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X900BattleGrape
07-18-2008, 02:45 AM
Hey everyone! I'm working on a non-fiction book with a friend of mine who is a professional photographer and am looking for a little guidance on copyrighting and other stuff. For now I don't want to get into what the book is specifically, so hopefully this wont hamper anyone. The book is, I think, a unique venture (or at least a unique spin on a couple of genre's that typically don't get mixed together), and for those reasons it's presenting some problems to us. I've read a lot on the forums and think I have answers to some of the questions, or at least a partial answer, but I'll ask here anyway. Thanks for any help.

We are sure that, in some cases, in order to get information and (more importantly) permission to take photographs we'll have to spill the beans about the book. Once we do this we're positive the information / permission will happen. But, are we protected from having our idea stolen? If we're not then is the best option to do a proposal (not query letter) detailing the book and it's purpose etc.? Then what? Obviously if we need to tell all about the book in order to get a fair amount of material for the book; we can't finish it first and then copyright it :)

We have numerous emails, phone calls, and discussions with friends and family about the book's details. Is this sufficient to protect us??

There are a few cases where a famous person has been photographed, but their image would be used in the book to illustrate what that particular section is about which is nothing to do with them. Weird huh? Anyway, do we still need some sort of rights to their image, or is it fair use?

From what we can see our book falls into 2 and possibly 3 discreet non-fiction categories. Does this present any problems we should be aware of as we move from research, data gathering, photographing, organizing, writing and into proposals, queries, etc.?

The book is also franchiseable, though we'd likely not be involved at all in any derivative versions. Any advise for provisions in a contract that give us a take if the publisher franchises it? What should that take be?

That's it for now, thanks everyone

Billingsgate
07-18-2008, 06:29 AM
From my limited experience, I would say that, first, you can't copyright a concept. You can register a name or title as a trademark, but you can't claim ownership of the broader concept.

Emails and discussion with family are supposed to protect you...from what?

As for your book falling into several categories, there is a denger in that. I've had personal experience with it. Publishers need to pigeonhole your book into a specific category, because otherwise the ignorant staff in retailers won't know where to file it (ever notice the "File under:___" notice printed in tiny type on many books?). This is a real problem. Several years ago I had a book published that was 'humorous natural history'. A mid-sized and well-established New York publisher enthusiastically published it and even took out full-page ads in Publisher's Weekly for it. Not a single American book chain would stock it. The publisher was told over and over: It has cartoons and jokes, so it doesn't fit in science, and it has real scientific information, so it's it doesn't fit in humor. So rather than put it in both sections, they wouldn't sell it at all. The publisher, a well-known figure in the book business, even took the CEO of B. Daltons out to lunch to try to persuade him, but the pigeonholing rule was held sacrosanct. I know people here will argue with me about this, but it really happened. I've had similar pigeonholing experiences in TV production and comic strip syndication.

So when you're pitching your book to publishers, emphasize one genre only, don't think that the ability to fit into numerous genres will necessarily be an advantage.

Medievalist
07-18-2008, 06:36 AM
You need a signed model release for pictures with people in them.

Copyright doesn't apply to ideas; only words, sounds, and images, and their arrangement and relationships in terms of display/syntax/order/grammar.

You have copyright from the minute you first set pen to paper, and the photographic equivalent.

X900BattleGrape
07-19-2008, 06:59 PM
From my limited experience, I would say that, first, you can't copyright a concept. You can register a name or title as a trademark, but you can't claim ownership of the broader concept.

What we'd like to protect first and foremost is this first book, of course. However, the types of information the book covers and how it's arranged and presented will be very unique and particular. It's the later that we'd also like to protect so that the franchiseable aspect is not lost. I would assume this is done in cases like the "Blah for Dummies" books. Any thoughts on what we're looking for in addition to copyright?



Emails and discussion with family are supposed to protect you...from what?

Someone else using the idea and producing the book before we do. This may just be paranoia, but we'll need to tell all about it soon and we don't want to run into a case where the person we speak to has a brother or friend who writes non-fiction or whatever, gets told the idea, and we're beaten to the finish line by someone else.



So when you're pitching your book to publishers, emphasize one genre only, don't think that the ability to fit into numerous genres will necessarily be an advantage.

Very helpful! I was worried about this being a problem for us rather than a benefit. We can certainly present it as one over the other and while it'll be obvious the book could sit it a different section of the store I don't think there'll be a conflict to the point we'll run into the problem you had.

Did you get your book placed after all?



You need a signed model release for pictures with people in them.

Is there a point at which it's not needed because the person isn't notable / famous, or they are unrecognizable and personally identifiable? I figured
we would have to get some permission for our pictures of B.B. King or other well known folks. They probably have an agent we'd have to talk to eh?


