Contracts

Content duplication issue briefly keeps self-published chapbooks off Amazon

4 December 2017

From TeleRead:

Authors Sharon Lee and Steve Miller are running into a little static when trying to publish some of their short stories via Amazon—thanks at least in part to the automation by which Amazon has to run its self-publishing operation.

Lee and Miller have been self-publishing some of their short stories in chapbook form since long before self-publishing became the monster that it is today. They started back in the 1990s, publishing actual paper chapbooks, but in recent years closed down the paper operation and switched to electronic versions.

. . . .

Lately, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have republished four of their previously-published short stories in e-chapbook form. The stories were and remain available as part of a larger Liaden short story collection from Baen.

. . . .

They published these stories as a pair of e-chapbooks to Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Baen without any problem—but the trouble came in when it came time to place them on Amazon.

. . . .

When it comes to ensuring that someone isn’t trying to pull a fast one by republishing someone else’s content, [Amazon’s] automation effectively takes a similar form to plagiarism-checker Turn It In: if previously-published content appears in a new form, this calls for some special attention.

. . . .

Amazon wanted to see reversion letters to the stories, signifying that Baen returned their publication rights to Lee and Miller after their contract expired. However, those stories were never fully sold to Baen to begin with. They sold Baen anthology rights, for the purpose of that anthology, while keeping for themselves the rights to place the stories again elsewhere or self-publish them.

. . . .

Sharon Lee explains that, “in the Normal World of Publishing” this sort of thing simply isn’t done. When an author places a work with a new publisher, they sign a contract in which they agree they have the rights to do so. If it later turns out they don’t have those rights, the lawyers come out to play. But never does any publisher require or expect authors to provide a copy of their previous contract with another publisher. Lee writes:

Now, Amazon is in a strange situation; it cannot itself decide if it’s a publisher or a distributor, but in either case the demand for a copy of our contract with our publisher is out of line, and Steve and I will not comply.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

In an update to the OP, TeleRead says Amazon customer service solved the problem. PG is happy to hear that in part because the authors seem like nice people.

PG is usually on the little guy’s/gal’s side in these kind of disputes, but in this case, he understands Amazon’s concerns:

–  The plagiarism/copyright infringement checker shows that someone is submitting material that has already been published by another publisher.

–  The authors say they have the right to self-publish this material themselves.

–  When Amazon asks for a reversion letter from the authors to document their right to self-publish, the authors say they don’t have/need such a letter.

–  Amazon understands that if the authors are not telling the truth and the real rights-holder is upset, Amazon will probably be sued for copyright infringement along with the authors.

–  Zillions of people are trying to pull some sort of scam on Amazon each day.

What exclusive rights does the owner of a copyright have under US copyright law? (Note that an author typically passes these rights to a commercial publisher under a typical publishing contract.)

17 U.S. Code § 106 provides a summary. PG highlights some language that would reasonably concern Amazon:

Subject to sections 107 through 122, the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize any of the following:

(1) to reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords;
(2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;
(3) to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
(4) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly;
(5) in the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly; and
(6) in the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

KDP ebooks are certainly reproductions of copyrighted material. When someone pays Amazon for an ebook, Amazon is certainly reproducing and distributing a copy of the copyrighted ebook to a member of the public.

Under Paragraph 1 of the Kindle Store Terms of Use (the agreement which governs the relationship between Amazon and a customer with respect to ebooks) “Kindle Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider.” In Paragraph 3 of the Kindle Store TOU, in the event of any violation of the TOU, Amazon is free to revoke a user’s access to the its Service, which, by definition, includes Kindle Content.

Although licensing is not expressly mentioned as an exclusive right under 17 U.S. Code § 106, it is difficult for PG to believe that a court would not find licensing to part of the exclusive rights of a copyright owner to control the “rental, lease, or lending” of an ebook.

Considering the above, is it unreasonable for Amazon to ask for a copy of the publishing contract between the authors mentioned in the OP and Amazon?

PG thinks it’s entirely reasonable and would almost certainly would have recommended reviewing the contract between Baen and the authors if Amazon had asked him what it should do.

He probably would have also recommended contacting Baen to confirm that it only had the limited rights the authors claimed to have granted.

The fact that this “isn’t done” in the publishing business will be no help to Amazon if it is sued by someone who has exclusive rights to publish a literary work that appears on Amazon despite what the authors have told Amazon.

Generally speaking, under most commercial publishing contracts, the publisher grabs every right its attorneys can think of from authors whose work is being published. “Anthology only” rights that apply to only a single edition of an anthology are rare birds indeed.

