The IPKat was reviewing a book publishing contract yesterday for a friend who, unable to afford a real lawyer, gets all his legal advice from a fictional cat. He was very excited about being offered the contract for this, his first novel, but he was also worried. Was he going to sign away the fruits of several years' toil and find he had little or nothing to show for it in return?

Perusing the terms of the contract, the IPKat got the unmistakeable impression that it had not been drafted by a team of legal beagles. Indeed, it resembled a patchwork quilt of boilerplate legal clauses cemented together with a few samples of homegrown draftsmanship. There was no formal assignment of copyright to the publisher; nor was there even an exclusive licence. But the author was required to extend to the publisher nothing more than "the right to publish" the novel in Europe and publish and the right "to exploit the manuscript in any other form and locale".

This sort of drafting gives the publisher nothing more than a non-exclusive right to publish. It also appears to confer a right to publish the original manuscript rather than the literary work it contains. The term "Europe" is dreadfully imprecise: is it a geographical, economic, political or cultural concept? And what entitlement does the right to publish in a "locale" actually confer upon the publisher?

If the book fails to sell, no-one will suffer. But if it becomes a raging success, the IPKat is certain that from this clause there will sprout a veritable cornucopia of litigation. Sometimes going to a lawyer, or at least reading a law book, isn't such a very terrible option.

Problems with publishing contracts here and here
How to understand, explain and negotiate your own publishing contracts
Publish your own book here, here or here

DRAFT YOUR OWN EPITAPH <strong>DRAFT YOUR OWN EPITAPH</strong> Reviewed by Jeremy on Friday, October 03, 2003 Rating: 5

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