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Registering Copyrights

July 31, 2013

Of all the complicated and tedious stages of the book compliance process, copyright registration may be the most confusing. Between deciphering weird terminology like “claimant” and “limitations of claim,” establishing reasonable timelines, and dealing with legal intricacies, registering copyright claims can be mentally exhausting.


Fortunately, the Greenleaf staff is very familiar with the copyright process and can break down the basics. Below is a quick but fairly thorough look at the process.


Once a book is published, its author or claimant (we will deal with the distinction between author and claimant later) must apply for a copyright. Every US copyright application must be submitted to the Library of Congress Copyright Office. Although technically an author’s original work is protected under US copyright law from the moment it is created, we highly recommended that authors officially register their work to ensure additional statutory protections under the U.S. Copyright Act (which can be significant). A registration application can be submitted up to five years after the work has been created, but it is best to apply for registration soon after the book is published. (We recommend no more than 1-3 months). It is important to note that registration may only be submitted after the book is published.


The registration process consists of a series of questions regarding the nature of the work. The basic questions address the type of work (usually “Literary Work”), the number of authors involved, and the publication date of the book.


One of the more confusing questions is whether the author is registering as an author or as a claimant. The author of the work is simply the individual responsible for its creation; the claimant is the copyright owner. Regardless of who created the work, the claimant will own all of the rights to it. If the author and the claimant are different, the claimant must have written proof that they are indeed the owner of the work (through “work for hire” or assignment agreements etc.). So if you are registering your work, make sure that you understand these requirements and that you give the registration process the proper attention as not doing so may cause your registration to be delayed or rejected or even have legal implications for you down the road. 


Once the copyright application is completed, two copies of the work, along with shipping slips from the website, must be sent to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The LOC may take several months to complete and file a registration, but this proactive measure ensures that the book is registered and protected.


If you get overwhelmed with copyright registration, there are informational tools available on the LOC website that give a detailed explanation of the process. 

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Creative Commons To The Rescue

March 8, 2013

Have you ever written a blog post that you’re super excited about only to find that you’re missing the perfect photo to complement your writing? Or the perfect background music to accompany your video? Creative Commons to the rescue!


Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of digital content through free, legal tools that work alongside copyright to give people the right to share, use, and build upon work that others have created. That means that if you’re looking for content you can freely and legally use—everything from songs, videos, academic materials, photos, and more—you should start your search with Creative Commons–licensed content. It also means that if you’re an artist, photographer, or academic and want to put your work out there for others to use, you can assign a license and give them permission via Creative Commons.



The most commonly used type of Creative Commons content is photos, and photo-sharing site Flickr has more than 200 million public Creative Commons–licensed photos available, making it the largest free photo repository in the world. Writers can search for images for use in blog posts, book illustrations, and even book covers thanks to photographers and artists everywhere taking part in Creative Commons.


Have you used Creative Commons content? Have you licensed any of your content with Creative Commons?


You can find Creative Commons content and learn about how to license your content at www.CreativeCommons.org.

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Ye Olde Copyright Bridge: Trolls Under or Knights Atop?

December 14, 2011

Do you blog? Tweet? Tumble? Have you ever reposted someone else’s work in your constant quest to please your audience? Perhaps you found an article particularly provocative, and you just had to share it with the world (or at least your ninety blog subscribers), so you threw it up on your site. No big deal, right?


Well, maybe or maybe not. Imagine the following scenario—a person finds a news article they like and posts the entire article as a comment on their website. Imagine then that the newspaper that created the original article had sort of sold its copyright to a group (let’s call this group “©”) whose sole function was to pursue people who infringed on the newspaper’s content by making demands and settling or suing them. Is © a knight in shining armor protecting against the unscrupulous lifting of intellectual property, or is © a “copyright troll” (a named derived from “patent troll,” which is an unfavorable moniker for parties who collect patents with no intention of actually using them for business purposes) wreaking havoc with the principles of fair use by extracting settlements from those who cannot afford to properly defend themselves?


The answer to that question may depend upon whether you are the owner or the borrower of the content but there are indications that the statutory damages available under copyright law (currently anywhere from $750 to $150,000 per infringement depending upon the circumstances) have attracted the attention of not only the copyright owners themselves (such as image sites and the photographers who supply them) but also third parties who have no apparent business interest other than pursuing settlements and recovering statutory damages. One example of such a third party is a group named Righthaven, which purchased copyrights from newspapers and then searched the Internet looking for infringers. By various estimates, Righthaven has filed over two hundred infringement suits with an unknown number of settlements.


