Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bring Back Term of License?

STATUS: Getting the blog done early so I can concentrate on a ton of reading today.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? NINE IN THE AFTERNOON by Panic! At The Disco

I’ve only been in publishing for close to going on 10 years. In light of some agents who have done this job since the early 70s, I’m a baby indeed.

But I have heard that back in the day, Publishers utilized a term of license rather than a term of copyright with an Out Of Print clause.

In fact, all foreign contracts use a term of license (5 years is common), with the exception of UK and ANZ (which stands for Australia/New Zealand) which often use an OOP instead.

What is a term of license? Simply put, a term of license is a clause in the publishing contract that states that the contract will expire 5 or 7 years from the date of the agreement and all rights revert back to the author.

In other words, no matter how well the book is doing, all rights revert on that date unless the publisher and author would like to renegotiate the terms and create a new contract with a new term of license.

Interesting, no?

In this rapidly changing digital age, a return to a term of license might be an attractive alternative. Whatever terms that are negotiated today will have to come up for renegotiating upon term expiration.

Some pros?
--There is a set reversion date no matter what.
--If the book does well, there is the possibility of renegotiation for better terms for the next agreement.

Some Cons?
--Most books, in general, go out of print in about 2 or 3 years via the OOP clause and rights revert. With a term of license, the out of print work could be tied up for 2 to 5 years longer than if there had been a sales threshold that triggered the reversion earlier.
--The next negotiation might be for lesser rates than what you locked in with your initial or previous contract.

Food for thought. Also, I don’t see publishers jumping on the “return to term of license” train anytime soon.