Writers put a lot of thought into the stories they right, but we don’t always think of the laws we might get involved with when publishing. Tisha Morris shares some insights for authors looking to do everything by the book.
Tisha Morris is the founder of Morris Entertainment Law where she represents diverse voices in publishing, TV, and film. An entertainment attorney, literary agent, and self-help author, Tisha’s work has been featured on ABC’s Live With Kelly and Ryan, Hay House Radio, Today.com, Elle Decor, ABC News, Well + Good, and a contributor to Spirituality & Health Magazine.
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Mark Lefebvre, Tisha Morris
Mark Lefebvre 00:02
Hello, and welcome to Self-Publishing Insiders with Draft2Digital. My name is Mark Leslie Lefebvre. And I’m the Director of Business Development at Draft2Digital. And I’m honored to have with me in the virtual studios Tisha Morris. Tisha, welcome to the podcast.
Tisha Morris 00:23
Thank you so much. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Mark Lefebvre 00:25
So can you share with my authors, I know Kevin Tumlinson and you connected in person at a writers conference. And after Kevin heard you speak, he said, we have to have you come on the show, we have to have you share all of the great stuff that you’re doing. But can you first start by giving our listeners or viewers a little bit of a background about yourself?
Tisha Morris 00:48
Absolutely. I’m getting a little feedback. All right. Can you hear me okay? All right. So yes, I’ll start with the end in the story. And then I can backtrack. I’m a publishing and entertainment lawyer based in LA. And I’ve been doing this for a few years. I’m also a published author, self-published and traditional published author, also had a self-publishing business in the interim while I was taking the California Bar. I wasn’t sure which way that would go, it went in a positive direction finally. I’m originally from Tennessee, and I got my start in Tennessee, Music City, USA. That’s where I’m originally from. And I was a lawyer there. And then I took a strange pivot into the healing arts, and became a Fung Shui expert, which is really random. And that’s all for another podcast of really what that is. But what it did, it gave me an opportunity to write books. And that’s really at the heart of all the thread line through my career is of being a writer and being an author. And I love being here with you guys because I have such a love for publishing, the publishing business. And I have a great respect for self-publishing and have a great respect for traditional publishing, all of it’s great. I’m all about helping people get their stories out. And so for today, I want to help the self-publishing authors with any legal issues that you might encounter, or maybe you don’t even know what you don’t know. So I’d like to see, of course, feel free to put any questions you’d like, specifically, because legal issues can be pretty broad. And I want to make it as simple as possible for you guys. I think you might be frozen Mark, so I will keep … okay, you unfroze. All right, I’ll keep talking. So again, feel free to put your comments in the questions for me, and I’m happy to address any legal issues that you might have.
Mark Lefebvre 03:09
Thank you. And I warned Tisha before we went live that I am at a hotel, I’m on the road with Draft2Digital. And sometimes the WiFi in the hotel room is not necessarily great. So thanks for covering. I did want to ask, so what are what are some of the most common things that writers aren’t aware of when it comes to legalities of publishing?
Tisha Morris 03:33
Yeah, because you know, why I really wanted to talk to this to this audience is because it’s self-publishers and we as self-publishers have to think about legal issues that a traditional publisher already takes into account. They have a legal team, they either have an in house,legal or they hire out legal, but they’re usually taking care of those issues for their authors, and or they might not even sign that book, because it’s laden with legal issues. So that’s important, either route you go. And so you have to be your own kind of legal department. And so these issues are all about these are all First Amendment issues. First Amendment is our right to speech. And so books are ultimately fodder for First Amendment considerations. And so the big one that comes up are these right to privacy issues, particularly defamation. And we can get into the nuances of those if we want to just go ahead and dive in. But it comes up a lot in memoir, nonfiction. It still applies to fiction, just because you change someone’s name and say it’s based on a true story doesn’t get you off the hook. We can talk more about that but I’m gonna stick with just the nuts and bolts of what defamation looks like, again, particularly in nonfiction and memoir.
Mark Lefebvre 05:02
I’m also curious not just for memoirs, but when you write real people in a fictional setting, does that have repercussions in a legal sense?
