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.

Wednesday, 11 May, 2016 - 10:53

Characters and Copyright Protection

Gerald M. Levine, co-author It would be unusual in a work of any genre for every part to be protected by copyright law even though the whole work bears the symbol ©. Only when an infringement is alleged and challenged does it become apparent that the phrase “original works of authorship” (Section 102(a) of the […]

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Sunday, 24 April, 2016 - 14:01

Fair Contracts for Authors

Gerald M. Levine, co-author In May 2015, the Authors Guild announced its Fair Contract Initiative, and more recently the Internatioanl Authors Forum presented “Ten Principles for Fair Contracts.” Both highlight the same ” standard” contract terms. These include length of license, fair royalties on e-books . . . . Continue reading Column from Publishers Weekly […]

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Monday, 11 January, 2016 - 16:16

Derivative Works: Who Owns What?

Courts have recently been busy dealing with the puzzling concepts of derivative works, fair use, and transformation. “Transformation” is the underlying principle of derivative works created either by the author or licensees with the author’s permission; or created without the author’s permission legally under the fair use doctrine. There are two sets of rights granted […]

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Tuesday, 20 October, 2015 - 09:54

Next Book Option In Publishing Contracts: Benign to Toxic

Co-author Gerald M. Levine In May 2015 the Authors Guild announced its “Fair Contract Initiative.” So far it has addressed royalty rates on e-books (should be 50% of net receipts not 25% as it presently is), term of license (should be less than term of copyright which is the default term for print books), name […]

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Monday, 6 July, 2015 - 11:07

Celebrating 305 Years of Statutory Copyright Law

Gerald M. Levine, Co-author Rights in Literary Property The United States Copyright Office and many people on social media, particularly on Twitter, have been celebrating the enactment of the first national copyright act in this country that President Washington signed into law on May 31, 1790. The 1790 Act was largely adopted from an earlier […]

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Thursday, 5 February, 2015 - 20:47

The Role of Investors in Marketing Literary Works

The following article first appeared in Independent Publisher. The full text can also be read in full below. Co-Author Gerald M. Levine Copyright adheres to creative works when they are fixed in tangible mediums of expression for the first time. At the moment of fixation authors own and control their works in every respect, but […]

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Sunday, 26 October, 2014 - 09:51

Characters As Protectable Assets Do Not Survive Copyright Termination

Co-author Gerald M. Levine Characters as protectable assets do not survive copyright termination of the works in which they appear even though they may continue to live on in works that continue in copyright.  All works published prior to January 1, 1923 are in the public domain, a vast repository of cultural wealth available for […]

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Wednesday, 11 June, 2014 - 14:09

Delay in Suing for Copyright Infringement

Co-author, Gerald M. Levine Delay in suing for copyright infringement is not fatal to a claim for damages. Plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent 6-3 decision in Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., decided on May 19, 2014, waited 18 years to bring suit. The majority held that laches cannot be invoked as a bar to […]

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Monday, 4 November, 2013 - 22:13

Internet Subscription Libraries

Co-author, Gerald M. Levine New Internet subscription libraries 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 […]

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Wednesday, 10 April, 2013 - 12:40

Terminating Exclusive Licenses

Co-author, Gerald M. Levine Terminating exclusive licenses after the passage of time is a statutory right. 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 […]

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Sunday, 31 March, 2013 - 12:44

Is Publishing Under Threat of Extinction?

C0-author Gerald M. Levine, Esq. The traditional world of publishing is under threat of extinction; at least, that is the chatter on the Internet and news stories . The current message forecasts a grim future. The evidence is all around us. There is a steady diet of gloom from news reports, court filings by the […]

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Friday, 15 February, 2013 - 10:03

Authors and Domain Names


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Friday, 16 November, 2012 - 09:05

Author’s Right to Compensation for Intellectual Production

Co-author, Gerald M. Levine Authors’ incomes generally come from royalties and licensing revenues for works protected by copyright. He or she has a right to compensation for intellectual production.  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 […]

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Friday, 14 September, 2012 - 09:51

Wariness in Granting Rights to Aggregators

Originally published as a Guest Blog on Writer Beware® September 7, 2012 Co-author, Gerald M. Levine There is a reason for authors to be wary in granting permission for their blogs to be published by aggregaters. Authors create the content blog aggregators need for their web collections. Each gains in different ways. For the aggregator, […]

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Tuesday, 4 September, 2012 - 19:07

Consequences of an Unsatisfactory Manuscript

Co-author, Gerald M. Levine 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

Exclusive Rights for Exploiting Literary Works

Co-author, Gerald M. Levine Publishers expect and demand exclusive rights for exploiting literary works. 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 […]

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Tuesday, 10 April, 2012 - 05:57

Paying Authors for Their Work

Co-author Gerad M. Levine 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 […]

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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...