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Different Types Of Literary Rights

Updated on October 10, 2013

The Legalities of a Written Work

This article is not for those who are uninterested in publishing your work, whether it be a poem, article or book.

However, for those who do have interest in publication, there are certain rights that you must consider. As the author of your work, you hold all rights to your work after you finish the writing stage. Once you move to the marketing stage and actually find someone willing to publish, you must be aware of the different definitions of rights in the publishing field. Knowledge is power when it comes time to negotiate with a publisher, so this article is designed to arm you with that knowledge so you can make an informed decision.

As a general rule of thumb, the more rights that you sign away, the less control you have over your work and the money that you are paid. It is all well and good to get published. Just be sure you understand the business side of any transaction before signing on the dotted line.

Writing Contract
Writing Contract | Source

Thoughts on writers' rights

Know your rights as you submit for publication
Know your rights as you submit for publication | Source

FIRST SERIAL RIGHTS

This offer is to a newspaper or magazine to publish your work for the first time and first time only. Many times the words “North American” precede First Serial to specify a particular geographical location.

This does not mean it cannot be published in some other newspaper or magazine. It simply means that you are promising that the contracted agent will be the first to have you work appear in their publication.

ONE TIME RIGHTS

This is the least-limiting type of rights to be granted. It is often called “simultaneous rights” because you have the freedom to sign a contract with one or more publications for the same work. There are, in fact, no limitations to these rights at all.

For example, if you write an article about preparing for a roadtrip, you could sell it to magazines in all fifty states if you signed one time rights with each publication.

SECOND SERIAL REPRINT RIGHTS

These are rights given to a newspaper or magazine to publish your work after it has already appeared in another source. These are often called “nonexclusive rights” and they mean exactly what they sound like.

ALL RIGHTS

In essence, if you sign an “all rights” contract for one of your pieces, you are signing over all ownership of that work forever. Once you have signed away all rights, you have no ownership or control of that piece of writing, and any monies gained after you have signed away your rights will never find their way to your bank account.

In today’s competitive world, there is very little reason to ever sign all of your rights away. If it is good enough to sell to one publication, it is good enough to sell to another, so avoid at all costs signing away all rights.

ELECTRONIC RIGHTS

This is the new kid on the block with regards to publishing rights, and it refers to a wide range of electronic media including online magazines, interactive games, databases and online anthologies.

If you feel the need to sign away electronic rights, specify exactly which electronic media the contract covers.

SUBSIDIARY RIGHTS

Usually this refers only to books written, and it covers other rights outside of the book publication. For instance, if your book is made into a movie or television series, those would fall under subsidiary rights. Audiotapes, translation rights, and promotional materials like tshirts, mugs and posters would also fit into this category.

Keep in mind that you need to negotiate for a percentage of sales from the licensing of these rights, and you must also specify in the contract who controls the rights, either the author or the publisher.

DRAMATIC, TELEVISION AND MOTION PICTURE RIGHTS

As it appears, these are subsidiary rights, often purchased as a one-year option for a percent of the total price.

For example, after you have written a book, you are approached by a movie producer who is interested in selling your idea to a motion picture company for production. They would sign a one year option with you, meaning they have one year control of your book options, during which time they will try to find a motion picture company willing to make the movie. If, after one year, there is no movie deal, you are free to sll these rights to a new company.

Look out for number one when signing  contracts
Look out for number one when signing contracts | Source

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Your First Responsibility Is to Yourself


Writers are….well, writers! By nature they are not marketing experts and they rarely have any legal background. The good news is that you know how to write well enough so that someone is interested in buying your work. The bad news is you need to be aware of legalities so you don’t get taken to the proverbial cleaners.

If you find yourself in the enviable position of having found a publisher interested in you, make sure you understand what you are signing on that contract. If you do not understand the terminology or meaning of your rights, seek counsel before signing away your rights. You worked hard to get to that place. Now it is time to reap the rewards.

2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

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    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Freelance writers must be aware of this or suffer the consequences. Thank you Dianna and have a rousing day my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Hopefully you are right, Daisy. Thank you for sharing this.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      Filing this for future reference. As you say, writers must be aware of their rights so they do not lose vuluable content and rewards.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 3 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Bill,

      Thanks for publishing this very informative article. I'm certain you have helped many of your fellow writers.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Glimmer, it probably happens far too often. A little knowledge now can save someone a ton of money in the future.