Copyright doesn't apply to ideas; only words, sounds, and images, and their arrangement and relationships in terms of display/syntax/order/grammar.

You have copyright from the minute you first set pen to paper, and the photographic equivalent.

Last question I think :) We don't have any of the book written, but we have many photographs, many many pages detailing content, content layout, special sections (prologue, about the authors, a humor section with some interesting stories and such related to making the book), etc. Is this enough to protect us?

It does sound like we'd be able to copyright our particular book style so that answers that one i think.

Appreciate the feedback and answers very much :D

Medievalist
07-19-2008, 07:05 PM
You are worrying way too much about this.

Just write the damn book, get model releases and start submitting.

X900BattleGrape
07-19-2008, 07:21 PM
You are worrying way too much about this.

Just write the damn book, get model releases and start submitting.

Byproduct of my mom putting the fear into me, so thanks for tempering that a bit :)

So basically I should feel comfortable telling all about the book though I haven't written any actual pages of the book?

Medievalist
07-19-2008, 07:25 PM
You don't "tell all," you say "I'm writing a book about X." You provide only the information people need to know; you don't promote the book in advance.

You don't act like it's the crown jewels, either. But if you're asking for something, say a photo, you need to let people know how you plan to use that work/information.


And I'd sit down and write a formal book proposal, including a chapter by chapter outline, too. You often sell a non-fiction book as a proposal.

X900BattleGrape
07-19-2008, 07:40 PM
You don't "tell all," you say "I'm writing a book about X." You provide only the information people need to know; you don't promote the book in advance.

Our concern, which I don't feel is unfounded, is that in some cases we will need to be very explicit about the book, our intentions with it, and the benefit of inclusion in the book for the subject. For example, we'll want to be dragging all the camera gear up to say Mountain Winery for a concert, or onto ships during Fleet Week (air / ship show in San Francisco).

We'd be pleasantly surprised if all we needed was a press pass, which we have, but Murphy's Law tells me that in some cases we'll have to go that extra mile to convince them to give us permission.


You don't act like it's the crown jewels, either. But if you're asking for something, say a photo, you need to let people know how you plan to use that work/information.

Exactly. Again, most of this is motivated out of some fear that in cases where we do need to lay all our cards on the table to get permission for photographing, or information to include in the book, we'll end up screwed "somehow". My mom may be filling our heads with a bit too much paranoia and I really appreciate your thoughts on the matter which do seem far more reasonable and true :)


And I'd sit down and write a formal book proposal, including a chapter by chapter outline, too. You often sell a non-fiction book as a proposal.

That's next up on the hit list. It's just been a bit of a whirl-wind for me doing research and sending the photographer out on their tasks so we bag some of this and don't have to wait for next summer.

Medievalist
07-19-2008, 07:46 PM
You say "We're writing a book about" err . . . " . . . and we'd love to include some shots of ..."

You get the signature before you take pictures.

Even if someone "steals" your idea, and they won't, it won't have YOU behind it.

Jenna Glatzer has a good post/thread on writing a non-fic book proposal in the Non fiction area.

X900BattleGrape
07-19-2008, 07:55 PM
You say "We're writing a book about" err . . . " . . . and we'd love to include some shots of ..."

You get the signature before you take pictures.

Is there a standard form to get signature's or something?



Jenna Glatzer has a good post/thread on writing a non-fic book proposal in the Non fiction area.

Been reading that, it's very nicely done :)

On my question about images of people and where the line is drawn for needing permission to use their image...any idea?

Medievalist
07-19-2008, 07:58 PM
Gah . . . I know I used to have to get signed releases for promo images from parents of any minor, even in group shots with several kids.

I'd suggest you google, honestly. You'd at least find a sample model release form.

Certainly anyone who is featured in an image. Certainly anyone with "fame"

X900BattleGrape
07-19-2008, 08:05 PM
I'd suggest you google, honestly. You'd at least find a sample model release form.

Certainly anyone who is featured in an image. Certainly anyone with "fame"


Will do. Damn, we have a really nice shot of a random person that was taken for fun but we actually want to use now. Maybe my friend got their contact information, but I doubt it lol.

Edit: Are you published? Also, I apologize if I did come off as overly concerned, but I was lead down a certain path where there are boogie men (or women) lurking behind every acorn ;)

MadScientistMatt
07-19-2008, 11:40 PM
One further note: Nonfiction books often get the contract before you write it. So you will be able to say something like, "I'm taking these photos for a book about [subject] that is under contract with [publisher]." That'll help you get taken seriously without going into details about your idea.

scope
07-20-2008, 12:03 AM
Medievalist has given you all kinds of excellent advise, as have others. If you are so paranoid about someone stealing your idea for your unwritten and basically unphotographed book, perhaps you should seek the advice of an intellectual rights attorney. It's not something I would suggest, at least not yet, because you first should write your book, write a query letter, and write your book proposal. If I understand you correctly, you want to protect something which at the moment only exists in your mind. If doing the writing involves your having to take some chances, well there doesn't seem to be much you can do about it. You do what you can and that's it.

