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Controversy Over Changes to S&S’s Boilerplate

Simon & Schuster recently altered its boilerplate contract to extend their copyright control of an author’s work “in perpetuity” and the Authors Guild is steaming mad about it. In an alert issued yesterday, the Guild recommended that author considering excluding the house from auctions until they agree not to impose the new conditions: “The new contract would allow Simon & Schuster to consider a book in print, and under its exclusive control, so long as it’s available in any form, including through its own in-house database — even if no copies are available to be ordered by traditional bookstores. With the new contract language, the publisher would be able stop printing a book and prevent the author from publishing it with any other house.”

Added president Roy Blount Jr., “A publisher is meant to publish, to get out there and sell our books. A publishing house is not supposed to be a place where our books are permanently squirreled away.” It’s a sentiment that Jane Litte at Dearauthor.com wholeheartedly agrees with. “The publisher is signaling that it will no longer include minimum sales requirements for a work to be considered in print. Simon & Schuster is apparently seeking nothing less than an exclusive grant of rights in perpetuity. Effectively, the publisher would co-own your copyright.”


Vikki Simmons also points out that “anyone offered a contract is essentially being asked to give up any chance of reclaiming their work. For bestselling books this may not be a problem. But for authors whose books have a shorter shelf-life, this has a definite impact. What if the publisher retains the rights but does nothing? They can keep your work (just in case) and it may never see the light of day again.”

S&S spokesman Adam Rothberg was surprised at the “overreaction” by the Authors Guild. “We believe that our contract appropriately addresses the improved technology, increased availability, and higher quality of print on demand books, and reflects the fact that print on demand titles may now be readily purchased by consumers at both online and brick and mortar stores. We are embracing print on demand technology as an unprecedented opportunity for authors and publishers to keep their books alive and available and selling in the marketplace in a way that may not have been previously possible for many authors, and are confident in the long term it that will be a benefit for all concerned.” S&S further wanted the author and agent community “to know that, when necessary, we have always had good faith negotiations on the subject of reversions, and will continue to on a book-by-book basis.”

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