What intellectual property rights do authors have?

The New York City area is known for its competitive publishing industry. When it comes to protecting your work as a writer, what do you need to know? If you’ve written a book, do you retain all copyright ownership and intellectual property rights?

The answer largely depends on the contract you sign with a publisher, states the World Intellectual Property Organization. Generally, creations of the mind – meaning novels, paintings, songs, photographs and the like – are the property of the person who created them. However, some employees have signed contracts that hand over intellectual property rights to their employers during the course of their employment. A couple of common examples would include articles written by a magazine employee for the publication, or an idea developed into a video game for a gaming company.

In many cases, you may retain the original copyright ownership for your book after signing a contract with a publisher. However, the publisher will usually gain the rights to publish the book and distribute it for a certain period of time. Your publisher may also have rights over other aspects related to the work, such as official games or toys based on a fantasy novel. You may retain the rights to certain aspects, including movie rights or international publishing. The terms of your contract may revert full copyright ownership back to you after several years, after which you may be free to pursue publishing with a different company – or the publisher may insist on having permanent ownership rights.

Publishing contracts are usually highly customizable, which can either work out in your favor or against it. It is important to go over the terms of a contract carefully to avoid confusion and the possibility of a breach of contract dispute. While the information in this blog is intended to be helpful, it should not be substituted for the advice of a lawyer.

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