LSQ Year 10 Special Blogger Interview: Jacqui Lipton

In celebration of our tenth year of publication, we’re showcasing the amazing work and behind-the-scenes stuff of our staff. Today, we present to you one of our regular bloggers, Jacqui Lipton.

LSQ: Tell us about how you got involved with LSQ’s blog — how long have you been a blogger, how did you first learn about LSQ? What made you want to join the blog?
Jacqui: I actually published a short piece of flash fiction in LSQ so many years ago I can’t even remember when exactly it was. Jennifer [Parsons, ed-in-chief] later contacted folks who had published with LSQ previously and told us about the blog, inviting pitches for columns. I started out with a column on YA writing because I was studying kid-lit in my MFA program at the time. I later moved to the “On the Books” column (legal issues for authors) because I found I was doing so much consulting work in the area because of my law professor background and my interest in the publishing industry. Prior to blogging with LSQ, I was involved in several law professor group blogs and also my own blog at:
LSQ: Tell us about your monthly column, “On the Books.” How does this relate to your background? How do you curate fresh topics?
Jacqui: “On the Books” is an outgrowth of my consulting work as I mentioned above. I also write several other columns on legal issues for authors (one for the SCBWI Bulletin and one for Savvy Authors). I have an unusual background in both intellectual property/commercial law and writing/publishing, which gives me the ability to look at legal issues for authors from both a legal/business and craft perspective. I also feel that there’s not enough accurate legal information available for authors and artists. There’s a lot of misinformation online and often, hiring a lawyer to answer a question is too costly for authors (although my blog posts are obviously no substitute for legal advice when necessary!). I have a book coming out in early 2020 on legal issues for authors with University of California Press where I’m putting together a lot of the basic issues authors confront in a–hopefully–user-friendly manner. I was worried initially that there wouldn’t be enough fresh topics to write about, but now I feel there are way too many topics to cover in the time I have. There’s so much going on in publishing: digital publishing, copyright and fair use issues, concerns about plagiarism and author attribution, questions about defamation and privacy. The list goes on and on. I do watch the trade magazines and blogs to see what’s of the most concern to folks, as well as keeping a lot of the questions I’m asked at workshops, webinars, and other presentations.
LSQ: Being a law professor as well as a writer, what do you see as “hot topics” that writers are dealing with now? Have these sorts of issues changed over the past 5 or 10 years?
Jacqui: A really hot topic at the moment is “morality clauses”. Publishers are increasingly inserting clauses into their contracts allowing them to terminate arrangements with authors for breach of often poorly defined moral codes of conduct. A lot of this is an outgrowth of the #MeToo movement and is likely motivated by significant real concerns. However, authors are increasingly worried that their contracts will be cancelled on amorphous grounds based on some random comment they made online. Another issue is preventing digital copyright piracy in the “cut and paste” world of the Internet. And then there are concerns about trademarks in the context of book series titles which has been of recent concern in the romance writing industry in particular. I think some of the issues are definitely new (e.g. morality clauses) and some are new iterations of problems we’ve seen before (e.g. trademarks).
LSQ: What are some of the most interesting topics for you that you’ve enjoyed writing about for the blog?
Jacqui: It’s hard to pick one or two because I really enjoy seeing what’s of concern out there and writing about it whatever it is. The big debate in the romance industry about the registration (now cancelled) of the “Cocky” trademark for romance book series titles was a lot of fun to write about although I know it caused a lot of people real angst. There was a lot of misinformation about that one, and it felt important to try and explain how trademarks really work in the book series title context. Morality clauses are also very interesting to write about because it’s such early days of using these clauses in the publishing industry even though they’ve been around in the sports and entertainment industry for a long time. And I always love writing about online branding: internet domain names, hashtags, etc., because that’s one of my major interests in the legal area from way back.
LSQ: Are you working on any other writing projects at the moment? If so, can you tell us a bit about them?
Jacqui: Well, I already mentioned my legal handbook for authors that should be out by early 2020. I’m also working on a couple of YA sci-fi projects which may or may not see the light of day anytime soon! And I’ve started delving into personal essay writing and memoirs although this is very early days for me.
Thanks so much for interviewing me for the blog and I look forward to writing more on the law for authors in 2019!