Fair Use ?

copyrightWhen you start talking about copyright and fair use, you are breaching an extremely sensitive and ambiguous subject. How am I suppose to know if a piece of work that is copyrighted is okay to use in my novel?

You may hear somebody quote the Fair Use Act. What is fair use? It’s the legally permissible use of copyrighted material for specific purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching, or scholarship, but that doesn’t give you the right to their complete work. If you are only quoting a few lines from a full length book, you should be within the guidelines of fair use and not need to seek permission.

The reason I am interested in the laws surrounding copyright, is a song from the ’70s plays an important role in my novel. Something I didn’t realize when I started writing the book, is fair use doesn’t apply to songs. That’s because songs can have very few lines to use.

If you are thinking about slipping a line from a song in your novel, think again. Using lyrics from a song written in the past century or so can be a very expensive proposition, so most publishers won’t accept a book that quotes lyrics.

If you have to have the song lyrics in your book, follow up to see if the song is public domain or still under the copyright laws. If it’s public domain you are good to go, if not, you need to decide what you can afford to pay the owner for permission to use their work.

Anytime you use third party content without permission, you are at risk of being sued. The best thing you can do is be original. If you find it necessary to borrow from another writer, do your research and make sure you are within the law.

A good place to start your fair use search, is on the website of the U.S. Copyright Office.

Something to think about. I know I’m reviewing my novel to ensure there are no  copyright infringements.

-Jan R

Fair Use ?

The Title: It Matters! (Repost)

imagesFFT3CQY4I was looking at some of my older blog posts this past week, when something jumped out at me.

Nine months ago I wrote a blog titled, “Is your manuscript ready for submission?” It didn’t get much attention, as a matter of fact only 5 people viewed the blog and 2 of those liked it. Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed. It was a great blog.

Five months later I was busy and didn’t  have time to research and write a quality blog. I decided to repost, “Is your manuscript ready for submission?” I made a few changes to some of the sentences, so they reflected the new time period, but other than that, the blog read word for word.

I also did one other thing; I changed the title. It was the same blog, only it’s new title was, “Edit, Edit or Edit?” The blog did exceptionally well for someone who has been blogging  less than a year. It had 99 views, 50 likes and 3 or 4 reblogs.

I shared this story to make a point. Your title really does matter. It’s the first thing your reader sees or hears about your book/blog/poem. Your title creates anticipation and expectation, or perhaps disinterest like my previous one. Often your title determines whether or not someone reads your work.

A good title should have the following attributes:

  • Attention grabbing
  • Memorable
  • Informative (gives idea of what book is about)
  • Easy to say
  • Not embarrassing or problematic for a person to say aloud to their friends.

Another thing to keep in mind, that title you started with may not be the title you end up with. Getting the title right, may be the most important book marketing decision you make. Many well known authors have had their titles changed by publishers and editors before print. Here are a few you may recognize:

F. Scott Fitzgerald/  The Great Gatsby — Trimalchio in West Egg, On the Road to West Egg, Among Ash-heaps and Millionaires, Under the Red, White, and Blue, Gold-hatted Gatsby, or The High Bouncing Lover. I think he made the right choice 🙂

George Orwell/ 1984 — The Last Man in Europe

Ayn Rand/ Atlas Shrugged –The Strike

Harper Lee/ To Kill a Mockingbird — Atticus

Jane Austin/ Pride and Prejudice — First Impressions.

Frances Hodgson Burnett/ The Secret Garden — Mistress Mary

The title matters!!! Get it right!!!

Just a side note. This blog is a repost, but I made some minor revisions and changed the title 🙂 It was originally, “The Title Of Your Book Is What?” We’ll see how this plays out 🙂

-Jan R

The Title: It Matters! (Repost)