The Authors Guild wants to see authors get the best deals possible and is calling for writers and agents to ask for time limits in the book contracts they sign.
As part of the fourth installment of the guild’s Fair Contract Initiative, “A Publishing Contract Should Not Be Forever,” the Guild argues that book contracts should be time-limited and should include ways for authors to reclaim unexploited rights. Here is an excerpt:
Diamonds may be forever, but book contracts should not be. There’s no good reason why a book should be held hostage by a publisher for the lifetime of the copyright, the life of the author plus seventy years—essentially forever. Yet that’s precisely what happens today. A publisher may go bankrupt or be bought by a conglomerate, the editors who championed the author may go on to other companies, the sales force may fail to establish the title in the marketplace and ignore it thereafter, but no matter how badly the publisher mishandles the book, the author’s agreement with the original publisher is likely to remain in effect for many decades.