Copyright Law 101

In case you’ve missed the posts on Facebook, a new book has been released. Okay, okay, we see a lot of those. But this isn’t just any book mind you– this one has a cute little picture of Justin Bieber right on front. And lots of quotes from his song, “Boyfriend.”

So what’s the big deal, Em?

Well, this writer has not only used a photo of the Beebster (which I seriously doubt she took), she used lyrics to his songs (which I seriously doubt she wrote) within the book itself.

Again, what’s the big deal, Em?

The big deal is this entire thing is a lawsuit waiting to happen. One which I kind of hope does. Not because I’m vindictive, but because people need to start paying attention to copyright law and respecting other people’s hard work.

You cannot…absolutely CANNOT…”borrow” song lyrics, artwork, lengths of text, poetry, or any other original expression that does not fall within fair use.  (Didn’t Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke just get their balls handed to them for this?)

The person(s) who own the license to the photo on this book cover are the only people who may use it unless they give permission. The license holder(s) on “Boyfriend” are the only ones who have the right to reproduce those lyrics for monetary gain.

If someone is going to write a book, there are certain things they must understand–grammar, character development…and the law.

As an editor, I come across this quite a bit, so this actually happens more than one might think. However, I have never come across someone who so blatantly relies on another artist to carry their work. Not only did this author put a photo of Justin Bieber on the cover, she included his song lyrics to write a book.

So, here it is… A break down of Title 17 Section 107:

1. Don’t steal other people’s work. 2. Unless you are quoting for educational or as a critique, don’t quote other people’s work. 3. Until someone has been dead for 95 years, their work is still copyrighted…and it still could be copyrighted if someone else owned the license, so you better do a copyright search before quoting someone’s work.

Bottom line. You are an author. You create. So create. If you need to refer to a song or a poem, do so without actually quoting the words. You can do that. You can reference, you just can’t quote unless you are using the quote as a critique or for educational purposes.

Will the wrath of the law come crashing down on you if you do? Not likely. Not unless you make the bestseller list, anyway.

Will the wrath of the law have the right to come crashing down on you? Absolutely, even if only one other person buys your book.

Does copyright infringement make you a jerk? Yup. Yup, it does. So read it. Learn it. Understand it. Don’t violate it.

Public service announcement over.

Have a great weekend, e’rybody!

Em

3 thoughts on “Copyright Law 101

  1. Having gone through library school, I had copyright law drummed into my head, for it’s very relevant for librarians to know as well for various reasons. While I enjoy when an author uses song lyrics to add a bit of flavor to their text, if the quoted lyrics started overwhelming the original text then I’d be turned off. It seems too much akin to pirating at worst, and smacks of being unable to come up with your own original content at best.

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  2. Good job, Em.

    The Beebs aside — writing and publishing is hard enough for indie authors without having to worry about people stealing their work (it has happened to a friend of mine — out-and-out blatant copying with slight change of names and title–her fans told her about it). Most authors do not have the time or money to pursue these people and that’s what the copiers count on. It’s a sad world where people have to steal others hard work to get themselves a little bit of fame.

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