      Thank you my friend and have a great weekend.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      Wow - I had no idea there were all of these "rights" associated with writing a book. This is extremely useful for people because I can imagine how easy it is for someone, who doesn't know this info, to sign their rights away. Shared all around!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you again DDE! It's so nice to have you back with us and I do appreciate you greatly.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Very important and writers must read this hub the information is most helpful and true

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      My pleasure, Kathi!

    • Fossillady profile image

      Kathi 4 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      Much appreciated Billy . . .

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Deb, most people don't know the difference in these rights. You are very welcome my friend.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Billy, I had no idea! Thanks so much for this information, so we have something to arm ourselves with. I still have not been published, but with your knowledge that you're imparting, it might be a good thing. Thanks again.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Heidi, I agree....I do custom content and I sign away all rights and that's fine with me.....that is the general understanding in that type of writing and really that's as it should be.

      Thanks for adding that point to the discussion.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 4 years ago from Chicago Area

      This is often a sticky issue when you're hired to write custom content. Often you will be signing away all rights. Sometimes it doesn't matter. If it's custom content for a client, it's irrelevant for anything else. If you think you might want rights to use custom content for yourself, make sure both all rights are clearly defined in your contract with your client.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      chinared, thank you and here's hoping your next contract turns out better for you.

    • profile image

      chinared 4 years ago

      Informative hub, Bill. Bottom line is, I agree contracts are a completely different animal, and should not be signed without legal assistance. My first publishing contract is proof of that... hahaha. Voted up and helpful

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Vicki, that is my hope as well. I would love to hear that many of you got published....I'm rooting for you my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mark, the time will come, buddy, and then this will come in handy.

      Thanks as always, Mark!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Faith, for those lucky enough to get published, it is vitally important to know these rights. Let's hope we both have to worry about this soon. :)

      Blessings to you my friend

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      drbj, kind words my friend and I thank you. I have all these facts inside my brain; might as well share them. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Coffee, it better be one heck of a great contract for anyone to sign away all rights. It's just not necessary in today's world of literature. :) Thank you for the visit my friend.

    • profile image

      Vickiw 4 years ago

      I just love that we have you to call upon with all things written for he public eye! You o so much research that it is quite mind boggling! Thank you so much, Bill. Hopefully I will be able to get to the stage of needing to use this.

    • Curiad profile image

      Mark G Weller 4 years ago from Lake Charles, LA.

      This is very useful and valuable information Bill. I have not gotten to the point of publishing anything other than one "Test" ebook on amazon, however when I do this will be on my mind.

      Mark

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

      This is really important legal information you have shared here, Bill!

      A lot of writers do not think of all the legalities, but solely concentrate on writing, but writers do need to know such to protect their rights as writers and what is best for them as writers too.

      Peace and blessings, Faith Reaper

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 4 years ago from south Florida

      Important information for any writer, Bill. Thanks for sharing all these facts you have gleaned over time. Your ability as a researcher is only eclipsed by your talent as a writer and teacher. Trust me!

    • coffeegginmyrice profile image

      Marites Mabugat-Simbajon 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario

      It is very interesting to know these things from you, billybuc. Signing an "All Rights" transaction is putting one's self and his literary work within a danger zone. You get trapped; there is no way out to explore and expand beyond its boundaries.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Good morning PS. The weather is not lovely this morning but we have gorgeous weather on the way by mid-week, and then we will live up to our claim of being God's Country. :)

      Thanks for stopping by my friend. Have a great day.

      blessings and .a big hug

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Chitrangada, you are very correct. Most writers are not aware of these things and yet they are so important.

      Thank you my friend and blessings to you always.

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Anna! It really is my pleasure to help other writers who have been so good to me. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Gypsy, if this is helpful then fantastic. I hope you sell many of your beautiful poems. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      My pleasure, Martin, and thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      My pleasure, Alicia, and thank you as always for dropping by my Olympia site. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Vinaya, that is why I write these hubs. Most writers do not know this information and it is very important to be armed with this information. Thank you for stopping by on this Sunday.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      vkwok, thank you and hopefully some day you will sell that story of yours and need this advice.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I think if you have the money, Jackie, it's a good idea to copyright, although as soon as you write something and put your name to it, it is supposedly protected by copyright law....supposedly. :) However, new laws come into effect once you sell your work to a publication.

      Anyway, best wishes to you and thank you!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

      The rights issue is one that anyone who is considering publishing needs to carefully consider. Truthfully I knew of a few of these but not most. You have shared an abundance of important info that we need to keep in mind.Thanks for sharing as usual, Billy.

      Have a lovely Sunday out in WA state.

