Legal Corner

Sheila J. Levine, Esq.

Sheila J. Levine

(212) 866-5353

These Notes on contracts and other legal issues are prepared by Sheila J. Levine, Esq. for writers unfamiliar with the pitfalls of authorship and publication. They are more general in nature than intended to be definitive of the subjects examined, thus should not be taken as answers to particular legal problems. The Notes may not include exceptions to general rules or take into account specific factual circumstances that may result in a different conclusion. They are not intended as personal legal advice and should not be construed as creating an attorney-client relationship. Questions of law, construction of legal documentsand remedies for perceived violations of rights should be addressed to a publishing attorney.

Monday, 4 November, 2013 - 22:13

Internet Subscription Libraries for Self Published Works

New Internet ventures are offering to “lend” digital books based on subscription models that brick and mortar lending libraries in England invented in the 19th Century.  For $X dollars per time period subscribers gain access to vast collections of backlist and self-published books at less cost and with none of the complications of purchasing the physical artifacts.  Publishers Weekly recently reported on and, but there are many other services in niche genres...

Wednesday, 10 April, 2013 - 12:40

Statutory Right to Terminate Exclusive Licenses

The Copyright Act of 1976 decrees that the author shall have a right exercisable only once for each separate literary work under exclusive license and for a brief window of time after 35 years from the date of a work’s publication to terminate a license. (There are some qualifications to this, but not necessary to explain the concept). There are two provisions concerning statutory termination, one [Section 304(c)] relates to literary works published prior to...

Sunday, 31 March, 2013 - 12:44

Revolutionary Times For Publishers, Writers and Readers

The publishing world is a vortex of change. There has been a steady flow of news reports, court filings by the Department of Justice, judicial decisions followed by settlements, merger announcements, controversial contract terms for new digital imprints and much more besides. We find publishers, brick and mortar bookstores, and distributors all trying to adjust their business models to respond to revolutionary changes in the production and distribution of...

Friday, 15 February, 2013 - 10:03

Authors and Domain Names: Claiming Rights to Names and Titles

Productive authors increase in status and over time become recognized by the general public as the source of their literary works. At the beginning of a career authors simply start out as names.  They become brands when readers recognize them as sources for goods and services in a trademark sense.  Names can acquire value separate from the individuals who answer to them.  Authors who have achieved “brand” recognition qualify for trademark registration, as...

Friday, 16 November, 2012 - 09:05

Creator’s Right to Compensation for Misappropriated Concept

A writer’s income generally comes from royalties and licensing revenues for works which are protected by copyright.  Section 102(a) of the U.S. Copyright Act states that “original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression” are protected by copyright.  By definition in Section 102(b) ideas and concepts do not have copyright protection.  A writing known in the entertainment industry as a “series treatment” which embodies an idea developed for a...

Friday, 14 September, 2012 - 09:51

Writers Be-Wary: Distribution and Control of Creative Material

Originally published as a Guest Blog on Writer Beware® September 7, 2012

Authors create the content blog aggregators need for their web collections. Each gains in different ways. For the aggregator, the greater the variety of material and the steadier the receipt of content the more valuable the aggregated website. Because aggregating content is a business not a charitable operation, it is natural that...

Tuesday, 4 September, 2012 - 19:07

The (Un)Satisfactory Manuscript

The traditional publishing process begins with an editor’s enthusiastic response to an author’s outline, proposal, and sample chapter, followed by an offer and contract from the publisher.  Once the contract is signed the focus shifts to the quality of the final manuscript.  The publishing contract includes a “d...

Thursday, 23 August, 2012 - 09:17

What Rights Should an Author Grant in a Contract with a Traditional Publisher?

When lawyers talk about “standard” clauses and courts refer to publishing contracts as “standard agreements” it is not to suggest that there is a standard form such as we expect for certain real estate transactions.  What we mean by “standard” is that the contract clauses address similar concepts of rights and duties expressed in language differently crafted by each publisher.  We will comment on the standard clauses from the Author’s perspective. The reason to...

Tuesday, 10 April, 2012 - 05:57

List, Net, Agency and Wholesale: How Authors Get Paid

Whether money is the motive for writing – “[n]o man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money” (Samuel Johnson) – or only one of the rewards for those lonely hours of composition, how does the author get paid? Before she reaches the “royalties” clause in her publishing contract she has to negotiate the “grant of rights”. What is she giving up for what she is getting?  In exchange for granting rights that may extend beyond the grave, she earns royalties


Thursday, 29 March, 2012 - 17:25

Ownership of Work Included in a Compilation

To have a work included in a compilation is a goal eagerly sought after by authors. It is a distinction for a story or article to appear in an anthology. What should the author be alert to? The question comes up in discussing digital aggregation of compilations in the context of authors’ rights under the Copyright Act. The answer is found in sections 103 and 201(c) of the Copyright Act as construed in decisions from the United States Court of Appeals for the...