Medievalist
07-20-2008, 12:16 AM
Edit: Are you published? Also, I apologize if I did come off as overly concerned, but I was lead down a certain path where there are boogie men (or women) lurking behind every acorn ;)

I'm an academic, and have published in my fields, and I'm a geek, with many years experience in software and technical editing, and rights acquisition.

X900BattleGrape
07-20-2008, 03:16 AM
Medievalist has given you all kinds of excellent advise, as have others. If you are so paranoid about someone stealing your idea for your unwritten and basically unphotographed book, perhaps you should seek the advice of an intellectual rights attorney. It's not something I would suggest, at least not yet, because you first should write your book, write a query letter, and write your book proposal. If I understand you correctly, you want to protect something which at the moment only exists in your mind. If doing the writing involves your having to take some chances, well there doesn't seem to be much you can do about it. You do what you can and that's it.

The intellectual rights attorney is an option, I will definitely look into that, thank you! I've tried to explain that there are a couple of things about the book which are unique, that really make the book, and so on. Because of this it's not the content exactly which we're interested in protecting at this juncture. Additionally, if the first book is a success there would be no reason to not franchise it (ala "Toasting for Dummies", "HTML for Dummies", etc.), so we want to protect future iterations as well. Perhaps this is nothing new, I don't know and have no experience in the field, which is why I am here ;)

And, as explained, the paranoia I was exhibiting stemmed more from advise family gave and then my running with that advise to it's logical conclusion; there will be someone we need to spill the beans to fully in order to get "whatever permission" and they'll have a friend/relative that's established in the publishing world who they'll tell the idea too and given resources and knowledge steal it / produce it before we can. It sounds to me like you're all saying this, or similar scenarios, are pretty unlikely. Great, points taken.



One further note: Nonfiction books often get the contract before you write it. So you will be able to say something like, "I'm taking these photos for a book about [subject] that is under contract with [publisher]." That'll help you get taken seriously without going into details about your idea.

Also great advise, also something for me to get right on.

The nutshell we found ourselves in was that some of the things we need to photograph for the book only occur in the summer, for brief periods, that we had the idea literally in May, that I moved and by the time we got rolling it was late June. Our struggle was with how to achieve what you're stating above (or something like it) while at the same time not missing key photo opportunities because we felt uncomfortable speaking in any depth about the project. In the end it's just time crunch stuff. There was no way to do some of the advise here before some of the photo stuff in June and early July.

scope
07-20-2008, 03:57 AM
[quote=X900BattleGrape;2569780] I've tried to explain that there are a couple of things about the book which are unique, that really make the book, and so on.

> Everyone who is writing a fiction or nonfiction book belives their work is unique.

it's not the content exactly which we're interested in protecting at this juncture.

> I assume you are referring to protection of your idea. As we have established. you can't protect an idea.


Additionally, if the first book is a success there would be no reason to not franchise it (ala "Toasting for Dummies", "HTML for Dummies", etc.), so we want to protect future iterations as well. Perhaps this is nothing new, I don't know and have no experience in the field, which is why I am here ;)

>How can you protect anything that doesn't exist? As you say, "...if the first book is a success"
When querying (much better in your proposal) agents or publishers about the first book you can ever so gently suggest the possibility to become a series. But please, remember that nothing is possible until you sell the first book. Also, don't underestimate agents or editors. Most will know before you can tell them that your first book lends itself to a series. I respect your opinion, but to think, at least at this point, "...there would be no reason not tofranchise it." is something you don't know and have no control over. Get the first book written and see what happens.

And, as explained, the paranoia I was exhibiting stemmed more from advise family gave and then my running with that advise to it's logical conclusion; there will be someone we need to spill the beans to fully in order to get "whatever permission" and they'll have a friend/relative that's established in the publishing world who they'll tell the idea too and given resources and knowledge steal it / produce it before we can. It sounds to me like you're all saying this, or similar scenarios, are pretty unlikely. Great, points taken.

>I understand that you are afraid that exposure of the idea for any reason may lead to someone stealing your idea. Unfortunately I don't believe there is anyway to guarantee yourself that this won't happen, as unlikely as it may be. If an intellectual rights attorney can't help you (which I doubt he can), again, what choice do you have but to run the risk? Isn't this a fear that most every writer has, new or published, especially those who write nonfiction and have a "special" take on a subject.

Good luck.

