Model Trade Book Contract



Publisher shall register the copyright to the Work, if not previously registered as a published work, identifying Author as the claimant (the copyright owner), as well as the author of the Work, within 90 days of initial publication of the Work, and Author will be provided with a true and complete copy of the registration certificate when received by Publisher. Publisher will, and will cause each of its sublicensees to, place a copyright notice in Author's name in each and every copy of the published Work, as follows:


© [Name] [year of publication]

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This section confirms that you retain ownership of the copyright even though you have licensed to the publisher certain rights under the contract. Copyright adheres to an original work of authorship as soon as it is first fixed in tangible form (i.e., when, and as, you write your manuscript). So long as the manuscript is not a "work made for hire" (see Section 2(d)), the writer is the copyright owner unless and until the writer "assigns" or transfers the copyright to a third party.


For trade books, the author should never assign the copyright in the manuscript to the publisher, but only grant licenses to certain uses. Unfortunately, some academic presses insist on a full assignment of copyright, and they will not negotiate this point. The Authors Guild strenuously objects to this practice. There is typically no justifiable reason for the publisher to require ownership of the copyright. In such a case, try to negotiate a good out-of-print clause (see Section 10) that clearly reassigns rights and doesn't just terminate the grant. And remember that you can still get your rights back in 35–40 years under Section 203 of the Copyright Act.


This clause also requires the publisher to register the copyright with the Copyright Office in your name within three months of publication. This requirement is very important for full copyright protection. If the work is within three months of publication (or before the work is infringed), the copyright owner is automatically entitled to recover statutory damages and attorneys' fees in cases of copyright infringement. Statutory damages are set by the court without you having to prove actual financial loss and can be as high as $150,000 per work infringed if the infringement was done willfully; for non-willful infringement, the statutory damages are between $750 and $30,000 per work infringed. Proving actual damages can be difficult and the actual losses often are too low to cover the cost of the lawsuit. Because federal litigation is so expensive, the ability to obtain statutory damages and attorneys' fees is often imperative for bringing a lawsuit.


Note that the date of registration is deemed the date a complete application for registration is filed with the Copyright Office.


Finally, this clause provides that the publisher will print a copyright notice bearing your name (as copyright owner) on all copies of the book, and it will include the same condition in its contracts with its licensees. Copyright notice is no longer required for works published in the U.S. after March 1, 1989, to receive full protection, but it aids in enforcing copyright and is standard practice. Copyright notice presumptively alerts infringers to the fact that they are infringing someone else's copyright, making it harder for them to justify the infringement; it also provides potential licensees with information on whom to contact for a license.