If your book is being published by an established publishing company, you’ll have professionals screen your work and ensure all copyright and trademark permissions are in place before the book hits the shelves. However, if you self-publish you must do all this yourself. Fortunately, while you may have to look twice at things you never would have thought about before, it is fairly easy to avoid copyright or trademark violations in your self-published book. The main thing you need is a sharp eye.
Look for brand names. Read through your book carefully and make note of any brand names that you’ve used. Generally, any brand name you use should be capitalized as a proper name. Depending on your usage, you may need to include a disclaimer on the copyright page of your book.
- For example, if you’ve written a fictional account of a character who works at Apple, you might want to include a disclaimer that your work is a work of fiction, and that various names used in your novel such as “iTunes” are intellectual property of Apple, and that Apple does not sponsor or endorse your work.
- You can find general language for a disclaimer online, or by looking at the copyright page of a published book that makes liberal use of trademarked words or phrases.
- You also should watch out for words that have slipped into normal speech as generic words but actually are brand names that should be capitalized. For example, “Band-Aid” is a trademark, as is “Kleenex,” even though people routinely use those terms instead of “bandage” or “tissue.”
- When in doubt, a style guide such as the Chicago Manual of Style or the Associated Press Stylebook can help you. Just make sure you pick one and use it consistently.
Search the trademark database. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has a searchable database of all trademarks with complete or pending registration available on its website. Use it to your advantage when you’re screening your book for possible trademark violations.
- In addition to searching brand names that you might have used in your text, you also want to search for the title of your book as well as character names.
- Some established writers as well as film and television companies frequently trademark the names of potential characters for future use, as well as characters that are already well known to prevent other companies from exploiting them.
- Generally, if you find your title or the name of a character in the trademark database, you should just change yours. That’s the easiest way to avoid a potential trademark violation.
Make note of any quotes. If you quoted a song or another work anywhere in your book, you often must get permission from the copyright holder to use it in your work. This is especially true for quoting song lyrics.
- Keep in mind you can always use song, movie, or book titles to reference those works. Any title is considered fair game and you don’t need permission to use it.
- However, if you’re quoting the lyrics of a song or a couple lines of a poem, you typically must secure permission from the copyright owner.
- Keep in mind that getting permission to use song lyrics in particular requires contacting the songwriter and his or her publisher, and typically is very expensive. Unless you can afford to spend thousands of dollars to quote a line from a song, you’re probably better to leave it out.
Get contact information for creators of images. You should have permission for any images you’ve used, including your cover art. Even if you’ve purchased a stock photo, not all stock licenses cover the use of the photo for a book cover or anything that involves making copies and selling them.