Thursday, June 3, 2010

First North American Serial Rights: What's the Story?

Dear Rich: I have a number of photos that I have sold to magazines 20 years ago. These were sold as "First North American Serial Rights Only", and marked with a copyright symbol and year. A couple of the stories that these photos appeared in are now being reprinted in a book. My assumption is that the magazine publisher does not have the right to sell the photos used in the original magazine story to a book publisher without my permission. Am I correct? Yes, you are correct. As the American Society of Journalists explains at their site, First North American Serial Rights refers to a one-time right to first publish in North America. (It makes the Dear Rich Staff nostalgic just to hear this term as few, if any, publishing contracts still contain this limited right.) If you haven't already done so, you should register your photos with the U.S. Copyright Office. (This circular explains how to register groups of published photos.) Whether you want to expedite the registration depends on whether you believe you'll be litigating. (Probably, you'll be okay with a regular registration.) You should, of course, contact the book publisher and seek a fair compensation for the re-use.