May 31 – June 7, 2006 Edition

Authors’ Guild Holds

Firm Against S&S

Rights Changes

NEW YORK, NY/5/29/07-­The Authors’ Guild is standing firm against what it calls an electronic “rights grab” by Simon & Schuster, which recently changed the wording of digital rights terms in its boilerplate author contract. Late last Thursday, The Guild issued a second warning to its members that called Simon & Schuster’s response to initial charges pretentious. At issue is S&S’s terms (or lack thereof) for when a book is considered out of print and rights revert to the author.

The Author’s Guild is concerned about what happens when a publisher is no longer selling a book in meaningful numbers. Traditionally, rights would refer to the author so that he or she could seek publication elsewhere. According to the Guild’s alert, Simon & Schuster’s new contract would allow the publisher to retain exclusive rights to a book even if it were no longer in print. Simon & Schuster’s contract says, "The Work shall not be deemed out of print as long as it is available in any U.S. trade edition, including electronic editions." The Guild contends that having a book “available for sale in some database – without the obligation to sell a single copy – is not keeping a book ‘in print’ as common sense and the industry have defined that term. . .

“Simon & Schuster would, under its new contract, be empowered to exclusively control your rights even if your books aren’t available for sale through traditional bookstores,” the alert said.

Simon & Schuster issued a second response to the Guild last week which said, in part: “The Authors Guild has recently perpetrated serious misinformation regarding Simon & Schuster, our author contracts and our commitment to making our authors’ books available for sale. Unfortunately, these distortions were released by the Authors Guild without their having undertaken any effort to have a dialogue with Simon & Schuster on this topic.

“In recent years, Simon & Schuster has accepted, at the request of some agencies, contract language that specifies a minimum level of activity for print on demand titles. Our experience with the current high quality and accessibility of print on demand titles indicates to us that such minimums are no longer necessary. Our position on reversions for active titles remains unchanged. As always, we are willing to have an open and forthright dialogue on this or any other topic.

The publisher’s statement also pointed out that: “Contrary to the Authors Guild assertion, using technologies like print on demand is not about ‘squirreling away’ rights, nor does it mean that ‘no copies are available to be ordered by traditional bookstores.’ Print on demand is simply a means of manufacturing a book, making it widely available to retailers and consumers.”

In addition, S&S said: “Most importantly, we hope you know that we view authors and agents as our partners in the publishing process. We have always been open to discussion and negotiated in good faith at every point in the life of a book.”

The Guild said it does plan to hold discussions with Simon & Schuster, but cautioned members in the meantime to negotiate the questionable clause on a book-by-book basis.