Somebody published me, and didn't tell me about it!

Here I thought Medusa was my first book, and it turns out that a lengthy article I wrote twenty years ago has been anthiologized in a book for almost twenty years.

I’m grateful for the publicity, but nobody ever told me. It goes without saying that I never saw a penny in royalties. I’ve asked my surviving co-author, and he says that nobody ever asked HIS permission, either.

I think I’m more annoyed that I haven’t been told than about anything else. The book has been described as a “best seller” in its field (which is pretty specialized, so we’re not talking about huge sales here). The company thart originally published it has gotten out of the business, but the book is about to be published by another (major) press.

So what do I do? I’d like to see it in print, but I have a feeling that if I start raising a ruckus about permissions they’ll halt publication because they’ll start worrying about the other contributors complaining about the same thing. On the other hand, shouldn’t I complain if somebody publishes me without my say-so?

What do the authors and editors on the SDMB have to suggest?

WAG time.

Well, if it’s an article you published to a magazine or journal, they might have partial copyright, right? Is it possible the publishers of this book contacted the journal/magazine publishers and got permission from them (rather than from you, the right person)?

There is such a thing as copyright infringement, and I would think they’d need to contact you in some way before reprinting your stuff. Maybe in the book it says “Originally published in…”?


Cal – wait until they DO publish it and THEN sue. :smiley:

If they are repulishing the book until the same title, it would be fairly odd for them to just leave out your essay though.

There is also the matter of how much of the copyright you maintained originally and, of course, statute of limitations may come into play in some strange way.

Who was it that said: “Writing for free is like kissing your sister”?

Unless I’m mistaken, most magazines get “first serial rights” with the initial publication of an article. This means that they have the right to publish it once, in their publication. After that, other publications have to purchase the rights from the author or his/her representative. The original publication has no right to sell or authorize subsequent printings.

I believe that’s how it works, anyway.


I’d like to see if anyone else has comments before this sinks into oblivion.

Cal, I’d suggest calling your lawyer before you do anything.

Twenty years? Damn. And no one ever told you?

Is there any chance you signed a copyright transfer form when you wrote submitted the article the first time? If so, I don’t think you have any further rights here.

Nope. Didn’t sign away my rights. I’m not sure what my co-authors may have signed, though.

I made a slight mistake. The Article came out almost twenty years ago, but the Book was published about ten years ago. Doesn’t change the situation.