Rights (Part 3)
If you sell “all rights” to your manuscript, then the publisher owns your work, and you cannot print it elsewhere without getting written permission from them. Try not to sell all rights if possible unless you are signing a work-for-hire contract. You normally receive a flat fee for these, and the publisher retains all rights, and the copyright is in the name of the publishing house. Sometimes your financial state may dictate that it would be worthwhile to do some pay-for-hire work. Once you turn in the completed work, you are normally paid in full within 30 days.
“Book rights,” however, are different from other rights. When you sign a contract to write a book, the document is normally 12-14 pages, and the publisher holds your rights on that book as long as it stays in print. You may only use the amount of material that falls under “Fair Use” when quoting material from your own books. If you want to excerpt articles or stories though from one of your books in print, normally the legal department of your publishing house will give you permission. After all, the publicity is good for the publishing house. As I previously mentioned, if you are selling an article or story to be included in someone else’s book, I’d recommend selling one-time rights.
This concludes the series on ‘Rights.”
If your article or story has not been published, I recommend you sell “first rights,” rather than simultaneous rights. Many editors will not show interest if you are shot gunning your material to a number of publications at once when the piece has never been published. Plus, you will usually be paid more for first rights.
However, once your article is published for the first time, by all means feel free to sell “reprint rights,” sometimes called second rights, on it. You will probably earn a third to a half as much for reprint rights. Nevertheless reprint rights are an excellent way to earn extra money by selling your manuscripts over and over.
“One-time rights” give a publisher the opportunity to print your material one time. Use this terminology when selling a piece for a book compilation since books take a long time to come out in print. In the meantime, you can resell reprint rights on the piece. Also, one-time rights may be confusing to the editor, who may wonder whether or not your material has been published before. As a result you may be paid a lower amount than first rights would be given. Also, you can offer one-time rights to publications in other countries, particularly in the Third World, on material for which you own the copyright.
Rights are different than copyright. Be careful not to confuse them. When you sell “First Rights” to a publication, you are offering one-time rights to publish your material before you send it to another publication. Sometimes these are called First North American Rights, which includes the U.S. and Canada, or First North American Serial Rights if it is a serial publication.
Once your manuscript is printed by the publication to which you sold First Rights, you may then sell “Reprint Rights,” often called second rights. When you sell Reprint Rights, your duplicate manuscripts can be sent out simultaneously to many different publications. Try to avoid selling to two publications with overlapping audiences, however, such as two periodicals or take-home papers published by the same company or denomination.
When you sell First Rights or Reprint Rights, you still own the rights to that work. After it is printed, the rights revert back to you. Selling reprint rights doesn’t affect your rights in any way. Someday you may want to put that material in a book.
Fair Use is defined as the right to use copyrighted work without permission or without making payment to the owner. Copyright law provides for the fair use of another’s work without infringing on their copyright. How much can you copy from a source and stay within fair use?
The law is designed to be vague. If you are copying a magazine article, you can probably copy a paragraph or two. Also, you can probably copy several paragraphs from a book without infringing on copyright law. Be careful though not to copy the essence of something in the book. Poems and songs can only be copied without paying a high fee if they are in public domain. If a song is currently popular, use only the title. Titles are not copyrightable, but if a book is in print, you cannot title a new one by that name. Capitalize trademarks (Xerox, Kleenex) to avoid problems there or, better yet, use the words “photocopy” or “tissue” instead. For detailed information on copyright law, see my previous blog series on copyright law.
Always give the authors you are quoting credit for their material, even if you are within fair use and aren’t required to obtain their permission to use it. Cite your source within the text of your article or book or in an endnote.
The copyright registration is effective on the date of the receipt in the Copyright Office. For the material written after January 1, 1978, your copyright lasts for seventy years after your death. For manuscripts you wrote before that date, your copyright is for twenty-eight years plus a renewal for forty-seven more for a total of seventy-five years.
Once a copyright expires, the work goes into public domain. The public may use it at no cost at that point as long as the copyright isn’t picked up and re-registered by your heirs.
Also, public domain only applies to the original work. If material is revised or updated, it may not be in public domain. So be sure to check your sources before quoting information.
If you need information or guidance on legal matters, such as disputes over the ownership of a copyright, suits against possible infringers, the procedure for getting a work published, or the method of obtaining royalty payments, it may be necessary to consult an attorney—although the Copyright Office may be able to answer your questions. See previous blog for telephone numbers.
