In the letters, we discuss how I am supposed to publish the letters as part of a book. Now that I'm nearly done with the book and now that she is my ex, she doesn't want me to publish the letters. If I was given explicit permission in writing to make the book while we were a couple, can I still publish my book?
This is a complex and difficult issue. If you received an explicit written license to publish the letters, then of course you are free to do so. But if the "explicit" permission was oral, that may not suffice. Moreover, there is a big difference between permission to write a book and permission to include specific letters in the book. Unless you received written permission to include the letters in the book, your publication of the letters could violate copyrights owned by your ex. The author of the letters owns the copyrights in them.
Moreover, your ex-girl friend might assert other claims against you if you publish the letters, including claims for violating her rights of privacy, rights of publicity, and others. Before publishing these letters, you definitely should consult with IP counsel.
I agree with my colleague that whatever she wrote, she's the author of and copyright owner of, but that she can certainly consent to your publishign these letters in a book you're writing if she likes. And she can't withdraw her consent just because her feelings about you have changed.
But your query states that you're "supposed" to publish them, so maybe she never really consented either expressly or implicitly.
If you've got a publishing contract it will no doubt require you to warrant that your book's contents don't infringe anyone's contractual, publicity, privacy, copyright, or trademark rights, and to indemnify the publisher for any such violation. Likewise, if you're self-publishing, those risks remain. You may want to consult counsel now before you do anything with these letters to see how solid you are on this issue of her consent.
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You can publish your book, but unless you have written permission to include these letters you could be infringing her copyright on the letters. And, hell hath no fury like a woman spurned, particularly if you hand that woman a claim like this against you. If you do this you will hear about it in any divorce proceeding if still pending, particularly if done in spite for revenge. On the other hand controversy can sometimes sell a book. Seed your family law lawyer first on this one and them a copyright lawyer.
So far, this is free to you. Until you pay a fee, I am not your lawyer and you are not my client, so you take any free advice at your sole risk. I am licensed in IL, MO, TX and am a Reg. Pat. Atty. so advice in any other jurisdiction is general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.
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