Publishing Contracts and Derivative Rights

I'll be the first to tell you, I'm not an expert on publishing contracts. I've dealt with a few when my essays or short stories have been accepted. They tend to be basic and straightforward with the rights reverting back to me after the first publication.

A while back, I ran across Writer Beware, a blog sponsored by Science Fiction Writers of America with support from three other reputable writing associations. It focuses on revealing the underbelly of the publishing world and helping aspiring writers protect themselves. The first post I read on this site talked about piracy of in-copyright books by the Internet Archive. If you have anything published, you might want to check out that post and the link to the Internet Archive's Search page.

Recently, I received a post about a questionable practice occurring in contracts with magazines and a few established markets:  perpetual derivative rights.

First of all, you should always check what rights any contract gives the organization seeking to publish your work. Perpetual means they retain it FOREVER. Not good. But what about the request for perpetual derivative rights? If I understand the Writer Beware post correctly, this means the contract limits your ability to do anything else with your story. This includes audio rights, internet rights, continued series rights, film rights, etc. Not only that, but they can assign your story to someone else to write the derivative.

No. NO. NO!

I realize last week I wrote about trusting the writing community with your work, and I stand by that point. Most people don't want to steal your work; however, we need to be aware of the scams and traps out there. If you haven't followed the links to these two posts from Writer Beware, you probably should. It pays to keep vigilant about the seedy side of the world of publishing.


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