Copyright permission given in the USA but I live in the UK. Where do I stand?

I have permission to use copyright material in my book but only if it is published in the USA. I live in the UK and want my book to be available for purchase in my home country. Lulu tells me that I am the publisher, so what are my options—if any?
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Answers

  • You have to go back to the negotiating table with the copyright owners (who I assume are American).  If the material was published by a traditional publisher in the U.S., that company usually wants to keep control of the rights to sell in other markets (including translations into other languages).  I know this because I have published a couple of books with an American publisher and my contract goes into great detail about all of this -- basically they want to keep any (potential) profit from overseas sales.

    If they have granted you permission to use only a small amount of material, you might be able to get them to reconsider.  Is there any possibility that someone seeing what is reproduced in your book would want to see more of the source?  (i.e., it's free publicity if they ever sold the book in the UK).  If they've given you the right to use a lot, they probably won't want you to sell outside the U.S. 

    If the copyright owner is an author or small publisher, they might be more flexible than the big guys.  You should probably ask why they won't let you distribute in the UK.  Is there any realistic possibility of the material being published there?  Would they like to see the material get wider distribution?  Or is it just a case of "we always reserve non-US rights when we make our contracts?"

    Bottom line: the copyright owner has total control (at least in any country that recognizes international copyrights).  But talking with them, and keeping an open mind, may get you what you want.  Good luck!
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    What exactly do they own that you will be using? It's always a good idea to ask a copyright holder's permission if using a lot of their works, but there's also the Fair Usage Law. https://fairuse.stanford.edu/overview/fair-use/what-is-fair-use/ 

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • Hi VictorLulu,

    Unfortunately, because our store doesn't allow you to specify a single country or region to sell the book, we would not be able to ensure the book is only sold were you legally have permission to sell.

    As others have stated, it's a good idea to go back to the copyright holder and attempt to secure a broader allowance for use of the material.
  • I have written a book about addiction and I wanted to include AA's 'twelve steps' and their 'preamble' together with a small quote from the book, 'The Language of the Heart'. I was amazed to see that this had been the result of wrangles in the past since people copy the steps all the time, so much so in fact that they seemed to be in the public domain. However, I was not naive and thought that someone must own the rights.
    I received an explanatory response informing me that permission was always refused until the nineteen eighties when there were questions regarding the copyright and restrictions were lifted. This would allow me to quote the steps. However, this was added in parenthises:
    "(Please note that the copyrights status of all editions of the Big Book are effective in foreign countries. Thus, you are free to reprint the Twelve Steps in your upcoming publication, if your distribution is the United States, only.)"

    This is why I asked my question in the first place, being a UK resident.
  • I should add that I was made aware of the "fair use" law, but this seems like another legal minefield in the same way that the word, "reasonable" is thrown into the legal mix; what is the "reasonable person"? This mysterious figure is what became known in the UK as "the man on the Clapham omnibus".
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    The AA is just one aspect of addiction. There's also many sources to take details from. Note that this one, for example, does not seem to have a Copyright warning on it.  https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/addiction/Pages/addictionhome.aspx

    Oddly, perhaps, the AA site in the UK has this on it >> 'Copyright by the AA Grapevine, Inc.; reprinted with permission,' One would hope that they want their word spreading, not restricted in any way.

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • I understand what you say but my problem is that the book I have written does cover all addictions and reveals the true cause that my research has produced. I used alcoholism as the best example of addiction because it is the most common and was the source of the twelve step treatment method, which has been shown to be the best method of treatment, despite its limitations.

    The AA website is no doubt copyrighted by AA in the UK but the steps, etc., are clearly permitted by AA in the USA, 'The Grapevine' being the name of the AA magazine in the USA and is part of AA's intellectual property.

