Sunday, January 15, 2012

Who Owns the Ebook Rights to Decades-Old Titles?

The title of this blog is a question posed by journalist Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg in a recent article for The Wall Street Journal. It also works as a follow up to my blog last week about the importance of bequeathing your intellectual property.

The latest battle for ebook rights involves HarperCollins and a company called Open Road Integrated Media Inc., whose owner is a former HarperCollins CEO. Open Road released an ebook version of a popular children’s book published in 1972 called Julie of the Wolves. (To date, 3.8 million copies have been sold). HC is suing for copyright infringement, claiming they still have rights to the book, even though the original contract was made long before the digital age flourished.

It’s a huge issue. As one publisher noted, ebook revenue for publishers could be as much as 40% by the end of 2012. HC states that the ebook is directly competitive with the print book, which is still being sold. They also indicate that they had planned to bring out an ebook version. A spokesman for Open Road states that HC is trying to intimidate authors and grab rights that were nonexistent several decades ago.

And this is the crux of the matter. If there were no clauses in an author’s contract addressing ebook and other digital rights, does a publisher have rights to those books? Do family members? Some publishers are claiming that they do. Since big bucks are at stake, you can expect this issue to be played out many times in the near future. To read more, go to

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK, now available for iphones, iPads, and iPodTouch at Also available in paperback at and on Kindle at

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