Rights Management

Publisher’s guide to contributors and their rights

Magazine and newspaper publishers are always on the lookout for high quality, relevant content, and writers are always keen to get their work out in front of an audience. Both sides are often happy to do this on an informal basis (sometimes for free), particularly when starting out. But even when the relationship is an ad hoc one, it can really help to establish some ground rules – for the benefit of both parties.

Lis Ribbans, former managing editor of the Guardian, and consultant to NLA media access, gives the following advice:

Be clear about who owns the copyright

It is important to understand who owns the copyright for a piece of writing, and what rights they may want to give to another party to copy or distribute it.

In cases where publishers do not acquire copyright, they should ensure they have written agreements with contributors that cover rights granted over the work – for example, concerning where the piece may be published and licensed, and the levels of exclusivity around usage.

What should publishers do?

  • Ensure they have written agreements with contributors covering rights ownership, distribution, licensing and exclusivity;
  • Review their agreements with recent contributors, and put agreements in writing if necessary;
  • Include reference to the agreement in any contributor payments;
  • Consider how terms and conditions for prospective contributors – both professionals and those submitting user-generated content — can be made as clear and visible as possible;
  • Get in touch with us if you have any questions on contributor rights management.