PG says there are a lot of things that “aren’t done” and a lot more things that “are done” in the traditional publishing business that are really bad ideas.

As far as “the Normal World of Publishing” is concerned, that world is what indie authors are fleeing from when they self-publish with Amazon. Amazon is disrupting “the Normal World of Publishing” to the benefit of both authors and readers.

If you want to decrease your chances of ever making a decent living from your books, stick with “the Normal World of Publishing” and the “rules” that apply to that world.

 

 

Alex Strada Is Contractually Binding Her Collectors to Support Emerging Female Artists

3 November 2017

From Artsy.net:

New York artist Alex Strada used to not give much thought to artist contracts. She’s hardly alone. Even though large swaths of the art world—from museum exhibitions to art fairs—depend on dense legal agreements, you’re not going to find a legal class on contracts as a required course at Columbia University’s visual arts program, from which Strada received an MFA in 2016.

But what if the invisible legal documents that make the art world go round were not only more conspicuous, but were also a mechanism through which to address the art world’s gender imbalance?

That’s the question Strada is posing through her recently unveiled artist contract, which, among other provisions, requires anyone who purchases one of her works to sell it 10 years later and use the accrued proceeds to buy a piece by an emerging female artist.

“Purchasing [my] work means buying into and supporting that fairly underrepresented demographic within the art market,” said Strada, herself an emerging female artist. The contract’s 10-year resale provision aims to project that support into the future.

. . . .

Strada was inspired by the Siegelaub agreement—a contract drawn up in 1971 by gallerist (and later textile artist) Seth Siegelaub and lawyer Robert Projansky that entitles artists to certain rights over their work after it is sold. For example, by signing the Siegelaub document, collectors agreed to pay artists 15% of the appreciated value of the purchased artwork if they resell it later (what’s called an artist’s resale royalty).

Siegelaub described his original contract, which has never been tested in court, as a “practical real-life, hands-on, easy-to-use, no-bullshit solution to a series of problems concerning artists’ control over their work.” In addition to helping address the economic imbalance between artist and collector, the contract also serves as something a piece of conceptual art itself. Attaching it to a sale makes an artistic statement as the legal document becomes inseparable from the artwork.

. . . .

“I was really excited by the idea that contracts could be a place to infuse my own political beliefs, feminist beliefs, and views of how the art market could potentially work,” Strada said.

Link to the rest at Artsy.net and here’s a link to the contract

PG says this works in the “Contract as Publicity Stunt” category. The chance of PG mentioning Ms. Strada in TPV was non-existent had she not undertaken her contractual innovation.

Is her contract enforceable? Only partially enforceable? Ditto for Mr. Siegelaub’s contract.

PG doesn’t know the answers to those questions. From a quick perusal of Ms. Strada’s contract, PG easily came up with some ways of circumventing the agreement that might work.

PG suspects the contracts would have a very short lifespan should the work ever fall under the jurisdiction of a bankruptcy court. Under Chapter Two of the Uniform Commercial Code, the contracts would seem to work, but whether a security interest in the artwork arises under Chapter Nine is a bit dodgier.

Most wealthy art collectors are likely to have carefully-crafted estate plans to control the disposition of their assets after their deaths and minimize estate and inheritance taxes. PG is uncertain how these artist contracts might affect those plans and what might happen if, for example, the estate plans called for the donation of the artwork to an academic institution or non-profit organization after death. Might a discerning institution reject the gift on advice of counsel?

And what happens when the artist dies? Is the owner of the artwork dealing with Uncle Ned and Aunt Stella in Wichita? Or the artist’s child, Flaming Star, Chairman of the Communist Party USA?

PG is not familiar with the decision-making process of art collectors when considering the acquisition of a work. He suspects more potential purchasers are aware of Ms. Strada and Mr. Siegelaub because of their contracts, so that might be a plus for the artists.

However, unless completely infatuated with the artist and excited about maintaining a continuing and binding legal relationship with that artist, probably for the remainder of somebody’s life or longer, some collectors might look for somewhere else to spend their money or make an offer to acquire the work contingent upon the absence of any innovative contracts.

Stealing Intellectual Property

28 October 2017

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I just had the most illuminating conversation. I had been consulting with someone about one of the TV deals I’m currently negotiating. I had run into a situation I had never encountered before, and I needed help evaluating it.

. . . .

The expert I consulted, gracious and interesting, had a lot to say about a lot of things. He gave me tips that are too on-point for my negotiations to share here.

And then he said something that scared the crap out of me.

Once a big company, studio, or someone with too much money has an option on your book, that organization will often register the copyright.

