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Reasonable research–is this so difficult?

I’m preparing a couple of contracts today, conscious of the problems publishing contracts pose for authors–and book packagers, which is what we were until two years ago. Most of our clients were gentlemen, or women, and they really didn’t want to demand our first-born, or the legal equivalent. But sometimes corporate orders were to offer contracts of blinding unfairness. I did pretty well, holding onto most e-rights, and generally maintaining control of our intellectual property, but it was never much fun. Actually, it wasn’t any fun at all, except the time a big-time corporate lawyer, whom I got to be quite friendly with during weeks of negotiation, suggested I use white-out liquid to change a clause I didn’t like, before returning it to their publisher for signature.

I’m working on a new basic contract for our trade and professional books and have been drawing from some boilerplate. I just took out the words “punch card,” thinking that we’re unlikely to manage content that way, but I’m leaving some other rather out of date references since there’s also the usual stuff about media “of any kind or configuration whatsoever, whether now in existence or hereafter devised.” I’m not adding, “throughout the known universe,” however! Much too scifi. And what about the unknown universe?

I wonder if Doris Kearns Goodwin and the other historians who have plagiarized text, and popular authors who have written false memoirs, had clauses like these in their contracts: “(v) all statements of fact are true or based upon reasonable research; (vi) the Work, if biographical or “as told to the Author”, is authentic.” This seems reasonable to me.

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