Handling Unsolicted Material

November 1997
by Ivan Hoffman, B.A., J.D

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Ivan HoffmanIvan Hoffman (photo right) is a publishing, copyright, Internet law, recording, and music attorney as well as a published writer and author. He practices in the Los Angeles area. You may reach him at ivan@ivanhoffman.com or 818/342-1762.

Publishers who find themselves the recipients of unsolicited material may frequently be tempted to ask “What’s in the envelope?” “Can this one be the ‘big one’?” “Is there something calling me from inside the manila package?”

Finding out the answers to these questions requires a formal operating procedure in order that finding out may not turn out to be costly. Given the similarity of many ideas that may be the subject for books, both fiction and non-fiction, as well as ideas for movies and the like, it is the wise publisher that puts into place some mechanism for dealing with unsolicited submissions. The potential for claims of misappropriation and the like, valid or not, can consume vast resources, both in time and money, for both the publisher and the writer.

This article is not about the entirety of the law of misappropriation. This article instead deals with putting into place a system that is designed to avoid, as much as possible, any such claims so that both publisher and writer feel more comfortable.

The fundamental premise in any claim that an idea of an author was misappropriated by a publisher is that the publisher “received” the idea, had access to it. Thus, the publisher can perhaps foreclose the entire controversy by creating a procedure designed to show that the publisher had no such access and did not receive the idea.

Some Choices in Approach

What are the various ways of handling unsolicited material? There are several choices. The first way…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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