As-salamu Alaykum (peace be upon you), Dear Readers...
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Thursday, February 28, 2008
Q&A: Giving Away All Rights
I just wanna know the implications (for me as a writer) of such a copyright policy.
~A Sister in Islam
Answer: Before I answer, let me say that you should not consider my response the final say on this topic (or any other, for that matter). I can only give you my opinion based on the limited information posed in your question and my own perspective based on what I have seen elsewhere.
It is generally agreed among writers that you should try to retain as many rights as possible when submitting articles for publication. There are some exceptions, like when you are getting paid so much money that you don't mind the magazine taking certain rights. There is, for example, a big difference between getting paid $2000 and $20 for the same article. Another exception might be when the magazine has enough prestige that you are willing to compromise on rights for the honor and distinction of being published within its pages. And then there are certain work-for-hire agreements where the company is paying you to create a unique product that cannot be used elsewhere.
But, even if you are being paid $3 per word at a high-level magazine (wouldn't that be nice?), you still have the ability to negotiate. The worst they can really do is say no, and then you can make your final decision.
Retaining the rights to your articles means that you can sell them elsewhere as reprints so that you can multiply your returns on the same article several times over if you know which markets to target. I would not want to lose that opportunity.
It is a positive sign that the publication you are dealing with will cut you a portion of the proceeds if they manage to sell your articles elsewhere. I know of some very legitimate publications that do this. But these publications also have the prestige and high-pay factor that would make it worthwhile for most authors.
Does the publication you are dealing with have a good track-record when it comes to re-selling articles?
How will you know when they make a sale?
Are you okay with the articles potentially being offered for free to other publications?
Will you retain your by-line or lose all credit?
Do you, on your own, have the ability to re-sell the articles by targetting suitable markets?
Do they want all rights or shared rights (still allowing you to market your own work)?
Can you negotiate a higher fee in exchange for giving up more rights?
Insha'Allah, these questions may help you weigh the pros and cons of this deal. I also suggest reading this article for a detailed explanation of rights and copyrights as it applies to freelance writing.
Readers, kindly share your opinions below. Would you agree to such an arrangement?
Amel S. Abdullah
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