What is a Grant of Rights?

The Grant of Rights identifies how and what rights are being conveyed to the publisher.

You did it! You conquered the hard part of writing a manuscript, and now you’ve snagged the attention of a publisher. But are you ready to read a book publishing contract?

In this blog series, we’ll cover some of the basic elements of a publishing contract, as well as questions we’ve received from authors in the past. We hope this helps you feel more prepared and knowledgeable when you’re at the table. Last time we looked at Common Terms and Phrases in Publishing Contracts, so let’s jump into what’s usually the first section of a publishing contract: the Grant of Rights.

Note: This should not be taken as legal advice. As a publisher, we review our contracts with an attorney who specializes in publishing law, and we’d recommend consulting your own legal counsel if you have any questions.

What is a Grant of Rights?

The Grant of Rights often appears at the beginning of a publishing contract because it concerns the rights an author is giving a publisher over their work. Important considerations in this part of the contract include:

  • How rights are conveyed to the publisher (assignment, license, or work for hire)
  • What rights are conveyed to the publisher (all or specified)
  • How copyright will be handled
FAQ: Why is there a Grant of Rights? Transferring my rights to a publisher makes me uncomfortable.

The Grant of Rights is a standard and essential part of all publishing contracts, since it’s where the author assigns the publisher the right to print and publish their work.

The purpose of assigning a publisher rights to your work is to officially give them permission to publish it; without this, a writer could in theory claim they never gave a publisher permission to print their book. And if another party decided they wanted to create a derivative work without permission, since the publisher has a stake in the work, the author has an ally should they need to pursue legal action.

Continue reading for more about how rights can be conveyed and how an author can still retain certain rights even after transferring others.

How Rights are Conveyed

Rights can be passed from an author to a publisher in one of three ways:

  1. An assignment of rights, which grants ownership of some or all rights to the publisher;
  2. A license of rights, which grants the publisher the right to use some or all rights, but reserves ownership of rights to the author; or
  3. A work made for hire, which grants all rights in the work as if the publisher were also the author of the work.

So when rights are assigned, granted, or otherwise transferred to the publisher, they become the owner of those rights, for whatever term specified (generally the maximum term). In contrast, if rights are only licensed to the publisher, the publisher has formal, legal permission to those rights for a set term (such as the maximum term of copyright and renewals).

Unless you’ve written a book as part of your job or otherwise contributed as an employee, the third option here won’t really be relevant for you. Independent contractors generally sign a Work for Hire Agreement prior to starting a project to ensure both parties are protected and on the same page regarding the scope, schedule, payment, and other details of the project. You can read more about Works Made for Hire on the US Copyright Office website.

What Rights are Conveyed

If only specific rights are being assigned to the publisher – rather than all rights – this portion of the contract will name them. For example, if a publisher wanted to publish a work as a book and include portions of it across a few issues of a magazine, they might identify the rights being conveyed in the contract like this:

“all right, title, and interest in and to the Work, throughout the world, in perpetuity, and in any and all media and forms of expressions now known or hereafter devised, including but not limited to all copyrights therein for the full term of such copyrights (and any and all extensions and renewals thereof), including the following limited rights:

“the right to print, reproduce, publish, distribute, license and sell copies of the Work in any and all languages and any and all forms of book and periodical publishing now known or hereafter devised, including but not limited to, and by way of example only, printed books and periodicals, print-on-demand books and periodicals, electronic books and periodicals, and audio books and periodicals.”

Ideally, the Grant of Rights should also indicate who owns any rights not listed in the contract. For example, there may also be a paragraph that states something to the effect:

Other Rights. All rights not expressly granted to the Publisher shall be wholly reserved by the Author.”

In contrast, if all rights are being given to the publisher, the list will look something like this:

“all right, title, and interest in and to the Work, in all languages, throughout the world, and in any and all media and means of expression now known or hereafter devised, including but not limited to all copyright, trademark, and other intellectual property rights therein, and any and all extensions, renewals and restorations thereof, for the maximum term of such rights.”

How Copyright will be Handled

There are two pieces to copyright considerations: What the copyright notice in the book itself reads, and how copyright is registered.

Along with the Grant of Rights, your contract should include a paragraph referring to copyright specifically. This may be included in the Grant of Rights or in a separate Copyright section. For example:

Copyright Notice and Registration. Publisher shall, in all versions of the Work published by Publisher under this Agreement, place a notice of copyright in the name of the Author in a form and place that Publisher reasonably believes to comply with the requirements of the United States copyright law, and shall apply for registration of such copyright(s) in the United States Copyright Office.”

If the publisher is granted all rights, the copyright notice in the book would be in the name of the publisher. When the publisher registers the work with the copyright office, the author would be listed as “Author” but only the publisher would be named as “Copyright Claimant.”

If the author reserves any rights in the work, the copyright notice in the book should name the author. On the copyright application, the author would be listed as both “Author” and “Copyright Claimant.” (Depending on the situation, the publisher may also be listed as a claimant.)

If the publisher is not listed in the copyright registration as “Copyright Claimant,” they will usually share a short-form version of the agreement with the U.S. Copyright Office to identify the publisher as an owner or licensee of rights in the work.

Even if your contract assigns rights to the publisher, you can still retain the copyright to the text of your book. Be sure to check if the Grant of Rights specifies “all right, title, and interest” (or similar) or “the following specified rights,” and look for a paragraph or section on copyright specifically. 

If the…
Copyright notice should be:
Copyright should be registered:
Publisher is granted all rights Publisher’s name In the name of the author as “Author” and in the name of the publisher as “Copyright Claimant”
Author retains any rights Author’s name In the name of author as both “Author” and “Copyright Claimant”


This post was originally published on the How2Conquer blog.

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