learn something new every day

In the contract I was just reviewing my author was asked to waive their right of integrity. This was from a publisher I haven’t dealt with before, and I haven’t seen it previously referenced, so I looked it up. Turns out it’s part of the “moral rights” and defined as: “The right of integrity bars intentional distortion, mutilation, or other modification of a work if that distortion is likely to harm the author’s reputation, and prevents the destruction of any work of recognized stature.” (from Moral Rights Basics by Betsy Rosenblatt, Harvard Law School)

And it would have been the last contract on my desk, too, if another one hadn’t shown up in my fax machine this morning. Onwards!

11 responses to “learn something new every day

  1. Haven’t most of us waived our integrity already…?

  2. That would bother me. I mean, what are they intending to do to the book? If what they do harms my rep and I’m one of their authors, what good are they doing themselves?
    it doesn’t make sense.

  3. I’ve read the definition multiple times and am still having a hard time figuring out when it would apply. Do you have any clarifications or examples of times when it would behoove an author to waive their right of integrity?
    In other news, wOOt for you! More contracts = Goodness, right?

    • I’d be a lot more pleased to see contracts showing up if I hadn’t done something like 10 already this year. I’ve been averaging like one per work day, and they are the most mentally exhausting and difficult part of my work. They do mean that the author (and therefore myself) get paid (once the signed agreement goes back to the publisher and jumps through a few hoops), though.
      The specific point I’ve seen moral rights applied to is protecting translators who are working with the publisher to put the book into another language. The same may apply in other subsidiary rights (such as film). Unfortunately, some authors are more reasonable than others when it comes to what they think is a reasonable modification.

  4. Sounds kind of dodgy.
    Good luck with all the contracts!

  5. Call me stupid, but I still don’t understand why the publisher is asking for this waiver. Could you please explain to a brain-dead reader?

  6. Well, at least they’re upfront about it.
    I guess a dignity clause isn’t far behind.

  7. The part of the definition that I find troubling is “if that distortion is likely to harm the author’s reputation“.
    How would it? If this is used for translations or scripts, I would think anything really negative could be seen as an error on the part of the translator and not from the original work. So how would it defame an author so much that this clause would even need to exist? Is it just to protect the translator/publisher from the deranged author’s need to protect his baby? And how would it benefit a publisher to allow something to be released that would “harm the author’s reputation” considering it might also harm future sales by the same author not to mention the sales of the book in a foreign market?
    I’m a little new to the “business wing” of writing so please be patient if I’m being naive. Another question (or two): Did the writer agree to the waiver? What was your advice assuming the author had reservations? And on the more humorous note, are writers really that clingy when it finally comes to the making money part of writing?
    I hope you don’t mind me blurting out like this. I get so much out of your discussions about writing and publishing. Thank you for doing so by the way. Congratulations on a great start to the year.

  8. That’s common in photography, which is where I first ran into the concept — it’s the idea that one’s work is protected from someone else, even for the purposes of advertising one’s work — mangling one’s substance or presentation in such a way as to make it seem like you’re all for something you’re not. Like, oh, an anti-gun photographer finding his picture of a girl at Prom being sold to the NRA for their national advertising campaign, or having a photograph cropped in such a way that it radically alters the image’s message. Stuff like that.
    The big deal is mostly that the integrity of the original piece be respected, so someone can’t come along and with some judicious cropping (or in this case, editing o’ quotes from the text?) making it seem like someone’s all for something that they’re not. (I am suddenly thinking of those movie promos in which folks changed genres, like editing “The Shining” into the feel-good movie of the year, or turning Titanic into a horror movie!) I can’t entirely see how this would apply to translations, though; wouldn’t the point there be to be as true to the original as humanly and liguistically possible?
    The definition listed above seem so basic, that I honestly can’t think of any reason why one would want to sign that right away. I certainly can’t see how a decent translation would qualify as potential harm to an author’s reputation. Eh, well, this is why we pay you the big bucks, right?

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