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Are You an Eligible US Author?

30 Nov

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yosemite_27_bg_090604_SourcePDPhoto.org

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Starting in January 2013, some famous authors become eligible to reclaim their work, such as Stephen King, Judy Blume or John LeCarre.  US publishers face the loss of their back lists as authors begin using the Copyright Act to reclaim works they assigned years ago, for example these New York Times bestsellers from 1978:
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  • Jackie Oh  by Kitty Kelley
  • Illusions  by Richard Bach
  • Chesapeake  by James A. Michener
  • Robert Kennedy and his Times  by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.
  • A Time for Truth  by William E. Simon
  • Fools Die  by Mario Puzo
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Section 203 of the 1978 Copyright Act allows authors to cut away any contract after 35 years. It was set up to protect young artists who signed away future best sellers for a pittance.
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In many cases, before Section 203 came into law, the author had signed away their rights. The new law has fewer such loopholes and will also mean that nearly every book published after 1978 becomes eligible for termination. These new options mean authors have more leverage to walk away from their publishers altogether.
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Authors have a five-year window to exercise the right but must also provide advance notice at least two years but no more than 10 years beforehand.
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Many authors are simply unaware of their options, others may prefer to seek a sweeter deal with their publishers, rather than fly solo or risk a lawsuit. The Authors Guild and copyright lawyers can help with plain English explanations.

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