Tisha Morris 05:14
That’s right, it does or it can. So the criteria that you want to look for is identifiable. That’s kind of the legal word. Is someone identifiable? And so even though you say it’s fictionalized, you can see this even in TV of, you know, CSI stories from the headlines. It’s like, oh, wow, that was taken exactly from that news story about so and so who murdered so and so, or whatever the case is. And so even though it’s like fiction, we know it’s like, oh, this is based on real stuff. So our books can do that as well. And so that’s, you want to make your people not identifiable. And so that means changing names, changing hair color, changing as much as you can of their identifiable characteristics, even a little bit of the story line, perhaps it’s again that this is fiction. So that’s not identifiable. Okay, so that’s the key word, identifiable in nonfiction. It’s walking a fine line, because if you change it, the criteria is all about truth. Is what you’re saying truthful? So you don’t want to change stuff up too much. You don’t want to make your ex-husband, you know, an attempted murderer. Unless he was charged with attempted murder, and then you can do it, because that’s actually truth. And it’s on record. So there’s some nuances there of you either want to go all the way with the truth, or you want to like steer all the way away from the truth and completely change things up.
Mark Lefebvre 07:00
I love that. So you mentioned CSI earlier is very ripped from the headlines, a television show. Now they obviously have a legal department that probably looks over their scripts, makes sure they’re not going to get NBC or whoever’s producing it into trouble. But you also have, I mean, authors aren’t on their own. Do you offer a course, for example? I think it’s called legal vetting your manuscript for red flags. So what are some of the some of those red flags? We talked about the truth, we talked about identifiable things that writers need to be very conscious about?
Tisha Morris 07:36
Yeah. So defamation is about truth, whether you’re saying something that’s not truthful. But at the same time, you have to watch for some right of privacy issues there. It’s called different things in different states. Sometimes it’s called right of privacy, or some variation of right of privacy. And so that’s actually when you tell the truth, but it’s about things that are too private to be newsworthy, so to speak. And so this has to do with anything having to do with diseases, sexual things, things that would really harm someone’s reputation, or you’re basically saying things that are like, just not really appropriate, where it could be highly embarrassing. So even in defamation, we’re going with the truth, but you’re stepping in little minefields if you start talking about stuff that’s extremely private. The legal criteria is there’s a reasonable expectation of privacy that we all have. And so if you start going into these areas in other people’s lives, and don’t get me wrong, these things can make good stories of someone’s sex life or something, but that’s where you start really getting into walking into minefields.
Mark Lefebvre 09:06
And that goes beyond that, you know, client, doctor-patient, lawyer-client privilege, priest, that sort of thing, that goes beyond that reasonable expectation of privacy into everyday relationships.
Tisha Morris 09:21
That’s right. That’s right. But that reminds me that it was something another thing, if there’s any kind of non-disclosure agreement involved. That’s something to be mindful of. I’ve had some clients who had a non-disclosure agreement, like with a hospital, and her book was about, you know, had aspects of malpractice in it. So be mindful if you have any NDAs at play. This was actually the basis of when Donald Trump sued Mary Trump trying to keep her book from coming out because of these right of privacy issues, but it actually had to do with an NDA, it actually didn’t have to do with defamation or whether she was telling the truth or not, it had to do with whether she was violating an NDA. So if there’s any nondisclosure agreements anywhere lurking in your world, really read that and see what it’s what you’re not allowed to say. Yeah.
Mark Lefebvre 10:21
Wow, I like that. Are there any, I’m just gonna say mechanical issues related to a manuscript that are in that list of things writers should be wary of?
Tisha Morris 10:33
Mechanical, like copyright trademark? Should we go into those issues?
Mark Lefebvre 10:41
What I meant is quoting things, stuff like that.
Tisha Morris 10:49
I was gonna make a joke of mechanical issues, like, the Oxford comma? Legal implications of an Oxford comma? So, you know, obviously plagiarism, obviously that’s off the table. No one wants to get plagiarized. As far as quotes, it’s whether something’s fair use in the public domain. So now we are talking about copyright, copyright and trademark issues. That could be in your manuscript. When it comes to the actual words in your book, we’re talking about copyright. So if you if you use a huge chunk of someone else’s work, it’s all about how what how much of something you’re using. If it’s a huge chunk of someone else’s work, you would definitely want to get their permission. If it’s just a quote and it’s a small portion, then you’re okay. So this was actually an issue in a documentary regarding, oh, shoot, what’s the director? Woody Allen, there was a documentary, and it was based on a book that Sky Horse published, and they were using huge chunks of Sky Horse’s, Woody’s book with Sky Horse, and they’re using it in the HBO documentary, and they never got permission to use these big chunks. And so Sky Horse sued HBO. It was settled, so we don’t know how the courts would have ruled on that. But they were using way more, so that was a copyright infringement, without getting permission from Sky Horse. And so, obviously, these are big, you know, publishers and streamers going on here. But these are the same issues that can happen with just an everyday book. If you’re using big chunks of someone else’s work, then that violates copyright.
