Publishing law


Publishing law covers a diverse range of legal issues. This is particularly so given the evolution of publishing from its traditional written form to new forms of publishing, including electronic and digital publishing.

In this way, publishing law is relevant not only to publishers, authors and agents within the publishing industry, but also to individuals who have published something or had something published about them.

What are common publishing law issues?

The following are particularly relevant aspects of publishing law that a publishing lawyer can provide assistance and advice on.

  • Commissioning and contracts is an important aspect of the publishing process. It is important to obtain specialist legal advice when drafting and negotiating publishing contracts such as author agreements, journal publishing agreements, and electronic distribution agreements
  • Intellectual Property (IP) law (particularly copyright law) is especially important to the publishing industry. It is essential to ensure that not only is your own work protected but also that you are not infringing upon the IP rights of anybody else
  • Defamation law (particularly libel) is a complex and sensitive area of law that arises in relation to statements published about others. Where those statements are untrue and relate to the character or reputation of the person, the law provides protection and injunctions and damages can be awarded
  • Malicious falsehood is a similar action which involves an untrue statement that is made maliciously, and which causes special damage. Whether you have made a defamatory statement about another person or had a statement made about you, specialist defamation lawyers can discuss the circumstances surrounding the statement to advise you of your legal rights and potential culpability
  • Electronic and internet publishing is a growing area, and publishing law is similarly expanding to deal with electronic rights and e-commerce issues in relation to online publishing regulation

What is the law on magazines?

Copyright law governs the words and pictures that your magazine contains. You must have copyright clearance and permission to use any images or text in a feature or other material you include in your magazine. If you are at all unsure about the copyright status of any material, it is always advisable to check before you publish.

A solicitor can also be invaluable in drawing up the contracts that you should have in place for any freelance writers or photographers your magazine uses. Your freelance contracts should state that any material that a freelancer submits to your magazine is either their copyright that they are selling to you, or that they have copyright clearance to use.

If your magazine is taken to court, magazine law will look to see if you took every opportunity to secure the copyright clearance you need before you published any words or pictures. If someone comes forward and claims that you have breached their copyright, your solicitor can represent you in court and interpret the magazine law that impacts on your case.

Other more niche areas of law that affect publishing include:

  • Data protection and privacy
  • Breach of confidence
  • Advertising and promotion
  • Distribution and export

It is incredibly complicated area of law, and the advice of a specialist solicitor is advised. For information on how a publishing lawyer can assist you, see our dedicated page on publishing lawyers.

Are you seeking legal representation for a dispute involving publishing law? Do you need help with the initial contractual issues in getting a piece of new material published? Contact Law can put you in touch with the right kind of solicitor for your case. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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