Copyright and Libel Guidelines

Is my manuscript copyright protected when I publish with CrossBooks?
What is the difference between copyright protected and copyright registered?
How can I tell if something is copyright protected?
Can I use a quote in my book without getting permission?
What are Fair-Use Guidelines?
How much can I rely on another work without permission?
Which pictures can I use without permission?
Does citing the source of material clear me of copyright infringement?
How do I obtain permission from the copyright holder, and what do I do with it?
Does CrossBooks offer advice on avoiding legal trouble when publishing my book?
What is considered libel?
How can I protect myself against libel in publishing?
What is the difference between a private and public figure in libel?

Please note: These FAQs are guidelines only. CrossBooks does not claim to have intimate knowledge of the legal system. When in doubt, speak to an attorney and visit www.copyright.gov for more information.

Is my manuscript copyright protected when I publish with CrossBooks?

Yes, the copyright for your material was secured as soon as you created it, or when your work became fixed in a manuscript for the first time. No publication or official registration is required to secure copyright. However, we do include a copyright notice on the copyright page of our books, which lists the author's name and date as an added measure of security.

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What is the difference between copyright protected and copyright registered?

Copyright protection is secured upon creation and provides you the right to stop another person from using your work without permission. Copyright registration, which is a service that we offer, is secured when material is officially registered with the U.S. government. This allows you to take legal action to recover a monetary sum if someone profits from your work without your permission.

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How can I tell if something is copyright protected?

In most cases, any picture, material, text, information, quote, map, song or illustration that you personally did not create is copyright protected by the person who created and/or published the material. Any text or pictures found in a book, magazine or newspaper is copyright protected by the publisher, artist, photographer or another individual. Most information found on the Internet is copyright protected as well.

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Can I use a quote in my book without getting permission?

It depends. Under "Fair Use," some copyright protected material can be used without permission; however, there are no absolute rules, only guidelines and factors to consider. Fair use is not a right, only a defense. If you're unsure, consult a legal advisor.

The following four factors are used to determine fair use:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including potential gains for commercial or nonprofit
  • The nature of the original copyrighted work
  • The proportion or percentage of the copyrighted material in relation to the work as a whole
  • The potential effect on the value of the copyrighted material

There is no defined rule regarding the number of lines or words that can be used without permission. Also, simply citing the source is not an alternative to obtaining permission to use the material. In general, if quoting a work, only using a few lines within a long book will probably protect you under fair use. However, if you are concerned at all, always consult a qualified professional before using copyrighted material in your book unless you have expressed permission in writing.

You can also use a work that is considered "in the public domain," which means that a work's copyright has expired or lacks proper notice. Works in the public domain are not copyright protected and are free to use without permission. However, determining if a work is truly in the public domain can be a tricky task due to new versions of older works, protection in countries other than the U.S. and protection under alternative laws.

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What are Fair-Use Guidelines?

Fair-Use Guidelines are policies used to determine whether or not an author needs written permission to produce or publish “work” using the publisher’s copyrighted material.  According to the Copyright Act, any work published prior to 1923 is in the public domain. This means that many older Bible translations, such as the King James Version, are free to use without written approval. However, new versions such as Holman Christian Standard BibleNew International VersionNew Living Translation and the New King James Version have strict Fair-Use Guidelines.  If an author’s use of scripture falls within the Fair-Use Guidelines, written permission is not necessary.

Example of common Fair-Use Guidelines (all must apply):

  • No more than 250 verses quoted in total
  • Scripture does not make up more than 25% of the total text
  • Scripture does not account for an entire book of the Bible
  • All Scripture must be properly cited

It is the author’s responsibility to research whether or not their usage falls within the specific publishers Fair-Use Guidelines.

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How much can I rely on another work without permission?

