STATUS: Grumpy. I’ve been doing contract discussions for the last two months with various publishing houses regarding the changing digital landscape and monies associated with it. Most publishers demand that electronic rights be sold at same time as the print rights but they don’t want to answer bothersome questions such as the Google Partner Program or the Google Settlement.
What’s playing on the iPod right now? UP THE JUNCTION by Squeeze
Or maybe another word that begins with an “A” and has exactly 6 letters as well. I have to say that the digital landscape is changing publishing and publishing contracts almost daily.
Take the most recent Penguin contract I received about four weeks ago as an example. Now publishers always reserve the right to change their boilerplate at any time. I get that. All I ask is the courtesy of being notified when they have done so.
Remember the whole S&S furor last summer when they deleted the crucial last four lines from their out of print clause—thus eliminating the absolutely critical sales threshold that allows rights to revert back to the author—and didn’t tell anyone that they had done so?
Well, this isn’t quite as egregious as that little contract fiasco but I’m miffed all the same. This time, Penguin has inserted a new clause that has become 9. (b) ii. of the contract and didn’t mention it.
Nope. Found it because I scrutinize every contract closely.
This new clause is what I would call a kitchen sink clause for electronic uses of a work. So broad it’s meant to cover anything currently in existence and things we can only imagine for the future. It’s also going to set a strong precedence of reducing the split of monies to authors for electronic display of rights—and yes, I’m talking about Google here (or any other entity of like nature) and all the revenue generated by electronic microtransactions or click-thru ads in association with electronic content etc.
The prevailing philosophy has been that the electronic display of content was a subright use of an author’s electronic/display rights. Handled under sublicense, standard split for this is 50/50 between author and publisher. This new clause treats this income not as a subright but as a sales channel with a royalty structure of 30% of net amounts received given to the author.
There’s a big difference between 30% of net amounts received and 50%. And I don’t care that right now I’m talking about pennies, really, because who knows what this revenue will look like 10 years from now. Twenty years from now.
The digital landscape is literally changing publishing daily and as usual, it’s up to we agents to fight unfair clauses that don’t allow the author of the work to participate equally in the revenue generated by their content.