Copyright & Rights

Copyright refers to the ownership of a work. In the United States, when you write anything for yourself, you immediately “own” the original content. If you are writing under contract, what is known as “work for hire,” then the employer owns whatever you write.

The “rights” granted to a publisher or producer describe any limitations placed on the work by its owner. When you or your agent negotiate the rights to a work, you should know that the terms mean. Publishers and producers can obtain various rights, which they then enforce. For example, when you sell a screenplay to a producer or studio they will do everything they can to protect their rights to that film.

all rights: Similar to work for hire, the right to reproduce the content in any form belong to the owner. Usually, copyright is transferred and the author has no future claim on the work, beyond any royalties.

one-time rights: The publisher or producer has rights to the work one time, which might actually be for a period of limited time or a single publication. The rights then revert back to the author.

first rights or first serial rights: This is an exclusive first printing of a work. Often these rights are granted to a magazine for the printing of excerpts from longer works. This helps promote a novel or other long work.

reprint rights: Sometimes a work is sold after it has appeared somewhere else. Reprint rights are often negotiated among the author, the first publisher, and a second publisher. Paperback publishers often seek reprint rights, though increasingly paperback and hardcover editions are handled by a single large company with many imprints.

simultaneous rights: When a book is issued in more than one language, it is usually via simultaneous rights. Even television shows can be sold in this way, allowing for different versions of the same show in different regions or countries.

syndication rights:

electronic rights:

film rights:


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Writer: C. S. Wyatt
Updated: 08-Mar-2017
Editor: S. D. Schnelbach