I'm in a masters of music program. I've gotten to study with some incredible musicians, and I have some amazing stories that happened and life lessons I learned while I was with them. I'd like to self-publish a book where I share some of these stories (all positive and complimentary, nothing slanderous), talk about the life lessons I learned, and use them to help other musicians - who don't have the benefit of studying with these legends - grow and deepen their own relationship with music. Am I allowed to do this? To talk about these people in writing and publish it? Do I need to get their permission? Can I use pictures of them in the book?
I do plan to sell the book online. I paid a fortune in tuition, and wish to monetize the experience I had their. Just as if I were hired to teach.
All of these people have what is called a right of publicity. So if you use their names or likeness you need to obtain their written permission to do so. Retain an experienced IP attorney to advise you regarding your specific plans.
Mr. Sack's postings on Avvo are of a general nature, based on the facts provided and are not intended to be taken as legal advice or to establish an attorney-client relationship.
Due to privacy laws and rights of publicity, and also to get them to give a positive comment on your book, you really should inform the musicians and ask for their permission. The same is true for photos, which may be owned by the photographer or promotion company that took the pictures. I would urge you to find literary counsel to obtain the proper forms. Good luck!
Let's look at this question practically. EVEN IF YOU CAN write a book dropping the names of all of these famous people as part of your anecdotal stories, do you think that if you do not seek the permission of these musicians, they will ever want to work with you again? Do you think that word will not spread that you dropped their names to make money without consulting them?
Even if you can legally do it, there is the matter of whether it is wise to do so. For that reason, rather than self-publishing, perhaps you need to look at putting together your manuscript, discreetly contacting these musicians through their agents or representatives to ask if it would be OK to include some stories in their book and then shopping the book to a major publisher that would be able to assist you in the right of publicity problems.
Even if you still self publish, at least consult a lawyer who is a literary agent (they are required to be licensed as such in NYC) and pay for a consultation in how to proceed.
Best of luck.
This does not constitute legal advice or the engagement of my services as an attorney.
If the story is about you and what you learned from these musicians, you probably can get by without requesting permission, at least as far as using their names. However, this is probably a poor idea. You don't want to engender bad feelings, and it is likely that these people would not mind having their names used, subject to perhaps a signed copy of the book. This would also be a good lead in to get marketing quotes or a foreword written.
Photos should always be subject to approval of the subject.
I think I am more concrete about the issue than my colleagues most of whom seem to be hesitant regards to your rights to write and publish the book. You are free to write about any darn thing or person you want. I'm sure you have heard about unauthorized biographies. But that said, if you paint someone in a false light or are found not to be untruthful regards to facts and circumstances or end up making someone feel foolish or worse then you are exposing yourself to claims for defamation. So getting their permission and rights so to speak to tell the story will certainly help mitigate these kinds of claims and make publishers feel good about the work assuming that is relevant maybe even in the future.
Regards to using images of these people, so long as you either own the photos or have license to use them of course you can include them. Now just because I'm writing a story about say Donald Trump does not mean I get to use any image I find of him. I would likely have to license that image. Further, using images of people in the book or even on the cover, assuming they are at least subjects of the book or a member of the class for which it was written, does not mean you can use the images in your advertising and promotions for the book. This will likely cross the line and violate their right to publicity and privacy.
I suggest that you consult with a lawyer in private and discuss your objectives in more detail. You can start by calling around to several for a free phone consultation, get some insights then pick the best fit to work with.
DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is formed with the law firm of Natoli-Lapin, LLC on the basis of this posting.
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