We were recently engaged in an online debate with several authors regarding their online postings, negativity and behavior. Several claimed that their behavior and conduct had no impact on their reputation or relationship with their publishers.
Reputation Management has recently become a hot topic and it no longer just involves corporations and prospective employees. Harper-Collins has recently introduced a “morals” clause into the termination provisions of its author contracts. It’s very broad language that could permit the termination of a contract, require repayment of advances and other legal options to the publisher in the event that an author’s conduct is less than moral, disrespectable or potentially damageable to sales. Here’s the clause:
8. PUBLISHER’S RIGHTS OF TERMINATION
If (i) Publisher determines that any of the representations of Author set forth in Section 6(a) is false, or (ii) Author breaches the covenants set forth in Sections I(f), I(g), 2(c), or 2(d), or (iii) Author commits a breach of any covenant contained in the Special Provisions section of Part I above for which Publisher is given a right of termination, or (iv) Author’s conduct evidences a lack of due regard for public conventions and morals, or Author commits a crime or any other act that will tend to bring Author into serious contempt, and such behavior would materially damage the Work’s reputation or sales, Publisher may terminate this Agreement and, in addition to Publisher’s other legal remedies. Author will promptly repay the portion of the Advance previously paid to Author, or, if such breach occurred following publication of the Work, Author will promptly repay the portion of the Advance which has not yet been recouped by Publisher. (Emphasis Added).
Should your online behavior be a concern to your publisher when your credibility is questioned? Does the publishers economic interest in your book outweigh your freedom of expression? What if your online representations are proven false and damaging to another entity or individual?
“Should Book Publishing Contracts Include a Morals Clause?” Welcome to About.com’s Law Practice Management Site. Web. 30 Mar. 2011. <http://law.about.com/b/2011/02/07/should-book-publishing-contracts-include-a-morals-clause.htm>.