Anthologies offer writers an excellent platform for shorter works and create opportunities for reader cross-pollination. When managed and published properly, anthologies have many benefits and relatively few drawbacks for authors. However, authors do need to ensure–before submitting or signing a contract–that the anthology publisher is offering industry-standard contract terms and proper legal protection for the contributing authors and their works.
Today, we’ll review a few of the legal traps and pitfalls authors should beware (and avoid) when contributing work to an anthology:
1. Contracts Are Not Optional.
Every anthology should use a professional, written publishing contract (or release) containing industry-standard terms for anthology publication. If the publisher is taking only non-exclusive rights, and not limiting the author’s right to reprint and re-use the work in any way, a simple release will often suffice, but even this should be in writing. (Note: The author should always retain the copyright and subsidiary rights to the work, as well as the right to re-publish in other contexts. Also, the author should never have to pay the publisher any money or be required to purchase copies of the finished anthology.)
Anthology contracts and releases (sometimes titled “Permission to (Re)Print”) are generally shorter than contracts for book-length works, but they still need to address the relevant legal issues. Also, the contract (or release) must be in writing—emails documenting the parties’ “understanding” are not sufficient and often won’t stand up in court.
2. Never Sign Away Copyright to the Work.
Anthology publishers do NOT need, and should not ask for, ownership of copyright in the individual works that make up the anthology.
Anthology publishers need only a limited license to publish the contributed works as part of the anthology – and the contract should expressly limit the publisher’s use of the work to its inclusion in the relevant anthology or collective work.
If the author transfers copyright to the anthology publisher, the author no longer owns the work and cannot use or publish it in other contexts (without permission, which the publisher then has the legal right to withhold at will). Most anthology publishers don’t try to take ownership of the contributors’ works; don’t submit to anthologies that do.
One additional note: some anthology contracts state that the publisher owns the copyright on the anthology as a collective work. This is different from ownership of the individual stories. Anthologies actually involve two separate types of copyrights: [Read more…]