1. Community
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    Question about ownership if book published

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Community, Jul 5, 2010.

    Hi, I was wondering what happens to the ownership rights after a Publisher decides to "take it on"? Are they allowed to basically do whatever they want with it, or do I still keep the copyrights, or are they shared?

    Thanks, this whole thing is quite confusing to me.
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    This depends on the publishing Agreement. It is done both ways. You'll retain ownership of the copyright unless there is a written copyright assignment transferring it to the publisher (unless your work is a word made for hire; there are some specific requirements for something to be a work made for hire, and the publisher would own the copyright).

    If the publisher DOES acquire the copyright, then they acquire all the rights that go with it, including reproduction, the right to make derivative works, etc. For the most part they can do what they want with it, particularly if you waive any "moral rights" to the work, which is also in some Agreements.

    If you get an offer you have to decide whether it is worth giving up copyright and everything that goes with it, assuming that's what the publisher is asking for.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Copyright is not transferrable. You can assign individual rights to another party as terms of a contract, but ownership of the piece of writing, the actual copyright, remains with the writer.
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    That's not the case. At least not in the U.S. Copyright can be, and is, transferred all the time.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I stand corrected. I just looked it up, and although the U. S. Copyright office does not have any forms for transfer of copyright, it can be transferred under inheritance law, or by contract. In the case of contract, the transfer must be in writing and signed by the original copyright owner (this also applies to any exclusive transfer of specific rights).

    Reference: US Copyright Office Circular 1, Page 6.

    I certainly would recommend that no one sign away their copyright ownership to any publisher, and would consider any publisher that would request such a transfer under any circumstances to be predatory.

    I learned something new today. It is a good day.
     
  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think it is a good idea either, as a rule. I've done it on a couple of short ghost-writing projects, where the person I am writing for wants to own the copyright and not have the copyright notice reflect the fact that someone else wrote it.
     
  7. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Depending on the wording in a contract. An author could give/sell all rights to a work in any form, for the duration of the copyright (before it would become public domain). The writer would have no right to do anything with respect to the work without permission from the entity (individual, publisher, etc.) that had obtained the rights.

    I have read where some publishers (not reputable ones) have such language in their contracts. Avoid these.

    Even if as an author, you retain the copyright, when you sign a contract, you agree to allow a publisher to publish your work and earn money from it. The forms a publisher is allowed to exploit/use/publish/etc. the work in should be spelled out in the contract. The limitation, such as how long they are allowed to do this, should be spelled out. The compensation for the author should be spelled out.

    And this is only a portion of a publishing contract. If you have no idea about contacts, and even if you do, having representation (agent/literary attorney) might be a wise thing to obtain. Community, as you indicated this whole concept confuses you, getting representation if you have an offer for a work is the thing to do. Folks here are only giving you general information. To my knowledge, no one here is a literary attorney or a literary agent (that has commented in this thread). This is a place to start so, but definately not an answer should you be looking at signing a contract.

    I will just throw in that he rules of work for hire, where an author writes a specific already created world (for example), are different. Usually here, the author is paid a flat fee up front and retains no rights to the work. Again, it depends on the wording of the contract.

    Terry
     
  8. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Just be cautious on the "work made for hire" laws, if you are a publisher. Just because you pay someone to write in a shared world, for example, doesn't mean that it is necessarily a work made for hire and that the copyright will go to you. Work Made for Hire is specifically defined by statute, and if you're outside of that you don't have a work made for hire.

    In any event, if you're an independent contractor (like a writer hired to write for a shared IP), the work has to fall within the statutory definition of a work made for hire AND you need a written agreement defining it as such.

    A work made by an "employee" within the scope of his employment is also a work made for hire. Whether one is an employee for purposes of work made for hire is sometimes a tricky determination as well.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    all of which points up the need for anyone wanting to write professionally to study the laws and their applications here: www.copyright.gov

    the uk and commonwealth countries have their own sites... all countries that are signatories to the bern convention will have similar, if not identical laws...
     
  10. Community
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    Hi guys, thanks for all your replies. It's good to know that most publishers wouldn't try to take my copyright. I just wanted to know because if they did transfer the copyright to them I don't think I would ever sign a deal with a publisher. The thought that they would be allowed to make their own spin-offs and what-not is too disturbing.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    They could even sell your rights to a third party, making a profit without doing a damned thing.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    the bottom line, if you don't have an agent you trust, is to have your own literary attorney look over the contract before you sign it...
     
  13. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    You should definitely have an agent or attorney review a publishing agreement for you. If you're dead set against that, you can read the agreement very carefully to see what it says about copyright ownership. A transfer of copyright has to be an express, written transfer. But unless you are familiar with contract language it is always safer to hire someone to spend an hour or so looking it over.
     

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