Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Do We Know What #SelfPublishing Is?

When I’m done writing this there will be 140 posts about Self-Publishing ( <— if you take that link before I write about self-publishing again, you’ll see this post at the top of a scrollable set of posts, because I’ve tagged it with “Self-Publishing”—perhaps, sometime, you’d like to check out the Top Tags widget down a bit in the left side-bar for an extensive, clickable listing of topics :-)

Since I self-published my short novel, nearly five years ago, I’ve watched folks try to get their minds around what it really means to “self-publish”

Does self-publishing mean a person writes, edits, prints, and sells a book?

It could

Does it mean a person writes a book then pays folks to edit, print, and distribute it?

Many thousands of people have done that and, if you include in “printing” the production of an e-book, I’d estimate a few million (perhaps many more…).

It’s becoming fairly clear that “self-publishing” indicates what happens when an author decides to either do or pay for what needs done to make a book available to the public—as opposed to a publishing company deciding a book “merits” publication then paying for what it takes to make it so

Recently, in a District Court in the State I live in (Ohio, USA), a ruling was made that clarified the legal status of organizations that I’d decided to call Publishing-Aid companies (like FastPencil).

I find this quite interesting since my novel says, “Published by FastPencil, Inc.”

I’ll share a few excerpts from an article on The National Law Review site that comments on the ruling I referred to:

“We live in a world that has rapidly redefined and blurred the roles of the ‘creator’ of content, as compared to the roles of the ‘publisher’ and ‘distributor’ of such content.”

to say the least

“Unlike a traditional publisher…self-publishing services do not fact check or edit materials (though, users may take advantage of unaffiliated paid services that do just that) and do not use a vetting process that might catch potentially defamatory or infringing content prior to publishing.”

Another way to tell the difference between Trad and Self publishing

“…what happens when a self-published book offered for sale contains content that may violate a third-party’s right of publicity or privacy rights? Should the self-publishing platforms be treated like traditional ‘publishers’ or more like distributors or booksellers?”

Very good question

“This past month, an Ohio district court ruled that several online self-publishing services were not liable for right of publicity or privacy claims for distributing an erotic (and so-called ‘less than tasteful’) book whose cover contained an unauthorized copy of the plaintiffs’ engagement photo because such services are not publishers.”

The companies involved in the case were Amazon’s Kindle Digital Publishing, Barnes & Noble Nook Press and Smashwords.

“The self-publishing vendors sought summary judgment asserting that they were not publishers of the book but merely allowed the author to use their systems to distribute it, and that were protected from any liability for third-party content by CDA Section 230.”

Basically, that link to the CDA Section refers to, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider”.

“Siding with the defendants, the court dismissed the claims against the self-publishing vendors, finding that their services are not ‘publishing’, as that word is known in the book industry.”


“Ultimately, the court concluded:

‘For now, this Court will apply the old standards to the new technology, treating the [“self-publishing vendors”] process as if it were next logical step after the photocopier. Just as Xerox would not be considered a publisher and held responsible for an invasion of privacy tort carried out with a photocopier, [the Defendants] will not be liable as publishers for the tort allegedly committed using their technology.’

“Because the court based its ruling on the publisher-distributor issue, it declined to take up the issue of whether the defendants were shielded from liability by the CDA Section 230.”

So, in this age of corruption and a two-tiered legal system (rich and poor) rationality won

I have to wonder

Was FastPencil “lying” when they added “Published by Fastpencil, Inc.”………?

One last, extremely interesting, excerpt:

“Interestingly, the court’s language also touched on the free speech implications of an adverse ruling, suggesting that if liability for failure to inspect content were imposed on print-on-demand publishers or self-publishing platforms, they might become censors and their services would become more expensive, precluding the publication of low-budget works or controversial opinions from independent authors.”

What do You make of all this?

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10 responses to “Do We Know What #SelfPublishing Is?

  1. dgkaye April 15, 2016 at 11:35 pm

    Completely confusing, and a typical legal blame game. Ultimately, the onus is on the actual publisher of the book’s material – the author who self published their own work, not the distributor. It’s tricky because we publish our own books, then we publish again on sites like Amazon, etc. Publish seems to be a word with many connotations here.


    • Alexander M Zoltai April 16, 2016 at 2:04 am

      I agree—“publishing” can be anything from sending your manuscript to yourself by registered mail and not opening it (to prove copyright), to handing printed copies out to friends, all the way to, what, carving it in stone in foot-high letters?? :-)


  2. The Story Reading Ape April 24, 2016 at 8:33 am

    Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    Author Alexander M Zoltai raises an interesting question – please share your thoughts with him in his blog comments 🐵

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Do We Know What #SelfPublishing Is? | Illuminite Caliginosus

  4. floridaborne April 24, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    I’m not a lawyer, just a very cautious thinker when it comes to the oxymoron of “just laws.” As a professor of ancient civilizations once said, law and justice rarely have anything to do with one another.

    I’d imagine it’s going to mean that any self-published author who didn’t have a lawyer review their book(s) first for possible violations is going to have a very bad day in court.


  5. franklparker April 24, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    Seems straight forward to me. You make a defamatory claim, or make available to the general public a document or photograph that is not yours to share it is you that must take the rap. In the old technology, would a printer have be held responsible for an author’s defamatory words?


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