February 3, 2014

Contract Basics: Warranty & Copyright

The Warranty and Copyright clauses are fairly straightforward, so this may very well be the shortest post in the entire series!

Warranty Clause: This states, basically, that you didn't plagiarize the work, that no one else has a claim to the work, that the work doesn't violate copyright and isn't libelous, and that you still have all the rights you're about to sign over to the publisher.  It will also go into financial concerns, for instance that the publisher isn't responsible for damages won in case you did plagiarize the book and someone successfully sues you for it.  
  • You should ensure this clauses states that you do guarantee that all those things are true to the best of your knowledge. While you should know which rights you have, we're fallible, and that phrase protects you just in case you in fact didn't know that you were in violation of one of those pieces (or if that knowledge is impossible to prove).  
  • You should also ensure that if there are any financial ramifications specified (e.g. you owing your publisher legal fees), that you only have to pay those if you were in fact proven guilty of a violation, not just because, for instance, someone claims that you stole their work and money has to be spent to fight the charge.
In general, however, if your work is yours and you didn't falsely trash anyone in it (libel) or use copyrighted material (like song lyrics), you should feel fairly confident signing this clause with no worries.

Copyright Clause: This states who is responsible for registering (and renewing) the copyright for your work.  Virtually every source I have seen recommends setting a specific time frame, in the case that the publisher is the one to register the copyright, and most recommend that time frame to be within 90 days of publication.  This also states that the publisher has to include copyright information in every edition of the work.

This clause could also specify in whose name the copyright will be registered.  As far as I have seen, this should be in your name (not the publisher's), however, if you're writing under a pseudonym, you may want to consider how this will affect your copyright registration:
  • A copyright registered under a pseudonym is good for a specific number of years (95 years from the publication date, or 120 years from the creation date, whichever is earlier).
  • A copyright registered under a real name is good for 70 years past the author's death.
    • If the true identity behind a pseudonym becomes known to the copyright office before the author's death, this term also applies.
  • If I understand this page correctly, it is possible to register the copyright under your pseudonym, while informing the copyright office of your real name, however your real name will become part of online public record in connection with that work, so that decision would depend on why you chose to use a pseudonym in the first place.

Questions? Thoughts? Corrections? Please leave them in the comments!

This post is a part of my Publishing Contracts sequence. Please click here to learn more about it and view the very important disclaimer.

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