Monday, June 25, 2007

Posting Query Letters

I am curious, what are the legal implications of publicly publishing their query (aside from publicly carping about it)?

Is there no sort of client-vendor confidentiality agreement (spoken or unspoken)?

Well, in strictly general terms, [but not necessarily legal] you can pretty much do whatever the hell you want on the internet (aside from child porn) as long as your ISP backs you up or your ISP is based in a country that makes it very hard to legally pursue, like China or Russia. Child porn is the only thing Interpol really clamps down on internationally. If I posted your query letter here, since I'm anonymous, your main legal recourse would be to ask blogger to take it down, and blogger would probably not care enough to make me do it. If I wasn't anonymous, you could report me to the AAR or the BBB, or various other guilds, but it wouldn't come to anything.

That said, I'm not going to post any query letters. I mean, aside from that spamming anonymous jackass. Yes, it is an unspoken non-client/agent agreement, because we're nice, and don't generally like to piss off writers. Actually, most of us like writers, as they are the thing that makes our business exist and we base our careers on making the good ones into stars because we love literature. It's why we're in the exciting, low-paying world of publishing.

My general policy is not to post people's email addresses or even letters in entirety unless it's a question they obviously mean for the blog and I want to answer it on the blog. That's just common courtesy.

8 comments:

John said...

Erm, actually it's illegal to post publically a piece of private correspondence, including business letters. It's simple breach of copyright, as well as the breach of business ethics that you mentioned.

Of course, certain fair-use exemptions apply to copyright, and you could probably do quite well defending your recent post of a mad query letter under the satire rules.

The fact that people do all sorts of stuff on the Internet doesn't make it legal or wise. Nor is anonymity much of a defense - if someone sued you, they could find out who you are fairly easily from Blogger and your ISP's records.

pax et bonum

The Rejecter said...

True.

Tessa said...

I thought that the letter belonged to the person to whom it was addressed, and therefore you might do anything with it you chose.
Any lawyers here?

BuffySquirrel said...

Well, IANAL, but while the physical letter belongs to the recipient, the sender retains copyright in what they wrote.

Breach of contract is a civil matter; it's not really "illegal", as that suggests the criminal law is involved.

BuffySquirrel said...

I meant of course "breach of copyright". I have contract law on the brain.

Twill said...

I'm sure it varies by jurisdiction. Copyright law obviously applies in that the letter is a work by the writer.

The information in the work, however, cannot be copyrighted, merely the expression of that information.

Since most of what you might like to post about a bad query is the unique expression, rather than the information covered, you are better off not posting it without explicit permission.

Anonymous said...

Rejector - speaking of anonymity, does your boss know you do this blog? Just curious.

The Rejecter said...

Yeah, I've mentioned it, and to previous bosses. They don't really care.