      It is gorgeous this morning in Florida

      Angels are on the way to you and your family :) ps

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      This is a very vital information shared by you. Most of us are not aware of these Literary rights. Thanks for enlightening, with this useful information.

      Voted up and shared!

    • Anna Haven profile image

      Anna Haven 4 years ago from Scotland

      Interesting and well researched hub.

      You really should be in some kind of consultancy role, if you are not already.

      Thankyou! Anna :)

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Voted up. Thanks you Bill for this useful and much needed info. Passing this on.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this. Useful Information

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is a very useful hub that I will read many times, Bill. The information is very important. Thank you for sharing it.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

      Billy,

      your hubs on writing are wonderful. There is so much to learn from an experienced and published writer like you.

      As a writer, we should know about the rights, otherwise we will be cheated.

      Thanks for sharing this useful and informative hub.

    • vkwok profile image

      Victor W. Kwok 4 years ago from Hawaii

      A really great hub that looks into the legal stuff with writing. Thanks!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Very interesting and I did not know any of it so thanks. For poems and stories I copyright those through the US online and it is only $35, and can be done with pictures too. I have never read anything about any limit either so I always do collections. I just hear too much of people having their stuff stolen, so if they want to take mine off and make big bucks I can win it in the end, lol.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      LOL...Joe, you had me laughing with the "bitchin' weekend" comment. I am relaxing my friend, and staying away from the computer as much as possible.

      A movie in my future? Well wouldn't that be a lovely surprise? I wonder if I could play myself? LOL I probably wouldn't do a good job of it.

      Thank you my friend and I do mean friend. I hope you are having a bitchin' weekend as well.

      Aloha,

      bill

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      Bill, this was very good information, and I'm with Kathryn in hoping that when I'm asked to sign a contract someday, my mind's eye will be winking at you, thanking you for providing me with great tips about writers' rights. Now, back at you--in the short time I've known you and enjoyed your massive body of work (in a variety of media), I know without a doubt that there's a movie in your future. It may be based on either a book you write, maybe even an autobiography, or perhaps a biography someone writes about you. That is my wish for you because you've done so very much in a relatively short time (approximately fifteen months) to help so many. Anyway, for now, thank you specifically for this hub's valuable information. Continue to have a bitchin' weekend, my friend! Aloha!

      Joe

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Theresa, I really hope you do that. What a lovely tribute it would be to her. ;) Thank you dear friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      MsDora, it is my pleasure. Thank you once again.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Annie, I hope you do that some day...truly! :) Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Mary, you don't have me fooled. That skull isn't as thick as you would have us believe. :) Thank you my friend and have a great weekend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Lizzy, for a small fee I'll be glad to handle your affairs. :)

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      HI Bill - I don't plan on publishing (except maybe my dissertation),but I do hope to get my Polish grandmother's poetry published so this will be important information to have. :) Thank you, thank you. Theresa

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for this very relevant information. It is vital that we understand these things up front.

    • Annie Miller profile image

      Annie Miller 4 years ago from Wichita Falls, Texas

      I am storing this away just in case ... you never know, I just may decide to go for broke and publish my magnum opus one day!

      Thanks, Bill!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Here we have another example of the teacher teaching the students what they need to know. Nice job teacher. I will, of course, need to read this more than once to have all the little nuances sink into my thick skull but as luck would have it I probably will never need the information. However, it is still good to store in my memory banks.

      Voted up, useful, interesting and shared.

    • Radcliff profile image

      Liz Davis 4 years ago from Hudson, FL

      How 'bout I just send things over to you before I sign them?

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Lurana! I hope it helps you somewhere down the road.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Debbie, thank you! I hope you are having a good weekend.

    • MrsBrownsParlour profile image

      Lurana Brown 4 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

      Very useful, pertinent information. Thank you! This is one I'll come back to whenever I get to that point.

    • profile image

      DJ Anderson 4 years ago

      More good information.

      Thanks for sharing, Bill.

      DJ.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      No doubt about it on content writing and I'm fine with that, Sha! I don't like it anyway so I'm fine with not having my name on it. LOL

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      That's okay, Paul! Just scared me a bit. OMG, wouldn't it be a laugh and a half having MJ and Suzie in the neighborhood? What a howl that would be. :)

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 4 years ago from Central Florida

      Great information Bill. Fortunately, I maintain all rights to my poetry book. Same with the new site I will be writing for, examiner.com. However, SEO and content writing is rarely the same. You're a ghost behind the scenes and your employer takes all the credit!

