In countries like Australia and the UK, authors’ rights are governed almost entirely by publishing contracts. But what do those contracts actually say?

As part of the Author’s Interest Project, Joshua Yuvaraj and I have gone through the Australian Society of Authors’ archive, spanning almost 60 years of publishing contracts.

In this keynote for the Small Press Network‘s 2018 Independent Publishing Conference, I draw on that work to show how publishers (often inadvertently) harm author interests. They do so by taking rights they don’t need and won’t exploit, with inadequate provision for giving them back if they are no longer needed. I focus particularly on problems with ‘out of print’ clauses. Ultimately, I make the case for awarding authors inalienable rights that apply regardless of what their contracts say – to help authors get paid, free up rights to new uses, and help make sure books can continue to be read.

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