Copyright, Publishing Contract Clauses, Image Use And Avoiding Getting Sued With Helen Sedwick

Helen Sedwick is a California attorney with 30 years experience representing a diverse range of businesses and entrepreneurs. She writes historical fiction and has also written the Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook to help writers self-publish while minimizing legal risk.

We discuss:

How Helen studied creative writing, but eventually went to law school when she wanted to earn more money, but she continued to write on the side. 30 years later, she self-published her historical novel, Coyote Winds, and learned so much about the process. She wrote a guide to help other authors based on her legal perspective.

What is copyright? When does it come into existence and how do you register it? Using the metaphor of a house you own, Helen explains how each room represents a certain right, and how you can best exploit those and protect yourself.

Some key publishing contract clauses to watch out for. Limit the rights by length of time, or the format asked for. Make sure that a publisher will actually exploit any rights you sell. How the end of the contract is managed and when you get your rights back. Defining ‘out of print’ in a digital age.

Using images, quotes, poetry and song lyrics. Permissions, fair use, parody, using images, creative commons, royalty-free and the issues you might face with other people’s copyright. Helen also has a new book: How to use eye-catching images without paying a fortune or a lawyer, which is really useful. I also mention my Flickr account, which is Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial.

On writing memoir and real life people and events – without getting sued! Considering privacy issues and country differences.

On piracy and enforcing copyright. How to use take-down notices. But basically, obscurity is more of a risk than piracy, and some authors use piracy as a form of marketing these days.

Avoiding scams in the shark-infested waters of self-publishing. Check out Writer Beware. We also discuss competitions and which are worth entering.

Collaborating with other authors, translators and other professionals. What you need to consider if you want to work successfully with other people.

On working with attorneys and lawyers – if you need one.
How setting up a business can be great for optimizing your finances.

You can find Helen at and on twitter @HelenSedwick.

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