Copyright is an author’s right (right?)

I keep talking about copyright lately. On Twitter and Wattpad and Facebook. I just feel that I should, because I’ve been lucky about the publishing deals I made early on. Those deals by default let me keep copyright of my work.

Keeping copyright of my own story means I still have control over the story, and the characters. Maybe there are other companies who are now able to print books or release digital versions or make movies and such, but those are things that can be done based on contracts signed by me, because I am still the owner of the story and the characters. If something happens to me, my family will continue to receive what it earns, if it continues to earn money, and they can also decide what happens to my stories, how to make my work live on and help them for longer.

Apparently, many other young authors don’t have it like that. Many of them sign over not just the print or digital rights but all rights to their story entirely, in exchange for a few thousand pesos, a few print copies, a chance at earning a small percentage for each book sold.

Let me just say: A publishing offer is a good thing. It’s good news. But not all offers are the same. What happens when a publisher decides not to print your books anymore? Or if your work becomes so popular that you can’t write fast enough for the fans, and they hire new writers to write the stories instead? What if the company that now owns copyright wants to change your story, because they don’t agree with how you want it to end?

“But I’ll still be credited as the author,” some people have told me. Yes, you will still be “credited” but you will have no say in what happens. When a business decides what happens to your story, that is what will happen. Because they own it now.

This situation is still OK too. There are authors who write stories and just want them out there, and don’t want to have to worry about what happens to it. THAT’S OK, if YOU’RE OK with it.

But if you’re like me, and you wrote those stories from inspiration, from passion, and you wrote them not because someone paid you to but because you WANTED to tell these stories, then maybe you should consider keeping your basic right to determine the present and future of these stories. If they will continue to be sold. If there will be sequels or spin-offs. Who ends up with whom. Who dies.

But this is me. Maybe you’re not like this. That’s OK. But if you are, and you care about these things, please know that YOU DON’T HAVE TO AGREE to a contract that you’re not comfortable with. There are publishers who negotiate. If they want your story enough, they will do that. If they don’t want to negotiate, then maybe it’s time to ask yourself if it’s worth it, to give your “baby” to someone who won’t even try to give you terms that make you feel safe.

If you’ve thought about this but decided to sell your copyright anyway, that’s OK too. Sometimes you can decide to do that. Just know that keeping copyright is always an option, and maybe one day you’ll write a story that you’ll treasure enough that you’ll WANT to fight for the right to keep it. And I hope you remember this post.


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About Mina

Mina V. Esguerra writes and publishes romance novels. She founded #RomanceClass, a community of Filipino authors of romance in English.
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