Monday, May 12, 2014

Legal Issues for Writers

Most days as a writer, I don't want to think about anything but working on my current WIP.  But there are a lot more things to think about as a writer. With more and more writers self publishing or working with smaller presses, more responsibility for the legal issues surrounding publishing fall on the author.

One of the first legal things writers think about in the Copyright issue. Many professional writing groups are glad to give you some advice on doing that and why you should. Check out this article from SFWA. Once you take care of your first copyright, you'll find it simple though irritating when you have to pay for it.

Writer's Digest has a great article about making sure you don't infringe of someone else's rights or privacy.

Writers Write shares a general description of the types of rights you own as an author and that you can sign over to a publisher. Lit Reactor shares a list of five things you need to consider including using other peoples' work within yours. That can be tricky.

What exactly should be in a contract and what don't you want in one? Check it the list by Writer's Digest.  Savvy Writers and e-book Online advise you to look for The Traps in Publishing Contracts. And this blog or on our Facebook page is a great place to ask the online community if you have a specific question.

More and more writers are finding their own paths and doing things their way. But we still have to understand the legal twists and turns of the business. Any legal issues that give you pause when you sign a new contract? Have you ever renegotiated a contract? Do you know some one who hired a lawyer to protect their work? Have you ever worried about violating someone else's work because you used a copyrighted product of the name of a famous person in your writing?

I might be a little late today responding to comments. I'm on the road to Colorado.

Susan Gourley is published in epic fantasy and also published in romance under her pen name, Susan Kelley. Visit her blog here. Like her on Facebook here. Follow her on Twitter here.


L. Diane Wolfe said...

Always know what you are signing before you sign it!

Pat Hatt said...

Always read that fine print.

Christine Rains said...

Very helpful post. I've heard a few stories about people not copyrighting and their work getting stolen. It's safer to do so even if it does cost a little bit.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You don't want to sign away all the rights!

Chrys Fey said...

Just the title of this post made me gulp.

Reading the contract is extremely important, but since I'm still a newbie, I'll be checking out these links. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

You're right, the last thing I'm thinking about are legal issues. Thanks!!


Patrick Stahl said...

The thing with contracts I'm most worried about is the fact that I'm a minor. If I sell a story within the next 14 months I'll need a co-signature for the contract to be effective, so far as I know. I'm really not sure how that works.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

L. Diane, Pat, Christine and Alex, I know you all have experience with contracts all ready.
Patrick, I forget how young you are sometimes because you come across so mature online. Not sure how your situation works either.
Chrys and Elsie, I don't like to think about the legal stuff either but we all must.

Michelle Wallace said...

This is the area where I'm totally lost.
Is a writer allowed to quote two or three lines of song lyrics, including proper credit to the singer/songwriter...?

Unknown said...

Great post packed with useful information! Many thanks. I am exploring the use of a well known name in my writing and how to go about this legally and responsibly right now, so this is timely for me.

Unknown said...

Hi everyone, Great, helpful article.
I am a writer and a lawyer. I can answer some of the questions.
Michelle, avoid quoting lyrics. Typically music companies own them, not the artists, and they aggressively pursue unauthorized users. Giving attribution won't help.
HJ, you may use a person's name. It's not copyrightable. But avoid defaming the person or making it appear as if that person is promoting your work.
I have a blog where I answer writers' legal questions ( I want to know your questions, so please drop me a note and ask. And in a few weeks I releasing SELF-PUBLISHER'S LEGAL HANDBOOK to help writers.

cleemckenzie said...

This is so helpful, Susan. If I can understand something that's written (especially in a contract) I go for help.