This is not meant as comprehensive coverage or legal advice. These are the basic guidelines we follow and require our authors to follow in order to publish a book. With issues of copyright permission, unfortunately, the assumption is you do not have permission until you prove you do.
PRINCIPLE #1: Unless you (the author) personally created, wrote, composed, etc., the product (be it lyric, poem, picture, artwork, newspaper clipping, recipe, text, etc.), you do not have permission to use the item for your book.
PRINCIPLE #2: Public Domain. A work does not enter “public domain” until the creator/copyright holder has been dead for 70 years or if the work was created before 1923. (There are exceptions, but this covers most situations.) Everything else, see Principle #1.
PRINCIPLE #3: Fair Use. “Fair use” is complex. Created to allow minimal usage for reporting, critiques, education, and satire, fair use is not a free pass to use copyrighted works. Since Inkwater Press books are typically sold on a for-profit basis, the ability to claim shelter under Fair Use is limited. While we judge on a case-by-case basis, please know that as a publisher, it is Inkwater Press’ policy to be conservative and to err on the side of the copyright holder.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: I found this on the internet and did not see any copyright information. Can I use it?
Answer: No. This is probably our most-asked question. If you did not create it, you cannot use it without permission. See Principle #1.
Question: The clipart in my book came from the software I have installed on my computer. I can use it, right?
Answer: No … most likely. Artwork and/or clipart that comes with software has specific licensing rights. Some do allow the republication of their artwork in a “for profit” product (all Inkwater Press books are “for profit”), but most do not. In order to be able to use the artwork in your book, we would need a copy of the software licensing that gives the permission. If for any reason you do not have access to that license, we will have to assume that you do not have permission, since that is the most common case.
Question: If I document the proper copyright holder of the (photo, lyric, article, etc.), that counts, right?
Answer: No. Documentation does not equal permission. Written permission for use in your specific title is required for copyright purposes.
Question: My cousin’s friend told me I could use his artwork. So I don’t need written permission, right?
Answer: Unfortunately, we need documented permission to use copyrighted materials that do not belong to you.
Question: An art student friend read a draft of my manuscript three years ago, drew a picture of my main character, and gave it to me. I can use it, right?
Answer: Only if you get written permission from the artist. Just as you own the copyright of your character, the artist owns the copyright of his or her work.
Question: I have this old newspaper article that mentions my family member and I want to include it in my book.
Answer: No. See Principle #1.
Question: This song saved me from committing suicide, and it has become my whole reason for living and writing this book. Can I include it?
Answer: Only if you get permission from the copyright holder. See Principle #1.
Question: I really like this picture. No. I mean, I really, REALLY like it. This book will mean nothing without it. But I don’t know who took it. Can I still use it?
Answer: No. See Principle #1.
Question: I’ve got this picture that’s been hanging in my living room for twenty years. Can I put that on my cover?
Answer: Not unless you painted, took, or created it. See Principle #1.
Question: I am a professor who has taught for twenty years in a prestigious law school. Now I want to publish the course I taught, including all the extracted examples, illustrations, and charts I used from other sources. I should be able to use them since I have done so for years, right?
Answer: No. Extracting materials for classroom settings does fall under the Fair Use laws in the U.S.; however, this book is a for-profit product and does not permit the same usage. See Principle #3.
Question: I am choosing 0% royalties for my book. Since I’m not going to make any money, my book would not be considered a for-profit product, right?
Answer: No. It does not matter how much or how little you make on the book. The book itself is a for-profit product and must honor the copyrights of others. See Principle #1.
Question: C’mon, what are the chances of someone finding out I used this?
Answer: “Chances” do not matter. We honor the copyrights of all creatives, just as we honor the copyrights of our own authors. See Principle #1.
Question: I am donating all the profits of my book to the crippled children of Carpathia for needed medical attention. I’m sure the photographer/songwriter/artist would be honored to be part of this worthy cause.
Answer: We’re sure they would. But you still need to get permission. If they do feel it’s worthy, it is up to the copyright holder to give you permission without charging you.
Question: I hired an artist to do work for my book. Because I paid for it, I don’t need permission to use it, right?
Answer: It depends. Technically, the copyright of the artwork still belongs to the artist, unless that copyright was specifically given over to you as part of the work-for-hire contract. If you are wanting to hire an artist to do custom work for your book, be sure that this aspect of the contract is made clear.
Question: I found this story in a foreign country, so U.S. Copyright laws do not apply, right?
Answer: No. We follow international copyright laws to honor the copyright holders around the world. This principle is not restricted to stories. It also applies to any creative piece: artwork, poetry, music, etc.
Question: I didn’t create this artwork, but I put a lot of my own modifications on it. I can use it right?
Answer: No. The line between “modification to the point of originality” and copyright infringement is too nebulous. As with most copyright issues, Inkwater Press chooses to fall on the side of the original copyright holder over the modifying artist.