Amendments to OUP contracts for handbooks and edited volumes

In the interest of sharing practical information, here are some notes on my  experiences over the last several years getting changes to the language in contracts for individual chapters in edited volumes from Oxford University Press. I have two pieces in Oxford Handbooks, for which I had similar objections to the contracts Jonathan Sterne discusses here, in particular that the agreements were “work for hire” rather than simple copyright transfer (see here for a good explanation of the difference). Like Sterne I was able to get them to add this language:

Notwithstanding the foregoing and subject to the Publisher’s prior written approval, provided that full acknowledgment of the Volume (including bibliographic details) is given and that such use does not affect prejudicially the sales or other exploitation by the Publisher of the Volume, the Contributor may rework some (but not the whole or a substantial part) of his or her contribution to the Volume as the basis for articles in professional journals, conference papers, training materials, newsletters and similar materials, as well as for chapters in books by the Contributor.

I’m not sure that really helps much, but I also was assured by email that this paragraph allowed me to include the chapter in my dissertation (something I specifically requested). In fact I find assurances outside of the contract itself to be pretty frustrating, since the standard contracts always include a clause that says something like “This Agreement sets forth the entire agreement between the parties regarding its subject matter and supersedes and replaces all prior discussions, arrangements, and agreements (whether written or oral) relating thereto.” Which has the effect of disavowing any email assurances!

In addition I was able to have the following clause added, which more or less replicates “moral rights” (or the author’s right to be identified):

It is hereby acknowledged and agreed that such likeness and biographical information shall be subject to the Contributor’s approval, such approval not to be unreasonably conditioned, withheld or delayed. It is further acknowledged and agreed that the Contribution shall be attributed to the Contributor in each instance.

One of the differences between work-for-hire and copyright transfer is that in the latter it is possible to claw back the copyright after 35 years, as I understand it. At that time horizon, who knows what will happen to these materials. You could easily imagine them being sold or repurposed or severely altered somehow, so it is nice to at least have a commitment that my authorship will always be identified.

I was also told that I was one of only two people out of 500 to question the wording of the Handbook agreements in music, and the only one to express concern over “work for hire.” If this is true it’s too bad (though Sterne also reports expressing concerns about work-for-hire, so there must have been at least two of us). But it does indicate that publishers aren’t getting much in the way of push-back from authors on their standard contracts, so the takeaway is that more people should ask for better contracts.

By contrast, I recently negotiated another contract for a chapter in an edited volume, through Oxford’s UK rather than New York offices, and I had a much easier time getting satisfactory changes made. The standard contract used normal copyright transfer rather than work-for-hire. I needed an up front commitment to be able to use the complete chapter in a future book. I was able to get the following added in an addendum:

3 Copyright and Permissions
3.1 The Contributor may reuse the following without obtaining permission:

• up to 10% of the Work providing that this does not exceed 1,000 contiguous words and up to 3 figures or tables.

3.2 The Contributor may:
• Post the Work on a personal website or in an institutional repository;
• Include the Work in derivative works, including extension of the Work into a book-length work;
• Reproduce the Work within coursepacks or e-coursepacks for teaching purposes, with the proviso that the coursepacks are not sold for more than the cost of reproduction;
• Include the Work within a thesis or dissertation.

3.3 Permission is granted on the following conditions:
• that the material reused is  own work and has already been published by OUP;
• and that the intended reuse of the Work is for scholarly, non-commercial purposes;
• and that full acknowledgement is made of the original OUP publication;
• and that reuse on personal websites and institutional repositories includes a link to the OUP website.
Clause 7.6 of Schedule II of this agreement is hereby revoked.

(Clause 7.6 reads “This Agreement sets forth the entire agreement between the parties regarding the subject matter hereof and supersedes and revokes all prior discussions, arrangements and agreements written or oral relating thereto.”)

In my view this is excellent. It covers basically everything I really want from a contract, and it was easy to achieve after a bit of back and forth and clarification. And it is much better than what I could get from the Oxford Handbook contracts. This may be a difference between UK and New York, or just that the Handbooks are using a different model. But I thought I should put it out there to let other people know what can be negotiated.


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