E-Rights: A New World for Authors & Publishers

January 1999
by Godfrey Harris

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The Internet is opening more than just expanded sales opportunities to publishers. Internet technology now allows for the protected sale of entire books-one volume at a time, or particular segments of certain books-piece by piece, to a variety of buyers. In addition, handheld devices-e-books-are said to soon be capable of making electronic books as comfortable to read as printed books. But there are a number of big differences between these types of books for publishers.

For one thing, electronic books never technically go out-of-print; a digital version can remain “in print” in a publisher’s database virtually forever, available for single copy reproduction (books on demand) as well as for transmission, in whole or part, over the Internet. As a result, some publishers are holding that the rights to any titles they acquire from an author remain the property of the acquiring publisher for some 70 years beyond the author’s death. If a publisher is aggressively promoting a title through the sale of its electronic versions, there is probably no problem.

Everyone can benefit from the added life given a title electronically. But if a publisher ceases to promote a book or fails to pursue avenues of expanded e-commerce, yet claims ownership to the copyright because of occasional electronic sales, an author may be stuck in less than a satisfactory relationship. Publishers who sell foreign rights to their titles may be in the same boat as authors when it comes to foreign langua…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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