This week we had a long discussion with a friend who is a literary agent and as usual we ended putting the book world right. The topics were broad and the discussion stimulating loosened by a couple of glasses of fine wine.
One area discussed was with respect to rights and rights contracts. We posed the question as to why rights contracts are written once and although addendums happen as new opportunities arise, in the main the contract is the contract until it reverts.
We talked about a major commercial lease we had just been involved in and the fact that leases have both term times and break clauses. Break clauses aren’t the same as reversal clauses but offer both parties the opportunity to recognise that the contract is working and continue or that it is not and gives either party the opportunity to break. Some break clauses can be one sided others apply to both parties but when the term of the let is say 15 years they recognise that things change and that its in both parties interest to be able to respond if necessary.
The question we posed was whether it would be wise to work rights contracts the same way? After all we see front list titles now being remaindered in after often shortening lifetimes. We see publishers wishing to change rights to perpetual models based on moving them to digital and print on demand. We clearly do not have a rights clearing centre or authoritative information service. It is ironic that this industry is about rights and content.
We firmly believe in rights reversals and that both parties are currently tied to contracts that were designed for yesterday, not today and because we don’t know what we don’t know, not tomorrow.
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