It's important to know your strategy for
navigating the sometimes murky waters of copyright agreements and publishing
By Apryl Motley, CAE
& Publishing Lunch & Learn ("Contracts, Copyrights, and
Trademarks, Oh Boy!”) presenter and sponsor Jefferson C. Glassie, Esq., likens
the publishing process to a river: "It’s not always easy to know where that
river starts, but you definitely want to start at the beginning.”
Glassie, a partner with
Washington, DC-based law firm Whiteford, Taylor & Preston, describes
contracts and intellectual property provisions as the flood protection that
association publishers need at various stages in the publishing process. He
also stresses the importance of their knowing how to navigate contractual terms
and legal concepts.
Among those that he
highlighted were distinguishing between copyright transfers and licenses and
specifying all rights an association may want to content now and in the future.
Transfers vs. Licenses
According to Glassie,
copyrights can only be transferred in two ways: 1) under the work-for-hire
doctrine and 2) written assignment or transfer signed by the copyright owner.
He indicates that often authors are more likely to assign rights to scholarly
journals, but will only give licenses to magazines, newsletters, and other
means permission, and it can be limited, non-exclusive, in writing or verbal,
expressed or implied. However, if the license is exclusive, it must be in
writing. In addition, if authors only grant association publishers licenses
rather than fully transferring their copyrights, the organizations still own
the publications in their entirety (i.e. as a compilation).
One concern that Lunch
& Learn attendees expressed was their ability to publish older content
electronically, even if their organizations had not originally obtained rights
or licenses to do so. Generally speaking, Glassie says that it is best to contact
these authors to obtain licenses for electronic rights. He also points out that
moving forward, association publishers should obtain broad licenses from
authors that enable them to use content electronically.
"Be clear about which
rights you’re talking about when you request them,” Glassie advises. This is the best way for association
publishers to maintain good working relationships with authors, editors, and
others involved in their publishing efforts.
For example, association
publishers should ensure that they own or have rights to editor contributions.
Other rights that should be specified include reprints and online access. Also
related to the assignment of rights is the scope of distribution, such as
through content aggregators. As a general rule, it’s best to be sure all rights
are specified in writing.
Along with specifying
rights, publisher agreements or contracts should indicate whether authors or
editors are entitled to any compensation (i.e. royalties) from the sale of
subsidiary rights. It is also important to include provisions for the reversion
of rights at the end of the term of publishing agreements.
Glassie summed up all
these distinctions and provisions as a means for association publishers to
"plan to succeed even if the relationship fails.”
Apryl Motley, CAE, is
a freelance writer and communications consultant and a member of the
Association Media & Publishing Content Creation Committee. Association Media & Publishing thanks her for
covering this Lunch & Learn for our members who were unable to attend.