Righthaven’s approach has not been without challenge, and the company has recently suffered a series of legal setbacks with some defendants successfully challenging its “standing” (or right to sue) in such cases as Righthaven, LLC v. Hoeh, Righthaven, LLC v. NewsBlaze LLC  and Righthaven, LLC v. DiBiase. The DiBiase case also resulted in the award of over $110,000 in legal fees and costs against Righthaven, which has led some observers to question whether the company will be able to weather its own legal challenges. 


Such musings about Righthaven’s future, while relevant in the short term, tend to miss the larger point: existing copyright laws and the potentially significant statutory damages for infringement (which can far exceed any actual damages), absent congressional action, will continue to incentivize third-party Righthaven-style ventures. The Righthaven cases could therefore actually strengthen the third-party model over the long run by providing a blueprint on how other third parties should structure their own entities and copyright purchases going forward.


Despite Righthaven’s current efforts, if the right factors are present, fair use currently remains a significant defense to infringement claims. The entrance, however, of copyright trolls (or copyright knights, depending upon your vantage point) into the fray, coupled with some copyright owners using Internet web crawlers and other search technologies to find instances of infringement, continues to underscore that fair-use assessments should be considered carefully—and preferably with the assistance of your copyright counsel.

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Peace of Mind for Independent Publishers: Insurance to Cover Your Liability as an Independent Publisher

September 2, 2009

Weekly-Tip-210Every time you publish a book, article, or blog, you become a potential target for a lawsuit. To protect yourself, you might consider looking into media liability insurance. There are other options available, but a good place to start is the new automated WriteInsure™ program from the Publiability Division of Argo Insurance Brokers, Inc. WriteInsure is an affordable media perils insurance program that was designed specifically for independent authors, small publishers, bloggers, and freelance writers. WriteInsure offers limits of liability insurance protection from $100,000 each claim with a $300,000 aggregate all the way up to and including $1,000,000. The WriteInsure policy provides traditional media perils such as, but not limited to, libel, plagiarism, piracy, copyright infringement, defamation, infringement of the right of privacy or publicity, outrage, infliction of emotional distress, misappropriation of property rights, and much more. Importantly, legal defense costs are also included. Visit www.publiability.com and then click on the WriteInsure link to start an online application, or click here to download their FAQ and learn more.

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A Compliance Primer: How to Get an ISBN, LCCN, and Copyright Registration

August 14, 2009

Picture 3One of the most confusing (and least fun) aspects of publishing a book is making sure your title is in compliance with all the appropriate organizations in order to maximize its searchability.  There are so many different factors involved in this process that it’s easy to get bogged down with the amount of information that gets thrown at you.  Even though there is no need to learn all the ins and outs of the Library of Congress, the sheer multitude of acronyms alone is enough make you cross-eyed.

For those of you who don’t enjoy hours of web research on a topic that is less than stimulating, here’s a quick breakdown of the basic steps you’ll need to take. (Keep in mind that doing things in this order is important.)


1. Get an ISBN.   International Standard Book Numbers are required for every book that is going to be sold in the book trade.  These can be obtained through Bowker, also known as Books in Print.
2. Register your book with Books in Print.  Once you receive the ISBN you’ll need to make sure that your title data is registered in their system.  This is important because a lot of sources (Amazon, Ingram, etc.) receive data feeds from this system—not to mention the fact that this is a resource for bookstores, libraries, and publishers around the world.
3. Create a barcode with the ISBN and price embedded.  Most trade stores require this to be on the back of your book before they will place an order.
4. Obtain a LCCN (also know as a PCN).  The Library of Congress Control Number (or Pre-Assigned Control Number) is a unique number that differentiates your book in the Library of Congress database.  Librarians use this number to access the associated bibliographic record for a given title.
5. Obtain CIP data.  Cataloging in Publication data creates a bibliographic record for forthcoming books that are likely to be acquired by librarians (and hopefully, librarians will want your book!).  This is to be printed on the copyright page, and this data is only available for works that are not yet published.


1. Send one final copy to the Cataloging in Publication Division of the Library of Congress.
2. Send two final copies to the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress along with Form CO and the registration fee.  Alternatively, you are now able to fill out this form and submit payment online with eCO (electronic Copyright Office).
3. Wait to receive your Copyright Confirmation (current wait time is 12–16 months).

While this outline may not seem too arduous, there are many potential roadblocks in this process—so brace yourself, hope for the best, and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

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Google Book Search Settlement Demystified

May 5, 2009

Google Book SearchAssuming you haven't had the time, energy, or mental aptitude for legal matters to get to the bottom of what's going on with Google Book Search and the settlement reached last October, we highly recommend this helpful FAQ from Wired. It gets directly to the root issues of the debate sans stuffiness or legalese.

