A book is published containing cited text from an article licensed under some free license like CC-BY-SA. With all requirements of such license fulfilled.

Later on the "author" of the article confesses that it was not original work and did not in fact have the right to grant licenses for the article.

What are the responsabilities of the book's author and publisher?

Is it a copyright infringement to continue publishing it unmodified claiming that any damage is caused by the author of the article and not the book's author whom acted in good faith?

Otherwise, is it a copyright infringement to reject acting on such revelation until proof is provided about the illegality of the cited article? If the author choses to keep the cited text, is there any obligation to actively investigate the license status?

Note that there is no doubt that the identities of the article's author and the one claiming it was a false license are the same. There is doubt about the veracity of his words though since he must have lied at least once, when he falsely granted a license or when he falsely confessed.

  • Under what license did the actual author of the article publish that article? Do you think the book's use of the citation is an infringement under the actual license, not the false one? Related: https://law.stackexchange.com/questions/16415/copyright-vs-right-to-attribution
    – Brandin
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 8:04
  • @Brandin Let's say the actual author is A. And the author I copied from is B (B would have copied from A). A's identity is unknown. It might even happen that A does not exist, that B is lying. B can't be trusted. Should I just keep things as they are until a firm claim appears? Or could I be held responsible for copyright infringement if a real author appears later on and he never issued a license which would allow me to copy that work? Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 12:46
  • Wouldn't it be simpler just to say that you are citing from an author A who is unknown or anonymous? The fact that there is a non-author B who once said he is the author is not relevant to the actual author A's copyright claim.
    – Brandin
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 13:06
  • @Brandin That is a given. B does not desserve at all to be mentioned. But, would it be possible to be liable for citation (an extense one, not a few lines) of an unknown author who appears and assersts his authorship at a later date? Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 13:13
  • If you copy a significant part of a work, then yes, you could be liable. If the author hasn't given a specific license (which is the case here, since we're ignoring the untrustworthy non-author B), the default license of the unknown author's work is "all rights reserved."
    – Brandin
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 19:44

1 Answer 1


The author of the book has no right to use the text from the article unless permisison has been granted by to holder of the copyright in that article. Since it was taken from a source now known to be infringing, and the original source is not known, it may not legitimately be used until the true author comes forward and grants permission, unless the use would fall under fair use (in the US) or some simialr fair dealing concept (in those countries where that applies).

Of course, the author of the book will suffer no legal penalty unless and until after the true author does come forward and files suit. But the book author could hardly claim 'innocent infringement". The book author is on notice that text has been used with no valid license or grant of permission. It is the book author's responsibility not to use other people's work unless it is in the public domain or permission has been granted in some way.

Also, a book publisher would be jointly liable in such a case, and might choose to withdraw the book from publication unless some suitable correction is made.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .