Reprint rights reap rewards!

LEST ANYONE THINK that re-use fees for short writings are measured in pennies, a recent experience shows otherwise. When a freelance learned that a mutual fund company featured in his recent article in a personal finance magazine had just ordered 30,000 reprints, he protested that he had never licensed reprint rights to the magazine.

The editor confessed that the publisher had sold reprints of two earlier articles by the writer as well, and grudgingly offered $300 to cover all three deals.

After a few go-arounds with a company lawyer, the writer settled for roughly half the take -- netting him US$8,000 -- plus a written promise of half of any future reprint fees earned by the articles.

A 50-50 split is the standard arrangement when reprint rights are granted to a publisher; this publisher got off easy, since it had no right to make the deal in the first place. Commercial bulk reprints can be pretty profitable for publishers and, often, for middlemen who arrange the deals.

Freelances who casually sign over reprint rights for free, or who let publishers act as though they own articles when reprint purchasers come calling, are not doing themselves or their wallets any favours.

BY Dan Carlinsky

ASJA, New York

May/Jun 1997

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