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Getting Legal When You Work With Words For A Living

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In the modern world, many of us are opting to make our living through words. At one time, the only way to do this was through traditional publishing or journalism. Now, the ways in which we can use words to make a living seem unlimited. Traditional publishing and journalism are, of course, still options. On top of that, we have blogging, self-publishing, content creation, and more.

In short, the world of freelance writing has reached epic proportions, which is fantastic news. But it doesn’t come without its issues.

Us writers are a creative bunch. We like to surround ourselves with stories. But, when we’re going it alone, we have to step into the real world occasionally. In the past, publishers took care of a significant amount of legal stuff. Now, we have to do it ourselves. And let’s be honest: writing and legality don’t exactly go hand in hand, which is why we’re going to look at a few of the legal issues you need to consider to protect your work.



Copyright is high on any writer’s priorities. This is essential for protecting our work, and also ensuring we don’t get sued.

The good news is that literature is protected by copyright for at least 25 years. So, if you do fear someone’s stealing your work, you’re within your rights to take legal action. In this instance, document all evidence. It’s also worth dating and keeping accurate copies of your work so you can prove you came first.

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It’s also important to know what can’t be copyrighted, the main offenders being names and ideas. There’s nothing to stop other authors stealing titles. And, you can’t do much if they take your ideas. In this instance, it’d be better for your reputation to simply walk away.

You, As a Company?

Another legal matter every author needs to consider is how they plan to operate. This can be a confusing issue if you’ve never thought about it before, but it’s one you need to tackle. You could, of course, operate as yourself. You’d be regarded as a sole proprietor and would pay tax accordingly.

But, if you start making a decent sum, it may be worth expanding. By becoming a limited liability company, or incorporating, you can protect yourself and lower your tax. You can find out how to start an llc or incorporate online. It’s well worth doing if you plan to make writing your primary source of income.


Libel Liability

Libel, or slander, is also a big issue for many authors. The danger here is that a reader will recognize themselves in your work. If that happens, they could take you to court for libel which may end up costing you.

To avoid the issue, it’s best not to write characters which could be seen as the people you know. And, if you are writing about people in your life, make sure to let them read copies before publishing. It may even be worth getting them to sign an agreement, just in case.

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