As our “Legally Speaking” series winds down, I thought I would share some links and resources where you can find more information about copyright and legal issues for writers. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it can certainly help you get started.
Law School Clinical Programs
In addition to the resources and links listed below, one great resource where you may be able to find legal information and maybe even get legal advice is through law school clinics. A lot of law schools offer what they call “clinical programs” where advanced (2nd & 3rd year) law students get hands-on experience working in specific areas of law out in “the field” as it were. The people who qualify for the help at these clinics get the representation for free.
Also, while the clinics are manned mostly by law students, that can actually work to your advantage because these soon-to-be lawyers are often extremely motivated (nothing like the motivation of grades and course credit). Of course, while the legwork is done mostly by law students, they ARE overseen by actual lawyers (professors or lawyers volunteering their time), so there would be actual lawyers on hand to oversee your case, if it got to the point where it was necessary.
If you live in an area where there is a university law school nearby, it is worthwhile to check that school’s website and see if they offer any clinical programs for IP (Intellectual Property) Law.
Links and Resources
• Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts: New York organization dedicated to helping artists with legal issues. The website has good resources even for those not in New York and there are similar organizations throughout the US. http://www.vlany.org/
• US Copyright Office: Federal agency tasked with registering US copyrights. Also good information about US copyright law. http://www.copyright.gov
• World Intellectual Property Association: UN agency tasked with developing a balanced and accessible international intellectual property system. It also administers several international treaties related to IP law. There is good information about IP laws in many countries here. http://www.wipo.int/portal/
• Cornell Law School’s Copyright portal: more geared to legal questions, but has information accessible to a non-legal audience. http://www.law.cornell.edu/
• Creative Commons: an organization dedicated to promoting freely available “public domain” licenses. Wikipedia uses Creative Commons licenses. http://creativecommons.org/
• The Authors Registry: an organization that is a not-for-profit clearinghouse for payments to authors, receiving royalties from organizations and distributing them to U.S. authors. http://www.authorsregistry.
• The Authors Guild: a membership organization that advocates for author-friendly copyright policies and provides legal advice. http://www.authorsguild.org/
• CountyOffice.org allows you to find local government offices in your county or state. http://countyoffice.org/ (Thank you Suzanne for pointing us to this useful resource!)