Can I publish a book based on other people’s submissions?

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Can I publish a book based on other people’s submissions?

I am attempting to compile a book which relies on original submissions from people on the web. When they email submissions, an email is sent back saying that by e-mailing submissions they are granting royalty free rights for the images, story, poem or song to be used in the book. Is that enough? Also, some people submitting things may be under 18. What should I do about that?

Asked on August 6, 2011 Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

1) IF people know in advance of submitting that by submitting, they are licensing you to publish the material with royalties, etc., then what you are doing is enough. BUT if they don't know that in advance--e.g. it's not prominent on your website--it most certainly is NOT enough. If people submit stories, pictures, poems etc. without knowing that by doing so they are giving up rights, then they have not in fact given up those rights, and sending them an email after the fact has no effect.

2) If someone is under 17, they cannot contract legally, which means that they cannot necessarily give up rights (doing so is a contract). You can still publish safety if you let them know, in advance of submission, that there is no payment (think about how student literature journals work)--you won't have to pay them, though you won't necessarily get any right other than your own right to publish without paying (i.e. since they can't contract, they probably can't give up rights globally; but they can submit to someone who let them know there's no compensation).


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