ISBN registration, legal deposit compliance, copyright issues, help for the non-publisher too
Publishing is the business of producing and disseminating material for public edification and consumption. Traditionally, this referred to printed matter but in more recent times, digital content has emerged as a competitor. Much of the same ‘rules’ of publishing that apply to printed matter carry over into the digital sphere. There are certain administrative and legal obligations that every publisher must comply with, especially if you are intending to produce for general sale and not just for private circles. Thankfully, none of these are too onerous.
The purpose of the following is to help to clarify matters for you. At the same time, it does not constitute qualified legal advice. If you have any concerns of this nature, we recommend that you seek the advice of those who are qualified to give it.
Publishing assistance and advice that we provide include:
An ISBN is your book’s unique identifier. It is essential if you want bookshops to stock your book or to get it into the retail distribution chain. This includes online retailers such as Amazon. It also means that your book’s publishing details (author, publisher, publishing format – e.g. paperback, hardback, e-book) will be catalogued and indexed with Nielsen Book Data, a searchable database used by bookshops, libraries and their suppliers, wholesalers and distributors worldwide.
ISBNs are obtained through certain authorised agencies depending on the country where you are based or are operating from. For more information, refer to the International ISBN Agency website. Publishers in Ireland and Great Britain obtain their ISBNs through Nielsen UK.
The cost of an ISBN allocation varies according to country but in general, they are relatively inexpensive – in some countries, they are even free! Also, certain print-on-demand platforms, such as Kindle Direct Publishing, provide free ISBNs when you publish through them.
ISBNs are usually considered to be non-transferable, meaning that they are allocated to a publisher who can only use them for books and titles published under their imprint – they cannot be passed on. Hence, the person or entity who owns the ISBN used with your book will be listed as ‘The Publisher’. This designation however, does not confer copyright, nor indeed any publishing rights, in the absence of an explicit contract to that effect. It is worth nothing however, that any orders or enquiries made through Nielsen Book Data will go to the person or entity listed as The Publisher – i.e. not necessarily to you. This could have a bearing on your marketing and distribution plans.
For the most part, e-book editions do not require an ISBN, or it is optional. This is the case with Amazon’s Kindle Publishing platform. However, some publishing platforms and sales distribution services (e.g. Apple, Kobo) do require an ISBN, one that is unique to the e-book edition, meaning that you cannot simply re-use the ISBN from the printed edition. Smashwords, the independent e-book distributor, supplies free ISBNs, which can be used across all of e-book publishing and distribution partners whom they serve through their Premium Catalogue. For more on this topic, please refer to the section on e-Publishing services.
We can advise you on all your options in the area of ISBN registration. We can help you to obtain an ISBN allocation using your own publishing imprint or we can have your book published using an ISBN that we provide. For this service, we charge a small fee that includes the cost of legal deposit compliance – see below. Our ISBN service does not make us the publisher of your book and it in no way limits your ownership, copyright or control.
We also offer advice for the non-publisher too. For example, if you only intend to publish to a small market and sell through local channels, you might decide that you don’t really need an ISBN with the associated costs, including legal deposit compliance – see below.
Legal Deposits Compliance
The Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 requires Irish publishers to deposit, at their own expense, one copy of each new edition with thirteen recognised copyright libraries across Ireland and UK. Legal deposit requirements apply in other countries too. Wikipedia provides more information about this issue on a country-by-country basis.
Definitions vary as to what might constitute a ‘published work’. A book issued for private circulation (e.g. a family history, club manual, rule book, etc) is generally not considered to be ‘a published work’, hence it might be argued that it should not be subject to legal deposit compliance.
As previously mentioned, if you want to get your book into the retail distribution chain, it will require an ISBN (also a scannable barcode). This means that it will almost certainly be considered ‘a published work’ and copyright libraries will come looking for their copy. For independent publishers, such compliance can be expensive. It means having to offer up thirteen copies of your book for free of charge. You do not receive payment or compensation. You are also expected to bear the cost associated with postage and delivery. At the same time, legal deposit is usually a once-off affair. It will normally apply to the first print run only, unless you choose to re-print in a different format – e.g. you decide to produce a special hardback edition, whereas the original edition was in paperback, or vice versa.
Copyright is something that resides with the originator of a work and cannot be easily given away. With The Manuscript Publisher, you retain copyright and all publishing rights to your work. We will advise you on steps that you can take to ensure that your rights as an author are properly asserted and fully protected, both before and after publication.
Copyright and Reproduction Issues
If you reproduce material that is not your own, you may have to seek permission from the copyright holder to use it. This is generally the case with all works of art that are not in the public domain. Copyright claims remain legally enforceable, in most jurisdictions, for a period of around 70 years after the death of the author or originator. We will assist and advise you on the steps you may need to take in this general area.
If you would like to know more about these or any aspect of the publishing process, including how we can help you to get your book published, please Contact Us today or Get a Quote online.