Monthly Archives: January 2013

Condé Nast query: What makes a rights grab?

Condé Nast’s new boilerplate contract for freelancers, under which it acquires a free 12-month right to option dramatic and multimedia rights to articles appearing in its magazines and then, if it exercises that option, shares less than half the usual amount with the author, has gotten us thinking: what makes a rights grab? After all, there are lots of terms in a typical freelance journalism contract or book publishing contract that wouldn’t be there if the two parties had roughly equal bargaining power. (We’ll name two from trade book contracts: ebook royalties at 25% of net proceeds and any noncompete clause that isn’t reciprocal.)

So, when does a contractual term cross the line and become a rights grab? Breaking with industry practice is clearly one thing to consider. A second is whether the publisher is seeking to control rights that aren’t the main point of the contract. A third — a biggie — is compensation: is the publisher taking rights at bargain-basement rates? Another way to look at that is whether a journalist or book author with greater bargaining power would find the deal acceptable.

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Condé Nast Moves to Seize, Lowball Freelancers’ Film/TV Rights

Breaking with longstanding industry practices, Condé Nast is seeking to cut itself in on its writers’ potential film and television deals. In the process, it would slice writers’ share of potential film and television income to freelance works appearing in its magazines by more than 50%. Its new boilerplate contract — introduced last year — would give the company a free, exclusive 12-month right to option dramatic and multimedia rights. Under the contract, Condé Nast could choose to extend that option by up to 24 months for a modest sum.

Should Condé Nast exercise the option, the writer would, under boilerplate terms, be paid just 1% of the film or tv production budget. Negotiated film and tv agreements typically pay the author 2.5% or more of the production budget.

Agents and writers are pushing back, with some success. Since Condé Nast owns such leading publications as Bon Appétit, GQ, The New Yorker, Self, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and Wired, among others, authors with significant negotiating clout are affected. Reportedly, some of those authors have been able to substantially alter or eliminate the option terms of the new boilerplate agreement.

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Booktalk Nation Returns with Lois Lowry, Richard Russo & Robert K. Massie

Help spread the word as Booktalk Nation returns from its holiday hiatus with a full slate of nationwide dial-in events. This week, former CNN anchor Kitty Pilgrim discusses her latest thriller and Carolyn Mackler and Jay Asher talk about collaborating on their acclaimed YA novel, The Future of Us. Next week, Lois Lowry will discuss the concluding book in her Newbery winning series that began with The Giver, and Emma Straub will talk about her widely praised debut novel about Hollywood’s golden age.

Later this month, Pulitzer Prize winners Richard Russo and Robert K. Massie will be discussing their latest books, and PEN/Robert Bingham Prize winner Vanessa Veselka will talk about her debut novel, Zazen.

Here’s this month’s Booktalk Nation events (all start 7:00 Eastern/4:00 Pacific):

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