Mark Lefebvre 13:11
Thank you, and my apologies that you’re being interviewed by a disappearing interviewer. For example, quoting or quoting from song lyrics, or poems, is there a different issue with that?
Tisha Morris 13:28
Yeah, so song lyrics is another animal. Similar, but slightly different. Song lyrics are off the table, unless you get the rights from the publisher of those song lyrics, you’d have to get a license to use song lyrics from like ASCAP, but BMI does the public, you have to research and see what publisher holds those rights and get a license in order to use those lyrics. So I’m glad you brought it up. Because that’s a big red flag. You can use the song title, song titles are ok to use. If the song lyrics have the title in there, that’s kind of a workaround you could use. But don’t make it in a lyrical, don’t write it as a lyric, write it as a song title. I’ve seen books, the whole thing is based around, like each chapter based around a song lyric. And actually music publishers are likely are more likely to go after you than other authors, if you’re using work. They look over their lyrics pretty closely. And you know, with self-publishing, you might think, well, who’s gonna really see that? Well if you’re self publishing, you want a lot of people seeing it right? So you don’t want to have your own, set up your own blocks of selling your work or have reasons why you don’t want a lot of eyes on your work. So we can easily get kind of get in our own way, sometimes, of like, well, not enough people are going to read to identify my ex-husband, so it should be fine. Well, that’s really not the way you want to go about it. You want thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people’s eyes on this work. And yet the catch-22 is the more eyes, the more opportunity there is for someone to get mad at you.
Mark Lefebvre 15:44
I’m going to point out, there’s a comment from Roderick, who said, “Awesome topic. I have had a few thoughts about it.” So Roderick, if you have any questions about this, please feel free to ask. I see a couple of you who have already asked questions. We’re gonna get to those questions in just a second. But before we go there to share, I want to kind of take you over to something because I was on your website earlier today, and that’s tishamorris.com. And I was looking at, you’ve got a book coming up. Can you tell us a little bit about that book? Because I’m really curious. You’re doing some really cool stuff for the book launch. I’d love for other writers to see what you’re up to and why.
Tisha Morris 16:20
Thank you. The book is called Missing Element, Hidden Strength, and it’s based on a combination of everything I’ve done so far in my career, which is varied, varied all over the place. So I take the five elements, which are based in Taoism, the five elements is actually the creative process of life. Birth, life, death, rebirth, in the cycle of all living things. But it’s also the cycle, the creative cycle, is the cycle of you get an idea, something out of nowhere, I mean, all of us are creatives in this room by virtue of being authors, and I’m sure other many of you have other creative talents as well. You get that idea, that spark out of nowhere, seemingly, that is what is called the water phase in Taoism, and then when you start actually putting that those ideas onto paper, or at your computer, or whatever that looks like, that’s the wood phase. Then when you actually start producing whatever, like really going into the process big time. And whether it’s a book, you got your 60,000 words in your manuscript, that’s the fire phase. Once you hit that phase, you kind of rest, you pause, reflect, you like, need some time, because you’re burnt out from the fire phase, that’s the earth element phase. And then you go and like, what do I need to revise, what I need to edit, what do I need to move around, that’s the metal phase. And then you finish the project, and you’re back in the water. So it’s a big circle. And so this is actually what a formula so to speak. If there was ever a formula to create, this is the formula. And so we each have our own, we all have the five elements within us. But we there’s one that we’re dominant in. One of those phases I just mentioned, I’m a wood element. So I’m a quick starter, I start a lot of things, it’s harder for me to complete and go into the fire. So that’s what I call my weak element, my missing element. And that missing element is where your hidden strength lies. And so you all, everyone here, as we’ve all accomplished things, don’t get me wrong, but there’s somewhere in that process where your edges start to get a little, your feathers get a little ruffled, you run up against some negative thoughts, maybe you put the project aside for a while. So identifying where in that process is your kind of Achilles heel. And the book gives you ways of kind of embracing that element. So it’s not such this albatross that continues to get in your way. So that is, in a nutshell, the book, there’s a quiz in it to where you can see what your primary element is, what your missing element is. I also have a quiz, the quiz is actually on my website now, at tishamorris.com, you can check that out, and it gives you a breakdown of all your elements and what each of those really mean as far as your personality. So that’s it. It’s a fun book. It’s a personal development book. And I hope a lot of creatives find that useful.