    I have thought of a way round this dilemma. I could continue with the book as it is and call it the 'USA Edition', and produce another version (the 'UK Edition') that would contain dotted lines for the reader to write in the steps for themselves since they are freely available on the net. I would explain that this inconvenience was brought about by AA's refusal to allow me to print the steps for distribution in the UK—pretty embarrassing for AA I would think, considering its stated aim: "When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA always to be there, and for that I am responsible". This is certainly feasible because it is only a small section of the book that would be affected.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    The AA website is no doubt copyrighted by AA in the UK but the steps, etc., are clearly permitted by AA in the USA, 'The Grapevine' being the name of the AA magazine in the USA and is part of AA's intellectual property.

    Do the AA in whatever country charge money? And are worried about competition? Just what exactly is it they are trying to protect? I have never read the magazines. What is in them that needs copyrighting?

    I have thought of a way round this dilemma. I could continue with the book as it is and call it the 'USA Edition', and produce another version (the 'UK Edition') that would contain dotted lines for the reader to write in the steps for themselves since they are freely available on the net.

    (Err. I have just looked at those 12 Steps and I had no idea the AA is a religious organisation. Example >> "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him."  'Him,' He' and God are mentioned in most of the 12 rules. That is not the AA as I understand it, and how it is shown in fiction on the TV. Possibly the copyright is to stop people slagging off that aspect? Did you explain to them your full intentions?)

     I would explain that this inconvenience was brought about by AA's refusal to allow me to print the steps for distribution in the UK—pretty embarrassing for AA I would think, considering its stated aim: "When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of AA always to be there, and for that I am responsible". This is certainly feasible because it is only a small section of the book that would be affected.

    And there on line for anyone to read, anyway. I fully agree such comments would embarrass them, and so they should, and no doubt that's the reason for the strict copyrights. They have need to worry because apparently they only average a 6% success rate. I wonder if that includes converting people to 'God?'

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

  • The next italicised section is a little of what I wrote about AA's 'God problem' in my book:

    The first thing to say is that AA was set up by a group of white, Christian, American men in 1935. That it began with powerful religious and maybe misogynistic overtones is indisputable – the first woman to achieve sobriety didn’t arrive in the rooms until 1939 – four years later. But over the years, AA has learnt from its many mistakes and quite early in its existence members were aware of the ‘God’ barrier. This is why the expression, “God, as we understood Him”, came into being; but try as they might, they couldn’t bring themselves to get rid of the word, God.

    This is perfectly understandable because they were religious and they did credit God with their recovery. The dilemma, however, proved insurmountable and no matter what they did, they couldn’t bring themselves to jettison God from their programme – a decision, to be fair, that would have been unthinkable at the time. The only thing left was for them to try to explain the God problem away by making it a very personal idea. The difficulty persists today in almost all of the twelve-step fellowships because it is written into their programmes even though the personalised God idea is perfectly sensible and logical.

    It usually takes a lot of perseverance for new and sceptical AA members to come to terms with the fact that, in the various twelve-step programmes, ‘God’ is merely a convenient hook upon which to hang our own perceived responsibilities. But newcomers with our condition don’t do “a long time”, we need “immediately” if not sooner! And, of course, when we begin to delve into AA and its so-called ‘traditions’, we come across statements like “a loving God, as He may express Himself…” and such like.

    I have been an AA member for thirty-odd years and I understand exactly what they have tried to do but it often goes wrong because of the G-word. The aim of the latter part of my book is to get rid of this problem by explaining the real nature of addiction and producing a secular programme.

    I know what people mean when they say that AA has a low success rate but the truth of the matter is that for addicts who keep going to meetings regularly, almost all achieve recovery. It's a bit like going to school for the first time—you don't expect to come home after day one able to read Shakespeare and do quadratic equations; you have to do the whole course.

  • I forgot to answer some of the questions you posed in the early part of your response. Here we go!

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a very strange set up. It shouldn't have lasted six months and yet is has survived for over eighty years and continues to grow.

    AA is the fellowship. That is to say, it has no bosses and decisions are made by the ordinary membership in the many meetings around the world. It is a kind of inverted pyramidal structure with the membership making decisions and feeding the decisions back to the world conference where these ideas are debated and voted on by elected members. What most people would call 'the bosses' are in fact considered to be servants of the membership.

