Do you Know Why you Need Public Domain Fonts?

Bluntly, public domain (or open domain) fonts are fonts that you can use for commercial use. Public domain fonts are not the same thing as “free fonts.” Simply, “free fonts” mean that you don’t have to pay for the font; public domain fonts allow you to use the font for professional use. Just because you have a Mac or a Windows font library that comes with your software, doesn’t necessarily mean that you have the ability to incorporate those fonts into a professional project. Repercussions of using non-public domain fonts can include lawsuits, which will hurt your bottom line. Additionally, any web designer will tell you that using the appropriate font is vital to excellent readability on the web; incorporating open domain fonts is just another layer to protect your work.
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Need Free Art? Here’s my Review of 5 Copyright-Free Clipart and Photo Sites

You may have noticed that from time to time I drop in a few pieces of clipart or photos in between my posts. I’ve taken some of the photos myself, other times I’ve relied on images tagged with Creative Commons because I don’t have time to focus on my graphic design skills but am very conscientious of the fact that like writing–art takes time, money and materials to make. Creative Commons has give me the ability to know what my rights are to an artist’s work, for some of the same reasons I described for writers in my post entitled, “When do you need a copyright?.

Finding these resources isn’t as easy at it might look because sometimes the word “free” simply means “you don’t have to pay.” That doesn’t always mean that there isn’t some other catch associated with getting the artwork or that there aren’t any copyright restrictions. From subscriptions to spam, there’s often other headaches that come with searching for open source clipart and photos.

Here’s five resources that I rely on from time to time. For your convenience I’ve reviewed a few of them in a more structured format to provide you with the highlights and a little bit more detail than I typically go into. The ratings are from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest rating.

From the home page, Open Clipart is extremely straightforward about the goal of their site.

This project aims to create an archive of user contributed clip art that can be freely used. All graphics submitted to the project should be placed into the Public Domain according to the statement by the Creative Commons.

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When do you Need a Copyright?

Many writers take ownership over their work; our writing is our personal treasure stash that we are willing to share with the world. But how do we share it? We need protection, right?

Well, here’s a question that I wish more writers would consider: When do I need a copyright?

First, a caveat. I am not a lawyer, so if you’re looking for definitive “ins” and “outs” of the law, visit and the nicely spelled out “What is Copyright? from the SFWA.

Onto my point. I think one of the hardest things for inexperienced authors to wrap their minds around is the legal implications of copyright and when they should buy one. Here’s an example: So I was trying to find a group of writers online with some experience when I came across one that bought copyrights for every draft story they posted online. Not one of them would even consider using Creative Commons, which blew me away. When I had broached the subject, I received a flood of comments saying everything from “I don’t know how important copyrights are” to “I have to protect my work.”

I’ve heard so many writers rushing out to “buy their rights” without realizing what they are getting for their money — because once you have rights, shouldn’t you consider what it takes to protect them? If you don’t know what that means, you should probably talk to a lawyer who specializes in copyright law, because believe me, it costs a lot more than $35.

If you’ve read books or watched movies (which I’m assuming all of you do), then you’ve probably made the comment “Oh, that’s a rip-off!” or “Oh, that’s just like Rotten Toasters from the Nebula Verse!” I’ve often heard the “twenty percent” rule floating around whenever I hear pros talk about this sort of thing, that a work only needs to be twenty percent different from the original copyright in order for it to be considered a “new work.” Although I couldn’t find the source of that, I usually don’t concern myself with “copyright infringement” rules on that level, simply because I don’t “go there.” Why?

Simple. It’s too risky, and it could damage your reputation…indefinitely.

Consider those amateur authors who think that they can write within another author’s setting — and believe that they have every right to do so. Yes, I’m talking about “fan fiction.” Probably one of the biggest misunderstandings about copyright that I’ve come across, is the belief that a writer can “write within the world of X” as long as he (or she) doesn’t address the main characters. This is a big “no-no” and was easier to find in the copyright law; it’s under “derivative works.” No matter how much you may love Harry Potter or Aragorn or Lemony Snicket, if you write anything within their setting you are in direct violation of the copyright laws. You need permission.

Don’t believe me? Ask any publisher for any “licensed” product within the Marvel Universe what their rights are. And then ask them how hard it is to actually release their action figure, poster, or deck of cards. “Licensed” means “licensed,” and writing fan fic is not a good way to get your name out there if you don’t have permission. Trust me on this one.

Here are the questions I ask myself whenever I write fiction to cover-my-butt:

    (1) Was I heavily inspired by [insert popular novel title here]? If so, how similar are my characters? Setting?(2) Can I find the name of my book or my primary characters online? If so, change them.

    (3) Where am I posting my drafts? Do I trust the source?

    (4) Do I plan on selling the work? If so, go with Creative Commons until terms are negotiated through my contract. If not, why bother?

    (5) Are my editors bound by non-disclosure agreements until the work is released?

The point I’m trying to make here, is that writers write “to sell.” I have different concerns about copyright, because the rights to my work are often a point of negotiation since I am considered an “unknown” author. It is not uncommon for new writers to make a flat-fee of $5,000 on a first novel; and not retain several of their rights. If you own every copyright flat out, agents and publishing houses will sometimes shy away from you because you appear to be very inexperienced.

So yes, I do think that authors should care about copyright, respecting other’s works, and protecting their own. But I also think that the basic premise of copyright is abused all too often; contracts often cover these rights in print, and there are ways to protect yourself online at no cost to you.

Monica Valentinelli >

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