Wired points out (as have others) that the real benefit to Google in all this will probably not come from selling or renting books, but from selling expensive database subscriptions to libraries—meaning that the same libraries criticized by publishers for being in cahoots with Google's purported infringement could be the ones hurting under the new arrangement. Mike Shatzkin points out and discusses this irony in The Shatzkin Files (which, by the way, is a blog worth reading on a regular basis).

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Permission Denied: Can You Use That Image?

October 19, 2007

Copyright.pngIf you've found a specific image that you'd like to use in your book, make sure it's usable before you get too attached. Keep the following things in mind for clear (and legal) images:

Size and Resolution: Is your image big enough? At 100%, your image should be at least 300 DPI (dots per inch). If it's much smaller than this, your designer will probably lob it back to you, asking for a "high-res" version. If you pulled your image off the web, (we'll talk about that momentarily) you may not have one. And I know, I know, Photoshop can do great things. All you have to do is type "300" in the Image Size dialogue and voilà: it's high-res, right? No. Not right. Don't do that. Seriously.

Permissions: Do you have permission to use this image? If you didn't create the image yourself, you might not. If you purchased the image from a stock photography bureau like Veer or Getty, review the license for any restrictions. Royalty-free images can be used for just about anything, but be sure to read the fine print for rights-managed imagery. For older, iconic images, check to see if they're in the public domain before republishing them.

If you obtained your image by right-clicking and downloading it from the web, you probably can't use it. (It's low-res and it's not yours.) Contact the owner of the image and find out about permissions and the availability of a print-quality version. It's best to research this information early so that if you need to replace your image because of permissions or size, you have ample time to find a new one that's just as perfect.

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Images to Print: A Guide

December 14, 2006

Blog-Printer.jpgImages can add a lot to a book, or any printed material. But if you want to jazz up your pages with graphics (figures, drawings, cartoons, illustrations, etc.) and you’re printing professionally, you’ll need these tips:

All images destined for print must be high resolution, which is to say 300 pixels per inch (ppi, sometimes also called dpi) or greater. Sometimes people try to fake the size of an image—an image is not high resolution if it was originally low resolution and then resized to force the resolution to 300 ppi, or if the resolution was simply changed. Using either technique does not improve the quality of the image and may make it worse. If you print a low-resolution image, the difference will show.

File Formats
The most widely accepted kinds of digital image files are:

  • .psd (Adobe Photoshop native file)
  • .tif
  • .eps
  • .jpg
  • .pdf (Adobe Acrobat file)
  • .ai (Adobe Illustrator native file)

Finding Images
Here are some popular stock image sources:

Obtaining Image Rights
Images are copyrighted, just like any other form of intellectual property. You can’t use an image unless you get permission. Make sure you have the proper permission and the image will look right when it’s printed with the following guidelines.

  • Don’t use images downloaded from websites. Not only will they probably be low-res, you don’t have the right to use them. If you have found the perfect image online, try to contact the owner and get permission to use it. (Your lawyer and publisher will probably require that the release be in writing!) Also, don’t forget to ask for the high-resolution version.
  • Don’t scan images from other publications without getting the rights to use the images from the copyright holders. This can cause big headaches.
  • If an image is in the public domain (such as images from government publications), you can use the image without getting permission, but you must credit the original source of the image in a source line.
  • Once you purchase a “royalty free” photo, you can pretty much do whatever you want with it. “Rights managed” photos are another animal. Not only are they significantly more expensive to purchase, they often come with strict usage rules and restrictions. Make sure to notice which category your candidates belong to while you are shopping. Falling in love with a $2,000 image can leave you brokenhearted, or just broke.
  • Provide your publisher with all the information you received regarding use of the photo when you obtained permission.
  • If you own images that only exist in hardcopy and are scanning them before submission, it is critical that the images be scanned in at 1200 dpi. If you are unsure of your scanning capabilities, submit the original hard copy to your publisher and they will scan it in.

Creating Original Images
If you are creating original images (vector or raster images) using imaging software, it is important that you provide:

  • the original native editable file (fonts NOT outlined, layers NOT flattened)
  • all supporting files, including fonts and linked or embedded images
  • a high-resolution flattened version of the image with fonts outlined (for example, an .eps or .tiff file)
  • a printout of each image submitted with your manuscript
  • a document that explains the format of the images provided, the software and version used to create the images, and the operating system.

Image Credits and Source Lines

It is important that any image you obtain the right to use is appropriately credited or sourced in the book. One way to do this is to include a credits section at the back of the book listing the images by page and the corresponding credit information. Another possible method is including a source line for each image near the presentation of the image in the text (for example, a line just below a graph). When you obtain the rights to use an image, the rights holder will tell you how to credit the image.

With these guidelines, you’ll end up with beautiful printed images—and a printer and publisher that love you. Happy hunting!

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