Rights Debunked: Top Tips and Recommended Reading

Posted on June 21, 2018 in News & Reviews, Oxford

During our last panel session, Rights Debunked! it seemed there was a great interest in titles to read and websites to visit if you’re interested in moving into this area. Our speakers also had some great tips for the audience. So we’ve pulled together a list of tips and titles from Clare, Amy and Zsofia for those unable to make the event – or who didn’t quite manage to jot down all the recommended reading!


Firstly, who were our speakers?

Clare Painter, Director at Clare Painter Associates Ltd

Clare runs a digital licensing agency and rights consultancy, whose projects include rights rese

arch for Taylor & Francis, rights issues for e-learning at business school IMD, and advising journal authors at Oxford University Press. Previously she handled digital licensing and book club and translation rights at multi-platform publisher Helicon, sold co-editions into Southern Europe for a book packager, and managed rights contracts for Italian publisher Mondadori.

Amy Ellis, Product Manager at Publishers’ Licensing Services Ltd

Amy is a Product Manager at Publishers’ Licensing Services and is responsible for running the PLS Permissions services. She manages permissions for publishers signed up for PLS PermissionsAssist, contributes to the day-to-day management of PLSclear, and oversees the services’ future development. She has an MA in Digital Publishing from Oxford Brookes University.

Zsofia Macho, Communications Manager at PublishDrive


Zsofia is a bookish person! She cut her teeth writing, editing, translating, a nd proofreading books both here and overseas, and holds a BA in Editorial Studies and a linguist MSc from UCL. Working for PublishDrive gives her the opportunity to closely interact with authors, publishers, and distributor partners, and, of course, to work with amazing books! Her secret mission is to decrease the negative prejudices around ebook publishing.


Amy’s Top Tips

A basic knowledge of copyright goes a long way. You don’t need to know all the ins and outs of copyright law to have a successful career in rights but it does help to know the basics

(and refer to the IPO for exceptional cases or more complicated issues.)


Additionally, rights is all about details and keeping good records. A good rights deal is useless without proper records and paperwork to back it up. Store your agreements properly and in an easily accessible place so you always know what rights you own (and which ones you don’t!)


Clare’s Top Tip

If you’re interested in working in translation rights and you’re going away on holiday this summer, try going into a local bookshop for a look around. Don’t worry if you don’t speak the local language, have a look at how the books are presented and whether that’s different from a UK High Street bookshop. Can you find UK books you recognise in their translated editions: how do the covers, formats etc compare to the original English language editions?  What’s the balance of local language titles against translations, in different areas of the shop? All this will tell you a great deal about the local publishing industry of that place and, by extension, about the culture and preferences of the people who live there. And that’s what makes working in translation rights such a fascinating field.


Reading suggested by our panel

Selling Rights by Lynette Owen (Routledge) – This book gives a great overview of what it’s like to work in a Rights department, and the kind of deals you might be putting together, as well as information about how Book Fairs work for Rights people.


Clark’s Publishing Agreements (Bloomsbury Professional) – Amy: This title is worth taking a look through but is rather expensive. Most university libraries should have a copy.

Clare: Every Rights department should have the latest edition on their shelf! The template agreements cover a whole range of Rights scenarios, from author contracts to digital licensing, complete with extensive notes and downloadable copies you can adapt for your own use. Really useful.


Copyrightuser.org has great animations that are really helpful if you’re in the process of learning copyright principles (based on UK law). It’s aimed at members of the public rather than publishers, but is very useful nevertheless, as it includes lots of information from the point of view of someone creating new content or looking to reuse someone else’s copyright material.


Copyrightinfringementportal.org.uk – If you’re concerned about protecting your content online, the Publishers Association offers an infringement service which can help to spot and take down unauthorised copies of your publications.


US copyright office website, surprisingly easy to understand on the following topics.

International copyright: https://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl100.html

Literary works: https://www.copyright.gov/registration/literary-works/index.html


Gov.uk copyright website:


A fair warning against paying for copyright in the UK: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/warning-misleading-invoices-dont-be-fooled

What to do if your IP is stolen: https://www.gov.uk/copyright/stop-people-using-your-work


EU copyright directives: https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/policies/shaping-digital-single-market


Fair use: https://fairuse.stanford.edu/


DMCA:  https://www.dmca.com/faq/What-is-a-DMCA-Takedown


The PLSclear help section has a Resources section with some helpful copyright links as well as places to track down rights holders.