[INDOLOGY] Publishing contracts

Will Sweetman will.sweetman at gmail.com
Thu Mar 17 01:57:33 UTC 2016

In the last few months I've been asked to sign two contracts with Indian 
publishers which included what seem to me to be very sweeping liability 
statements. Both required me to warrant that the works in question were 
original, not plagiarised and did not violate copyright, and that they 
contained nothing obscene, indecent, objectionable or libelous (one 
added scandalous and indecent). Both contracts required authors and 
editors to indemnify the publishers against any costs or losses incurred 
as a result of breach of these warranties.

In both cases these were for edited volumes that included editors and 
contributors based in India, and I had concerns about the possible 
implications of these clauses for those based in India for reasons that 
I suspect no-one on this list will need to have specified.

Comparing these contracts with others I've signed with publishers based 
in the UK and US, I find that the major difference is that the 
warranties required there related only to "obscene, libelous or 
unlawful" material, and the indemnity in some cases is limited to losses 
or costs arising from breach of copyright alone.

My question is whether "objectionable" in Indian law simply has the same 
sense as "unlawful" in other jurisdictions. It seems to me that 
objectionable covers a much wider range - but perhaps there is a more 
technical sense.

Incidentally, one publisher agreed to amend the contract to a much more 
limited warranty and indemnity. In the other case, I was unable to 
persuade my fellow editors to push for an amendment, so I'll never know 
whether we might have achieved a better position. I think academics too 
often sign contracts without any negotiation, and I'd be very interested 
to hear (whether on or off list) whether others have been successful in 
getting contracts amended.

Best wishes


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