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  1. Tyunglebo
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    Tyunglebo Member

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    Exclusive Copyright?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Tyunglebo, Sep 16, 2008.

    To be honest, I wasn't sure which forum to put this in. So by all means move it if it doesn't fit here. But I need help.

    I have recently been approached by the owner of a website. He stumbled onto one of my hobby-oriented blogs, and has offered me a position as a columnist on his website. (Non-Paying for now.)

    We talked of length and deadlines. All the usual things. Then we came to copyright of my articles.

    He said he would require exclusive copyright to all of the columns I wrote.

    Is this standard? It means I cannot co-publish it on my blog, or do anything with my own writing without permission. I know that when working as a writer for a company, one's work often is de-facto company property. But that is not exactly what my situation would be. I would be, in a sense, independently contracted to write a column on this website, which shares an interest in one of my own hobbies. Basically doing for them what I do for my own site.

    I have never been in this exact position before. The writing I usually get paid for doesn't involve this issue. I ghost write part time, so of course, the other person pays for the right to claim it as their own. The few other times I have been published in local poetry magazines, I have retained copyright of my work.

    So it's all new to me. Accepting this offer could mean a lot more exposure for my writing skill, and could lead to other things in the future. But it's all new, and I am in need of advice on this copyright thing.

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Tyunglebo,

    What you are doing is giving this individual your writing/works/articles. From what you explained, you would have no claim to the work once delivered to him and he would be free to use it as he saw fit, even sell it, publishish it in another form or format, etc.

    You could not sell, or reprint it elsewhere without expressed (ie written) permission of him, the copyright holder. In theory, he could even charge you for the privilage.

    I see no reason for him to obtain the copyright (a written/signed contract granting him such) in exchange for posting it on his blog. Why not offer him nonexclusive rights to it? He can use it, but so can you. Personally, I would limit it to use on his blog, not elsewhere in the agreement, especially as there is no pay involved.

    In the end, if you feel that the exposure you will garner is worth it. As you explained, it is similar to writing for work:
    But there you get paid. This sounds very one-sided, and not to your benefit as you've described the proposal, unless the exposure is worth it.

    And if you do feel it is worth it, be very very cautious of what agreement you sign, particularly how it may bind (and limit) you and your works and writing not only now but, in the future.

    Terry
     
  3. Tyunglebo
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    Tyunglebo Member

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    That's exactly the issue though. I know they would have total control over it...and that is my question...is that usually the sort of control a writer gives over to a website he writes for? Particularly if it is pro-bono?

    There is no contract or anything involved. At least not right now. i have not written one, and would not be sure I knew how if I did. Nor has he offered one. This, so far, has just been a communication through emails.

    The sight really does exist, I have seen it...but in matters of him owning the copyright...I'm just not sure that makes sense.

    I really need some advice on this one, folks, because I am pretty new to this, and I know of few other resources open to new writers than this forum and a few others like it. I would be deeply grateful.
     
  4. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can offer first electronic rights, nonexclusive.

    I have sold articles to Fiction Factor with such agreements.

    I have also sold short fiction, to both print and electronic markets.

    If you are interested, I could send you an copy of one of the contracts, if that's what you're looking for...a model to work from.

    If you go to this link: SFWA Contracts Page
    You will find examples of model contracts.

    Hope this helps.

    Aside from that--Advice:I would work from a written contract. Not a verbal agreement, especially where the rights to your works will be given up. I would not grant them the copyright to your work. You, through your hobby, have the experience and expertise. I would be willing to grant them nonexclusive rights to it...possibly exclusive for a timeframe...say 6 months from date of publication (or acceptance would be even better). Especially ss you have not worked with these individuals before, a contract would be expected by me as a writer.

    I am sure there are others that could advise you better, but this is somewhere to start.

    Terry
     
  5. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually, when you come to an "agreement" (written, email or witnessed verbal arrangement), then you have an enforceable "contract". i.e. - be very careful what you say in emails.

    My question for you - What is the tangible benefit that YOU receive in exchange for writing for this website?

    If doing so enables you to expand into writing for paying entities, then that opportunity is a tangible benefit. If he offers a commission based on responses to your article, again there is a tangible benefit even though you might never see a dime. Even if this website's exposure simply builds your "recognized expertise" in the industry, then you may gain something of value in that stature.

    But if there is no obvious benefit and he says, write free for me and I own everything, I would tell him I am not interested.

