Authors Guild Advises Against Giving Publishers Copyrights

By Dianna Dilworth 

The Authors Guild has published the fifth installment of it Fair Contract Initiative, Authors, Keep Your Copyrights. You Earned Them.

In the piece, the Guild calls out scholarly publishers for the “draconian” practice of asking for exclusive rights to an author’s work in publishing contracts. These clauses are unusual in traditional publishing contracts, so the Guild did some research to find out why this request so often appears in university press publishing contracts. Here is an excerpt from the report:

The problem is that most academic authors—particularly first-time authors feeling the flames of “publish or perish”—don’t even ask. They do not have agents, do not seek legal advice, and often don’t understand that publishing contracts can be modified. So they don’t ask to keep their copyrights—or for any changes at all. Many academic authors tell us they were afraid to request changes to the standard agreements for fear that the publisher would pull the plug on their books. One said that when his first book was published in 1976, he never even read the contract and would (and did) sign anything to get published.