Mark Lefebvre 19:38
No, I love that, because understanding yourself as a creative and where your strengths lie, I think those tools are wonderful resources for writers that you are launching. The book is coming out in November of 2022, correct? But you’ve got two different dates. You got two different sorts of launch things that are going on that I’d just love to dig into and how you’re doing it and why you’re doing it that way.
Tisha Morris 19:59
Yeah. Yeah, so I’m gonna release NFTs pre-launch, moving into the launch. The book actually releases November 8, which is, it’s being traditionally published. That’s one of the negatives of traditional publishing, you don’t get to pick your publishing date. I would have never picked November 8, because you know, November 8 is the craziest election day on Earth. So this is why the week before is when I’m really going to be in a push. And so I’m going to kick it off with an NFT, minting some NFTs. So for each of those elements I mentioned, there’s going to be an NFT for them. And each of those NFTs will contain exclusive content. As I’m working, I’m still working on what that exclusive content is, but things such as my book proposal, some of the behind the scenes of what led to my writing of this book. And this is my fifth book. So I have some other books in the hopper and I have other material, I’ll probably give away some courses. And so all this leads to the launch party that everyone hopefully will attend on IG live and Facebook Live. And it will be on November 7, but all these dates are on my website. Sign up for the NFT launch. Basically, it’s a free event. And a lot of it will be just kind of me explaining what NFTs are. As a entertainment lawyer, you know, all these areas really bleed and all the different medias that are available for creatives. And so I’m up to speed on the NFT world as much as one can be right now. There’s a lot of intellectual property issues that are fodder for attorneys to argue about. So anyway, in order for me to learn something I usually just do it myself and figure it out that way. And so that’s what I’m doing with this NFT launch with these coins. My coins are being designed right now by an NFT designer and I’m looking forward to those coins. And they’ll be available on open sea starting on November 1. So I’ll have a number for five days, each day I’ll drop one of the NFTs and each one with exclusive content. So.
Mark Lefebvre 22:30
I love that you’re merging the benefits of a special edition blu-ray and all the special features and the extras. But it’s also limited. And it’s also, you’re in control of it in terms of how it gets distributed. And obviously, as a legal professional, you understand this. What I also love is you’re working with a traditional publisher. So you’re bound by the contract you have with them. But you’re creating content that is not part of the contract. It’s your IP. Right?
Tisha Morris 22:57
That’s right. That’s right. Yeah, a little bit of a workaround. I mean, being creative here. But you know, this is a good topic for a traditional publishing show but not for today. But if you’re are getting published by traditional publisher in the future, those NFT rights will be on the table for negotiating.
Mark Lefebvre 23:23
Which could just be higher events, or other better terms, if you’re willing to sign that over. No, I love that. Yeah. And I love that. So the book launches on the eighth, but you’re starting things off doing stuff, the first through the seventh, and again, it’s all virtual over at tishamorris.com. People can check out the details there. Thank you for getting into that with me. Also, on your website, you had other courses, which I thought were fascinating, because you were talking about nonfiction books earlier and memoirs, and you even have a course called Your Book is Your Business to help people who have expertise who want to share.
Tisha Morris 24:00
Yeah, I love that course. Because it really gives you a side-by-side comparison of traditional and self-publishing, and, you know, I have a foot in both, have a horse in both races, and appreciate both for different reasons. And so I think it’s important for all authors to really go through that analysis for themselves. And when you’re self-publishing, you have to think like a publisher, you have to think, if you’re wanting to get traditionally published because you want you want them to do all these things, you’re gonna be doing all those things yourself. Like, regardless of which path you go, and so with self-publishing, you are your own publisher, and so that comes back around to these legal issues that might be up for you because you as the publisher, you are also, like I mentioned, you have to have your own legal team so to speak. And courts, you’ll be glad to know, Mark, that some courts have ruled that the self-publishing middleman like you guys are off the hook for legal issues. Congratulations.
Mark Lefebvre 25:22
Our CEO will be very happy to know that you are there. I guess when authors are self-publishing, they are the publisher, therefore they’re responsible as the business owner, etc, in control of everything, which is great and scary. But they’re signing contracts with distributors like Draft2Digital, or if they’re publishing direct to the world’s longest river or any of those platforms, they’re entering into a legal agreement that they agreed to, correct? And do you find, do authors actually ever really read those things? Do they attend to them? Are there things that need to be aware of, like, what am I offering? What am I giving them?
