Open Road will go ahead with their planned republication of backlist works by William Styron in ebook form starting May 4. Initially the ebooks will only be available on Kindle, the NYT reports, though the company intends to have distribution through other online retailers as well. (The company declined to indicate for now whether they are selling on an agency or wholesale basis.)
While Random House is not contesting this agreement, spokesman Stuart Applebaum says the house’s position on electronic rights to older works remains as stated by ceo Markus Dohle last year (“Random House considers contracts that grant the exclusive right to ‘publish in book form’ or ‘in any and all editions’ to include the exclusive right to publish in electronic book publishing formats. Our agreements also contain broad non-competition provisions, so that the author is precluded from granting publishing rights to third parties that would compromise the rights for which Random House has bargained.”)
Applebaum says: “Our position is unchanged. Our publishing agreements grant us the right to publish our authors’ works in all text-based version of the work, including electronic publication formats. In any potential separation of our e-books backlist rights, we reserve the right to pursue all our options, including, in some cases, legal ones. Our preferred course is always a business resolution.”
He also notes that “the Styron titles presented a unique situation in the context of our effective efforts with authors or their estates to transition their backlist to Random House e-books.” The Styron backlist had prominently been part of a legal fight in 2001 and 2002 between Random House and Rosetta Books which was never fully adjudicated after Random’s request to enjoin Rosetta’s epublication was denied. In a settlement agreement, Random House licensed two Styron books along with other disputed titles to Rosetta.
Last December Applebaum had said “Random House is having ongoing discussions with the Styron estate representatives and we are confident we will will have a mutually agreeable publishing arrangement for Mr. Styron’s backlist e-book titles and that our promotion of them will benefit his Random House print editions as well.” Reportedly, the Styron estate already had an agreement in place with Open Road, which also licensed film rights to Lie Down in Darkness.
Open Road promo