Register your own copyright: When, why, and how?

Zick and Brenda

Zick Rubin and Brenda Marshall Ulrich, copyright attorneys, Rubin & Ulrich, LLC.

As textbook and academic authors, your copyrights are your livelihood, and the value of your copyrights is often enhanced by registering them in the U.S. Copyright Office – something that you can easily do for yourself.  Yet, as publishing and copyright attorneys, we find that many text and academic authors know less than they should about copyright registration.

Here’s our sample Q&A conversation with an author who wanted to know more about when, why, and how to register the author’s copyrights: [Read more…]

TAA once again stands up for authors in Google Books case

LegalscaleThinkstockPhotos-178999905More than a decade ago, in 2004, Google initiated a program, in concert with several university and large public libraries, to scan and digitize the entire contents of millions of books without regard to whether they were or were not still under copyright, ultimately making complete digital copies of more than 20 million books. Google’s goal was to expand its search business to include print works as well as online works. It spent hundreds of millions of dollars on this project, suggesting what Google believed to be its commercial potential. [Read more…]

Work-for-hire or transfer of copyright? Understanding your rights

In the publishing world, the concepts of “work-for-hire” andcopyright collage art “transfer of copyright” can be challenging to navigate. Authors are often confronted in the publishing agreements by language that is vague and complicated, such as:

“The work will be a work-made-for-hire as defined by the Copyright Act, but, if the work is deemed not a work-for-hire, author hereby irrevocably transfers all right, title and interest in the work to the publisher for the entire term of copyright throughout the world.”

Why would a publisher prefer the work to be a work-for-hire than an outright transfer and what is the difference between a work-for-hire and an irrevocable transfer of all right, title and interest? To answer these questions, one must have a clear understanding of the definition of each practice. [Read more…]

Learn about the latest court rulings in the Google Books Case

copyrightOn October 16th, a U.S. federal appeals court ruled in favor of Google and against the Authors Guild in a copyright infringement case that began 10 years ago over Google’s controversial book scanning project. Listen to a recording of The Copyright Clearance Center’s webinar, “A New High-Water Mark on Transformative Use? Update on the Google Books Case”, with attorney Lois Wasoff on the latest court rulings in the Google Books Case.

Copyright: Why a memorialized record of good faith matters

copyright collage artThere are few absolutes or bright lines when it comes to copyright matters. So much is left to the judgment of the court or jury in a copyright infringement case, the boundaries so amorphous, the tests so subjective, that ensuring that you are more sympathetic than the plaintiff can go a long way toward moving the case one way or another.

The threshold question of the copyrightability of plaintiff’s work, the credibility assigned to any given copyright registration, the application of the four-factor test for fair use, the [Read more…]

When getting rights clearance is tough

copyright collage artWe’ve all been there. You have the perfect photo . . . verse . . . song lyrics . . . vignette . . . you name it . . . to open your book or a chapter within it. Having labored long and hard to locate just the thing, you are now certain that nothing else will do. There’s only one problem. It’s not yours and either you can’t determine who owns the rights, or you can’t figure out how to reach them, or they’re dead or out of business, or they won’t answer you. [Read more…]

Whose book title is it, anyway?

Zick Rubin

Zick Rubin

Professor Charlotte Smith, an up-and-coming young entomologist, decided to write a textbook for the always-popular, upper-level course on spiders.  After putting out a few feelers, she submitted a proposal to Six Legs Press, a leading publisher of  books about insects.  Six Legs loved the proposal and offered Professor Smith a contract. Charlotte was so abuzz with excitement—”tenure, here I come!” she yelled—that she signed the contract without even reading it.

[Read more…]

Consequences of not following third party photo usage restrictions

Stephen Gillen

Stephen Gillen

Q: What happens if, notwithstanding your best intentions, a 3rd party photo usage restriction escapes your notice and your lapse is detected by the photographer or stock agency?

A: Steve Gillen, lawyer and partner in the intellectual property firm of Wood Herron & Evans:

“Well, about the best you could expect is that you will be deemed in breach of your contractual commitment and held to account for what you should have paid for the uses you actually made. More likely, however, is a claim that you have made an unauthorized and infringing use of a copyrighted work outside the scope of any license you might have had. In this event, the copyright owner has some very potent strategic advantages and remedies at his/her disposal: [Read more…]

What you need to know about using third party photos

copyrightToday’s business models for licensing third party photography are sufficiently complex that it’s worth taking a few minutes to review the basics and get familiar with the terminology.

Categories of Use: Editorial vs. Commercial

Professional photographers and stock agencies group their work into three broad categories based not on the nature of the photos but instead on the use to which they will be put: editorial, commercial, and retail. Retail use concerns photography commissioned for personal use, and thus is of little consequence to book publishers . . . except, perhaps, for that studio portrait you supplied for the back cover or “about the author” page of your book, a use for which you may have neglected to get the necessary license. Editorial use concerns photography which will be used in a book, e-book, magazine, online, or in a presentation or video that is journalistic, educational, or expository in nature. Commercial use, conversely, concerns photography that will be used in advertising and promotion to sell or market a product (including a book), person (including an author), company (including a publisher), or service. [Read more…]

How to apply for copyright

Lisa Moore

Lisa Moore

Q: How does one apply for copyright?

A: Lisa Moore, Principal, The Moore Firm, LLC:

“It’s very easy to apply for a copyright registration. You can do it online. The Copyright Office’s website is actually an excellent resource.

The process is changing. Back in the day, you had to fill out the form depending on what you were registering. The Copyright Office changed that, and they’re now utilizing one common form that can be done online. It’s much cheaper that way, $35 and you get your registration back much more quickly. If you mail in the old paper forms it takes somewhere between a year and two years to get it back, but if you do it online it’s somewhere between three and six months. Copyright infringement matters have a very short statute of limitations, so it’s critically important that you register as soon as possible.

In the overwhelming majority of jurisdictions in the United States, if you don’t have a registration back from the U.S. Copyright Office you cannot institute litigation. There are only a handful of jurisdictions where simply having made application, even though you don’t have the filed, stamped registration back, they will allow you to invoke the jurisdiction of the courts.

The other benefit of doing it early is that you can register multiple unpublished works on one form and save yourself a lot of money. The copyright form in and of itself is about nine questions and half of them are your name and address. It’s very easy to do.”