    AA makes no charge for its services; it is self-supporting through its own, voluntary contributions. Sometimes large bequests have been made by grateful families of recovered alcoholics and they have been politely refused.

    The steps (what you call the 'laws') are merely "suggestions"; no one is forced to do anything in AA.

    The Grapevine has been the official magazine of AA in the USA since its earliest times. The articles in it are written and sent in by members.

    AA pays professionals to do jobs that need to be done but cannot be done by members for practical reasons—jobs like accountancy, lawyers, secretarial work in offices and so on. These special, 'professional workers are considered to be employed by the membership (at a distance, obviously).

    The decisions about copyright were/are made by elected committees made up of ordinary, unpaid members. This, as you will understand, has strengths and weaknesses, and it is why getting hard and, dare I say, sensible, decisions seems to become confused. The person I deal with is probably one of those 'special workers' but she will be bound by decisions made by some committee of ordinary AA members who were/are guided by a paid lawyer I would think. This is why it is hard to get anything nailed down—nobody is able to make an independent, innovative decision. Ironically, she will be waiting for me (and a few million others) to make a decision which, in a year or two, might get to the world conference and then a decision will be made; but who knows what it will be. In their ignorance of copyright law, they will probably stick with the status quo.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    I forgot to answer some of the questions you posed in the early part of your response. Here we go!

    Alcoholics Anonymous is a very strange set up. It shouldn't have lasted six months and yet is has survived for over eighty years and continues to grow.

    Dare I say that Christianity should not have lasted so long if not 'high-jacked' by the Romans? It is remarkable how many 'help' organisations are set up by religions, or religious people. The Salvation Army is one obvious one. Some other many decades ago, that I forget the name of, even set up alcohol free 'pubs.' My mother was always saying she had "signed the pledge," but I was too young to know what she was on about, but apparently it's to do with some promise to some church to not drink.


    AA is the fellowship. That is to say, it has no bosses and decisions are made by the ordinary membership in the many meetings around the world. It is a kind of inverted pyramidal structure with the membership making decisions and feeding the decisions back to the world conference where these ideas are debated and voted on by elected members. What most people would call 'the bosses' are in fact considered to be servants of the membership.

    What is to be agreed about? They are supposed to break addiction.

    AA makes no charge for its services; it is self-supporting through its own, voluntary contributions. Sometimes large bequests have been made by grateful families of recovered alcoholics and they have been politely refused.

    Strange.

    The steps (what you call the 'laws') are merely "suggestions"; no one is forced to do anything in AA.

    It would be pointless joining them if one did not follow those 'laws.' This is interesting >> "The heart of the suggested program of personal recovery is contained in Twelve Steps describing the experience of the earliest members of the Society:"

    The Grapevine has been the official magazine of AA in the USA since its earliest times. The articles in it are written and sent in by members.

    Copyrighted I assume. Which is common for all publications I suppose.

    AA pays professionals to do jobs that need to be done but cannot be done by members for practical reasons—jobs like accountancy, lawyers, secretarial work in offices and so on. These special, 'professional workers are considered to be employed by the membership (at a distance, obviously).

    Substantial money must come from somewhere to pay for admin.

    The decisions about copyright were/are made by elected committees made up of ordinary, unpaid members. This, as you will understand, has strengths and weaknesses, and it is why getting hard and, dare I say, sensible, decisions seems to become confused. The person I deal with is probably one of those 'special workers' but she will be bound by decisions made by some committee of ordinary AA members who were/are guided by a paid lawyer I would think.

    I suppose an 'ordinary' member is cheaper than being replied to by a lawyer.

     This is why it is hard to get anything nailed down—nobody is able to make an independent, innovative decision. Ironically, she will be waiting for me (and a few million others) to make a decision which, in a year or two, might get to the world conference and then a decision will be made; but who knows what it will be. In their ignorance of copyright law, they will probably stick with the status quo.

    Often, it is lawyers who hope that it's you who are ignorant of copyright laws. In my experience they are often using 'bluff' methods. From what you have described as to the possible contents of your book, Fair Usage comes in to play.

    Myself and my friend combined know everything there is to know, but he's not here.

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