Is my manuscript copyright protected when I publish with Partridge Singapore?

Yes. The copyright for your material was secured as soon as you created it, or when it became fixed in a manuscript for the first time. No publication or registration or any other official act is required to secure copyright.

Yes, your copyright is secured once you create your material or fix it in a manuscript. No official act, like registration or publication, to secure copyright.

If copyright is automatic, why do I need to register for copyright?

Copyright is attached automatically as your work is ‘fixed in a tangible form’, e.g. printed manuscript, but computer disks or hard drives would also be considered as tangible forms. Registering your copyright with the U.S. Copyright creates a public record of a book’s basic information.

Why file a federal copyright registration?

  1. You get the ability to sue,
  2. And you will be able to sue for and receive statutory damages.

Although copyright attaches upon fixation, you cannot actually sue someone for copyright infringement until you have registered your work with the Copyright Office. ‘Timely Registration’ is the key - filing with the Copyright office before any copyright infringement actually begins. ‘Timely Registration’ makes it much easier to sue and recover money from an infringer. Specifically, it creates a legal presumption that your copyright is valid, and allows you to recover up to $150,000 (and possibly lawyer fees) without having to prove any actual monetary harm.

Partridge Singapore can help you register and protect your work to the fullest extent. Find out more about Partridge Singapore's add-on service of copyright registration.

What is the difference between copyright protected and copyright registered?

Copyright protection is secured upon creation of work. It provides you the right to stop a person or entity from using your work without prior permission. Copyright registration, which you can acquire through our Services Store, is obtained when you officially register your material with the U.S. government. This allows you to sue an infringer and recover statutory damages.

How can I tell if something is copyrighted if I want to use it in my book?

In most cases, any picture, material, text, information, quote, map, song, or illustration that you personally did not create is copyright protected by the person who created and/or published the material. Any text or pictures found in a book, magazine or newspaper is copyright protected by the publisher, artist, photographer or another individual. Most information found on the Internet is copyright protected as well.

Can I use a quote in my book without getting permission?

It depends. Under ‘fair use’ some copyright protected material can be used without permission; however, there are no clear-cut rules, only guidelines and factors to be considered. ‘Fair use’ is not a right, only a defence.

There are four factors that determine fair use:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including potential gains for commercial or non-profit;
  2. The nature of the original copyrighted work;
  3. The proportion or percentage of the copyrighted material in relation to the work as a whole; and
  4. The potential effect on the value of the copyrighted material.

There is no definite rule regarding the number of lines or words that can be used without permission. Also, simply citing the source is not an alternate for obtaining permission to use the material. In general, if you are quoting a few lines within a long book, you will probably be protected under ‘fair use’. However, if you are concerned, and to be on the safe side, always consult with a qualified legal advisor before using copyrighted materials in your book unless you have a written permission.

Works that are considered to be ‘in the public domain’, works whose copyright has expired, been forfeited, or inapplicable, can be used freely without permission. However, determining whether a work is truly in public domain is tricky due to publication of new versions, copyright protection outside the U.S., and protection under alternative laws.

How much can I rely on another work without permission?

There are no clear rules as to the amount of material you can use without permission. If in doubt, consult a legal advisor or look into copyright law for more information. In general, keep the rule of ‘fair use’ (see previous FAQ) in mind and consider how much and what part of the work you are borrowing. The more material you use, the less likely it is to be considered fair use. However, sometimes even a small amount of work proportionally can hold a lot of weight if it is an important part of the work, so the amount of text is not always the determining factor.

Which pictures can I use without permission?

Photos you have personally taken or those under public domain are the only ones you can use without securing permission. If a photo is found in a book, newspaper, magazine, or in any other publication, you must obtain permission first before you are able to use the image. Those than can be found on the Internet are also copyright protected. Furthermore, photographers retain the rights to their photographs, even if it is of you or a family member. Even if you purchased a print/copy of the photo, you still need to obtain permission from the photographer. When in doubt, get permission or talk to a legal consultant.

Does citing the source material clear me of copyright infringement?

No. A citation will not protect you in a court of law against a copyright case. You must obtain permission for any copyrighted material you use in your book.

How do I obtain permission, and what do I do with it?

Contact the copyright holder and explain what work you wish to use and for what purpose. Request their written permission for you to use the material in publication. Some copyright holders will provide permission for free and others will charge a fee. If you cannot get a reply after several attempts, you may be able to use the material without permission, but make sure to keep all documented instances of failed attempts and consult a legal professional to be sure.

Keep the written permission in your possession if for any reason you should need to prove permission in the future. The copyright holder may or may not require additional credit in the book itself.

What is libel?

Libel has different definitions throughout the United States depending on each state's laws, but in general it is a written false defamation, or the publication of any statement that could cause damage to an individual or organisation's character or reputation.

How can I protect myself against libel in publishing?

Although truth is in most cases a defence in a libel case, it is often difficult and lengthy (thus expensive) to prove in court. If your published book tells a true story about events that occurred, the first step to protect yourself is by changing the names of people or organisations in the book. However, simply changing a name from ‘Jim’ to ‘David’ is often not enough. If an individual or party involved can recognise themselves from the situation, places or events even if their name is changed, you can still be sued for libel. Changing the location also helps to distance the story so that it is unrecognisable to real people. You can use a pen name to further distance any recognisable trail back to you or, most importantly, the real person, in order to avoid trouble.

For instance, imagine an individual reader knows you, the author in real life. If you make claims about your husband's doctor, even if you change your husband's name and the doctor's name, but you keep your real name, it is pretty clear to someone involved who you are talking about in reality. By using a pen name and changing the name of people in the book, this will help to further remove the specifics and protect you against any libel claims.

Voicing an opinion is not libellous; however, be careful that you are not actually making an accusatory statement. Even if you say "in my opinion" before a statement, that does not automatically make the statement an opinion if you are speculating or asserting something about someone.

Do not make the following statements or claims, as they are clear grounds for a libel case:

  1. Falsely accusing someone of a crime, or having been charged, indicted or convicted of a crime;
  2. Falsely identifying someone as the carrier of an infectious or loathsome disease;
  3. Falsely charging someone or an organisation with a claim that discredits or disqualifies a business, office or trade and lowers their profitability; and
  4. Falsely accusing someone as being impotent.

Seriously consider if you are self-publishing a book that makes statements or reveals information that could damage an individual, institution, or organisation and consult a legal advisor if you are concerned.

What is the difference between a private and public figure in libel?

A private figure is an individual who is not in the public eye. A public figure is someone in the public eye who has actively sought to influence the resolution of a matter of public interest. There are varying degrees of public figures, which can also play a role.

If you make a claim about a private figure in your book and the individual wanted to charge you with libel, they would only have to prove ‘negligence’, or that a ‘reasonable’ person would not have published the statements. If you are discussing a public figure, or a person in the public's interest, they must prove negligence and ‘malice’, or intent to harm or knowledge that the statements were false, which is slightly more difficult to prove.