Q&A: How to get your textbook rights back from your publisher

Q: “My publisher has decided to drop my books. How can I tell from my contract whether this means I could get another publisher to pick them up for a new edition, vs. writing a totally new work?”

A: Steve Gillen, Attorney, Wood, Herron & Evans:

“Most publishing contracts have a ‘reversion’ or ‘out-of-print”‘clause that requires the publisher to return the rights to a work to the author if and when the publisher takes the work out-of-print. Sometimes this right of reversion is triggered automatically. More frequently, however, the author must request the publisher to execute a copyright assignment. The more problematic issue is likely to be at what point does the right mature — i.e., when is the work “out-of-print.” Look to the language in your contract for the answer to that question.”

Q&A: Who owns the copyright to coursepacks I create for my lecture?

Q: “My question concerns my coursepack for my lecture, which is sold at our college bookstore. I created it at my home office using my own computer. It contains my own original illustrations, graphics, and charts. I contend that this is my intellectual property while the bookstore has recently made an attempt to copyright all coursepacks in the name of my college. I am quite sure that my college is taking liberties that it has no right to legally. What is the best method for me to proceed to prevent the college from stealing my intellectual property?”

A: Steve Gillen, Attorney, Wood Herron & Evans:

“As a general rule, you have a copyright in any original work of expression prepared by you and that right vests automatically the instant your work is recorded in a tangible medium. Provided the illustrations, graphics and charts in your course pack were created by you and not copied or adapted from some other source, this default rule would vest ownership of the copyrights in you. An important exception to this default rule is known as the work-for-hire doctrine.