– Mark E. Smith

According to a tendentious, borderline dishonest Jonathan Galassi, the publisher of your book:

  • Picked a font for you. (Any of about ten fonts, most of them ill-drawn outline versions of old hot-metal faces. No mention of actual book design or typography, which always happen by rote, usually in Quark and often in Quark for Windows.)
  • Offered several rounds of line- and copy-editing. (Not anymore.)
  • Commissioned and published cover art (for which they have limited reproduction rights, not ownership).
  • “Produced” large-print and audiobook formats. (The copyright owner has the exclusive right to produce those – that is, authors grant such rights to publishers. Publishers only occasionally bother, so the claim that this is in some way commonplace is a falsehood. Others have the right to create alternate formats without asking permission.)

All of these are formats. To Galassi, each is additionally an “edition”: “For each book, Random House exploited its edition in every then-conceivable format” (emphasis added). The publisher has rights to all editions and formats, Galassi implies. It does not; the author holds all rights and merely agrees to grant some of them to a publisher. (Alternate formats excepted.)

What this guy is really saying is that something as rudimentary and mechanical as checking an author’s spelling confers rights to the publisher functionally equivalent to the author’s. (Line-editing constitutes a derivative work.) The publisher becomes coauthor just by helping the author out. It only stands to reason, then, that the publisher gets to use every “edition” (or its fraternal twin, every “format”) to make money off the author’s back.

Not so fast, Jonno. There’s a word for this and it’s “copyright infringement.” Or, if that’s one word too many for you, try this one on for size: “Hubris.”

See you in court?

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2010.01.12 13:52. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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