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World Rights in Book Publishing Agreements

August 18, 2021

Mitch Tuchmann - Copyright Lawyer Durham - Intellectual Property Attorney
Insight by Attorney Mitch Tuchman

A publisher typically tries to negotiate for “world rights”, asking an author to authorize an exclusive, worldwide license to exercise all of the author’s rights under copyright and the ability to authorize sublicensees to exercise one or more of those rights (e.g., foreign language translation) throughout the duration and territory of the publishing agreement. While this may serve the author’s purposes, it may be more advantageous to limit the territorial rights granted to a publisher.

Before agreeing to a broadly stated authorization that grants the publisher world rights, the author should know what the prospective publisher has accomplished for writers who came before.  Ascertain whether your publisher has consummated deals for such things as foreign language editions or the option or sale of dramatic adaptation rights.  If not, the author should license such rights to the publisher sparingly, if at all.  Negotiate a reversion of any right not exploited by the publisher or its sublicensee within a reasonable period. 

This is the 5th article in a series intended to introduce readers to publishing agreements. Other articles in this series include:

New to Publishing Agreements? What You Need to Know
How Long Should a Book Publishing Agreement Endure
Understanding Book Publishing Agreements: Territory
Book Publishing Agreements: Copyright Ownership & Licenses