Copyright problems

Remember the picture of Michelle Obama we talked about earlier? I hope that it is your photo, or you have otherwise received permission to use it. Otherwise, you and your production editor (who has not been doing his job properly) could be in deep doggies.

Why?

Because by the time that your text and image files have been delivered to the typesetter, any questions about copyright and permissions should have been resolved long ago. Certainly, your typesetter will not be asking any questions about your right to this image (or, for that matter, your right to quote 15 pages word for word from Dreams of My Father).

No, and the first anyone may realise there is a problem is when a big fat lawsuit lands thud in your publisher’s letterbox. By then it will be too late – and by then you may get to learn that certain clauses in your contract are not just words:

4.1    The Author warrants to the Publisher that the Work is original and previously unpublished; that the Author has the sole right to publish it; and that in no way whatever does it violate any existing copyright.
4.2    If any material is to be reproduced in the Work to which the Author does not have copyright, the Author is responsible for obtaining the permission of the copyright holder for the reproduction of this material. Any expenses incurred in this connection must be borne by the Author.

§ 5 Other Legal Obligations
5.1    The Author warrants to the Publisher that the Author has the full power to enter into this Agreement, that the Work contains nothing that exposes the Publisher to legal action, and that all the statements contained therein purporting to be facts are true to the best of the Author’s knowledge. […]
5.2    If the Author breaches the warranties made in §4.1 and §5.1, the Author shall indemnify the Publisher against any consequential loss, injury or damage occasioned to the Publisher or the Publisher’s business partners, including any legal costs or expenses and any compensation costs and disbursements paid by the Publisher on the advice of their legal counsel to compromise or settle any claim.

These clauses are from the standard NIAS Press contract. By no means are they unusual. And essentially they mean that, if you have dropped your publisher in the legal doggies, you can be pretty certain that you’ll be hung out to dry. Bankrupted. Fired. Humiliated.

The long and short of it is that, even if it is your production editor’s job to check that you have cleared any permissions required for the use of copyright material, ultimately it is your responsibility that this has been done. Likewise, if you are to get round the copyright issue by getting (say) a map redrawn, that too should have been done by now.

Better get moving, right now.

(The ins and outs of copyright and permissions will follow in a later post. This is just a wee reminder, warning you not to leave this matter any later.)

(Post #18 of the Design & Typesetting section of a lengthy series on the book production process, the first post of which is here.)

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