Grievance Committee Alert: Contract Safeguards Under Siege
There is a recent tendency of some publishers to change their contracts in manners that are decidedly unfavorable to authors. We have had and are having particular issues with indemnity clauses. Griefcom urges all of you to compare any offered contract to the SFWA Model Contract and to ask for changes in any clauses that are non-beneficial to you.
Griefcom especially wishes to draw you attention to these model indemnity clauses:
The Author will indemnify the Publisher against any loss, injury, or damage finally sustained (including any legal costs or expenses and any compensation costs and disbursements paid by the Publisher) occasioned to the Publisher in connection with or in consequence of an intentional breach of one or more the foregoing warranties, for which the Publisher has no coverage under its insurance policies. The Publisher will add the Author to any insurance policy it may have which would insure against such loss, injury, or damage unless doing so is impractical. Legal representation and the decision to settle will be made in consultation between the Author and Publisher, and neither may proceed without the approval of the other, not to be unreasonably withheld.”
Griefcom urges you all not to accept less.
John E. Johnston III, Griefcom Chair
The Contracts Committee also wishes to point out the following:
Clause 8 – Warranties:
It would be best if the writer make no warranties to the publisher, with the possible exception of being the actual author of the work. But if warranties are demanded, then they must include phrases such as “to the best of Author’s knowledge” and the any violation of the warranty must have been “intentional” by the author.
We strongly believe that because the definition of obscenity, what is libelous, and any privacy rights, vary widely between nations and even between U.S. states it is absurd to expect writers to provide any warranties on the subjects.
The Publisher is ALWAYS in a better position to understand the laws in the places where they sell books or magazines.
Clause 9 – Indemnity:
The author needs considerable protection in any indemnity clause, including that such indemnification only apply to “damage finally sustained” by a court that is not covered by the publisher’s insurance. In addition, the writer should be added to the publisher’s liability insurance policy if at all possible.
The publisher must also NOT be able to settle a complaint or case without the express permission of the author. Any settlement should be a mutual decision.
More about the model contract can be found here: https://www.sfwa.org/