However if you are publishing a book with a publishing house, whether royalty-based or self-published, they will obtain your copyright information for you. It is important that the material you submit to Washington DC, for any of your writing, is your final copy. This concludes our series on copyright law.
Most magazines are copyrighted, and their copyright doubly protects your personal copyright. Newspapers are seldom copyrighted, although syndicated columns are protected. Government publications are not copyrighted either. If you write a book, the publisher will register your copyright; but make sure they register it in your name, not the name of the publishing house.
An application for copyright registration contains three essential elements: A completed application form, a nonrefundable filing fee, and a nonreturnable copy or copies of work or works being registered and “deposited” with the Copyright Office. You can register as many of your articles, stories, and poems as you like under the same copyright, as long as all the material is sent to the Copyright Office at the same time.
Here are the options for registering your copyright, beginning with the fastest and most cost-effective method. Option 1 – Online Registration: through the electronic Copyright Office (eCO) is the preferred way to register literary works. The filing fee is $35. See www.copyright.gov and select register a copyright.
Option 2: You can register using fill-in forms, and the charge is $85.
The hotline number to request forms or information is 202-287-8700.
For copyright claim forms call 202-287-9100 and leave a message.
What is a copyright? A copyright is a way to protect something you create, whether writing, painting, or drawing. A copyright gives you four specific rights:
- Copy the work.
- Take excerpts to use elsewhere.
- Sell selected rights to the work and make money from it.
- Perform or display the work.
What can you copyright? Anything that is your original work: articles, poems, stories, pictures, songs, grocery lists. Anything you write down can be copyrighted except ideas, concepts, and titles. Anything regarding the expression of ideas can be copyrighted.
Since the laws were changed in 1978, you do not have to register your work with the copyright office to hold a copyright on it. Once your original material comes off your printer or pen, you own the copyright on it. If someone plagiarizes your work, however, and you want to sue him for copyright infringement, then you need to register your work with the copyright office in Washington, D.C.
For six sessions we have talked about places where we should use the comma. Now let’s talk about places where the comma may be omitted.
In a series whose elements are all joined by conjunctions, no commas are needed unless the elements are long and pauses are helpful.
Example: Is it by Beethoven or Brahms or Bach? Of course it would not be wrong to say:
Is it by Beethoven, Brahms, or Bach?
When elements in a series involve internal punctuation, or when they are very long and complex, they should be separated by semicolons.
Example: The brown, fuzzy-wuzzy bear; the black and white panda bear; and the snowy-white, fat polar bear were all friends.
When an ampersand is used instead of the word “and,” as in company names, the serial comma is omitted.
Example: Dooey, Soakum & Howe
These examples end our seven sessions on commas.
Other Uses of the Comma
The comma denotes a slight pause. The effective use of the comma involves good judgment, with ease of reading as the main goal. A comma is used when a slight pause is intended.
A comma usually follows “yes,” “no,” “well,” and the like, at the beginning of a sentence if a slight pause is intended. Likewise, a comma follows an exclamation “oh” or “ah” only if a slight pause is intended.
The abbreviation, “etc.” is both preceded and followed by a comma when it is the final item in the series. Such English equivalents as “and so forth,” “and the like,” are usually treated the same way. Example: Cats, dogs, parrots, etc., must be confined to cages when flying in airplanes.
A comma follows names or words used in direct address as well as in informal correspondence.
Example: Friends, I’m here to tell you an important story.
Example: Dear Mary,
Commas in Lists of Items
According to The Elements of Style and The Chicago Manuel of Style, when listing three items, a comma is placed after the first and second items (Paper, pen, and writer). Some publishers omit the second comma, but they won’t fault you for not knowing their style. The important thing is to be consistent, so the editor can match the style sheet to your manuscript. Plus, if the list contains multiple words, it can be confusing if you don’t add the second comma. (His pets consisted of a long-haired cat, a short-haired dog, and a very noisy parrot.)
The exception to this rule concerns the name of businesses such as law firms which usually omit the last comma (Dewey, Sokum and Howe).
To further complicate things, if the list of items includes commas, they should be set off by semi-colons (The blank, white sheet of paper; the black, fine-line pen; and the ready, spirit-filled writer).