STATUS: We are in the final days. Ack. Such a list of things to accomplish!
What’s playing on the iPod right now? SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN by Dave Brubeck
We interrupt this Q&A to give you an announcement.
And here I thought Simon & Schuster was brazen in the summer of 2008 when they tried to drop off the crucial 4 lines of their Out of Print clause. Random House has that beat hands down with their recent pronouncement that by default, electronic rights belong to them via their definition of what is a “book” for any backlist title still in print.
From the letter they sent to agents:
“The vast majority of our backlist contracts,” writes Dohle, “grant us the exclusive right to publish books in electronic formats. At the same time, we are aware there have been some misunderstandings concerning ebook rights in older backlist titles. Our older older agreements often give the exclusive rights to publish ‘in book form’ or ‘in any and all editions’. Many of those contracts also include enhanced language that references other forms of copying or displaying the text that might be developed in the future or other more relevant language that more specifically reflects the already expansive scope of rights. Such grants are usually not limited to any specific format, and indeed the “form” of a book has evolved over the years to include variations of hardcover, paperback and other written word formats, all of which have understood to be included in the grant of book publishing rights. Indeed, ebook retailers market, sell and merchandise ebooks as an alternate book format, alongside the hardcover, trade paperback and mass market versions of a given title. Whether physical or digital, the product is used and experienced in the same manner, serves the same function, and satisfies the same fundamental urge to discovery stories, ideas and information through the process of reading. Accordingly, Random House considers contracts that grant the exclusive right to publish ‘in book form’ or ‘in any and all editions’ to include the exclusive right to publish in electronic book publishing formats. Our agreements also contain broad non-competition provisions, so that the author is precluded from granting publishing rights to third parties that would compromise the rights for which Random House has bargained.”
Oh really now. I have a feeling that many agencies and the Authors Guild are going to disagree with this interpretation.
My agency hasn’t been around long enough to have to confront this (as digital rights were already addressed in any RH contracts I’ve done in the last 7 years) but that’s not the case for many agents I know who have been doing this 20+ years.
And speaking of an agent who has been doing this for a long time, Richard Curtis gives some insight on this RH rights grab via his blog E-Reads.Random House