Tisha Morris 25:56
Yeah, that’s a good point. You know, I’ve self published to the long river myself, and I’ve never really read any, now you mention it, I don’t think I’ve ever even read anything.
Mark Lefebvre 26:09
I’ll share because I had to read them word by word, for one of the platforms years ago, with a smart lawyer and I just put it into English. And then they helped me with it. But I mean, one of the things is, you’re not giving up your right, you are allowing the retailer the opportunity to sell your product on their site, and they reserve the right to not sell it if they don’t want to, for various reasons. The genre topic, different countries have different cultural laws, in terms of what can and can’t be shared. So that’s kind of intriguing. I don’t mean to keep diverting, but there’s so many fascinating things that you do. And I was really curious, in particular, as a cluttery person myself, you’re an expert on decluttering? And is there a way that decluttering can help authors? And then the other thing is, is there a way that decluttering can help authors see the legalities of the things that may be missing, because there’s so much noise, so much static anyway?
Tisha Morris 27:14
Well, I think of decluttering as far as, yeah, in fact, this is this is kind of how I came up with the five elements of process. That cycle already existed thousands of years ago. So I didn’t come up with it. But as far as applying it to the creative process, because it’s in that metal phase. These processes show up in our daily life, it’s the cycle of our day, from waking up to going to bed, it’s the year long process and winter leading to the seasons. And I’m mentioning this because there’s always an editing phase. And, and so as I was teaching these concepts, I had a Fung Shui school. And so I taught these concepts to students. And while I was teaching these concepts, I was also writing books. And so I started to see how it mirrored my book writing process. And so the editing part is the cutting back. It’s like the energy, the 80,000 words have reached its peak. And now what doesn’t need to be in there, what is just taking up space, what is not furthering the story or the information along and just taking up space? So it’s the same metaphor and our actual physical space, what doesn’t need to be here, what’s just taking up space? And that’s how I think of clutter, as well, what’s no longer serving any utility for me, and thinking about our books in that same way. So in the editing process, I do approach it just like I would decluttering out a room.
Mark Lefebvre 28:49
I love that because I was only thinking about the mess on my desk. I wasn’t thinking about the mess in my manuscripts.
Tisha Morris 28:54
Mark Lefebvre 28:59
We’re getting close to the end, I’m gonna bring up some questions from the live audience. And thank you guys for asking your questions. Remember, we have a lawyer in the room who can answer some questions that you may have about it. The first one kind of goes back to a little bit of what we talked about, this is very specific. And I don’t have my reading glasses on. So I’m going to butcher the name. I’m not gonna be able to pronounce it, so I’m just gonna say we have a lovely viewer who’s asked, “Am I okay in quoting from a newspaper article about the St. Valentine’s massacre and an Al Capone I guess as an example. All right, thank you for the question.
Tisha Morris 29:33
So I do have to do a legal disclaimer real quick in that my answers are just opinions. I’m based on general information and not legal advice. So quoting from a newspaper article, yeah, that would be fine. If you were actually basing an entire book from a news article that would not be fine, which I know that’s not your question, but I just want to elaborate on that. So yeah, quoting from a newspaper, that would be the same as quoting from a magazine article, or even another book. So, again, you just don’t want to like cut and paste the whole article and put it in your in your book that would go over the limit, so to speak. And that limit, it’s a gray area as most things in law, but um, but like, you know, a sentence or two quote from a news article. In citing that news article, you’re fine.
Mark Lefebvre 30:40
I have to say, as an author who has traditionally published true ghost stories, or real hauntings books, I’ll often refer to articles about incidents, and then quote them and obviously identify the source that it was published in the May 27, 1987, issue of this newspaper, this magazine, and then you attribute the quote, so that people know where I got it from. But again, yeah, you’re doing the whole article now? Yeah. That texture is the story.
Tisha Morris 31:08
That’s another great example of a self-publisher being your own publisher. Because I have had the opportunity to work with traditional publishers, they are so like, at least my publisher is so nitpicky about all of those sources, they make sure and verify these sources very carefully. So as writers, or excuse me, as self-publishing authors, we need to do the same thing and really do our due diligence in getting those sources right.
