Important Issues Regarding Intellectual Property Around Publishing a Book

A book is your intellectual property. As authors, it’s crucial to never neglect authorship protection and copyright problems that may arise.

But where do you begin? The Internet always seems so fraught with copyright issues that no one knows where to start.

For a comprehensive crash course about intellectual property, copyright owners, and challenges you must consider, read our article in full. We promise to make it easy to understand!

What Are Intellectual Property Rights?

Intellectual property rights protect every author from having their work illegally reproduced, distributed, or copied.

Intellectual property rights don’t just cover written work. They apply images, symbols, songs, art, and other inventions of the mind.

Once you’ve created something, it can have copyright protection. As the creator, you want to have the benefits that come along with the use of your property.

What Does The Copyright Law Do for an Author?

Copyright laws fall under “intellectual property rights” and protect all creative work.

Yes, that means creations made for utility aren’t protected. Some of the utility exceptions are still under review.

However, some works function as both artistic and functional, and copyright can apply to them.

Once you have the copyright for your book, you have the exclusive rights to sell copies, derive from your own creation, and perform or display content as you see fit.

You can also transmit your work as audio recordings (any audiobook fans reading right now?).

Just remember these six words when it comes to authors’ copyright ownership: reproducederivedistributeperformdisplay, and digitally transmit.

How Do You Register for Copyright?

Copyright is automatically granted to you as an owner, so you don’t have to worry. However, you may want to look into registration still.

If you want to hire an attorney to assert your ownership and take legal action, registration is a must. You are also eligible to be paid in damages if you have your work registered for copyright.

Do you want to register your work after publishing? You can deposit the work.

Suppose there’s a breach in the contract that requires a lawyer and legal action. In that case, you can prove copyright infringement happened on that specific work.

How Long Does Copyright Last?

After you register for copyright, you’re protected for up to 70 years in the United States.

If you’re out of the country, it can vary from country to country. The copyright range in the publishing world usually ranges from 50 to 70 years.

Take note that 70 years only applies to creators and works done after 1978. Before then, every work had to be published and registered.

Registration is no longer necessary, but for works before 1978, the process is much more complicated.

Another thing: while copyright can belong to only you as the sole author, it can change if there are multiple people involved. Joint authorship and collective works retain the copyright for groups and numerous people.

Copyright is also transferrable and may require permission in writing. Depending on the case, the copyrighted work can revert back to the original author.

The TRIPS Agreement

The TRIPS Agreement stands for Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement.

Copyright laws fall under the TRIPS agreement! Made by the World Trade Organization during the year 1995, this agreement is quite comprehensive.

It covers copyright, related rights, trademarks, industrial designs, patents, and more. It lays down copyright standards, remedies, developments, and more.

In short, copyright law gives you exclusive rights to your work. Besides, it protects you as an author against plagiarism. In the Internet age, the latter has become more rampant. Let’s discuss it more below.

Understanding Fair Use

Fair use is one of the most common defenses against copyright infringement. If someone uses fair use, they have the ability to reproduce work without permission from the original author.

However, fair use has its limitations. Users can only do fair use when they’re doing commentary, criticism, or a parody.

Aside from the lack of permission, the fair use policy also ensures there’s no issue or infringement at all.

Why is there no infringement involved? Well, the act of commentating, criticizing, or parodying a book has benefits for the general public. There are educational uses for it.

For example, a student does a book review, or a YouTube channel does a commentary video on several books. Both of them can get a few quotes, summarize a passage, or copy paragraphs to prove a point in their own work.

Parodies, meanwhile, exist for entertainment and mocking criticism.

With the nature of the work, some mimicry is necessary. This is understood to contribute to the parody and not to infringe on the copyrighted property.

Authors must also consider that their books have uses in teaching, research, and news. The copyright act doesn’t apply to such educational purposes.

However, it isn’t as easy as readers and content creators slapping “this is for fair use” every time they take something from your pages. There are several factors that all people involved must process. Authors can challenge their right with the following information:

#1 What Is The Purpose of the Work?

All work under fair use must have the ability to be transformative. You can’t just reproduce the same exact images, assets, or words.

There needs to be meaning and utility if creators use someone else’s intellectual property. Otherwise, what they’re doing isn’t allowed in the publishing industry.

#2 What Are The Characteristics of the Work? 

An exclusive chapter, private correspondence, or an unreleased manuscript are all unlikely considerations for educational resources under fair use.

Creative works are more strongly protected by copyright, so authors can assert more rights as they see fit.

#3 How Much Was Used? 

You can hardly call for fair use protection if you’re going to upload the entire movie, book, or artwork online.

There are cases where that example goes without any challenges – mostly for parodies and commentaries.

Beyond the quantitative way to measure how much of the book was used, there are qualitative measures as well. Authors can take the step to have works taken down if too much of the original creation was used.

#4 Does It Affect The Value of the Original Work?

Are the books readily available at a reasonable price? Then uploading a substantial amount of the book may affect its market value.

Authors can use this reasoning to file for infringement and protection.

Understanding fair use is all about balance. While we don’t want to keep our books inaccessible to criticism and further education, some use fair use laws to excuse outright plagiarism.

The Digital World’s Role

The Internet has made society more connected, and we can now access more of the world than ever before. It’s brought us closer to people and had made all kinds of media. However, it also made intellectual property laws much more fragile.

