Academic Publisher Lowers Royalties Due To Author For Digital Works


Publishing ExpertThis case involves a dispute regarding textbook royalties. The publisher began bundling the author’s textbooks, e-texts, and a web-based platform with web modules. Despite her material being used for the web platform and modules, the author only received royalties for the sales of the textbooks. It was alleged that the publisher lowered royalties due to the author by dividing the value of the royalties between the three different formats, placing a greater value on the web portal and modules and reducing the value of the book over time. An expert in textbook publishing contracts was sought to interpret the author’s contracts and their modifications in light of technological advances with web platforms and modules in the last 4-5 years.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please describe your experience in publishing contracts, specifically in regards to educational textbooks.
  • 2. What are industry standards, if any, regarding what authors are owned in royalties for bundled packages with web-based portals, modules, etc?

Expert Witness Response E-249388

I am an expert in publishing and intellectual property rights. I have knowledge of bundling, licensing, educational publications, and electronic publishing types. I draft, analyze, and edit contracts that define these rights for my clients or the publishing company frequently. There is very little difference in regards to educational publishing, verse other types of work. The contract’s specific details in regards to online sales, bundling, modules, are what matters in regards to royalties. I have previously worked on a case in which the contract stated that, upon payment of a specified amount, the publisher could extract data from the published academic book and sell it as part of a database in exchange for a one-time payment. The best practice is that a royalty is paid for every use of a work of authorship, and the royalty may be allocated among all authors whose work is included in the bundle. I have been working in this field since 1976 and have seen the evolution of publishing. I would be able to speak to how these contracts have changed and adapted to an almost paperless world and would be able to render a specific opinion and help the client after reviewing the contract.

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