Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue


Random House Retains Digital Rights Over Wylie Agency

Filed under: authors' rights,digital rights,publishing,Random House,Wylie Agency — gator1965 @ 5:32 pm

On 26 July 2010, I posted about the esteemed Wylie Literary Agency getting into the publishing field by publishing the digital versions of old classics by their own writer clientele through Amazon.

You see, the old, original publishing contracts with Random House (and a few others) did not include “digital rights”…They didn’t exist at the time.

It now seems that Random House, who published most of the original print versions of the subject Wylie titles, has wrestled the digital rights from Wylie.

Even though I previously commented on a concern over a Wylie Agency conflict of interest with their authors, I would still like to see the wording of those original Random House contracts…that evidently held up rights that didn’t exist at the time. Rights I believe belong to the writers/authors to assign as they wish.

What do you think?

Anyway, here is a Wall Street Journal report written by Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg giving more details.


Is Wylie Agency’s Foray into Publishing a Conflict of Interest?

If you think Shakespeare, pictured below, is confused trying to use a computer in the modern world, how about the confusion of publishers, authors, agents and booksellers in the new digital publishing world!

The debut of digital publishing has sparked an atmosphere in which authors, publishers, agents and booksellers are fighting amongst themselves, blurring their old-core missions and scrambling around looking for the best future bottomline after losing the old bottomline!

Case in point: Literary agent Wylie becoming a publisher through Amazon…

But, is Wylie in conflict of interest with their author clients? Could be, so authors be forewarned! If Wylie is dealing as a publisher will they be looking out for their interests or those of the author clients?

Now this is a conundrum that can be worked out, I believe, but it hasn’t yet…Presents an interesting problem to be solved, no?

HILLEL ITALIE, AP National Writer, wrote a great article addressing this point for ABC News/Entertainment at


E-book Digital Rights to Past Published Books Belong to Who?

My opinion is that contracts with publishers prior to the advent of digital e-books do NOT cover or include any rights to non-existent media at the time of said contract…John R. Austin (that’s me).

That’s this writers opinion for what it’s worth…Which means I believe that all rights to publish digitally remain with the writer NOT the print publisher.

Alison Flood of, and Ed Pilkington in guardian’s New York office, reported this ground-beaking news:

Publishers rage against Wylie’s ebook deal with Amazon

Wylie Agency’s deal to bypass conventional publishers for digital sales is sending shockwaves around the industry.

Fear and loathing among the movers and shakers of America’s publishing industry have reached new heights with both Random House and Macmillan denouncing the literary agent Andrew Wylie’s move into digital publishing.

Home to 700 authors and estates ranging from Philip Roth to John Updike, Jorge Luis Borges and Saul Bellow, the Wylie Agency shocked the publishing world yesterday when it announced the launch of Odyssey Editions. The initiative has been set up to sell ebook editions of modern classics – including Lolita, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Updike’s Rabbit tetralogy – exclusively via Amazon’s Kindle store, leaving conventional publishers out of the picture.

The move provoked an immediate reaction from Random House, which publishes in print several of the authors involved with Odyssey Editions. The publisher fired off a letter to Amazon “disputing their rights to legally sell these titles”, which it said were “subject to active Random House publishing agreements”.

It went further, threatening that “on a worldwide basis”, it “will not be entering into any new English-language business agreements with the Wylie Agency until this situation is resolved”. It said the agency’s decision to sell ebooks exclusively to Amazon “for titles which are subject to active Random House agreements undermines our longstanding commitments to and investments in our authors, and it establishes this agency as our direct competitor.”

A Random House spokesman, Stuart Applebaum, told the Guardian that the severing of relations with Wylie would relate only to new book deals, while titles already in the pipeline would still go ahead. He accepted there was a risk involved for Random House, but argued that the stakes were higher for Wylie and his authors who would potentially lose a lucrative outlet for their work.

“It is not a decision that Random House reached lightly, but one that is unanimously agreed by our senior publishing colleagues in the US, Canada and the UK,” Applebaum said.

Wylie’s impressive client roster – which includes Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie as well as the estates of Hunter S Thompson, Norman Mailer and Evelyn Waugh – makes this a huge step for Random House, but one the publisher clearly felt was necessary.

At issue is who holds digital rights in older titles published before the advent of ebooks. Publishers argue that the ebook rights belong to them, and authors and agents respond that, if not specifically granted, the digital rights remain with the author.

Read more at original article here:

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