Absent a Contract, Who Owns the Rights?

Hi Angela,

I am thinking of publishing an eBook and P.O.D. anthology of my personal blog. I’ve been writing it for 10 years and it’s quite popular. However, for the past three years, some of those posts appeared first on another blog. They paid me for those.

Do you know who owns the copyright on the posts? Do I need permission from them to use the posts in the book? I never signed any work-for-hire contract with them – does that make a difference? I also have written permission to re-post them on other sites as long as they appeared on the other blog first. Does that make a difference?

I would, of course, give attribution to the original publisher in the book.

Do you have any experience in this area? Depending on the answer, I can decide whether to move forward with the book (and to consider using BookLocker.com, of course).

Thanks & best regards,

In the absence of a firm, “all rights” or “work-for-hire” agreement, or even an email spelling out the rights agreement when the assignments were made, I would assume the publication only purchased “first rights.” Of course, “assuming” is not a good idea in business. Years pass, memories fade a bit. They may have a completely different opinion about the rights to those pieces and you need to know their thoughts now rather than later. If rights were never discussed, they would have a hard time convincing a court that they own all rights to the pieces. But, you don’t want it to ever come to that. It’s best to clear the air now so everybody’s in agreement.

You should notify them in writing that you are planning to publish a book of your work and that you will be attributing them as the original publishers of each respective piece in your book. That way, if they are going to complain, you’ll know up front (meaning they won’t be surprised later). If you don’t hear back from them, contact them again so you at least have an acknowledgement that they received your communication. Do not proceed until you have heard from them.

I strongly suspect they will support your efforts, and not have any problem with you publishing the pieces as long as you cite them as the original publisher, per your original agreement.

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