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Ask a Lawyer: Getting a Copyright for a Self Published Book

Every week, our guest attorneys answer your questions on the Rocket Lawyer Facebook page.

On July 25, the questions covered copyrighting a self published book, what to look for in a wedding contract, and security deposits.  Scroll down to see all of the questions and answers. Please visit us on Facebook to see the next Ask a Lawyer date and ask your question:

I am thinking of self publishing a book for kids. Are there any legal steps I need to take to protect my work, especially if I would like to work with a traditional publisher one day? — Deborah K.

Copyright protection automatically extends to any original work that’s created in a fixed medium. In English, that means if your work is your own (i.e. it doesn’t borrow language, themes or characters from another work) and you’ve written it down or saved it somewhere, it’s probably protected by copyright law.However, there’s more you can do to make sure…

And once you start working on that big book deal, you’ll probably want to look into licensing your copyrighted work to a publisher. Basically that means you’ll grant them permission to publish it in exchange for a royalty payment. This is where you’ll probably want to get a lawyer to help you negotiate the best terms.Good luck with your book!

I’m renting an apartment in the fall and was wondering how much security deposit a landlord can charge? Also, what can that security deposit be used for? Thanks for your help. — Clark L.

It depends on where you live. Often, it’s equal to one month’s rent. If your prospective landlord is asking for an amount that seems unreasonable to you, check with your local tenant’s board (or you might want to just go with a different landlord).

Generally, a security deposit can be used to cover the cost of repairs beyond normal wear and tear (like if the tenant damages the apartment) or as a reimbursement for any unpaid rent.

I’m glad to see your Q&A is going on today because I have a few legal questions on my mind. I’m helping my sister plan her wedding for this Fall and we’re doing everything ourselves. It seems like every vendor we meet with (rental company for our tables and chairs, caterer, photographer, etc.) has their own contract for her to sign and it’s putting us both a bit on edge! How can we make sure she’s not agreeing to anything she shouldn’t?? Are there certain terms we can look out for? — Rachel G.

It can be pretty stressful reviewing contracts (and exchanging big bucks) when you don’t have much experience reading over contracts.

Here are some things to look out for:

  • Often a vendor won’t ‘save the date’ for your event until you sign the agreement and pay a deposit, so that can put extra pressure on you to sign fast. Just remember: read everything first. No exceptions.
  • If there are clauses you don’t understand, ask the vendor to explain it to you. If the answer you get is different than what’s in the contract, ask for revisions. If they want your business and your request is reasonable, they’ll bend.
  • Look out for per-guest fees (like a minimum head-count for alcohol service, a per chair event set up fee, etc). Get out your calculator and make sure you understand the full amount you’re agreeing to so you don’t get sticker shock later.
  • Pay especially close attention to the times that are specified for delivery and pickup, and when you’ll incur extra fees. For example, If a rental company can’t pick up chairs by a certain time, they might charge you for an extra day.
    Watch out for who is responsible for any additional rental equipment if there is damage. Accidents happen and you don’t want to be on the hook.
  • Make sure you’re covered in case the vendor fails to perform. Remember, photographers can get sick, bakers can drop your cake, etc.
    Do you want specific songs played? A certain shade of red roses in those 50 table arrangements? Include as many details as you can to make sure the vendor gets it right. There are no do-overs, so get it clear from the get-go.
  • Is there anything that needs to get done in the weeks leading up to the wedding? if so, make sure you’ve got your specific dates spelled out so you’re not left out in the cold.
  • How and when are you going to pay? By check, cash? And when? Make sure these terms are spelled out. We’ve heard stories of band members asking the groom for a check in the beginning of the wedding or he would not perform. If there had been a clause specifying payment completion upon full performance, it would not have been a concern.

And finally, the best way to be confident about your contracts is to get an attorney to review them before you sign. When you’re talking about a contract that’s worth thousands of dollars (and more importantly, the assurance that your big day will go as planned) it’s worth taking some extra precautions.

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