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The 5 Top Legal Tips for Self-Publishing Your Book

The publishing industry has drastically changed in the last 10 years. There was a time when authors worked with a team of experts to help them finalize their work and be sure everything was in order. Nowadays, authors are opting to self-publish as a means of more directly getting their material out into the world. But with this freedom, comes a whole host of legal matters to consider. Once your masterpiece is finished, you may be mainly concerned with how to copyright it. That’s spot on and a critical step to protecting your work! But there are a few other legal tips you should keep in mind.

Here are the important tips to consider:

1. Don't Use Copyrighted Images. Many images are protected under copyright laws, for the love of all things good, make sure you are using images that won’t come back to bite you in the buns. If you’ve downloaded it from someone’s website or right clicked it from a general Internet search, then chances are it is protected and unusable. Your best bet is to choose fair use images – royalty free stock images from places like iStockphoto.com. You can also directly request permission from the artist, designer, or photographer to use their images. Be sure to get this permission in writing!

2. Don't Use Copyrighted Music Lyrics. Again, copyright laws are at play here. Just like images and videos, music is also protected under copyright law. Like images, be sure you choose fair use music or ask for a license from the composer of the music. It is also important to consider the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole. Sometimes you don’t want to use the entire song, just a phrase. Copying nearly all the original work will not qualify as fair use, but how much is considered fair use depends on the portion used. It is best to consult with an attorney to get clear on this.

3. Be Sure To Register Your Work. As most authors are already aware of, once your book is finished, copyright it, copyright it, copyright it! While this isn’t a requirement by any means, I highly recommend it. Don’t let your amazing ideas and all your hard work go to waste! Copyright registration allows you the highest level of security and peace of mind that your work is protected by creating a public record of ownership. You will also have recourse should someone violate your rights as the owner of your book.

4. Be Careful When Using Trademarks and/or Brand Names. When writing fiction, be especially careful about using trademarks or brand names because trademark infringement is no picnic! You set yourself up for a rocky ride and being accused of “dilution by tarnishment” is risky business. Always use fictional brands to avoid getting into trouble!

5. Monitor Your Work. Regularly monitoring your work is key to catching infringers. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is in place as additional protection against copyright infringement. If you discover someone illegally using your material online DMCA gives you the right to request an immediate takedown. Check outthis website for more information.

Happy writing!

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