Earlier today, Carolyn of Rosemary and Reading Glasses alerted me to the following post on John Scalzi’s blog: Dear The Toast and The Butter, Please Fix Your Rights Grab. As you may know, last month, one of my essays appeared on The Toast. I was thrilled to have it accepted and published there, but I refused to sign their contract, which as Scalzi and the folks at Writers Beware note requests not just all rights but moral rights as well. For me, this refusal was a gut instinct. My essay is an incredibly personal one, and the stories I tell in it have implications that affect many others in my family besides myself. There is absolutely no way in hell I would sell all rights to it to anyone, no matter how much money they offered me.
As a fiction writer, I’ve done a lot of research into what rights publications typically acquire and the language of contracts, so when I got The Toast’s contract and read it, I knew that the language was terrible for writers. In fact, it seemed like such an overreach to me that I asked a handful of friends about it before I sent a response. I am lucky enough to have several friends who are either lawyers or who know a lot about law, and they all advised me that the contract was a bad deal for me. Basically, if I had signed it, The Toast could do whatever they wanted with my work, from now until infinity. And if I, say, suddenly became a screenwriter and developed a movie based on my essay, they could sue me for it. Continue reading