There are no clear rules as to the amount of material you can use without permission. In general, keep the rules of "fair use" (see previous FAQ) in mind and consider how much and what part of the work you are borrowing. The more material you use, the less likely it will be accepted as fair use. However, sometimes even a small amount of work can proportionally hold a lot of weight if it is an important part of the work, so the amount of text is not always the determining factor.

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Which pictures can I use without permission?

Without permission, you can only use pictures that you have personally taken or illustrated (unless a photo is "in the public domain" because the copyright has expired). And, if a person is recognizable in the photo, you need their expressed, written consent. Pictures found in books, newspapers, magazines or on the Internet cannot be used without permission.

Additionally, professional photographers retain the rights to photographs they take, even if the picture portrays you or a family member. You need to obtain permission from the photographer even if you purchased a print. When in doubt, get permission or consult a legal professional.

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Does citing the source of material clear me of copyright infringement?

No, a citation will not protect you in court against a copyright case. You must always obtain permission.

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How do I obtain permission from the copyright holder, and what do I do with it?

You can contact the copyright holder, explain which work you wish to use and for what purpose, and request written permission to use the work in your published book. Some copyright holders will provide permission for free, but others will charge a fee. If you cannot get a reply after several attempts, you may be able to use the material without permission, but make sure to keep all documented instances of failed attempts and consult a legal professional to be sure. Keep the written permission in your possession if for any reason you should need to prove permission in the future. The copyright holder may or may not require additional credit in the book itself.

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Does CrossBooks offer advice on avoiding legal trouble when publishing my book?

We offer the following guide to help identify any possible issues in your work. You can download a PDF about how to protect yourself against legal trouble before publishing your work.

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What is considered libel?

Libel has a variety of definitions in the United States depending on each state, but in general, it is "a written false defamation," or the publication of any statement that could cause damage to an individual or organization's character or reputation.

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How can I protect myself against libel in publishing?

Although truth is a defense in most libel cases, it is often difficult and lengthy to prove in court. So, unless you have a lot of time and money on your hands that you're willing to waste, it's important to protect yourself, especially when publishing a true story. Here are a few tips:

1. Change the names of the people or organizations mentioned in your book. But be aware that simply changing a name from "Sally" to "Megan" is often not enough. If Sally can recognize herself from the situation, places or events, you can still be sued for libel even if you call her Megan.

2. Change the location. This helps to distance the story from the reality, so it remains unrecognizable to real people.

3. Use a pen name. A pen name helps to further distance any recognizable trail back to a person in the real world. This can often be difficult for the author to accept, but consider this scenario: In your book, you make claims about your daughter's physician, but you change your daughter's name and the physician's name. However, if you use your real name, it will be obvious to someone involved who you are talking about in reality.

Voicing an opinion is not libelous; however, be careful that you are not actually making an accusatory statement. Even if you say "in my opinion" before a statement, that does not automatically make the statement an opinion if you are speculating or asserting something about someone.

Do not make the following statements or claims, as they are clear grounds for a libel case

  • Falsely accusing someone of a crime, or having been charged, indicted or convicted of a crime
  • Falsely identifying someone as the carrier of an infectious or loathsome disease
  • Falsely charging someone or any organization with a claim that discredits a business and lowers their profitability
  • Falsely accusing someone as being impotent

Seriously consider the ramifications of publishing your work if your content reveals information or makes claims that could damage someone's reputation. Always consult a legal advisor if you are concerned.

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What is the difference between a private and public figure in libel?

If you make a claim about a private figure in your book (someone who is not in the public eye), the private individual only has to prove "negligence" in a libel case. This means they have to prove that a "reasonable person" would not have published the statements. If you are discussing a public figure (a person in the public's interest, or someone who has actively sought to influence the resolution of a matter of public interest) they must prove negligence and "malice," which means the intent to harm or prior knowledge that the statements were false. Proving malice is slightly more difficult.

Please note: These FAQs are guidelines only. CrossBooks does not claim to have intimate knowledge of the legal system. When in doubt, speak to an attorney and visit www.copyright.gov for more information.

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