key aspects of author

Acquiring rights from the author:
key aspects of the authorpublisher contract
Lynette Owen, Copyright Director,
Pearson Education Ltd, United
Why have a contract?
• Publishers depend on authors for content, then add
value by designing, producing and bringing works
to market to generate revenue for authors and
• Publishers need a clear grant of rights from each
• Contract sets out rights and responsibilities of
each party and is legally enforceable
• Contracts are longer and more complex now
• In the UK there is no legislation covering what
should appear in author contracts
The contract (1)
• Starts with date and names and addresses of
both parties (will apply to heirs and assigns)
• A description of the work and format and
deadline for delivery to publisher
• Author must supply details of any third
party copyright material to be quoted
• Publisher can withdraw from publication if
author fails to meet delivery deadline
The contract (2)
• Publisher can withdraw from publication if
work does not meet required specifications
and/or standard and if author cannot remedy
• Author may be asked to amend any content
which might lead to legal action
• Publisher will publish at their own expense
and by agreed publication date
The contract (3)
• What rights are being granted to the publisher?
Could be full assignment of copyright (common
for educational and academic works); trade
authors usually grant exclusive licence for agreed
“bundle” of rights for agreed territories and for
agreed period of time
• Payment to the author: common model is an
advance against royalties on sales. Advance may
be split into instalments on signature of contract,
delivery and acceptance of manuscript, and
The contract (4)
• Royalties may be calculated on recommended
retail price (trade publishing) with payment on net
receipts for high discount sales
• Educational and academic publishers usually
calculate all royalties on net receipts
• In the UK there are no formal rates for payment;
depends on nature of work and status of author
The contract (5)
• Contract may include the grant of subsidiary rights
e.g. reprint rights in original language, book club
rights, extract rights to newspapers, quotation
rights, translation rights, electronic rights, rights
for the visually impaired. For trade titles, stage,
film and TV rights may be retained by author’s
• Rights revenue will be divided with author in
agreed proportions – author share may range from
50% to 90%
The contract (6)
• Publisher may mandate rights to national
collecting society to handle copying short
extracts through photocopying or scanning;
revenue shared with author
The contract (7)
• Clear provisions for regular provision of
sales figures and payment of royalties
• In the UK, accounting is usually twice a
year with payment within 3 months of
accounting date
• Authors registered for VAT should provide
publisher with details
The contract (8)
• Provisions for dealing with any third party
copyright material to be quoted in book – text,
photos, illustrations etc
• In this model, publisher agrees to clear
permission an pay fees up to an agreed amount
• Alternative models: author to clear permission and
pay all fees; publisher to clear permission and pay
fees but to set fees against author’s royalties
The contract (9)
• Publisher has control of all technical and
business aspects of publication
• Some key authors may require approval of
cover design
• Copyright in typographical layout of the
book belongs to publisher rather than author
The contract (10)
• Author will be credited on book and any
publicity material
• UK copyright law requires author to
formally assert moral rights; publisher may
print notice to this effect in the book itself
• Publisher will include copyright notice in
book (required by Universal Copyright
The contract (11)
• Author provides publisher with warranty
that book is original, is not obscene,
indecent or libellous and will not lead to
any legal action; indemnifies publisher
against this. For non-fiction works, there
may be additional requirement that any
information in the book will not lead to
injury or damage
The contract (12)
• Author will check proofs by agreed deadline;
contract will specify maximum level of alterations
permitted without charge
• Author will receive agreed number of free copies
on publication
• Publisher can remainder books at low price after
agreed period if sales decline; author has first
option to purchase. Author will only receive
royalty if remainder price is higher than
manufacturing price
The contract (13)
• For non-fiction works which are likely to be
revised, author to undertake revisions and
provisions for publisher to employ someone
else if author cannot undertake this work
• Original author will receive decreasing
royalties if new authors are brought in for
• Use of author’s name on revised editions
The contract (14)
• Publisher will be responsible for taking legal
action against infringements and will share any
damages awarded in agreed proportion with author
• Author can request return of rights if book
becomes unavailable in any form
• Contract will terminate if publisher goes bankrupt
• Any subsidiary licences can continue to run their
The contract (15)
• Publishers of educational, academic and
professional titles may require noncompetition clause
• Provision for arbitration in case of dispute
• Contract covers complete arrangement; any
changes must be agreed in writing and
signed by both parties
• Applicable law
The contract (16)
• Provision for delivery of any notices
• Definition of key terms
• Publisher can assign contract without
consulting author if all or part of their
business is sold
Agreement for book contributor
• Description of contribution and details for
format and delivery to publisher
• Warranty and indemnity from author
• Copyright assigned to publisher (common
practice for multi-contributor books and
permitted under UK law)
Agreement for book contributor
• Author can republish contribution subject to
permission from publisher
• Conditions for publish to accept work
• Provisions for editing and revision
• Provisions for proof reading
Agreement for book contributor
• Author will be paid outright fee for contribution
• Author will be credited
• Author asserts moral rights (required under UK
• Author will receive finished copy on publication
• Provisions for arbitration
• Applicable law
Agreement with author of journal
• Name of journal and description of article
• Assignment of copyright to publisher
• Provision for publisher to mandate collecting
• Warranty and indemnity to publisher
• Assertion of author’s moral rights
• Publisher to credit author
• Provisions for acceptance of article by publisher
• Right for author to reuse article for noncommercial purposes