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Wall Street Journal to take percentage of writers' book deals

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by swenk, Mar 4, 2008.

  1. swenk

    swenk Member

    I thought this might be of interest here: Journal writers who expand a newspaper story into a book may have to pay Murdoch a percentage of the deal.

    They're not the first, the New York Times has a similar requirement when the writer is using material that originally appeared in the paper in some form.

    A scary precedent from the writer's perspective, especially if you cover a team and then want to write about anything related to the team. From the business perspective, though, it's a logical business move, since the newspaper has paid for your access and original work.

    I suspect we'll see more of this.


    Under a new Wall Street Journal policy revealed to staffers last week, authors such as Pulitzer Prize winner Daniel Golden—whose series of articles on the college admissions process led to his critically-acclaimed book, The Price of Admission—would have to fork over some of their book proceeds to none other than Rupert Murdoch himself.

    In a memo sent to Journal staffers last week, and cited by the New York Observer Monday, new book-leave rules will allow the paper to snag some of the proceeds from any reporter’s book that uses research done for Journal-assigned stories. Most periodicals whose writers develop book ideas from stories do not require such a fee.

    Wall Street Journal managing editor Marcus Brauchli and books director Roe D’Angelo notified reporters of the revamped book policy in a memo Thursday. Some aspects of the routine—informing editors ahead of time, using the Journal’s marketing services for book publicity— are the same, while a new stipulation says the paper will take measures to “protect [its] interest in books based on Journal reporting,” according to the Observer.

    Journal spokesman Robert Christie confirmed the policy shift, saying that “in some cases,” the Journal would seek a share of the proceeds from a book that “originates with Journal reporting.” He counters that in exchange, the newspaper provides marketing and advertising support for the title.

    But newsroom employees apparently aren’t convinced. Word is the paper could take as much as 10% of proceeds, though Mr. Christie denied any pre-established figures.
  2. TheSportsPredictor

    TheSportsPredictor Well-Known Member

    I never understood how a writer could do this and take all the profits in the first place.
  3. Moland Spring

    Moland Spring Member

    Yeah, this policy kind of makes sense. It's almost like a writer benefiting from Marriott points gained while paying for a hotel, then being reimbursed. Oh wait...
  4. forever_town

    forever_town Well-Known Member

    Isn't all newspaper content the property of the newspaper to begin with?

    Makes perfect sense in that regard.
  5. Legally, yes.

    Seems petty, though, not to let reporters get some perks, considering what we make.
  6. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    This happens so much it isn't even funny...
  7. derwood

    derwood Active Member

    Copyright holder owns rights to derived works.
  8. Again, legally, yes. But seems like just another example of an industry intent on committing suicide by continuing to chase away its best and brightest.
  9. PeteyPirate

    PeteyPirate Guest

    Once the reporting is done, however, doesn't the information just consist of facts? Legally I don't see how a newspaper can appropriate facts that it has reported, even if they were exclusives. What I can see is claiming that someone taking a book leave should compensate the company for a loss of manpower during that period.
  10. swenk

    swenk Member

    Just for the sake of argument, let's say you've covered a team for a decade, you know more than you could ever write in the paper. Now you decide to write a book, maybe a history or a rise-and-fall kind of thing, or a retrospective of a season. Nothing lifted directly from the paper, but same general subject.

    Do you owe the paper a share of the book? They paid for your travel, got you access. Do they own everything you ever produce about this team? You're doing fresh research, fresh writing. Can the paper claim an interest in this?
  11. forever_town

    forever_town Well-Known Member

    Can you base an entire book on a team you've covered completely on non story-related information? Seems to me that some element of the book will at least harken back to the stories you've written for the newspaper.

    Hence, the paper probably is legally entitled to some of the proceeds.
  12. swenk

    swenk Member

    Is the newspaper also entitled to income from radio and TV work, if you go on the air and talk about the team you cover?
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