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The C Word: Copyright and the Book Rapper Experience

The Number One Question I’m Asked…

I often get asked by people about Book Rapper and copyright issues… Here’s my round-about, in-depth, multiple viewpoint response…

Before I started Book Rapper, I spoke to a few people, including an IP lawyer, some authors and an Editor at a major publishing house. Generally I was told copyright is a ‘grey’ area. It’s not clear and people have different opinions about what’s okay and what’s not. The law also varies widely in different countries.

Generally, I was told that I was referring to the book and not literally copying it, therefore it would ‘probably’ be okay.

Sue Me

With 35+ issues now completed, I have only had one complaint. A US author threatened to sue me. I even got emails from his lawyer. He felt I was trading off his good name. I wasn’t interested in having a dispute so I instantly offered to withdraw the issue. Offer accepted. Done.

Replies or Not

I have emailed most authors with the issue on their book. Surprisingly, I’ve had only two replies. One fairly neutral, the other highly positive – he loved it and wanted to use it to promote his work.

Send Me Books

More recently, Penguin in New York sent me a new book from an author I’d previously based an issue on. I didn’t promise to rap their book and they were pleased that I did. I think this is really interesting given it comes from one of the biggest publishers in the world.

I’ve also had a few authors asking me to rap their book. I’m happy to read a book and I won’t rap a book unless I think it deserves it or some one pays me to do it. No one’s been willing to pay my fee as yet and I’ll flag it accordingly if and when that happens.

So, out of 4 responses, one was bad, one was neutral and two were highly enthusiastic.

What can we learn from this?

  • Seth Godin said in a blog a while back (sorry I didn’t tag the individual post) that he expects as soon as he publishes anything that it will be quoted, paraphrased, rewritten, butchered and plagiarized… They weren’t his exact words and you get the flavour… He considered this a normal state of digital affairs.
  • Given a major publishing house like Penguin is willing to send me a book suggests they see Book Rapper as a potential promotional opportunity. Selling books has traditionally relied on reviewers to get people talking. Digital outlets are no different.
  • Google presents a third view… the mashup. Google offers its Maps freely to anyone who wants to work with them. I view Book Rapper as a mashup – a topic and content inspired by someone else’s book with my layer of diagrams, summary and context laid over the top in a new shorter format. I make it clear where the content is derived from and I suggest people buy the book if they want more details.

What are your thoughts and experiences about copyright today?

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