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Old 11-28-2012, 04:58 AM   #1
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Publishers brace for authors to reclaim book rights in 2013

http://paidcontent.org/2012/11/27/pu...ights-in-2013/

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The book publishing industry, already facing disruption from Amazon and e-books, will confront a new form of turbulence in 2013. Starting in January, publishers face the loss of their back lists as authors begin using the Copyright Act to reclaim works they assigned years ago.

These so-called “termination rights,” which let authors break contracts after 35 years, have already made the media thanks to a court squabble between the Village People and music studios. On the book front, publishers and agents are staying mostly mum even though the bestseller lists from 1978 reveal some very big names eligible to reclaim their work – Stephen King, Judy Blume, John LeCarre and so on. Here’s a plain english overview of how the law works and why (for now at least) we’re likely to see literary types negotiate rather than litigate.

The law in question is Section 203 of the 1978 Copyright Act which allows authors to cut away any contract after 35 years. Congress put it in place to protect young artists who signed away future best sellers for a pittance.

“People have had 2013 circled on their calendar for a while,” said Andrew Bart, a copyright lawyer at Jenner & Block, in a phone interview.
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Old 11-28-2012, 07:35 AM   #2
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Most contracts include an out of print clause anyway, I doubt there are many books that have continually been in print for 35 years, so the rights will have already reverted to the author.

As an example I know that James Alan Gardner's League books (1994-2004) have had all the rights reverted to him from Harper-Collins.

I also doubt that any work that has remained popular for 35 years is still on the same contract it was first signed on.
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Old 11-28-2012, 08:17 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by MikeB1972 View Post
Most contracts include an out of print clause anyway, I doubt there are many books that have continually been in print for 35 years, so the rights will have already reverted to the author.

As an example I know that James Alan Gardner's League books (1994-2004) have had all the rights reverted to him from Harper-Collins.

I also doubt that any work that has remained popular for 35 years is still on the same contract it was first signed on.
This, but it will be interesting to see if there is any fall-out.
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Old 11-28-2012, 08:39 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by MikeB1972 View Post
Most contracts include an out of print clause anyway, I doubt there are many books that have continually been in print for 35 years, so the rights will have already reverted to the author.
You would be surprised.
Publishers have all sorts of tricks for squatting on copyrights; the simplest is to carry a box of books on a shelf and list it in a catalog with other "dead books" so they are still officially on sale.
Lately, they've started claiming that they don't even need the one box of unsold books because with POD "all books are always in print".
Doesn't mean they promote them or even try to get them on distributors' lists.
They just hoard them in case they ever get around to re-issuing them say, as ebooks...

The 1978 law and the typical contract reversion clauses are both intended to protect against this kind of junkyard dog squatting but since the BPHs have lawyers that need to justify their existence they have lots of ways to muddy the waters so that just because a book is unavailable for purchase that sill doesn't mean it is legally out of print.

Last month, The Business Rusch website shed some light on this:
http://kriswrites.com/2012/10/24/the...hts-reversion/

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Slowly, traditional publishers have realized that backlist titles are worth a lot of money. Traditional publishers are doing everything they can to make these old publishing contracts (and even the new ones) into contracts that exist in perpetuity while seeming to follow contract law. It’s a dicey proposition which will take a lot of legal wrangling to settle.
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Old 11-28-2012, 09:19 AM   #5
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“People have had 2013 circled on their calendar for a while,” said Andrew Bart, a copyright lawyer at Jenner & Block, in a phone interview.
Some people have weird calendars.
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Old 11-29-2012, 12:42 PM   #6
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Perhaps I'm missing something here, but if this law has been in force since 1978, what's special about 2013? Why couldn't authors have done this at any time since 1978?
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Old 11-29-2012, 12:49 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
Perhaps I'm missing something here, but if this law has been in force since 1978, what's special about 2013? Why couldn't authors have done this at any time since 1978?
1978 + 35 = 2013

They probably could, but it would have meant that they find a paper publisher. Now there's ebooks for the backlist and Amazon publishing.
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Old 11-29-2012, 12:52 PM   #8
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1978 + 35 = 2013
But doesn't the law apply to ANY contract that's been in place for 35 years, regardless of when it was signed? The OP said that the law has already been used, which would suggest that this is the case.
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Old 11-29-2012, 01:02 PM   #9
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I'm guessing it must only apply to contracts entered into after the law took affect, otherwise you are retroactively changing the impact to contracts.

For example, suppose in 1977 Harper Collins bought profit-sharing rights (or some other financial agreement) for $50MM from Simon and Schuster related to sales of a book published in 1940 that was still popular (think LoTR). The amount they paid would have been based on the expectation of a return for many years into the future. If the 1978 law applied retroactively, the value would go to $0 instantly in less than a year as the author ended his contract with HC.
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Old 11-29-2012, 01:04 PM   #10
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I'm just curious about why someone would put a provision in a law that wouldn't come into force for 35 years. It would seem to rather defeat the stated purpose of "protecting young artists". They're not really going to be young any more after 35 years, are they?
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Old 11-29-2012, 01:17 PM   #11
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The law in question is Section 203 of the 1978 Copyright Act which allows authors to cut away any contract after 35 years. Congress put it in place to protect young artists who signed away future best sellers for a pittance.


http://money.cnn.com/news/newsfeeds/...s_in_2013.html
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Old 11-29-2012, 03:32 PM   #12
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I'm just curious about why someone would put a provision in a law that wouldn't come into force for 35 years. It would seem to rather defeat the stated purpose of "protecting young artists". They're not really going to be young any more after 35 years, are they?
The old law was 28 years after publication when the original copyright was secured and then they had to file for a renewal to recover the renewal term. The courts basicaly removed the ability of authors to take their contracts back at that point and it was only useable by heirs.

Greg
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Old 11-29-2012, 04:26 PM   #13
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Hence I return to my original point. If the old law provided the ability after 28 years, isn't that what would still have been in force for existing contracts? Or did the 1978 act revoke that right, and put in place a replacement that wouldn't come into force for another 35 years? If so, that seems very odd.
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Old 11-29-2012, 04:41 PM   #14
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So what will happen next year ? Books will be available ONLY as e-books ? I mean if publishers can't publish paper books anymore ?
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Old 11-29-2012, 05:10 PM   #15
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So what will happen next year ? Books will be available ONLY as e-books ? I mean if publishers can't publish paper books anymore ?
The law only allows authors to reacquire the copyrights on books older than 35 years. It allows authors to republish backlist books that some publishers are reluctant to publish.

@HarryT - Take a look at the money.cnn.com link that kennyc posted. I don't know that it will answer your questions, but it answered a few of mine.
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