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When the Copyright Trolls Came for Me

Header image: Troll casting dark shadow on a purple background (credit:  -Cheesyfeet- /

Today I'm once again blogging over at Writer Unboxed.

If you’re a writer who’s serious about a career, you probably have some form of online presence: a website, a blog, an Instagram account. You may make use of images and/or videos created by others--to add visual interest to your blog posts or newsletters, decorate your website, and/or engage your readers and followers. For example, the header image at the top of this post.

If you use images online, you need to be aware of copyright trolls.

Copyright, Contracts, and AI-Generated Material

Image Header: Neon image of a human brain embedded in a computer motherboard. Credit: vchal at

On March 16, 2023, the United States Copyright Office issued a publication: Copyright Registration Guidance: Works Containing Material Generated by Artificial Intelligence. The full text can be found here.

The Copyright Office’s Guidance does not have the force of law and will change as the situation evolves, especially as legal precedents are created under US law, but, as of the time of this post, it is effectively the policy in force in the United States.

The main takeaway from the Guidance can be summarized thus: the only parts of a work that are copyrightable are the human-contributed ones, and the work is not copyrightable if an AI technology determines the expressive elements of the work and the creativity is not the product of human authorship. In cases where there are both AI-generated and human-authored elements, copyright will only protect the human-authored aspects of the work, which are “independent of ” and do “not affect” the copyright status of the AI-generated material.

Call For Change: Current and Former New Leaf Literary & Media Authors Speak Out

Header image: Logo of New Leaf Literary & Media

If you're on Twitter, you may have seen the controversy that erupted several weeks ago when reports emerged that New Leaf Literary & Media had abruptly terminated representation--via email--for more than two dozen clients of an agent who had departed the agency that same day.

Conflicting reports added to the confusion: about the agent's departure (the agency described it as "amicable", but the agent subsequently indicated it wasn't voluntary) and about the status of the dropped authors (the agency described some of the dropped authors as "inactive", when in fact several had projects in progress). Publishers Weekly covered the controversy in an article (whose accuracy has been disputed), as did Publisher's Lunch. Concerned about the agency's apparent lack of a coherent succession plan, the Authors Guild met with New Leaf leadership to "discuss the agency’s plan to manage the transition for authors impacted by the shakeup."

On a more positive note, multiple agents invited submissions from the dropped authors.

Termination Fees in Publishing Contracts: Not Just Bad for Authors

Header image: "Contract" printed on concrete, with crack running through the middle (credit: Lane V. Erickson at

(A version of this post was first published in 2016.)

I'm often contacted by writers who are looking for an evaluation of a book or magazine contract they've just been offered (I'm not a lawyer--something I always mention upfront--but I do know a lot about publishing contracts, and am always willing to offer feedback).

Although they've often already spotted problematic language, nearly always there are also problem clauses that they've missed. One red flag clause that frequently flies below writers' radar: fees for early contract termination.

Editing Clauses in Publishing Contracts: What to Watch For

Header image: red pencil on a yellow background

Editing clauses are one of those publishing contract areas where there should be a balance between the publisher’s interests and the writer’s.

Publishers need a certain amount of latitude to edit a manuscript to prepare it for publication. They also need to have the right of final approval–they don’t want to be forced to publish a manuscript that the author can’t or won’t revise to their satisfaction.

Writers, on the other hand, need assurance that they will be a partner in the editing process, and that their work won’t be changed in major ways without their permission.

Guest Post: The Book Marketing Scam That Went the Extra Mile

Screenshot of fake response from "Martha Teichner" claiming to have worked with SBRC: "I got 3K sales and the reviews were brilliant"

In the super-crowded world of publishing, authors must fight for readership and exposure. That makes marketing and promotion a top concern--which makes for fertile ground for scammers.

PR scams are among the most common of the many solicitation scams that target writers. Often appearing to be reasonably priced, they promise services like social media posts, reader reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, blog posts and interviews, and similar low-cost-to-provide, low effort methods that sound impressive but in reality are next to useless for book promotion--even if the services are delivered, which often is not the case.

At best, this kind of "marketing" is a waste of money. At worst, the scammer will simply take the money and the scammer that's the subject of today's guest blog post from author Alina Adams. This scammer went the extra mile to cook up an appearance of authenticity...but as you'll see, Alina wasn't fooled.