Copyright Resources

Copyright-Related Books for Authors

Some of the books in the table below are not just on copyright. These ratings consider only the copyright aspects of the books. Other pages on this site do/will discuss other types of books for authors, and some of these books may appear there, too.

The ratings themselves are based on a thorough review of the books, considering both the presentation and legal content. Indicated prices are list.

Last Updated: 30 September 2003

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Powell's Books Score
Besenjak, Cheryl (2001). Copyright Plain and Simple (2d ed.). pb $12.99 6.4 6 7 6 6 8
Not a good choice. Besenjak attempts to reduce copyright to soundbites, and her failure to provide context is a serious problem. This book frequently oversimplifies, and relies too much on the statute without looking at case law.
Bunnin, Brad (1998). The Writer's Legal Companion (3d ed.). pb $20.00 4.6 3 7 5 5 3
The copyright section of this book is dangerously inaccurate and outdated. For example, although it bears a 1998 copyright, it completely fails to acknowledge the 1996 WIPO treaty and its US implementation. The presentation is incomplete and shallow, and contains a number of serious errors, particularly concerning marking of manuscripts and the registration process. Not recommended for this purpose.
Crawford, Tad; Murray, Kay (2002). The Writer's Legal Guide (3d ed.). pb $19.95 5.4 4 8 6 4 6
A disappointing effort. The writing is substantially improved from the 1998 edition (overall rating 5.5 for copyright reference). Unfortunately, accuracy and scope of coverage have been sacrificed for the better presentation. This book states that the DMCA is an absolute bar to a lawsuit against an ISP, when the text of the statute (17 U.S.C. 512) clearly demonstrates otherwise. Further, the book does a poor job of discussing the intersection between copyright and trademark when it ventures into the issue of "copyrightability of characters," continuing to rely upon cases that may no longer be good law. Not recommended for this purpose (although the discussion of contracts in the book is worthwhile for that purpose).
Evans, Tonya Marie; Evans, Susan Borden (2003). Literary Law Guide for Authors. pb $19.95 4.4 3 4 3 6 5
This is an interesting effort. Interesting, that is, in the way that a graduate student in literature uses the term: as code for "off the beaten path and not worth the trip." The book is an adjunct to a law practice by Tonya Evans (somewhat amusingly, the web addresses in the book will not lead one to that law practice, but instead to a 404 error). Although the book never comes out and admits it, it is a self-published book aimed at authors who intend to self-publish. This is not by itself bad; it is, however, a bias that must be disclosed up front. The writing is not bad, but is inordinately shallow (both in tone and in content). The book completely neglects the problems facing authors who wish to reuse their own material; as noted for the Crawford and Murray book, failure to even mention Tasini is inexcusable. The book also completely fails to discuss the DMCA. Further, some of the assertions of the state of copyright and trademark law are at home only in the Third Circuit (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware) and are inconsistent with the majority approach. Even more troubling than these lapses, though, is the "copyright registration service" offered by the authors, similar to the "change your name in Social Security records after marriage" services offered on late-night TV—and just as "necessary" and overpriced. The CD-ROM included with the book does include a variety of forms, but the most-important ones are already available on the Internet for free. Not recommended.
Fishman, Stephen (2002). The Copyright Handbook (6th ed.). pb+CD $39.95 8.5 9 9 8 8 8
By far the best choice for a serious writer. Fishman balances sufficient detail and context with clear, concise, direct writing and organization. (I would not be ashamed to assign this book as a supplemental text in a law school class on copyright.) Although it's not cheap, the book's value is significantly enhanced by the CD-ROM, which includes a number of useful forms and the text of the Copyright Act. Recommended as an essential part of a serious writer's library.
Fishman, Stephen (2001). The Public Domain. pb $34.95 7.2 9 9 5 6 5
This is a specialized resource. If you need to understand both how the public domain works and the research tools available to discover materials in the public domain, this is your choice. Within that limited scope (and hence the low rating for that category), this book is thorough and comprehensive. It is an excellent supplement to Mr. Fishman's other book. It is somewhat overpriced, as it does not include a CD-ROM or disk with links to all of the online sources described.
Jassin, Lloyd J.; Schechter, Steven C. (1998). The Copyright Permission and Libel Handbook. pb $16.95 6.5 8 6 6 6 5
This book is a basic, if not sufficient, introduction to copyright (and, for that matter, libel law), but really only worth a single reading by inexperienced writers. The organization leaves a lot to be desired. The information on print and visual works is relatively accurate, but the book glosses over audio and electronic works. The discussion of fair use is particularly disappointing, as it vastly oversimplifies the most complex part of copyright law. The writing is, at best, passable. The book's main virtue is its affordability, but that does not adequately compensate for its shallowness. It's not a Yugo, but still not a good choice.
Stim, Richard (1999). Getting Permission: How to License and Clear Copyrighted Materials Online and Off. pb+disk $34.95 6.7 9 7 5 6 4
This is a specialized resource, best for nonfiction writers and fiction writers who frequently refer to other properties, particularly trademarks and excerpts. A good book within that scope, but the writing is somewhat less engaging than Fishman's. This is definitely a book to find at the library and read once, as the subject matter does not lend itself well to reference.
Strong, William (1999). The Copyright Book: A Practical Guide (5th ed.). cb $34.95 6.7 9 4 7 6 6
The information is here, but the book is written by a lawyer—and it shows. The organization makes sense only if one has preexisting knowledge of copyright law. Not very practical at all, and the necessary information is almost buried amidst contextual information of little interest to a writer (and too polemical for a scholar).