There are more challenges for authors and publishers today. The probability of an attorney getting involved with publication law is higher.

In discussing the issues we have in the publishing industry today, you can be more informed about important issues when publishing a book.

Reproduction & Distribution

It’s great that anyone can upload and download books on the Web.

There’s just a con: anyone can upload and download books on the Web.

As a result, copyright rules that we know as the doctrine can be thrown out of the window.

Whatever you know about copyright law in publication applies to publishing on the Internet. Reproducing and distributing books, there’s more danger for publishers and authors alike.

For example, there are more sites that host plagiarized books. It’s harder to take anything down when more sites start popping back up when you report a plagiarized book.

These books don’t exist in just one format, either. Users upload books in PDF, EPUB, audiobook, and as a compilation of photographs.

In the digital era, an instance of reproduction becomes an instance of distribution right away. There’s nothing that holds anyone back from scanning and uploading contents from different authors in a span of mere minutes.

Many authors and publishers track for mentions of their work. Both authors and publishers can issue notices once infringement issues occur.

Self-Publishing, Fanfiction, Ghostwriting, and the Public Domain

There are specific considerations you need to be aware of as an author.


Self-publishing is protected by copyright as soon as you write the book. Again, consider going for a copyright registration to make it more official. It’s not necessary, but it can help.

However, there may be some forms of publishing that you may not consider as self-publishing. Putting work upon personal blogs, sites, or social media can be regarded as self-published.

If you’re an author that submits to literary journals, you might want to take note that they don’t take published work. You can only submit it to journals and publishers that allow reprints.

Another thing to look at is Amazon. “Self-published” works pop up all the time, but they’re already infringing copyright. Their titles may be dangerously close to yours, or the pages copied yours word-for-word.

Unfortunately, these self-publishers can earn thousands of dollars from copyright infringement.


Ghostwriting isn’t copyright infringement.

If an author chooses to work for hire under commission, the contract usually lays the process out. Once the book is completed, all rights revert to the one who hired the author.

This side of information is vital if you’re looking to become a ghostwriter or hiring one yourself.

If you’re looking to become one, don’t fall under the illusion that the creation becomes yours upon publishing. If you’re looking to hire one, make sure each step is outlined.

It’s important to note that ghostwriters don’t get any royalty either. Make sure you factor this in as an author dealing with intellectual property in the publishing industry.

Fan Fiction 

Fanfiction can be flattering – or downright offensive. It depends on which writer you’re talking to.

Fanfiction refers to all writing by fans of a particular book or series. As a writer, you can consider the possibility of fan fiction rising up from your plot and characters. Or maybe you’ve written fan fiction yourself.

Any writer could be like E.L James, Anna Todd, and Cassandra Clare. They managed to publish their fanfiction as original work. They wrote for Twilight, the One Direction fandom, and Harry Potter, respectively.

Fanfiction is said to infringe on copyright as it is derivative work.

After all, fan fiction writers can alter universes and plot lines, but they still have the same characters. In some cases, they use the same plot lines, just changing them as they see fit.

Some prominent writers who oppose fan fiction include Anne Rice and George R.R Martin. J.K Rowling has given fanfiction her blessing. However, she and her publisher still got into issues with fan fiction.

For example, a Harry Potter Lexicon site went to court with Rowling and her publisher after they made a move to commercialize the site. Both the publisher and Rowling also gave notices to fan fiction sites that had explicit sexual content in their writing.

If you’re a writer who opposes fan fiction, you can take action. However, for those who write fan fiction themselves, sites are still up, and the fiction will continue.

The Public Domain

All authors must be aware of the public domain. A book under this domain no longer has copyright laws or intellectual property rights.

How does this happen?

If the book was published before the year 1926, then the book is in the public domain.

Several authors’ works will enter the public domain by 2073, and many will expire soon after. There are usually updates on which work has lost intellectual property rights.

The public domain doesn’t just cover books. Images and sound files can be under the domain as well.

However, the publishing industry and loss of intellectual property rights don’t just apply to books done before 1926. Copyright can expire. The owner, publisher, or author could’ve neglected to renew the right.

Or, the publisher or author could choose to make the book part of the domain right away.

Is There A Way to Remedy Copyright Infringement Issues?

Payment is usually the standard for authors and publishers encountering infringement issues. Any losses that either publisher, author, or owner suffered from should be covered as well.

Also, a court order may be issued to the one who took part in the infringement. The law usually just orders them to stop doing the infringing.

The law also allows the confiscation and destruction of copyrighted images, books, or other items. Fees for an attorney may be included as well.

If you want to take action, do apply for copyright registration.

Deposit your book, so there’s a reference on what is the original material in question. It makes it easier for the publisher, attorney, author, and the court.

If you ever find yourself in a copyright bind within the publishing industry, take note of these remedies. Take action with your publisher right away.


That wraps our short crash course on intellectual property rights! Publishing a book has never been an easy feat. You have to be aware of multiple issues that may go on simultaneously.

Being aware of intellectual property is crucial to becoming a published writer. You want to protect yourself and your books as much as possible.

In the present times, it is much easier to infringe on copyright and get away with it.

While it initially may seem harmless, it could rob you of revenue and deserved credit. So, be aware of everything that may happen. Take action if you need to, as it’s within your rights.

Do you have any questions? Do you want to share your own experiences regarding the industry? Tell us! We would love to hear from you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Ready to get started?
Leave your details below