The E-Clause

The big news in publishing now is how to deal with e-readers. Along with that comes questions regarding publishing contracts, some of which are decades old. I’m guessing that’s the reason HarperCollins is suing Open Road Integrated Media over the latter’s e-book edition of Jean Craighead George’s children’s book classic Julie of the Wolves. HarperCollins originally published the book in 1972 ,and Open Road (founded by former HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman) came out with its e-book edition in October.

Although Open Road says they were granted rights by author George, HarperCollins counters:

Our contract with Jean Craighead George, the author of Julie of the Wolves, grants us the exclusive digital rights to the book, and Open Road’s e-book edition violates our rights. We intend to take all appropriate steps to protect our exclusive rights under copyright against infringement, in this case and in any instances that might occur in the future.”

It sounds like someone–the author, the agent, one of the publishers–really dropped the ball on this one, and I don’t think this will be a rare lawsuit in the years to come. Publishing contracts can be hard enough to understand without trying to update each one with regard to new technology. I’m curious to see how this will pan out.

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