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"A thoughtful, comprehensive, and invaluable guide for writers."--Bernard Lefkowitz, Professor, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
Any writer or editor not concerned about copyright and libel ought to be. While the laws governing copyright are more straightforward than those regarding libel, disregarding either can land a writer or publication in a lot of hot water. Very hot. While the authors of The Copyright Permission and Libel Handbook state outright that their guide should not take the place of an attorney, they explain copyright and libel issues in great detail, so that, at the very least, you'll know when to be on the alert. Copyright is relatively simple. "If you intend to use someone's copyrighted work," say Jassin and Schechter, "unless the use is considered a fair use, you must obtain that person's written permission." Of course, "fair use" gets tricky. One court determined that the Moral Majority's reproduction of a full ad from Hustler magazine was a fair use, while another ruled that The Nation's reproduction of 300 words from President Ford's 20,000-word unpublished memoirs was not.
Libel is more complicated. Each state (and the District of Columbia) has its own libel laws. And, no, fiction is not exempt, even if you've changed the name and hair color of an otherwise identifiable person. "The best defense to libel," say the authors, "is verifiable truth." Included: detailed checklists--concerning fair use, copyright protection, copyright permission, libel, and "media perils" insurance--and sample forms for requesting permissions, obtaining releases, summarizing permissions, and writing libel disclaimers. --Jane Steinberg
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