June 16, 2010.From the start, informed consent has been our primary concern regarding Wiley’s proposed amendments to the Bloomberg authors’ contracts. In our view, Wiley’s initial letter was a spectacular failure, destined perhaps for law school textbooks, in obtaining informed consent to a contract modification. After reviewing several Bloomberg Press contracts, we couldn’t imagine why any well-informed author would agree to the proposed amendments. Wiley has now said, repeatedly, that we have it all wrong, that the proposed amendment is actually good for Bloomberg authors. (Here are our three earlier alerts on this matter: one, two, and three.)
This week, we discussed a proposal with Wiley to help sort things out. In a press release yesterday afternoon (you can find it below), Wiley rejected our proposal, but agreed to disregard any signed contract amendments at the author’s request. While this is progress, and we’re relieved that Bloomberg authors will have this opportunity, we still don’t know whether those authors will be given the clear information they need regarding how the changes will affect their royalties and other material terms of their book contracts.
Our proposal to Wiley, which we agreed not to share with the press without first informing Wiley (Wiley took it upon itself to share part of it with the press), had three parts:
1. After the conclusion of a standard Wiley royalty period, Wiley would allow an independent royalty auditor to review a reasonable sample of actual Wiley/Bloomberg royalty statements under the Wiley system and prepare a report on how the Wiley amendment affected authors’ royalties. The auditor would compute royalties under the Wiley amendment and under the original Bloomberg terms, to arrive at a clear, side-by-side comparison of the two. Wiley would disseminate that auditor’s report to its Bloomberg authors. This report would end the argument between Wiley and the Authors Guild: real data would replace rhetoric.
2. Wiley would then give its Bloomberg authors the chance to decide whether they wanted their original Bloomberg terms or the amended Wiley terms. Armed with the auditor’s report, truly informed consent would be possible.
3. Wiley would voluntarily agree to industry-standard reversion of rights sales thresholds for its Bloomberg authors. Bloomberg had no print-on-demand program, as we’ve previously noted and as Wiley freely admits. Bloomberg authors would have reasonably expected, therefore, that if their books didn’t sell enough to justify replenishing stock with a traditional print run, then the rights in the books would be revertible (otherwise, the definition of “out of stock” in the Bloomberg contract is gibberish). Fortunately, the industry has a well-accepted solution for applying print-on-demand technology to an author’s contract termination rights: minimum sales thresholds. Bloomberg authors are entitled to this routine contract term.
We regret Wiley didn’t take us up on our offer. This dispute, and the Bloomberg authors, need clear, objective information. In our view, a royalty audit was just the ticket.
Note to Bloomberg Authors: Don’t despair! Informed consent/informed rejection can still be yours! Sit tight, and stay tuned. We’ll be offering a free service to all Bloomberg authors that will provide you with a side-by-side comparison of your original Bloomberg contract and Wiley’s proposed amendments.
Want to make sure you don’t miss out? Send us an e-mail at email@example.com. Informed Consent/Informed Rejection. You’ll be the first to hear.
JOHN WILEY PRESS RELEASE
June 15, 2010
Wiley to Contact Bloomberg Authors and Explain Their Choices
Hoboken, NJ — Over the past week, a public dialogue has ensued about Wiley’s communications with the group of 117 authors joining us from Bloomberg. After a useful and productive exchange of ideas, we concluded that the best way to proceed is to call each and every one of these authors to make sure they understand the changes that we have proposed. If any of them are uncomfortable with our proposed changes, they can choose to retain their original Bloomberg contracts.
The Authors Guild recently proposed to Wiley that we wait until the next royalty period to complete a sample comparison of royalty payments to authors under the Wiley proposal and the existing Bloomberg contract. While we recognize the intent of their proposal, we believe our approach is more timely and in the best interests of our authors.
Wiley shares a common objective with the Authors Guild, to treat authors well and fairly. Our Company is well known for excellent relationships with our authors—a reputation we have earned and will work hard to retain.