Theresa Harvard Johnson


Copyright 2018 Theresa Harvard Johnson
[This article is provided for information purposes only. It should not be considered as legal advice as I am not an attorney. In addition, this article is primarily targeted to those who self-publish books.]

I could probably write a book on all the things I’ve done wrong as a writer. If you place the mind-set of the apostolic-prophetic community on top of that then I could probably write volumes. Seriously.

As an instructor, mentor, former print journalist and writer, I’ve seen some strange things in the publications sent to me for review. Once, I received a "prophetic" book that contained nothing but email conversations and accusations printed in dated order. The cover was beautiful, but the inside was embarrassing and defaming - to both parties involved. Common sense does not always rule in super-spiritual minds. As a result, tremendous mistakes - sometimes criminal - can be made in the process of writing and publishing.

This article isn’t a throw-off or a finger pointing one. It is, however, a wake-up call. People are writing books at every possible turn, but have absolutely no training not only in the writing process, but in the legal implications that can follow what they write and publish. Somehow, there must be BALANCE in the Christian community - especially among prophetic people where this problem is severe. Training and/or counsel is needed to help writers pass the varying aspects of the publishing “litmus test” so-to-speak.

My years in journalism and now in professional writing taught me some hard lessons. I was sued twice (meaning my newspaper) for libel and defamation of character. The complaintant lost in both instances. This, however, was because every news journalist is trained extensively in libel, copyright violation, plagiarism, issues of defamation and so forth. This experience opened my eyes to my own short-comings and ignorance. In this article, I hope to open the eyes of others in the charismatic community to some of these issues as well.

As we move further into the digital millennium, writers are facing new legal challenges. Below, I’ve listed five illegal things writer’s may do that could be criminal and prosecutable.

Writers sometimes:

  1. Plagiarize. Plagiarism is the act of stealing and passing off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own; using (another's production) without crediting the source; committing literary theft, and to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.[1] To learn more about plagiarism visit this site.

  2. Publish private emails. Publishing personal or private emails in a book, blog, on social media or other format could violate privacy laws as well as copyright. To learn more about the dangers associated with this, click here.

  3. Publish private or personal texts. Publishing text messages someone sent to you in a book, blog, on social media or other formats could violate privacy laws or copyright. To learn more about the dangers associated with this, click here.

  4. Publish brand names in their publications. Publishing brand names can be legal or illegal depending on how the brand name is used. Writers should be aware of all sides of this issue. To learn more about the cautions associated with this, click here.

  5. Publish real names or real situations in their memoirs, songs and books. Using real names or real situations could cause some serious problems – depending on how the names of people are associated with those incidents in that publication. There are fine lines involved in all kinds of writing. To learn more about the cautions associated with this, click here.

If you are a serious writer, I strongly suggest purchasing some type of writer’s legal guide for your own personal study. Some of the topics discussed here are addressed. From a prophetic perspective, these are areas RARELY DISCUSSED in writing circles, but are extremely necessary.


[1] Definition, Plagiarism. Source: website sponsored by turnitin,


#3 Linda Mahoney 2018-01-15 16:12
Great article Apostle Theresa! It's obvious the Lord has anointed and raised you up as a warrior in the writing arena! Thank you for all you do and for sharing the vision with others.
#2 Theresa Harvard Johnson 2018-01-05 18:30
I love that you did that. Most writers probably wouldn't think of this first. It is encouraging hearing your story.
#1 Mari Dertinger 2018-01-04 18:58
One thing I recently learned, thankfully before something happened is to get permission to use song lyrics. That might be a given but I honestly didn’t know. I did a devotional series on a song and got permission after paying a fee to use the lyrics in my post.

Thank you for this post it is very helpful.

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