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

UPDATED: Aug 6, 2011

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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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 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).

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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