Readersforum's Blog

November 30, 2012

Publishers brace for authors to reclaim book rights in 2013

A copyright law that lets authors break contracts after 35 years will start taking effect in January. The law, which is meant to give authors like Stephen King and Judy Blume a “second bite at the apple,” could provide yet another disruption for traditional publishers.

By Jeff John Roberts

The book publishing industry, already facing disruption from Amazon and  e-books, will confront a new form of turbulence in 2013. Starting in January, publishers face the loss of their back lists as authors begin using the Copyright Act to reclaim works they assigned years ago.

These so-called “termination rights,” which let authors break contracts after 35 years, have already made the media thanks to a court squabble between the Village People and music studios. On the book front, publishers  and agents are staying mostly mum even though the bestseller lists from 1978 reveal some very big names eligible to reclaim their work  – Stephen King, Judy Blume, John LeCarre and so on. Here’s a plain English overview of how the law works and why (for now at least) we’re likely to see literary types negotiate rather than litigate.

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