Digital Backlist Rights Fight

Skott Klebe2013 is a milestone year for copyright.  On January 1, US copyright law began to allow authors or their families to terminate valid contracts signed after January 1, 1978, once 35 years have elapsed.  The revolution in digital publishing that has begun to tip the balance of power from publishers to authors will likely get a boost when the so-called termination rights are executed.

At BookExpo America later this week, Skott Klebe, CCC’s product evangelist, joins a panel on Taking Your Backlist Digital: Who Controls The Rights?, with CCC’s Michael Healy as moderator. “‘If you do a little math, you’ll see that we are now in that 35th year,” Klebe notes. “This termination rights facility may motivate authors to pull rights back and to bring the digital edition of older works back to market.”

Indeed, the digital transformation offers an unprecedented chance to breathe new life into midlist titles—as long as you hold the rights to do so. Are decades-old contracts the final word? The BEA panel with Klebe and Healy will discuss ways the pendulum may swing back to authors, in part as a result of these so-called “termination rights.”

“The costs to produce a nice digital edition like we’re accustomed to reading – those don’t just go away by wishing them.  Publishers can’t necessarily afford to turn every title that’s ever been published into a digital edition.  Things could languish in the backlist – out of print, out of digital availability – because nobody can afford to bring them to market,” Klebe explains for CCC’s Chris Kenneally.

The panel gets underway on Thursday, May 30, at 2:30 p.m., in Room 1E08 at the Javits Center, New York City. Also appearing are Devereux Chatillon, Transactional and IP Attorney; Jan F. Constantine, General Counsel for the Authors Guild; and Jennifer Weltz, Vice President, Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, Inc. (JVNLA).

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