X900BattleGrape
07-20-2008, 04:37 AM
> Everyone who is writing a fiction or nonfiction book belives their work is unique.

Absolutely true. We did do the research, fairly thoroughly, to determine if anything like our idea is out there. There isn't, whew. If our uniqueness was related to the content itself we would less sure because it would take reading a ton of books and who has the time for that level of research lol.



> I assume you are referring to protection of your idea. As we have established. you can't protect an idea.

Yeah, I know. This was sorta the whole point of asking what other ways we had to protect it etc.



But please, remember that nothing is possible until you sell the first book. Also, don't underestimate agents or editors. Most will know before you can tell them that your first book lends itself to a series. I respect your opinion, but to think, at least at this point, "...there would be no reason not tofranchise it." is something you don't know and have no control over. Get the first book written and see what happens.

Agreed 100% It may not sell well, in which case there's no motivation for us or a publisher to replicate the effort. We've had 100% "Amazing, hell yes I'd buy that" response so far, though I understand 15 people isn't a scientific poll ;) I don't mean to assume anything other than if the book did well then it would make sense to franchise since human nature is what it is whether in NY or CA or London or where ever. I hope so anyway lol.



>I understand that you are afraid that exposure of the idea for any reason may lead to someone stealing your idea. Unfortunately I don't believe there is anyway to guarantee yourself that this won't happen, as unlikely as it may be. If an intellectual rights attorney can't help you (which I doubt he can), again, what choice do you have but to run the risk? Isn't this a fear that most every writer has, new or published, especially those who write nonfiction and have a "special" take on a subject.

Good luck.

That's the impression I am getting based on everyone's advise. I will do what I can, and I know an IP attorney so it wont hurt to bend her ear for a couple minutes free of charge, plus do all the other excellent advise in this thread.

Thanks, we'll need it. In two or three years we should be done and have the book out. Fingers crossed.

veinglory
07-20-2008, 05:56 AM
There are a lot of good examples of model releases online, for example at stock photography sites.

Billingsgate
07-20-2008, 08:14 AM
My impression is that your overall paranoia is way way way over the top. First, what motivation would another person have for stealing your concept? Most writers I know have a backlog of great concepts that they don't have the time to develop for themselves; they don't need to steal from others.

Secondly, if the execution of the concept requires as much work as you say, it's not something some thief of a hack writer can dash out in a week. So why would anyone invest three years and countless energy into stealing another person's vision?

Let me add to your paranoia, though: what's to prevent a publisher or agent from seeing your proposal, saying: "Great concept! But who the hell are you? I'll find a known writer and known photographer from my own client list and package the book." It can happen. More likely it won't. But if you're so worried, then I suggest you keep the whole concept secret and never show it to any agents or publishers either.

Go look at the history of the "Chicken Soup" series. An obvious and easy-to-steal concept. They had to inform all their contributors and get their consent long before they ever had a publishing contract. They spent a couple years pursuing publishers, with no success. By that time their concept must have been pretty well known all over the place. I don't know all the details, but they finally went with a tiny publisher, then they set about promoting the hell out of the book with an interview per day and public lectures. Surely someone could have stolen their easy-to-package idea and presented it to a major publisher before their original book with the tiny publisher got into all the shops. But it didn't happen. Those two guys didn't dwell on paranoia: they dwelt on making their book a success. Period.

Your overwhelming concern about "protecting yourself" is surely going to protect you from one thing only: it will protect you against success.

If I were you I'd be more paranoid about using people's faces without their signing a release form. Not just famous people, but anyone with the ability to phone a lawyer.

Focus all - 110 percent - of your energy on the book. You'll never know if your 'unique' concept is something others deem worthwhile publishing until you've done so.

In response your question above, about my book that no US book chains would stock. No, it never sold in the USA, and there were thousands of remaindered copies. But they sold translation rights to several other countries, where shops are less concerned about pigeonholing (or maybe where book shops actually employ literate employees). So it did okay in Europe, Singapore, Hong Kong, Israel and a few other places.

X900BattleGrape
07-20-2008, 05:40 PM
Found some model release form examples :)

Billingsgate, yes and as I explained this unfounded fear came largely from my mother from whom I was getting a sense of what else to do besides write the book ;) I should have recognized that she was being over the top because it's a general trait of hers (fear and paranoia). But, since I have no experience with publishing at all let alone with non-fiction (I read fiction for the most part) I went with her advice to make "protection" a top priority. I concur with your sentiment that it would be unusual for someone to want to take on all this work for the potential of a payoff, so again between your response and others I am back on my own mental terra-firma; namely reasonable due diligence and caution.

On your book, are all the big name book stores the same and there there was no other chain that would stock the book? That is a real shame, I wonder how many other books this has happened to over the years.