Authors Have Rights
If you want to be an author, you need to know some of your rights. This post contains five of the most common rights authors ask about, but in no way replaces a writer doing their research or seeking legal advice as needed.
Copyright: The right to copy. A form of protection given to the authors of original work. Under U.S. law the author of a literary work is automatically the owner of the copyright in the work. If there is a written agreement between the author and another person or entity, like a publisher, the copyright can be assigned to that person or entity.
Authors often inquire about the Library of Congress which is the largest library in the world. It contains millions of books, newspapers, magazines, manuscripts, maps, and photos. It’s the official U.S. government body that maintains records of copyright registration in the United States.
The U.S. Copyright office which is housed in the Library of Congress supports authors and creators of original work. According to the Library of Congress website, an author can submit a copy of their book to the Library of Congress if they choose. Applying for a copyright is not a requirement to protect your work, the copyright is created as soon as you create the work. However, doing so may give you more protection if there are infringement issues.
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Electronic Rights: The right to publish or allow others to publish electronic versions of your work. Electronic rights are ever expanding due to technological advances in this digital age which can in turn effect authors and publishers. E-rights can include, E-books for Kindle and Nook, publishing work on the Internet, and in any and all media and formats.
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Translation Rights: The right to translate and sell a book in a different language. A book cannot be translated without the author’s permission, and a written agreement, since the author holds the copyright. If the publisher was granted the copyright by the author, then anyone wishing to translate the book must obtain permission from the publisher and draft a written agreement. Some translation projects are initiated by a translator, but the more common approach is for the publisher to initiate the process and acquire a translator after procuring permission from the author.
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Film Rights: The author gives another party the exclusive right to adapt their work into a movie. Producers generally use a literary acquisition contract to procure some or all rights to a novel or play. Authors may want to keep certain rights such as publication rights, stage rights, radio rights, and most importantly, the right to use their characters in a new sequel novel. The purchaser may also obtain sequel and remake rights. The purchaser will insist on the ability to make changes to the work, like dialogue. In the United States, state and federal laws somewhat protect the author from studios ruining their work.
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Foreign Rights: The right to publish a book, using the author’s original language, in other countries. When authors sell foreign rights to their book, they can increase their income with little to no upfront costs. The story must be relevant and relatable in other countries, meaning the content must have widespread appeal, and it must be easily translated. Though contracts are complicated and details diverse, when a publisher purchases world print rights, there is generally a net split of 75% to the author and 25% to the publisher.
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