Tag Archives: syndication

Australian Publishers Rights Grabs – what to do

Was there a conference that a whole swag of publishing lawyers went to recently? A number of Australian publishers who previously had fair and reasonable arrangements with their writers have started going for ‘rights grabs.’
Several prominent Australian freelancers are now refusing to work locally and are selling their work in the USA, where major publishers do not impose these terms.

What’s a rights grab?

Look out for these in a publishing contract:

* you assign copyright – or worse, assign all intellectual property rights including copyright
* you assign exclusive licence for all media, without a time or territory limit
* you assign moral rights, or allow unconditional consent to alter, reformat and adapt the material for any purpose without including your byline

What can you do?

Option 1: Cross out the prejudicial clauses in pen. You don’t have to add new clauses, because under the Copyright Act, as a freelance writer, you hold copyright and moral rights unless you assign these. Unless you assign other rights, you give the publisher a once-off use of your material in the print or online publication. Sign the (now slightly defaced) contract (keeping a photocopy on file) and mail it to your publisher. Many Australian publishers have accepted such responses in the past.

Option 2: Send your publisher a different contract, which you are comfortable with. You can use this one if you choose.

Publishers generally only need to control exclusive print rights for a certain time period – eg six months after submission, reverting to non-exclusive. Digital rights should always be non-exclusive.

Remember – to resell your work through a syndication agency, you generally need to retain copyright.

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