SCBWI member and entertainment lawyer Bonnie Berry LaMon, shared her expertise with Hollywood Schmooze attendees on March 20th.
Her topic: Key Contract Phrases and Their Meanings.
“First time authors are generally so happy to get a contract that they sign first and deal with the details later,” LaMon said. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, LaMon also has an MFA in Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Like many schmoozers, she is an aspiring author. But she has practiced entertainment law for over twenty years.LaMon distributed a handout of important contract terms which she discussed in detail. Some of the
“Be aware of terms such as ‘Standard”, LaMon stated. “It is often designed to convince the reader that the terms contained are typical to all contracts. It doesn’t mean that some of those terms cannot be modified, negotiated or even deleted.”Grant of Rights: “This is the list of rights that author conveys to the publisher,” she said. “The rights
may be exclusive, non-exclusive, perpetual or for a designated period of time.”
Term: “Pay attention to phrases such as in perpetuity, any and all media, and life of copyright,” she suggested. “Life of copyright means your life plus seventy years. Any and all media may include new media that hasn’t been created yet. You can’t always anticipate how your creative project will end up. Most emerging authors don’t envision their book as a Wii game or an IPad app.”Territory: LaMon noted that typical contracts limit the territory to the United States and Canada but
“some publishers want worldwide rights, meaning that the writer cannot make separate deals to see
the book anywhere else in the world.”
Format: LaMon noted that “the definition of book has changed because of technological and distribution methods. A grant of primary book publishing rights is generally defined as hardcover, trade paperback, mass market and direct mail. Traditionally, electronic books and audio books were considered subsidiary rights but now many publishers include them in the primary rights definition.
Subsidiary Rights (aka secondary rights): LaMon explained that these are rights the publisher may want from the author in addition to the primary rights described above. These rights include: Book Clubs, Stage, Motion Picture, Television, Merchandising, Foreign Translation, Periodical Rights and other commercial platforms. Usually the publisher licenses them to a third party and splits the revenue in pre-negotiated percentages with the author. LaMon spoke at length about why some of these rights should not automatically be given to the publisher, and if they are, why the splits should favor the author, and what kind of approval rights and other controls the author should request.“The agent’s job is to get a good deal,” she said. “My job is to look for the pitfalls in the
contract, and to do my best to eliminate them.”
~~ Post writen by Jean Perry
Hope this gives you a taste of the outstanding learning that goes on at the Hollywood Schmooze.
We meet the third Thursday of every month near Hollywood and we welcome new members.
See you at the Schmooze,
Deborah Fletcher Blum and Jean Perry