The most valuable assets of a publishing company are the intellectual property rights it owns, the most important of which are copyrights. It is thus essential to have a clear understanding of how copyright works for publishers, authors and users. The finer points of copyright law vary from country to country, but some general definitions and principles can always be guided by publishers.
In the case of reproduction of original works, a publisher will have to enter into an agreement with the creator to copy, distribute or otherwise make use of a work in any way. As such, the publisher becomes the manager or custodian of an author’s rights, using them in a way that benefits both parties mutually. In doing so, they incur a moral as well as a professional obligation to respectfully approach the relationship, and act in the best interests of both the owner and their own. This arrangement must be governed by a contract between publishers and owners.
Book publishers produce this content in print and/or other formats (e-books, newspapers, websites, blogs) and use their sales and marketing capabilities to sell this content to readers. For the books they produce and sell, they possess certain rights of their own and hold other rights on behalf of third parties. Their business, as a result, involves defending and protecting not only what belongs to them, but also what they have been entrusted with defending. They are therefore obliged to respect others’ rights. This is a moral duty equivalent to their legal duties.
These contractual regulations aim to ensure a balanced relationship between publishers, authors and content users. In order to do that effectively, organisations like IRRO issue reprographic licenses that allow reproduction of content, while giving authors fair treatment and remuneration. Such a license is vital for organisations photocopying, scanning or reproducing material from copyrighted publications. It helps ensure legal compliance, and reduces the risk and potential cost of copyright infringement. It also eliminates the probability of commercial exploitation, while keeping in mind the interests of publishers and authors. In short, this practice helps maintain a healthy equilibrium in the publishing ecosystem.