Hi, everyone. My name is Michael Capobianco, and although I’ve been an adjunct member of Writer Beware for some time now, this is my first official blog post.
I’m also the Chair of SFWA’s Contracts Committee, which means I see a lot of bad contracts, both for book-length and short fiction. I’ve gotten used to much of the unfortunate and often contradictory clauses in these contracts, but last week I ran into something that caught my attention: a virtually identical terrible clause in two separate small publishers’ book contracts, a clause that I had never seen before.
Both contracts were for original fiction, but aside from the fact that neither paid an advance, they looked fairly different from one another until they came to this clause. To save you any further suspense, here it is:
The Publisher reserves all copyright, trademark and other intellectual property rights in and to the titles (including series title, if any), logotypes, trademarks, trade dress, formats and other features of the Work as published and promoted by Publisher (collectively, “Publisher’s Marks”), and any and all content that may be added to the Work by Publisher (collectively, “Publisher’s Content”). The Publisher shall have the sole right to develop sequels or prequels, new or additional titles in a series, or related works using any and all such elements, and shall be free to commission or contract with any other person(s) for the preparation of such sequels, series, or related works.
Now, I’m used to encountering incomprehensible wording in bad contracts. It was only when I saw the same clause again in another contract so close together that it seemed like a good idea to issue a warning about it.
My first response with something like this is to try to figure out what the publisher was actually trying to say and if there was any legitimate justification for it. Needless to say, I couldn’t think of any. On the face of it, this seems like an egregious rights grab.