If you are an author, it’s important to get a basic understanding of publishing law. In this article, we take a look at the 5 things every author should know about publishing law.
Author: Farrah Motley, Legal Principal of Prosper Law and a publishing lawyer.
An overview of topics covered in this article
This article will take you through the 5 things every author should know about publishing law.
- You Own the Copyright to Your Book
- Publishing Contracts are Important
- It’s important to understand the details of your publishing agreement
- Register Your Copyright when you Publish your book
- Get Advice from a publishing lawyer before entering a publishing agreement.
- How can Prosper Law Help?
You Own the Copyright to Your Book
In Australia, copyright law is complicated and has many nuances. You may be surprised to hear that in Australia, you don’t automatically own the copyright to your book. Instead, when you write a book and publish it, a “publication right” attaches to it.
This means that the copyright owner is automatically given this right unless they agree otherwise or if there are special circumstances (like if they were commissioned or employed by someone else and have agreed to grant rights to the buyer).
Publishing Contracts Are Important
Publishing contracts are legally binding agreements that can be enforced in court. They are important to both the author and the publisher because they set expectations for the business relationship and establish the terms of a publishing agreement. They should always be reviewed by an experienced publishing lawyer.
Publishing contracts define rights such as copyright ownership, where rights revert following a certain period of time (for example, upon publication), and how royalties are calculated. The most common types of publishing agreements include:
Traditional book deals—book publishers provide advances against future sales as well as marketing support to help sell books from their catalogues; these deals may be exclusive or non-exclusive depending on what you’re looking for in terms of distribution channels (such as whether or not you want your book sold through Amazon).
Hybrid publishing agreements – where both the author and the publisher contribute money towards the cost of publication.
It’s Important To Understand The Details of Your Publishing Agreement
It’s important to understand the details of your publishing agreement. The types of contracts that authors sign vary depending on the type of work, and there are several different kinds of agreements that an author can enter into with a publisher. Understanding what rights you’re granting in your publishing agreement will help you determine how well protected you are as an author.
As we’ve discussed in our previous posts, publishing agreements typically grant a publisher one or more rights over works created by an author.
These rights include:
- The right to publish your book (also called the first sale)
- The right to sell it at retail price in whatever format they choose; this is called “trade sale”
- The right to sell it at discount prices through certain channels like libraries or resellers; this is called “library sale”
Register Your Copyright When You Publish Your Book
If you are publishing in Australia, the registration of copyright is not required. As the author, you own the copyright immediately upon its creation. However, having a publishing lawyer review contracts to ensure you are not giving rights away, is critical to retaining exclusive rights over your work.
If you are publishing in the United States, the first step for any author is to register their copyright. This will protect your work from being stolen and used by others. The law protects authors by preventing unauthorised use of their writing, but it requires you to formally indicate that you’re the owner of the work and that they’re free to use it as they please.
If a person uses someone else’s work without permission or license, they can be sued for damages in court – which could result in thousands or even millions of dollars worth of fines paid out by an offender if found guilty! Registering your work with the U.S Copyright Office gives them proof that they are indeed yours so there will be no question about who owns what should something happen later on down the road (like someone using part/all).
If you are represented by an agent, they will probably recommend the best lawyers for you to work with. They may also be able to negotiate rights and royalty rates on your behalf, which can save you money down the line.
It isn’t expensive for an author or publisher to have their publishing agreement reviewed by a publishing lawyer before signing it—it’s better than signing something that isn’t fair!
Working with a lawyer who understands publishing law helps ensure you succeed as an author
If you’re a writer, it’s possible that you’ll eventually need the assistance of a publishing lawyer. Lawyers can help with many aspects of the publishing process, including:
- Drafting and negotiating contracts for your book
- Copyright and trademark issues
- Tax issues related to self-publishing
How can Prosper Law help?
Prosper Law is Australia’s online law firm. We provide legal advice to businesses and individuals across Australia. Our areas of legal practice include contracts, eCommerce, publishing, legal counsel and employment law.
If you need to talk to a publishing lawyer, get in touch today.
Contact the team at Prosper Law today to discuss how we can provide you with publishing legal advice for a fixed fee or at affordable hourly rates.
Enjoyed this article? Check out Your Ultimate Guide to Set-Off and Set-off Clauses.
Farrah Motley | Legal Principal
PROSPER LAW – Australia’s Online Law Firm
M: 0422 721 121
A: Suite No. 99, Level 54, 111 Eagle Street, Brisbane, Queensland Australia 4000