Copyright, E-books and the Unpredictable Future
The shift to e-books and digital publishing is challenging the basic models of copyright and contracts that underlie the functioning of book publishing—a mature business with 500 years of history—making it hard to predict what shape the business will take in the years to come. This article looks at two of those challenges: first, the tension between a fast-changing technological marketplace and the standard book contract that locks in book rights for life of copyright; and second, the specific complications presented by image rights. There are, however, first steps being taken to allow books to make the transition to the digital marketplace with all their rights information intact and easily accessible, facilitating future transactions between agents, publishers, and new trading partners. The final section looks at the work begun by the Book Industry Study Group to create a standardized rights framework for this purpose.