Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Agency Contracts -- A Writer's Beware Note

Victoria Strauss on her Writer's Beware blog has written an important post on The Interminable Agency Clause. As usual, I recommend that you read the whole thing.

To quote Victoria:

An "interminable agency clause" (sometimes called an "interminable rights clause" or a "perpetual agency clause") is language inserted into an author-agency agreement whereby the agency claims the right to remain the agency of record not just for the duration of any contracts it negotiates, but for the life of copyright. In other words, once the agency sells your book, it has the right to represent that book for as long as the book is in copyright (currently your life plus 70 years).

She explains why this could be a problem. The short version of the post is:

Many professional writers' groups warn against interminable agency clauses....

Trouble is, the language can be subtle enough that it's easy to overlook or misunderstand. Several of the authors who sent me contracts were aware of the warnings against interminable agency language, but still failed to spot it.

She gives several examples of different ways this clause might be stated. As always, thanks to Victoria for pointing these problems out.

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