Mark Lefebvre 31:42
I would just caution authors, when I handed in my first manuscript to a publisher, I had all my sources and at the very end of the manuscript, I said, and I used these sources. And then my editor said no, and we went very academic with the little endnotes. And so even the later manuscripts, they didn’t require me to put endnotes but I said, no, I’m going to do the manuscript with the end notes. And if you want to take them out, it’s way easier to take them out than it is for me to go back because I had to go back to the library again, and get the page number. You know, this is page 26 of this edition of the book. And so my advice is, better to start with more and take it out than it is to try to put it back in later. There was a lot of extra work I had to do. Another question’s coming in. This one from Kid to Kid says, “I’m writing a memoir about my university days 30 years ago. There’s an anecdote about my final year project partner letting me down by delaying his work. I don’t mention his name. Is this okay?”
Tisha Morris 32:47
Um, that’s a great example. Um, so is he identifiable? Probably he’s identifiable by himself, he’ll probably by like, oh so he’s telling you something about me, or your other friends around that time of like, oh, he’s talking about so and so. So not mentioning someone’s name legally doesn’t matter. Now, within our relationships, and the way that people how people think it does matter. So on an emotional level, it does. On the legal level, it doesn’t. So a lot of times people just say, oh, he didn’t mention my name. So I guess you know, he’s fine. So it does help, if you can change the name, that would definitely help, that would go a long way of showing that you’re trying to keep someone’s identity private. So it’s definitely worth doing. Now, if he’s still wanting to, you know, cause you problems he could. But really, this is kind of an opinion, your opinion that he let you down. So in my opinion, it would not go to the extent of defamation, meaning it’s not truthful. Opinion is okay. And as a writer, the more you put things in an IMO, in my opinion, from my perspective, the more you put things from your perspective and your feelings about something and really make it, this is filling in for memoir. the safer you are. If you start putting stuff on other people like he tried to abuse me, so there’s a difference in saying he abused me versus saying I felt abused. It’s a very slight nuance, but some courts have held that we own our story, and the more we tell the story from our first personal perspective, the safer you are. Okay. So if you felt like you were let down, you felt like you were let down. Whether he let you down is his IMO is for his memoir. So I think you’re safe, whether he could pitch a fit. You know, anyone can sue anyone for anything. But my goal is for, if that were to happen, that it gets dismissed for lack of any kind of claim. Now this is a good time for me to mention there is what’s called Media Perils insurance. So if you do think you’re treading on thin ice, if you feel like you, or sometimes people were, even if they know their work could cross a line as far as that, they know that someone’s going to pitch a fit about their work, and you really are afraid that you might get sued. And yet you still want to push forward with what you’re saying, then get Media Perils insurance. It’s a way for, for you, even if you get sued, then you have an insurance company on your back.
Mark Lefebvre 36:14
Is that available in every state? Or is it different?
Tisha Morris 36:19
Yeah, so it’s private insurance. And I know the Authors Guild partners with a company that offers it. And all the publishers, all the big publishing companies have their own media perils insurance. And so you as an individual author might consider that if you think you have some tricky areas. I would mention too, I do do legal vetting of manuscripts is a service that I offer. Sometimes the media perils insurance want a letter from an attorney, some do, some don’t. So if you do that, and needed a lawyer’s letter, I can do that. Or if you just want my vetting of your manuscript, I do like a whole opinion letter. And if someone gives you trouble, you can at least say like, look, my attorney says I’m good. That can be helpful.
Mark Lefebvre 37:22
Do you work with Canadian authors too? Or I mean, obviously, it’s gonna be American law. And that’s a much bigger country. Do you practive outside of the US? I mean, you’re obviously providing US experience.
Tisha Morris 37:37
Yeah, I’m only versed in intellectual property laws in the United States. And then yeah, I’m not sure where they differ. But if you’re publishing in the United States, then you’re kind of putting yourself … you could get sued in the United States.
Mark Lefebvre 37:57
Thank you. I want to go back to, because we were talking about memoirs and real people. And so this friend from college who let me down, or I felt let down, because we want to … I felt let down by my best friend or whatever. So I imagine a lot of fiction, people are inspired by things that have happened in your real life. So if somebody fictionalizes, back in my college days, my roommate, or my lab partner, or whoever it was, I guess you could still be in the same hot water right, even if it’s fictionalized, because there could still be that, I recognize this character, I know who this is based on, knowing the author and knowing their experiences, right?
