As of 1 January 2013 the Copyright Act of 1978 Section 203 comes into play. This provides for “Termination Rights” where authors can reclaim their works from their publishers after thirty-five years. These old backlist titles are a cash cow for many publishers and litigation lawyers are expecting a flood of complaints from unhappy authors.
There are some big names whose books will be eligible for termination such as Stephen King, Judy Blume, M.M. Kaye, and John LeCarre. Digital publishing is a new innovation since 1978, and that gives these authors an extra impetus to reclaim their rights and self-publish, cutting out the middle man altogether.
Unfortunately the rules for reclamation of rights are messy and complicated and obviously publishers are not going to help authors leave them. Litigation lawyers are anticipating a train wreck as authors try to fulfill the conditions required. Then there’s the added complication of what happens to well-known authors who have sold movie rights etc.
It should be fascinating to see how this unfolds.
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