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Monday, 29 June 2020

A few words of caution

I'm posting this because of something I saw in an online group. Some members clearly misunderstood the situation, and if they did, it seemed likely others will too.

When you sell rights (any rights from single use to all rights) you generally sell them to the company who own the publication – not the magazine or the editor. The rights you sold will belong to that company for the term of the agreement (which is usually the whole copyright term, so long after your death). This will be stated in the contract.

You don't get those rights back if the editor moves on, or the magazine closes, or it was such a long time ago you think it doesn't count anymore. The only way you can regain your rights is to buy them back – and whoever bought them is under no obligation to agree.

Please, please, please don't sign any contract until you're sure you understand all of it completely, and that you agree with the terms offered. And keep a copy! Don't assume you'll remember, and don't assume you can ask another writer to check for you – they may well have been offered different terms, especially if they signed at a different time.





11 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Even better, don't sign away all of your rights.

Pat Mc said...

Good advice regarding any contract whether for writing or something else. Thank you

Carolb said...

Good advice Patsy, and obviously applies to any contract-understand what you're agreeing to.

It's a good habit to get into ensuring you keep your contracts where you can quickly find them, in case you need to check whether you can reuse your work yourself, or there are other terms you need to comply with first. Saves wasted writing time searching.

ados123 said...

Thank you, Patsy.
Alyson

Anonymous said...

Thank you, helpful information.

Celia said...

It would be interesting to see what would happen in reality if you sold all rights and then ten years later resold the same story under a different title. Would anyone really notice? What would 'they' do, what could 'they' do? For something so small as a 2000 word story? Catch me if you can!
Signed, Devil's Advocate

Patsy said...

@ Celia – If a writer was caught selling work they didn't own (which they wouldn't if they'd sold all rights) they could face serious legal and financial consequences, and I doubt anyone else would want to publish them.

It's possible nobody would notice I suppose, but it's certainly not a risk I'd be willing to take.

Lindsay said...

As usual, Patsy, wise words of advice. Thank you.

Julie Day said...

What if it the magazine is from another country?

Patsy said...

@ Julie – At one time it was common to sell rights just for one country or territory, but that's unusual now. If the contract terms do only apply to one country, then this will be stated within the document.

carrie said...

Thank you, Patsy. Wise words.