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Questions to ask before you use copyrighted material:

Before you take the risk of using copyrighted material, ask yourself some questions. Let’s say you are writing a book; here are the types of questions that you must ponder heavily upon.

  • What does the law say about copyright?
    The Indian copyright laws can be traced back to the British era. In 1957, the official Copyright Act was formulated. Under the Act, an author can copyright his/her work stating first ownership. However, in case of contracts, the author’s employer gains first ownership. Chapter 63 of the Copyright Act, Singapore was passed in 1987 and states that authors will automatically receive copyright if the work they present is in a tangible form.
  • Do you have explicit permission to use the content?
    Getting permission is essential, as it saves you the trouble of facing repercussions over any issues with the copyrighted content. Try establishing a good rapport with the curator of the original content, as it will serve as a sweetener when you ask for permission.  
  • Are you using the content for promotional purposes? 
    Since you are writing a novel for commercial and promotional reasons, you are taking a risk by using copyrighted content.

  • How much of the copyrighted material can you use?
    If you are using copyrighted content, make sure not to duplicate the entire content blindly. You can argue about fair dealing rights if you use 300-400 words.
  • In what way are you reproducing the copyrighted material?
    You are writing a novel, so in most cases, you are reproducing the original content for your benefit and not for public service needs. So, be careful about how the original content is being reproduced.
  • What is the duration of the copyright?
    Copyright duration as per Indian Copyright laws states that literary works have a maximum duration of 60 years. Singapore laws give copyright a lifetime of 70 years.
  • What is the punishment for copyright infringement?
    In India, the minimum punishment for copyright infringement is imprisonment for six months and a fine of Rs. 50, 000, while the maximum punishment, in case of a repeat offence, is Rs. 1 Lakh and one-year imprisonment.In Singapore, punishment is $10,000 for each piece of plagiarised material and an imprisonment of five years.  
  • What happens to authors who plagiarise content?
    Plagiarism is the ultimate offense, so authors who are convicted of copyright infringement will effectively lose their recognition among the literary world and will have a very tough time getting good deals from publishers.  
  • What must you do if your work is plagiarised?
    If you notice your content being used illegally, approach a court that has the jurisdiction, and file a civil remedy.
Other legal issues authors should extra-careful about:
Copyright infringement isn’t the only issue. You must be careful with other legal issues that can damage your reputation as an author.
  • Defamation:
    Writing false information or mocking a person in your novel can lead to cases of defamation, which is a punishable offense.

  • Breach of contract: 
    When you meet a traditional publisher, you will be asked to sign a contract that ties you with the publisher. All the work you release will be published exclusively, so if you try to release a book through some other source, you will be subject to breach of contract violations.
  • Violation of publicity rights:
    Anybody has the right to promote themselves, but if you try to unlawfully promote some other person through your books and do so in a negative way, you could be in trouble for publicity rights violation.
Trademark infringement:
Like copyright infringement, trademark infringement refers to illegally using trademarks like brand logos, official titles and products.
If you are planning to either purchase copyright or double-check to make sure you are not breaching copyright laws, do get your novel published through Track2Publication, a popular self-publishing company that is highly sought-after in India and Singapore.