When I started my Indie career, I realized one of my most useful skills was my experience with Internet marketing. But I constantly wished I was experienced in legal matters, too. Which is why I was so excited to meet Lucy Taylor, a legal expert at LY Lawyers. Luckily for us, Lucy is also an avid blogger who enjoys sharing her tips and suggestions with her online readers. Lucy often helps people dealing with legal problems, addictions, and crime. Today, Lucy will share with us some useful tips for writers.

7 Most Useful Legal Tips for Writers

Legal tips for writers | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's bookWhether you’re writing a blog post or the next great novel, there’s a responsibility that comes with publishing any creative work. Many people don’t realize it, but there’s quite a bit of legal navigation that comes with being a writer, both in protecting your own work and respecting the rights of others. Here are 7 useful tips that all writers should consider when they begin a writing career.


Signing contracts was probably the last thing on your mind when you began a writing career. However, they are critically important, both when ghost-writing for someone else or with editors and publishers of your own work. A good contract will clearly delineate the responsibilities of both parties, as well as what the expectations are for services provided and terms of payment.  Don’t rely on verbal assurances; always get your contracts in writing.

Plagiarism Checkers

Depending on the work that you do, you may end up in a situation where you need to reference the works of others. There are very specific guidelines about what you can and cannot quote, and how to appropriately give credit to the original author. There is quite a bit of leniency given to academic works, where previous peer-reviewed papers are built upon, but other than that, you should always run your text through a plagiarism checker, just to be sure.

Pay Attention to Copyrights (music and graphics)

In addition to written works, it’s also important to pay attention to other artist’s copyrights. This is particularly important when it comes to things like song lyrics and titles, and also finding cover art. In many cases, it’s not only important that you appropriately credit the original artist. Sometimes, an artist will want you to seek permission to even reference their work. This can also apply to referencing other books and written works in a work of fiction.

Brand Names and Trademarks

Having your characters grab a candy bar or soft drink is a great way to add detail and make their everyday actions more believable. In most cases, there’s no problem with this, but there are a few ways that you can use brand names that can get you into legal trouble. One of the biggest problems can come from accidentally defaming a company, even as a joke. In cases where there might be a question, you should always err on the side of caution and make up a fictional brand.

Beware of Libel

It’s not just companies that you have to worry about. If you’re writing non-fiction, like a memoir, you can end up on the wrong side of a lawsuit if you don’t choose your words carefully. There are many ways in which you can accidentally or unintentionally defame an individual or group.

Media Liability Insurance

Media liability insurance offers authors and publishers protection in the event that someone does bring a legal suit against you for defamation, invasion of privacy, or misappropriation. These policies are not too expensive and can provide significant coverage in the event that you are found liable for one of these offenses, whether intentionally or not.

Consult an Attorney

If at any point in time you have a question about the legality of your writing, you can always consult with a lawyer about your project. Literary lawyers specialize in understanding the legalities of publishing, and it’s a good idea to establish a relationship with an attorney if your content may be called into question.

Understanding the legalities of writing and publishing will help you to avoid making mistakes that can cost you. Don’t let it stop you from writing though — just make sure you hire an experienced editor who can help you work out these details.