Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Insight into WriterSpeak

Deb at a book event for Mom NEEDS Chocolate
I frequently get asked by aspiring writers to clarify writerspeak terms, so here's a few that I thought might be helpful to those just getting their feet wet in the sea of publication.

Copyright: Exclusive legal right to an artistic or literary work that is original and fixed in tangible form. Copyright exists for the life of the author + 70 years.

Permission must be granted from the copyright owner to use more than two lines of a poem, song, or passage. A copyright owner can be tracked down at

Public Domain: Work available for public use, usually because the rights have expired (e.g. the author is long dead and more than 70 years have passed).

Libel: A false printed statement about a living person that may damage his/her reputation, occupation, or business. Libel does not apply to stated opinions or dead people. Corporations and products can be libeled as well as individuals; beware of stating false statements as opinion (there's some gray area here but I wouldn't chance a lawsuit).

Invasion of privacy: May include intrusion upon seclusion (people have a legal right to their privacy), public disclosure of private facts (e.g. medical problems, sexual practices), false light (false portrayal that would be offensive to "reasonable" people; can be positive or negative), and commercial appropriation (using someone's name or image to endorse a product without permission).

I hope this helps un-muddy the water a bit. Special thanks to Jennie Miller Helderman for her excellent educational information that contributed to the above.