Words of Wisdom: Getting Permission For Copyrighted Material - Writer's Digest

Words of Wisdom: Getting Permission For Copyrighted Material

Author:
Publish date:

Q. Do I have to get the rights to use trademarked or copyrighted material in my manuscript, or will my agent do it for me?

A. Copyright is such a complicated area of law with so many grey areas that a scholar could scour dozens of volumes of literature on the subject and still not have an answer to this seemingly simple question. Some important concepts to keep in mind are: One owns the copyright to what one writers, whether the copyright is registered or not; anyone can sue anyone; and ideas are not copyrightable.
When you use other people's copyrighted works in your work, it is important to obtain a formal written and signed permission form from each person whom you quote. Authors are responsible for determining whether permissions are necessary and they must procure them - not agents. Publishers will often assist in this endeavor by providing the permission forms and guidelines, but most publisher-author contracts will put the entire onus on the author to find out whether permissions are necessary to obtain for extracts and quotes, and to procure them. Even when publishers do help, the contracts will usually require the authors to indemnify the publisher against all claims (even frivilous claims), suits and judgments related to this aspect of the publishing agreement. Persistent agents are sometimes successful at getting some publishers to take responsibility for frivolous claims, but it's rare that they'll take the responsibility for obtaining permissions. When in doubt about questions of copyright, it's always advisable to consult an attorney."

- Sheree Bykofsky, literary agent and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Getting Published. Reprinted from the 2007 edition of Guide to Literary Agents.

Also on the topic of copyright law
and vetting memoirs, stay tuned to
the blog for an upcoming interview
with attorney and literary agent Paul Levine.

Major_10:24

Three Keys to Crafting Chemistry Between Characters

Romance author Michelle Major explains her three go-to tips for ensuring your characters have believable chemistry.

Saving Money on Your Screenwriting Career

Take Two: Saving Money on Your Screenwriting Career

No one wants to break the bank to learn how to write a screenplay. Jeanne Veillette Bowerman shares practical tips on saving money on the pursuit of a screenwriting career.

richard_adams_watership_down_quotes_a_rabbit_has_two_ears_a_rabbit_has_two_eyes_two_nostrils_they_ought_to_be_together_not_fighting

10 Epic Quotes From Watership Down, by Richard Adams

Here are 10 epic quotes from Watership Down, by Richard Adams. The story of a group of rabbits who escape an impending danger to find a new home, Watership Down is filled with moments of survival, faith, friendship, fear, and hope.

WD Poetic Form Challenge

WD Poetic Form Challenge: Quintilla Winner

Learn the winner and Top 10 list for the Writer’s Digest Poetic Form Challenge for the quintilla.

plot_twist_story_prompts_fight_or_flight_robert_lee_brewer

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Fight or Flight

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, it's fighting time.

Garfield

Vintage WD: 10 Rules for Suspense Fiction

John Grisham once admitted that this article from 1973 helped him write his thrillers. In it, author Brian Garfield shares his go-to advice for creating great suspense fiction.

Pennington_10:21

The Chaotically Seductive Path to Persuasive Copy

In this article, author, writing coach, and copywriter David Pennington teaches you the simple secrets of excellent copywriting.

Grinnell_Literary Techniques

Using Literary Techniques in Narrative Journalism

In this article, author Dustin Grinnell examines Jon Franklin’s award-winning article Mrs. Kelly’s Monster to help writers master the use of literary techniques in narrative journalism.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 545

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a cleaning poem.