I've now seen a copy of the contract. It wasn't sent directly to me by DCT - I haven't submitted anything to any DCT publication for a year or more (because I've been writing novels rather than short stories) - but was emailed to me by a concerned writer. (For info: DC Thomson publish My Weekly, People's Friend, The Weekly News, and pocket novels.)
Firstly, having read the contract very carefully, I don't think it's as scary as some people think it is. I should make it clear at this point that I am not a lawyer, but I think the contract is pretty clear.
This, I think, is going to be a long post because the best way I can put this across and hopefully set people's minds at rest, is to quote parts of the contract. I know that not everyone has seen it yet, so this is probably the best way to make sure we're all talking about the same thing.
OK, in the covering letter, there is the following paragraph which might ring alarm bells, but DO read to the end of this blog post before getting too hot under the collar:
The full terms are explained in the following pages, with several key points highlighted below.
- You retain the copyright to your content
- You are granting us the right to publish your content in any media format (eg on digital platforms) and in any country
- You are granting us the right to reuse your content
Well, my reaction on reading that was 'eek!' BUT, now let's look at clauses from the actual contract (my bolds):
The Company (DCT) requires and you agree to grant the Company the following rights...
1. The exclusive right to first publication... anywhere in the world in any media, languages or geographies
2...... the non-exclusive, transferable right to reuse, republish and re-transmit ... in any media anywhere in the world and without further payment to you.
And there are further clauses, all containing that word non-exclusive.
If you are anything like me you are now scratching your head and wondering about what exactly exclusive and non-exclusive mean in this context. There is a glossary of terms on page 3 of the contract:
Exclusive - means the Company is the only one entitled to perform the action referred to.
Non-exclusive - means that both the Company and you have the right to perform the actions referred to and you can also grant third parties the right to perform the actions.
Clause 1 of the contract is selling exclusive rights to first publication - but that is what we have always sold to them (ie First British Serial Rights). The only difference is that they are effectively saying first publication might not necessarily be in Britain. I think also, it means that you would need to wait until the story's been actually published in the UK, before submitting it abroad (which I believe most writers always did anyway, out of courtesy).
Clause 2 - to me this means that you CAN still submit stories bought by DCT to markets abroad (eg Australia), because DCT have only requested non-exclusive second rights. And you can also republish your stories in ebooks because DCT have only requested non-exclusive digital rights.
So my reading of this contract, as a non-legal but well-educated and generally pretty sensible kind of person, is that while you can still resell to Australia, Scandinavia, South Africa and and other market you might find, and you can include your stories in anthologies and epublish them, DCT are also allowed to do these same things. So, for example (and I am guessing here), People's Friend annuals could in future be filled with reprints of stories DCT have previously published, with no extra payment to the author. Or, a My Weekly Online magazine might appear, containing stories they've previously bought. Or, fiction specials might be published as Kindle (or other) ebooks. None of which stops you from reselling or epublishing.
Do we all feel a little bit better now? I hope so. However, there are a couple of clauses in this contract I don't much like, and I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't mention them. Here's another clause copied from the contract:
8. In the case of a collection of your contributions where you are the sole or majority author in book form, you commit to offering the Company the right to first refusal to publish any such collection in any format... such an arrangement would be subject to new contractual terms...
I think this means if you decide to republish as a Kindle ebook your back catalogue of stories previously sold to My Weekly under this contract, you would have to first OK it with DCT. That's a bit limiting.
And the other one I don't like, which affects writers of pocket novels and serials:
Joint Contributions: If we make any changes to or jointly contribute to a Contribution [ie your story/novel] you will not be entitled to use the jointly created or edited version of such Contribution yourself, or authorise any third parties to use it without the Company's prior written consent.
Many people who write pocket novels and serials resell them to Ulverscroft to be published as large print books. Ulverscroft require you to send them a published copy of your book or serial. The clause above means you can't do this. You can still send them your original copy, the version you submitted to DCT, but any editorial changes made by DCT won't be included in that version. Whether Ulverscroft would accept this remains to be seen - they would have to edit and proof-read themselves, and perhaps (I don't know at first hand) don't have the resources to do this.
OK, enough from me. Has this helped? Are you still worried? What do you think of it all? Feel free to comment anonymously, but please, be polite and professional at all times. Some fiction editors, including those from DCT publications, subscribe to this blog. I'm sure I speak for all womag writers when I say I would love them to confirm that my reading of the contract is correct (or otherwise).