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Effective Publicity Sidebar: Copyright Issues

Aug 10, 2011 11:07 AM, by Don Kreski


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When you look at ways to reuse published articles, it’s important to realize that the creator of a given article owns the reprint rights, except if it is a work for hire. In that case, the person or organization that pays the author owns the rights.

I am not an attorney, so you may want to get an attorney’s advice before you act on what I’m about to say. Still, most people recognize that if you submit a story you have written to a magazine and they have not agreed to pay you for it, you own the reprint rights. If you hire someone to write that story for you and then submit it for publication, you still own the rights. You should not need permission to reprint the text.

On the other hand, if you submit a story idea and the publication assigns a staff or freelance writer, then they own the rights and you cannot use the piece without permission. They also own the rights to the page layout they create, no matter who owns the text. You cannot make reprints from a PDF copy of their layout, or use a PDF copy on your website, without permission.

Ownership of photography is a little more complex. Generally, if you submit photographs to a magazine and they have not agreed to pay you for them, you retain ownership. If they hire a photographer, they own the reprint rights and you will need permission to reuse the images. That being said, your agreement with a photographer you’ve hired also comes into play. Quite often the photographer will retain the copyright and may charge you each time you want to use an image. You need to agree up front who will own the rights to photos taken on your behalf.

The courts have not been clear about your right to link to an article on a publication’s website. Most people assume they can link to any web page anywhere, and in fact, most publications are happy to have the incoming links. If, on the other hand, someone asks you not to link to a given article or web page, it’s best to respect that request, as there is a possibility that you could be liable for damages if you ignore them.





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