Tisha Morris 38:39
Yeah, in that example, the storyline would need to be congruent as well with whatever happened in real life. Obviously, as fiction writers, we’re all inspired by our own life in some way, or people that we’ve met or circumstances that have happened. And obviously, being inspired by certain things is understandable and will come into your books, but actually writing about a real event with real people that took place, and the whole thing is identifiable, then you’re right. So it would need to be the events and the people are so similar. That’s like, no, this is actually, I identify that was actually your roommate that you’re talking about, because this exact same thing happened. The lab exploded, and you know, whatever.
Mark Lefebvre 39:31
I have put real people in my novels just to create that sense of reality because it’s set in the world we know, in the US we know, in LA, and stuff like that. And Alicia Witt, who is an independent musician and an actor, she’s got some great music and I wanted my character to be inspired by having seen her performance live. And that’s a turning point in his life. So it was really important for me to acknowledge how awesome she is. But what I did is, I actually sent the scene to her before I published it to get her approval. Because if I didn’t have her approval, I would have fictionalized everything, changed things up. But she actually wrote back and said, oh my God, not only is that awesome, that’s exactly what I would have said in that situation. And so I felt confident enough to go ahead with that, because I didn’t have that person’s approval. And also, she was an indie musician, so she still owned the rights to her music. So she also gave me permission too, so that’s the one time I quoted from a song because I wasn’t gonna get sued. Is that the kind of thing when somebody does that? Is it good to have a contract in place? Or is that sort of gentlemen’s agreement enough?
Tisha Morris 40:44
No, that’s a great question and great point. So if you’re getting a release from people that you write about, it’s always a smart way to go. If there’s quite a bit about someone, whether you change their name or not, then getting a release from them, you can kind of sleep better at night. If the whole book is about someone, then you’d want to get their life rights. And that’s a legal contract. And again, that helps you sleep at night as well. There was something else you mentioned that made me think of something. Oh, yeah, I want to mention disclaimers really quick because as self-publishing authors, you do the copyright page in your book. And so disclaimers go a long way. So we mentioned in fiction, there’s that typical disclaimer in fiction books, but in nonfiction books and memoir, pay particular attention to your disclaimer, and actually courts have held that disclaimers help. It shows that you’re making an effort to be respectful of people’s privacy. And so you can look at other memoirs that are like popular memoirs, and check out their disclaimer and see how they approach things. And it doesn’t have to be all legal mumbo jumbo, it can be like, I know I’ve seen in some memoirs, in the front matter of a book, even a whole page dedicated to you know, I’ve attempted to keep these names private. Or, when I refer to David, it’s actually a conglomeration of many people. So you can be creative in these disclaimers. And they do help. So especially again, that helps emotionally for the people. And it also helps legally as well.
Mark Lefebvre 42:54
[inaudible] these events have been used fictitiously or something like that. And in nonfiction, every effort has been made [inaudible] the sources, etc.
Tisha Morris 43:11
Mark Lefebvre 43:16
[inaudible] you can see the language that’s being used.
Tisha Morris 43:20
Yeah, I’m such a geek. Every book that I read, which is a lot, I love looking at the front matter. Like I want to see what they have, they did their copyright page, I love looking at the chapter outline and seeing, to me that’s like architecture of a house and seeing how they built this house. So as self-publishers, this front matter and the back matter too where you can throw in some cells, some cells stuff is very, very important. And if you’ve never done self-publishing, you realize quick there’s a lot that goes into making a book.
Mark Lefebvre 44:03
I do have to pop up a comment from my colleague Kevin, who is somewhere at the same resort preparing to go on stage live. And he says, “Hey, Tisha, sorry I missed ya. We’ll chat again at the next SFWC.”
Tisha Morris 44:18
Miss you, too, Kevin, wish you were here.
Mark Lefebvre 44:24
Tisha, thank you so much. This was such a fascinating interview. Can you tell viewers where they can find out more about you online and your forthcoming book launch?
Tisha Morris 44:34
Thank you, tishamorris.com. My legal website is actually morrisentertainmentlaw.com You can get there from tishamorris.com. It’s your one stop shop, take that quiz or preorder the book. I’d love to see you on my NFT day. And yeah, feel free to reach out.
Mark Lefebvre 45:00
See you again Tisha. Thanks for putting up with my technical glitches and holding the show while I disappeared. Thank you everyone for watching. Alright, you have a great day.
Tisha Morris 45:14
Thank you so much.