In the vein of the Authors Guild warnings I posted about yesterday, The Bookseller reports on agents in the UK warning about “rights grabs” tied to potentially-confusing language relating to digital books in the contracts publishers—particularly American publishers—offer to writers.

Clare Alexander of Aitken Alexander warned over the use of terms such as “derivative works” in contracts, which could affect film, TV, games and merchandising rights.

“Publishers are understandably looking to protect their rights—especially where they create material for things like enhanced e-books or phone apps—but it creates a copyright grey area,” she said. “What the good publishers are doing is sitting down with agents and discussing, case by case, how to come up with language that is appropriate.”

This has been going on for quite some time, apparently, and not just over digital books. Charlie Stross wrote a blog post breaking down one of his old contracts with an American publisher, and at one point noted how his agent defended him from this very kind of thing:

There’s also a struck-out-by-agent land grab for audio book rights, motion picture and TV rights, games, and stuffed toys. This is the other good reason why smart authors employ agents; a draft publishing contract is inevitably full of little whoopee cushions inserted by the publisher’s lawyers and intended to separate the author from control over the fruits of their labour.

Interesting stuff, and something anyone who writes print or e-books should pay attention to.


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