Publishers Face Turbulent 2013 if Authors Reclaim Book Rights
For an industry already struggling with the affects of Amazon’s inroads and the rise of eBooks, the 1978 Copyright Act may prove another annoyance (at least).
The Act, originally intended to help young authors who sign away too many rights to future bestsellers, allows authors to break contracts after 35 years and reclaim the rights to their work.
'People have had 2013 circled on their calendar for a while,' said Andrew Bart, a copyright lawyer at Jenner & Block, in a phone interview. 'This will provide grist for the litigation mill.'
It’s not immediately obvious that any authors are taking advantage of this, as a termination notice would already have to have been submitted and there’s little evidence that this has happened. And publishers and agents aren’t talking about it either...
...even though the bestseller lists from 1978 reveal some very big names eligible to reclaim their work – Stephen King, Judy Blume, John LeCarre and so on.
The quiet either means authors aren’t exercising these rights because they don’t know about it or are busy negotiating new and more beneficial deals. No doubt the lawyers will get involved in an already messy situation - I’m guessing any book worth litigation would have to be a pretty good bet.
So is it another nail in traditional publishing’s coffin? Probably not, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens when a famous author does decide he or she wants their book back.
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