    I wrote for a fishing magazine for many years after being "discovered" on the internet. Like TWErvin, I worked with a written contract that clearly described my compensation and responsibilities. Before that, I wrote on several internet sites for free but never had any obligatory requirements, nor did I surrender any rights. I would not have agreed to such limitations.
     
  6. chad.sims2
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    chad.sims2 Contributing Member

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    Well all I know is I'm getting published (Or at least an short thing I wrote is) in a book and all i'm giving is the write to publish the work. I'll still be able to do what I want with it, Not that I have anything to do with it anyways, but it sounds to me like you're getting ripped. I wouldn't do it.
     
  7. Tyunglebo
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    Tyunglebo Member

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    There is some benefit, I suppose, in that people who would read my column on his site, and the requisite link to my own site, would potentially come to my blog, and read my stuff. It would, in theory increase the readership of my blog, and maybe be a resume thing.

    But I know all of that...my main concern is giving him total ownership of the copyright. I am trying to determine if anybody EVER does this, and in what circumstances it would be done. The consensus seems to be that in my situation, it makes little sense to give away exclusive rights?

    If not, how should one counter offer? I still need to find a way to make a contract air tight. I have never written one before, not like this, so I am not sure how to go about it, and I really don't have thousands of dollars to hire a lawyer just for the chance to do a little pro-bono work on the website twice a month.

    I would have no problem with given him the right to put it on his website, of course, but as it stands now, I would need to write/pay him, forever, any time I would want to cite or go back to my own work...and I am not sure potential increased readership is ever worth that.
     
  8. chad.sims2
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    chad.sims2 Contributing Member

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    Does the said website have a link to your site?? If not then maybe it'd be worth it to give him his rights but require a link to your site be advertived. I'm not sure it's really up to you in the end. Do you really intend to use this stuff again? If not then why not give him rights for a link, (The bigger the link the better!)
     
  9. Tyunglebo
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    Tyunglebo Member

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    Well for one thing, it would affect my own blog. I would not be able to cross post my column onmy own web page.

    Secondly, if I ever wanted to refer back to something I said in the column, I would have to ask his permission every single time.

    And, since I do not know this guy personally, for all i know, one day I could publish something on my own blog that "borrows significantly" from my own work. (Which, let's face it, is quite probable.)

    Not to mention he could proceed to make money off of it anytime he wanted, without sharing any profits with me, and without my permission. Who knows who would buy them, but if he decides to shop around, I am out of the loop if he holds the exclusives.

    And of course he could reproduce it in any fashion he wants, at any time.

    I don't think the question of whether or not I will ever use it again is the issue.(Though I very well might, given that my blog writings are often interwoven.) The bigger issue is, it's my work, and I value the ability to use it and control it as I deem necessary and prudent. That's one of the advantages to doing things freelance, it seems to me, as opposed to working for a talent pool in a company, which owns everything.

    I'm not a millionaire, nor am I famous or important. But I want to keep control over my own writings just as much as the highly influential and important people do. I am willing to make a few steps that are outside of my comfort zone, if it means my writings get read by more people, but the notion of giving it up, (and in the process subjected my personal blog to his approval) didn't seem like something freelance writers generally do in this case. But I wasn't/am not sure. Even if I do not do it, I still wanted to know if most people work that way or no.
     
  10. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Would I accept an offer such as the one you're considering? There is much to lose and little to gain. Talk to a literary attorney before making a "counter-offer", if you even want to take it that far. For me, it would be an easy "No thank you."

    Here are the basics of copyright. Notice how much you can lose:

    http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ1.html#wci

    Are you sure you want to give away all these rights without consulting legal counsel?
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    to answer your question... in a word, "NO!"

    if you're not going to be paid for your work, you should retain some rights to it and not give away all of them... 'non-exclusive rights' or 'one-time rights' would be the norm here, imo... especially for 'gratis' work... that said, 'exclusive rights' are not usually given forever... they have an expiration date... generally for months, to a year... after that, you can do what you want with the piece...

    here's a very good rundown of all types of 'rights'... it should probably be stickied somewhere on our site, for others to consult when the question arises [mods?]...

    http://www.writing-world.com/rights/rights.shtml
     
  12. Tyunglebo
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    Tyunglebo Member

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    The issue seems to be resolved. Thank everyone for their opinions on this.
     

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