Copyright Qs & As: Rights Protected by Copyright

5.1 Question: My organization publishes a print newsletter for circulation to our clients. We have been publishing this newsletter for 10 years. The articles are written by freelance writers. Five years ago, we instituted our first written agreements with these writers to ensure that we had electronic rights in the articles in addition to print rights. We are now posting the entire newsletter, every issue since its inception, on our Web site. Do we have the right to do this?

Answer: You have the print and electronic rights in all newsletters published in the past five years. However, without any written or oral agreements (written is always better) for the first five years of publication, you should return to the freelance authors to obtain electronic rights for posting those earlier newsletters on your Web site. For any articles in which you are unable to obtain electronic rights, omit those articles from Web site publication. (2006-3)


  1. Lesley says:

    Hi Lynne, you need to find the contract you signed for the original book. Only the contract will define out of print and in what circumstances the rights revert back to you.

  2. Lynne Fitzhugh says:

    I am a US author (DC) with a 1999 book published in Canada that I believe is out of print and for which I retained copyright. I’m about to publish a 2nd book under om own imprint and would like to have publication rights on book #1 revert to me. How can I find out what rules apply? I’d like to know what my rights are before approaching the publisher but don’t know where to begin looking or whom to ask. Do I need a lawyer, or is there a simple answer, as in ‘authors may reclaim publication right x years after publication, or after book goes out of print.’ Would appreciate any advice! Thanks.

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