' is. Google has been something of a shape-shifter in describing the project. The company likes to refer to Google's book search as a 'library,' but it generally talks about books as just another kind of information resource to be incorporated into Greater Google."
and later:
" pose those [research] questions, you need reliable metadata about dates and categories, which is why it's so disappointing that the book search's metadata are a train wreck: a mishmash wrapped in a muddle wrapped in a mess."
Read the whole Chronicle story here.

Google Books Settlement at Columbia, Part 1 (Mary Minow, LibraryLaw Blog,reporting 3-15-09 on a conference at Columbia University on The Google Books Settlement: What will it mean for the long term?)

Google Books Settlement at Columbia, Part 2 (Mary Minow, LibraryLaw Blog)

Google's Book Settlement Is a Ripoff for Authors: Why allow a single publisher to throw out a functioning copyright system? ? Lynn Chu's piece in the Wall Street Journal and a letter to the editor in response from Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild: The Google Book Deal Will Help, Not Hurt, Authors, which points out essential errors in Chu's piece. Anita Bartholomew, in turn, says the Authors Guild is providing false information.

Google Books Settlement Conference: What Will It Mean for the Long Term? (recording of conference of experts held at The Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts available for viewing online)

Google Book Deal in DOJ Sights (Erik Sherman, BNET, 6-11-09)

Google Book Search settlement gives Google a virtual monopoly over literature (Cory Doctorow, Boingboing, 4-17-09)

Google Faces Antitrust Investigation for Agreement to Digitize Millions of Books Online (transcript of Brewster Kahle, founder of Internet Archive, and Amy Goodman on Democracy Now Radio)

Google Hopes to Open a Trove of Little-Seen Books (Motoko Rich, New York Times, 1-4-09, on Google's massive book scan and search project)

Google Loses in French Copyright Case (Matthew Saltmarsh, NY Times, 12-18-09). Paris court rules against Google after publisher argues the industry is being exploited by Google's Book Search program, launched in 2005.

The Google settlement, answering some of the questions about the windfall (Mike Shatzkin 4-18--09)

Google settlement: What the Google Settlement Means for Authors and Publishers (Jonathan Kirsch, IBPA, 2-09)

Google Slammed by Photographers' Class Action (Erik Sherman, B-Net, 4-7-10). The American Society of Media Photographers -- with the Graphic Artists Guild, Picture Archive Counsel of America, North American Nature Photography Association, and Professional Photographers of America -- filed a class-action copyright infringement suit, alleging that Google failed to obtain permission to scan and display books from people who owned rights to photographs and illustrations that appear in the titles.

Google�s Plan for Out-of-Print Books Is Challenged (Miguel Helft, NY Times, 4-3-09)

Google's tangled quest for a universal online library (Farhad Manjoo, Slate, 5-6-09, Your Search Returned 12 Million Books) -- calls on authors and publishers to grant Google's competitors the same rights they're giving Google, to create a truly vibrant market for books

Google to cut the e-book middleman (Stan Schroeder, Mashable)

How to fill out the Google Book Settlement claim form (PDF file of instructions by example, compliments of Kristine Smith, chair of the digital rights management committee of Novelists Inc, via NASW)

How to fix the Google Book Search Settlement (PDF of James Grimmelmann's article in Journal of Internet Law)

How to understand the objections just filed in the Google settlement (Anita Bartholomew, Ask the Editor, who writes:
"it�s as if Search Engine X infringed my copyright but not yours. But in settling the case, I made a deal with Search Engine X that it could have your future rights along with mine, in exchange for something else I wanted. Do you think it would be fair for you to be forced into such a deal? I don�t either. And, aside from a dozen other arguments that could be made, I hope that Judge Chin recognizes the inherent injustice of such a deal and stops it right there.")

Internet Archive's objection to the Google Book Settlement ("give other companies that have scanned printed books the same copyright protection of orphan works that would be granted to Google in the settlement"), as reported in PW by Jim Milliot

In Google book settlement, business trumps ideals (Juan Carlos Perez, IDG News Service, PC News)

It�s Not Just Microsoft That�s Balking at Google�s Book Plans (Miguel Helft, NY Times, 4-4-09)

Judge Issues 4-Month Delay in Google Book Search Settlement (Ryan Singel,

Justice Department Seeks Information From Publishers on Pact to Make Text Available Online (WSJ, "Probe of Google Book Deal Heats Up," 6-10-09)

Justice Dept. Opens Antitrust Inquiry Into Google Books Deal *Miguel Helft, NY Times, 4-28-09)

Kernochan Center Conference Scrutinizes the Google Books Settlement (in four parts)

Lawyer and Author Adds His Objections to Settling the Google Book Lawsuit (Miguel Helft and Motoko Rich, NY Times, 8-18-09: Scott E. Gant "argues that the agreement, which gives Google commercial rights to millions of books without having to negotiate for them individually, amounts to an abuse of the class-action process. He also contends that it does not sufficiently compensate authors and does not adequately notify and represent all the authors affected.")

