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Know your rights

Hey Writing Etc. subscriber,

Well, I had a little setback so I’m running the July 15 article from 2011 because I’ve been zipping between my GP and surgeon this past week. The cancer surgery is behaving as we expected. However my incision is still a bit of a mess. Guess an ecoli infection is tough to beat. As I told my doc after I awoke in a small sea of ooey gooey, “I think I sprung a leak.” I’m back to using bandages (boo) and probably won’t swim all summer (double boo).

They’re not concerned and I should be mending soon. I’m discovering cancer surgery is a lot like freelancing: “success” is quite a zig zaggy process. Sometimes you’re doing great, then the next day, you get a nice set back. I suppose life is like that as well, eh?

I hope you find the following article useful. As a freelancer, it’s imperative you understand the concept of “rights,” what you’re selling, and for how long.


Know Your Rights

We traveled all the way to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to see him. As we stood outside the 2,000-seat Riverside Theater, my heart pounded, knowing I would soon hear him sing; hear him strum his guitar; hear this man whose lyrics absolutely makes my knees weak.

As my husband and I filed into the theater, I grasped my purse in anticipation of hearing him sing my favorite song. (By the way, my beautiful Liz Claiborne clutch still has the fingernail marks to prove my story correct.)

After he came on stage, he began to sing. I waited and waited to hear my favorites. Finally, another audience member called out the name of one of the songs. My favorite singer in the world paused and said the words I’ll never forget. He said, “I can’t sing that. I don’t own it.”

How could he not own it? He wrote it. He recorded it. I listen to it on a regular basis. How could he not be able to sing it today?

Easy. He signed all his rights away.

There are a lot of rights in the publishing community. Here are some nutshell definitions of some of the biggies:

First serial rights – You’ve given the publication (or web site) the rights to be the first to publish your article.

One time rights – The publication may run your article once, whether they’re the first to publish it or if you’re selling a reprint.

Second serial rights – You’ve given the publication the right to be the second publication to publish your article.

Electronic rights – The right to publish your writing electronically.

All Rights – This is the bad one. You sell all the rights and walk away from the piece forever. Unless you buy the rights back.

Also (and a bit off track), it’s nice to know if your contract has a “sundown,” meaning that it will expire one day. And when it expires, it’s good to know what happens to your “rights.” In the best scenario, all rights will revert back to you when the contract expires.

I’m sure that when this particular singer signed his contracts, he had a capable agent helping him. But that goes to show that no matter what your agent may say, it’s important (VERY important) that you personally read every contract you sign. If you don’t understand something, take it to someone who does, like an attorney.

And it wouldn’t hurt to purchase a good writing reference book that explains the various rights in more detail.

There’s nothing worse than hearing about an author who sells their work outright for a pittance, then is responsible for the bulk of the promotion for a book they don’t even own. In other words, if you sell all your rights, make sure you get a BIG advance.

Today, my favorite singer has re-purchased his songs (for a lot more than he sold them for) and is able to sing them. I hope you don’t find yourself in his situation.

Note: I’m not a lawyer nor do I play one on TV. Make sure you consult an attorney if you have any questions and before you sign anything you deem fishy..


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Writing Etc./Filbert Publishing News – July 25, 2013

ISSN: 1545-5580

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