When you create something to print and sell yourself, you are working as your own publisher. This is a big deal and an exciting thing! You may not have thought of yourself as a self-publisher, but as long as you’re creating printed work to sell and doing it yourself, that is what you are! Self-publishing authors have rights and responsibilities under the law.
Besides having more creative freedom and independence, self-publishing brings additional responsibilities. If you are thinking about publishing your own book, it is important to take note of your legal rights for your work and obligations with regard to the work of others.
Here are a few things you should consider. Copyright and trademark laws (also known as “intellectual property” laws) can be nuanced and may vary from country to country. Therefore, you should be sure to seek professional legal advice in each country where you plan to self-publish and/or sell.
Below are three areas of law that self-publishers should be familiar with.
As a rule, if you create something, you own it. Copyright law grants the creator of an original piece of work exclusive rights to its use and distribution. That means no one can reproduce or sell your book in any form, without your explicit permission.
The length of time your work is protected by copyright varies from country to country but generally, it will cover at least the author’s lifetime. After this set period of time, your book will be classified as being in the public domain, meaning anyone can use it. You do not need to formally register your copyright to be protected. However, in some countries, such as the United States, registration is necessary to pursue any legal action for copyright infringement.
Usually, the verso (the back) of your title page will display your copyright information, which should include the following details:
The symbol © / Copyright / Copr.
The first year of publication
The name(s) of the owner(s) of the copyright
e.g. © 2009, Blurb
As well as protecting your own work, you also need to be mindful of whether you are infringing on the copyright of another person’s material including images, graphics, quotes, and lyrics. To use any part of another person’s work, it must either be in the public domain, or you will need to obtain permission, in the form of a license, from the copyright owner.
If your self-published book contains a reference to any real, living person, you should ensure that you have fact-checked any statements made about them. It is possible to cause yourself real trouble if you neglect to ensure that your content is accurate. If your work is perceived to damage the reputation of a living person, that person could take legal action against you on the grounds of defamation.
Using real brand names in your book can be a good way of scene setting and creating a sense of familiarity. However, keep in mind that the owners of brand names and trademarks have the right to choose where they are used and what kind of work they are associated with. To be safe, it might be best to get creative and develop your own brands.
Self-publishing your own book is a wonderful way to share and sell your creative work—however, it is important to keep in mind the responsibilities you have as both an author and a publisher. Remember that intellectual property laws are in place to protect the rights, reputations, and livelihoods of creative people like you. These guidelines make it possible for everyone to stand by their individual works. Do what you can to respect the work of other people. Most importantly: make every effort to secure your own work.
For more information and advice about all things self-publishing, check out our dedicated resources page.
Disclaimer: The content of this blog post is for informational purposes only and is not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. Use of and access to this blog post do not create an attorney-client relationship between Blurb, Inc. and the reader.