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Re: university press rights assignment
- To: <email@example.com>, <"James J. O'Donnell"@lists.yale.edu>
- Subject: Re: university press rights assignment
- From: "Anthony Watkinson" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Tue, 16 Jan 2007 18:27:37 EST
- Reply-to: email@example.com
- Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org
My reading of this request is rather different.
The Press concerns wants to digitise the book and make it available through the various channels they enumerate. It could be argued that this is a good thing.
These intermediaries will want to have a warranty and even an indemnity that they have the right to make the book available. As this is an addendum to the original contract I would assume that the royalties will be the same as they were for the print version but (yes) this could have made that explicit. The important clause which gives rights going back to the author if the book is declared OP can/should be extended explicitly to cover circumstances when the book is no longer available.in e-form from the publisher. But there is no reason of course why the author should not insist upon a time limit.
I cannot see where this "end of story" business comes in.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Karl Bridges" <Karl.Bridges@uvm.edu>
To: <email@example.com>; <"James J. O'Donnell"@lists.yale.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, January 16, 2007 1:57 AM
Subject: Re: university press rights assignment
It's nice that they ask, but I can't see that you're obligated to go along. You might note that there is no suggestion of any additional fees or royalties. Before you agree to this let me ask you -- would you have written the book originally for free?
Bottom line, the publisher signed a contract with you and that existing contract is binding. It's unfortunate, for them, that they didn't anticipate electronic publishing, but that's hardly your problem. Professional writers get paid. End of story.
University of Vermont
Quoting "James J. O'Donnell" <firstname.lastname@example.org>:
I have a letter before me from an American University press (not one that has published any book I have authored) that asks its authors to supplement their existing contracts signed before 1996 by signing an addendum. They need some such addendum in order to be sure they do have the rights to digital distribution necessary if they want to make deals to distribute e-versions through Amazon, B&N, Google, and the like. Here's the text: "The Author grants and assigns exclusively to the Press for the full term of the copyright . . . inclusion in electronic storage and retrieval systems; production, publication, and exhibition in computer software; and any other rights not specifically enumerated in any media and technology now known or hereafter invented." Now the old-fashioned book contracts that many of us have signed over the years had a nice out-clause: if the publisher lets the book go out of print and it stays out of print for more than six months, then the author has the right to claim back all assigned rights just by asking. I in fact did this with a book I published with Oxford University Press in 1992, and the full (originally three-volume) work is now available on my website free of charge for scholars to use. (OUP later did turn up wanting to reprint it, and discovered they had to ask *my* permission, which I was happy to give.) But this addendum essentially signs away the farm forever (ok, life plus 75 years, but I regard a date falling somewhere at or with luck after the turn of the *next* century as forever from now for me) -- all electronic rights in any medium now known or to be invented between now and c. 2100 AD, in perpetuity, exclusively to a Press whose own corporate and physical survival to that date is *scarcely* guaranteed. This seems to me to give a *lot* more to publishers than they've had. I'd like to hear suggestions as to what a reasonable such addendum might be like -- give publishers enough to let them make a business plan for e-versions while retaining useful rights for authors. Progress in that direction is occurring in other areas such as journal articles: how now to get the best arrangement here? Jim O'Donnell Georgetown University