[INDOLOGY] Publishing contracts

Elizabeth De Michelis e.demichelis at ymail.com
Thu Mar 17 19:14:40 UTC 2016

Dear Will and All,
this is a topic that far too often gets overlooked by very clever but business-naive academics. Getting legal counsel is indeed an excellent idea, but can itself be a costly, unpleasant and time consuming task. There is, however, at least in the UK, an elegant and inexpensive way around this. That is, one can join the 'writers' union', that is the Society of Authors ( http://societyofauthors.org ). As their tagline states:
"An annual subscription (£102 or £73 if you're under 35) entitles you to unlimited advice on all aspects of the writing profession."
And this is indeed the case. They have tons of useful materials that are available for free to members, they run workshops on specific topics, keep abreast of important development in the field (for example they got fully involved on behalf of their members in the GoogleBooks commercial discussions and transactions), they have specialists groups that take care of specific angles (academics, translators, medical writers...), they give grants and support to young authors and to authors in need etc etc. They are always very well informed, up to date, and available for consultation. 

Importantly, their services include legal advice provided by resident lawyers. In my experience it's dispensed virtually by return (I don't think I ever waited more than 24-48 hrs) by competent professionals that specialise in the field, keep up to date, and deal with the same kind of queries day-in, day-out. 

What's more, if you subscribe to the SoA, you also automatically (and FOC) become a member of the Authors' licensing and collecting Society ( http://alcs.co.uk/  ) which distrubutes royalties from such arcane sources as library photocopying, 'registered' downloads and I'm not sure what else, but I know that most years my ALCS royalties cover my SoA membership fees. It's just a win-win situation and I always enthusiatically recommend joining the SoA whenever I get the chance. Do have a look at their website to see all the things they do.

Now for non-UK based writers, I am not sure if joining the SoA is an option - it may be, perhaps provided they write in English? And I expect there would be similar bodies in other countries that do similar work - the SoA itself may know more about this.
I also want to register my opinion on how contracts for writers are going: in two words, very badly! Along the lines of what Lars pointed out, we are expected to do all the work, take all responsibilities, pay all the costs, and hand over all possible forms of copyright (even those that do not exist as yet!!) and translation rights, worldwide, up to the time of our death and beyond. I think many academics sign these documents without really giving them much importance, which contributes to the problem as publishers get away with murder.
I personally think that, at least for academic publishing, the way forward is Open Access publications, and much is happening along these lines as most of you will be aware. But if and when we do want or need to sign old fashioned type contracts, we should change them to our benefit and protect our rights as much as possible, and this cannot be done without good legal counsel.
Apologies for the tirade, I am quite passionate about the subject, which I have been following, on and off, for many years.
Greetings to all,
Elizabeth De MichelisIndependent scholarhttp://modernyogaresearch.org/


 On Thursday, 17 March 2016, 18:32, Lars Martin Fosse <lmfosse at getmail.no> wrote:

  I would be very careful about signing such contracts. There is a trend in business these days to push liability and economic responsibility as far down the ladder as possible. Working as a translator, I regularly get served contracts that in principle could ruin me. Never sign such contracts. Never make yourself responsible for more than an amount of money you know you can handle. Don't operate on trust - be smart, check with a lawyer or find some other publishing solution. 
 Den 17.03.2016 04:24, skrev Richard Mahoney | Indica et Buddhica:
 Dear Will,

On 2016-03-17 14:57, Will Sweetman wrote:
 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.

 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

 I'd say it would be prudent to have such contracts reviewed by
commercial solicitors with international experience and perhaps also by
a firm of patent attorneys. Cost is an issue but most firms would be
willing to have a chat to give you a sense of what you and your
colleagues might be up for. `Frankenstein' contracts are not unknown.

Best, Richard

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