‘I don’t want to worry you, but have you seen this website?’ Those were the words from a concerned fellow author who’d found all her books were being offered for free, as PDF downloads, via an unscrupulous website. I searched for my name and found nine of my books listed. My immediate reaction was “Shiver Me Timbers,” or words to that affect. Then I wondered what I should do about it.
In this business of writing, copyright allows us to licence others to reproduce our work in a variety of agreed formats, hopefully for some financial reward. My first book, One Hundred Ways For A Dog To Train Its Human, published by Hodder & Stoughton, is available in print and ebook format, because that’s what the contract agreed. The only other businesses who can publish my words in these formats are the four foreign publishers who’ve negotiated the right to do so.
I recently had to renegotiate a contract with a magazine I’ve done work for in the past. Looking back, I realised that the current contract which I was working with was over ten years old. And ten years is a long time in the magazine world.
You won’t be surprised to learn that I didn’t like the revised contract. But that didn’t matter, because these things are always just a starting point.
When you receive a contract, take yourself off somewhere quiet and read through it. If it helps, read aloud each clause. Do whatever it takes for you to understand it.
- Highlight in one colour clauses you don’t understand.
- Highlight in another colour the clauses you don’t like.
- Then put it to one side and do something else.
It’s all change at DACS. There are two dates you need to put into your shiny new 2017 calendar:
- 16th January 2017
- 17th February 2017
The first date is when the DACS Payback Scheme opens for your 2016 claim, which is much earlier than usual (traditionally, it’s opened in August). The second deadline is the cut-off date for claims.
For those of you who don’t know, the DACS Payback scheme is the system photographers use for claiming money they’re entitled to for any secondary uses of their work (the most common example of which is photocopying: a magazine might pay you for using your photo in their publication, but if someone else then photocopies that magazine article you’r entitled to be paid for that use too). It’s similar to the ALCS system for words.
Sometimes, it’s not until you build up a body of work that you really appreciate what you have created. And that’s when the consequences of being a little slap dash with the rights you grant others in your work becomes apparent.
When you’re starting out, it’s easy to be swayed into granting more rights in a piece of your work than you’d like. You know you really ought not give a publisher copyright in your article, but they are going to publish it (which is what you really want) and, let’s face it, who is going to turn Ten Alternative Uses Of A Nose-Hair Clipper into a movie?
Alex Gazzola’s excellent Mistakes Writers Make blog commented last week about a competition Vogue are running, for journalists under 25. And the classic copyright clause that all writers should be aware of pops up in the terms and conditions. Rule 3 states “Copyright of all entries belongs to Conde Nast Publications Ltd.”