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Bill.....I've told you....I'm multi-faceted, multi-lingual, multi-talented.(Aw, just SHUT up, Effer!)....I really CAN behave when called for. The only difference for me... is that I'm the one who decides when it's called for.

      I 'spose that was a bit "sedate," for me. Sorry if I scared you. I have my serious moments, but they're not my favorite.

      If you insist, I will never send you a sedate comment again.

      OH! and I agree with you 100% about MJ...(babycakes).....isn't he positively amazing? and don't you wish he lived next door? He AND our cute SuzyHQ!!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      MJ, I think you are made for Hollywood. Looking at the crap that they produce lately, you would be an industry leader, heads and shoulders above the rest. :) You could have your own reality show....The Car Guru....you could have grease monkeys battling each other with wrenches, winner take all. A Battle Royal in a wire cage....it would have a great following no matter which country is showed in. Think about the royalties my friend.

      Give Suzie a hug for me. As for Coco.....I think we both know who runs the household.

      Thanks for the laugh my friend.

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you for the kind words, Janine. It's just the teacher in me screaming to get out. LOL I hope you have a peaceful weekend without too much drama. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Paula, that was a bit sedate for you. LOL I had to check to make sure that you wrote it.

      Thank you! I do think this is very important for anyone thinking about publishing. For the casual writer, not important at all. :)

      I appreciate you stopping by my friend. I hope you have an enjoyable weekend in western NY.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      I agree that you are truly becoming a pro at this and seriously you should look into going to business doing this. Seriously, so much wonderful information here and thank you for it. I have voted, shared and pinned to refer back to and truly appreciate it. Have a great weekend!! :)

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      bill....Wow! Extremely useful and informative, to say nothing of absolutely necessary. A bow of gratitude to you. There is NO way, your average person, OR writer can be familiar with what you share, here. What's more, you have made it quite clear that any writer contemplating being "published"....must practically commit this to memory. (I am definitely printing this up to keep with my notebook of "Vital Info."

      I thank you! As ALWAYS, wonderful work!........UP++

    • profile image

      mjkearn 4 years ago

      Hi Sir Bill

      Just when you thought it was safe to scribble again, I'm back. Yoh, down here that's right, it's me the short guy that's kicking your shins.

      So let's get started and highlight the discrimination in this article. Yep I said discrimination and in this world of all things PC though between us we know that's BS how can you whiter on about all things right when I've been all things left all my life. It's a little unfair, no not me the article.

      It would be my worst nightmare to get the call from a publisher. I mean someone who would actually want to license scribbles from me. They would have to be on more drugs than me.

      I was getting excited about the "All Rights" section in your article thinking bloody great I can sign everything over and then I'm not responsible for the impending lawsuits or the crap I wrote. Then you dash all hopes of an easy path to the light by saying I can't have the money. I mean Sir Bill isn't there any justice.

      Thankfully at the end you redeemed yourself and mentioned Hollywood. Thank goodness there is light and hope in the depths of despair. A Blockbuster movie, inspired by my ramblings, and the sort of people and corporation's who love nothing better than brown envelope deals and paying people like me to disappear back into the closet and never be heard of again. Just the way I like it. Bring it on and plenty of it.

      I mean I've already left one country on advice so there's plenty more countries that I could leave.

      About the "responsible to me" line. You know that I'm responsible for Suzie first and then Coco so you'll have to take that one up with her and you know she is well fit for explaining things so good luck.

      BTW: Thanks for confirming what I've been saying all along about me not being a writer or trying to be. You say writers don't have a legal background and since I have a fairly comprehensive one then I can't be writer. I know surprising isn't it?

      Another great article and invaluable advice from someone who has been there and got several T-shirts.

      Wishing you and Bev and great weekend.

      MJ

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Kathryn! Hopefully this will prevent some writers from making some costly mistakes.

      I appreciate you visiting this weekend. Have a great day, Kathryn.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Susan! I appreciate you stopping by.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you manatita.....and I'm thinking of doing exactly that. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Carol, I'm glad you did your research and took care of those rights. Hopefully this hub will arm some other writers with enough information to protect themselves.

      Thank you my friend and enjoy your weekend.

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 4 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      This is a lot of useful information that I hope to need in the future. Thanks for sharing this with us! I'm sure the terms can get awfully confusing.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Saving and pinning for future use. Thanks Bill

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 4 years ago from london

      Well said, Bill.

      You are becoming a pro. Why not set up business.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      When I had my last book published I did check on rights..And I have all rights including ebook, downloads etc. Good thing to share here for those who are not aware. Putting in my writing pin section..which should be called the BIllyBuc Pin Department.