Electronic Rights

With the increasing importance of electronic publishing, the matter of electronic rights has become an issue. Most book contracts include a clause for electronic rights (e-rights), although the wording on this is often vague. The payment on e-books is usually lower than on printed books, but the number of e-book sales is mushrooming! Make sure your e-book rights are covered clearly in a book contract.

But what about articles and stories? Often contracts are not involved when selling these. This has become an enormous issue without clear-cut guidelines. Thus, you need to know exactly what rights you have sold to a particular publication. More and more magazines are going electronic, either by printing some articles on their website or by featuring the entire magazine electronically. Some magazines still have paper copies as well as the electronic version. If a person sells “First Rights,” should a publisher be able to reprint that article on a website without the author’s permission and without additional compensation for the author? Unfortunately, the meaning and scope of e-rights has not been precisely defined, and, as a result, courts have differed on their interpretation of the law. Personally I think if a person sells first rights, the publisher should be required to pay the author a reprint fee if his or her article is used electronically.

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