Libraries weigh in with worries on Google's book settlement (John Timmer, Ars Technica, 5-5-09)

Lynn Chu: Agent Unplugged, Barbara DeMarco-Barrett's interview with this principal of Writers' Representatives LLC in the public part of the January 2010 issue of ASJA Monthly, is as helpful an analysis of what authors should know about their rights in the new electronic world as you are likely to read. It starts on pp. 6-7 of this PDF file,then jumps to p. 13. Print those pages out and mark them up! Her comments on the Google Book Settlement appear on p. 13, and her most valuable comments are on how book publishers are trying to becoming licensing agents for e-rights while taking a print publishers' share of income and without doing what a licensing agent ought to do, and since authors will very quickly learn how much they can do without the publishers, they are playing a dangerous game.

**Mary Beth Peters, Register of Copyrights, on the Google Books Settlement (as reported by Mary Minow, LibraryLaw Blog, reporting 3-15-09 on a conference at Columbia University on The Google Books Settlement: What will it mean for the long term?)

Open Book Alliance: Diverse Coalition Unites To Counter Google Book Settlement. "One of the most significant developments in the history of publishing could be co-opted by the settlement of a class action lawsuit that creates an unprecedented monopoly and price fixing cartel," write Peter Brantley and Gary Reback in Open the Book on the Open Book Alliance blog. They claim the ettlement is bad for consumers and book-lovers; is bad for libraries and schools; is bad for authors and small publishers; and sets a dangerous and unprecedented process precedent.

Opposition to Google Books Settlement Jells (Miguel Helft, Bits, NY Times, 4-17-09)

Opting out of the Google Book Settlement, Pro and Con (Slashdot)

Pros and cons of the Google book deal (David Weinberger, KMWorld, covering content, document, and knowledge management)

The Public Index (a site to study, discuss, browse, and annotate the settlement, section by section)

PublishersLunch on the settlement, citing various foreign publishers and Amazon. Amazon's objection is that it is anticompetitive and amounts to price fixing; PL points out that Amazon fears a competitor with overhwelming power. "Among the objections repeated by many of the filers from abroad are assertions of problems in providing notice to class members around the world; failures to translate the entire settlement into other languages and inadequate translation of key legal terms such as "work for hire" for countries where such legal terms of art do not exist; errors in the books database that have made it difficult for rightsholders to identify all of their works; undue burdens in the process of having to opt out for historical lines of thousands of titles; and broadly incorrect classification of works in other languages as commercially unavailable."

A Raw Deal for Libraries (Open Content Alliance--an interesting discussion)

Scanning the Horizon of Books and Libraries (Amy Goodman, Truthdig, 9-29-09)

Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America statement on proposed Google book settlement. This is one of the easiest to understand statements against the settlement, covering issues of particular importance to fiction writers, and these: "the settlement makes no distinction, nor does it provide a mechanism for discovering the difference, between works deemed out-of-print and works in the public domain"; the AG and AAP "are poor representatives of the class as neither represents the types of work perhaps most significantly affected by the settlement, namely scholarly works"; the "'opt-out' mechanism proposed for the settlement contradicts the very foundation of copyright; the "the class does not reflect the interested parties, primarily the holders of copyrights in 'orphan works' where the rightsholder(s) cannot be identified or found."

Some Fear Google�s Power in Digital Books (Noam Cohen, NY Times, Link by Link 2-1-09)

Steinbeck Heirs Seek to Slow Google Books Settlement (Miguel Helft, NY Times, 4-27-09)
Thousands of authors opt out of Google book settlement (Alison Flood, Guardian, 2-23-10)
What the Google settlement means for publishers and authors (Jonathan Kirsch, IBPA, 2-09)

Where to get a better deal than the Google Settlement? From Google (Anita Bartholomew).

Who's Messing With the Google Book Settlement? Hint: They're in Redmond, Washington (Steven Levy, Wired, 3-31-09), points out that Microsoft helped fund Grimmelmann.)

Why the Google Settlement Matters to You (pdf file, Access, the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency)

William Morris Agency Advises Clients to Say No to Google Settlement (Motoko rich, NY Times, 8-7-09). See William Morris's Google Memo Off Target on Authors Guild site.

Links to other resources on Writers and Editors website

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Authors Guild reports S&S rights grab:

Simon & Schuster has changed its standard contract language in an attempt to retain exclusive control of books even after they have gone out of print. Until now, Simon & Schuster, like all other major trade publishers, has followed the traditional practice in which rights to a work revert to the author if the book falls out of print or if its sales are low.

The publisher is signaling that it will no longer include minimum sales requirements for a work to be considered in print. Simon & Schuster is apparently seeking nothing less than an exclusive grant of rights in perpetuity. Effectively, the publisher would co-own your copyright.

The new contract would allow Simon & Schuster to consider a book in print, and under its exclusive control, so long as it’s available in any form, including through its own in-house database -- even if no copies are available to be ordered by traditional bookstores.

Other major trade publishers are not seeking a similar perpetual grant of rights.

We urge you to consider your options carefully:

1. Remember that if you sign a contract with Simon & Schuster that includes this clause, they’ll say you’re wed to them. Your book will live and die with this particular conglomerate.

2. Ask your agent to explore other options. Other publishers are not seeking an irrevocable grant of rights.

3. If you have a manuscript that may be auctioned, consider asking your agent to exclude Simon & Schuster imprints unless they agree before the auction to use industry standard terms.

4. Let us know if other major publishers follow suit. Any coordination among publishers on this matter has serious legal implications.

Feel free to forward and post this message in its entirety.

The Authors Guild ( is the nation’s oldest and largest organization of published book authors.

Links to other resources on Writers and Editors website