Publishing Agreements in Lebanon

01 Dec 2003

Copyright in the Arab region has a shorter history than in Europe and the US. Yet influenced by the international conventions, most of the Arab legislations are similar to each other and to the international legislations. Even so, foreign publishers would not deal easily with Arab publishers due to the copyright situation in the region, which is considered as a blank region on the international copyright map.

In Lebanon, the concept of intellectual property is not new; the first related law was adopted in 1923, one of the first IP laws in the Arab region. Since then, several modifications were made. In 1999, a new law was implemented (Law NO. 75 dated April 3rd 1999) for Protection of literacy and artistic property, bearing in mind that Lebanon is signatory to the Berne Convention for the protection of literary and artistic works, one of the major international copyright treaties, which sets out ground rules for the protection of copyright at a national level. However, it did not yet sign all the Berne Convention amendments.

The following definitions are to give guidance to foreign authors or publishers who might deal with a Lebanese publisher.

1- A bilateral partnership contract:
The publishing contract is the starting point for all publishing activity. It is a bilateral contract in which mutual promises are made between the author and the publisher, each being a promisor and a promisee. It has to be signed by both author or right holder and publisher.

2-The Copyright notice:
The Copyright Law in Lebanon protects both published and unpublished works. A work is protected as soon as it is created in physical forms. A copyright notice is not needed for such protection. Even though, publishers and authors usually place such notice on their works to prevent infringement of their right. It is practically highly recommended because it notifies readers about this protection.

3- Copyright registration:
Copyright registration is not required for the protection of the work. The author has the exclusive property right in his work as soon as he creates it, and shall retain his rights without having to take formal procedures (Art.5) of Law No. 75 of 1999. The deposit at the Intellectual Property Protection Department (IPPD) at the Ministry of Economy and Trade shall constitute a presumption that the depositor is the owner of the work.

4- Written contract:
A publishing contract shall be put in writing; failure to do so shall cause nullity of contract (Art.17). In all Arab countries, there is no general standard form for publishing agreements or Minimum Terms Agreement. It often differs from publisher to publisher, from author to author and from subject to subject.

From a practical point of view, each publisher has a printed standard form, which is always in his interest. He always tries to acquire the most extensive rights possible. He tends to offer its terms to all his authors or potential ones. It is always recommended that authors rely on a solicitor specialized in the publishing business to check the agreement for them because publishing agreements are such complex documents. Anyhow, these agreements are construed in a restrictive manner (Art.19).

5- Rights granted:
The publishing agreement regulates the extent of the rights granted to the publisher, for what duration and under what financial conditions the publisher is entitled to make use of the work subject of the contract.

Such rights must be determined specifically in a clear and unambiguous manner. Transfer of any right by the author shall be limited always to that right only (Art. 19). The rights covered by such agreement shall be mentioned in detail and the time and location shall be specified (Art.17).

Different types of works can be assigned by the author to the publisher for publishing exploitation for the duration of the agreement such as the right to reproduce and distribute the work, printing including photocopying, translating, recording of the work and others.

6- The share of the author:
The Lebanese law adopted the necessity of a royalty agreement, which is the most satisfactory form for an author. The publisher has to grant the author a share in every exploitation of the work. The publishing agreement shall set out the share of the author in percentage of the exploitation revenues and selling proceeds (Art. 17)

7- The Agreement’s time limit:
If the Publishing Agreement does not specify a time limit, it shall be valid for 10 years, only from the date the contract is signed (Art. 17). The duration of the publisher’s license shall be throughout his lifetime and fifty years starting from the end of the year of his death (Art.49).

8-Submitting and production of the work:
The work must be complete to be submitted to the publisher. This means that it must enclose a forward, dedication, a preface, tables, an acknowledgment, a bibliography and a glossary.

The publisher may oblige the author to submit his manuscript in a certain format as on a floppy disk or he may require hard copy. The publishing contracts usually recognize the publisher’s right to take final execution decisions, on matters such as first print quantity, publication date, cover, retail price, promotion and publicity.

9-Publication date:
The publisher has to assure the publication of the book by a specific date. Generally, the publication date may vary between six months and 18 months from the delivery of the typescript. The contract should not stipulate that the book “will be published within a reasonable period”.
Finally, it is unwise for the publisher to accept a clause, which allows the author to write a similar subject for any other publisher. It is also risky for the author to give the publisher the authority to do changes on the author's work without any stipulation for him to obtain the author's approval

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