Initially, I was unconcerned when he said that, because, as I told him, the first thing I do when anyone connected to the film and TV industry comes knocking is this: I register my copyright with the U.S. Copyright office. If I answer someone’s email, it’s guaranteed that before I do, my work is registered.

If you don’t understand the value of registration, when it’s needed and when it’s not needed, then get yourself a copy of the Copyright Handbook from Nolo Press, and read the damn thing from cover to cover. I am not answering basic copyright questions here, although I did address some on a post some time ago. I also addressed a lot of copyright issues in my book on contracts and dealbreakers from last year.

It doesn’t matter if your copyright is registered, the expert said. They’ll register anyway, even before they’ve started production on anything. The strategy is to create confusion over who owns the copyright, and it’ll take litigation to straighten that confusion out.

The best thing I could do, he said, was to make sure that any agreement I have with anyone had an active termination date in which all rights reverted to me without me taking an action at all. What does that mean?

Instead of calling this a termination clause, he called it a snap-back. If the person I’ve negotiated with doesn’t have a screenplay by such-and-so date, then the rights licensed in the agreement automatically revert to me. If there’s no principal photography by such-and-so date, then the rights licensed in the agreement automatically revert to me. If the movie has not been made by such-and-so date, then the rights licensed in the agreement automatically revert to me. And so on, and so forth.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch and thanks to Colleen for the tip.

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Hachette to Honor Weinstein Books Contracts

10 October 2017

From Publishers Weekly:

Following a New York Times report exposing decades of sexual assault allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and his subsequent removal by the board of the company he co-founded, Hachette Book Group has addressed the future of writers signed to his book publishing imprint, Weinstein Books.

“Hachette Book Group will honor its contracts with writers who have come to us via Weinstein Books,” a spokesperson for the company told PW. “We will consider all of our options going forward, keeping support for our authors foremost.”

. . . .

Weinstein Books is a joint venture with The Weinstein Company, but its author contracts are with HBG, not Weinstein. Its authors include Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski, who recently wrote on Twitter that she has “a three-book deal with Weinstein Books, through Hachette. I can’t go forward with those books unless Harvey resigns.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

The OP doesn’t provide the dollar total for the advances Hachette has paid to Weinstein. PG opines that any number of Hachette executives can’t forget that number. But, of course, supporting authors is always the most important priority.

Freight asks authors to buy own books

9 October 2017

From The Bookseller:

Troubled publisher Freight Books has been accused of “rubbing salt in the wound” by sending an email to writers asking if they wanted to buy their own books.

Founded as an imprint of Freight Design in 2011 by Davinder Samrai and Adrian Searle, operations at publisher Freight Books have been thrown into disarray since the abrupt departure of Searle in April due to “irreconcilable differences over strategic direction”.

Last month, authors and agents called on Freight Books to provide more transparency about its financial status after it emerged its writers had not been paid for several months. It has also been reported that Freight has been in talks to sell the book side of the business, following an “unsolicited” request to buy the press, but last month the publisher was taken to court by Glasgow-based printing company Bell and Bain Printers over unpaid work dating back to the beginning of the year.

In an email to authors seen by The Bookseller, Samrai highlighted the “extremely uncertain” future the publisher faced and invited authors to buy their own books, saying that it “may be possible to set stock against any monies you are owed”.

Samrai said that during a “recent legal process”, it was explained that should the court’s decision go against him or Freight Books, then “matters relating to Freight Books […] could be taken out of my hands”.

“If you would like to buy stock of your titles, it may be prudent to act sooner rather than later”, Samrai said. “I appreciate this may cause unease but depending on quantities, I may be able to supply at a better discount than the regular author discount. If you would like to secure books – please email me your requests and I’ll do all I can to ensure you receive your books.

He added: “If any author is owed monies by way of royalties/advances etc. it may be possible to set stock against any monies you are owed. Also, if you are owed royalties an invoice should be submitted, in order to be registered on our accounts system (even if you not interested in books as payment).”

. . . .

A Freight author, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Bookseller: “I am utterly disgusted that a company in which so many writers put their trust thinks that selling an author discount copies of their own work can do anything but rub salt in the wound. The behaviour and mismanagement of Freight is an affront to everything the publishing industry should be about.” He added: “I for one hope I never hear of them again, and wish I had never had anything to do with them.”

Another Freight author, Alan Murray, said the offer was “a bit bonkers”. He said: “Authors who have not been paid are offered their own books at a discount – presumably allowing revenue raised to pay authors (and others) who haven’t been paid and whose contracts have probably been breached. Thanks, but no thanks. Count me right out.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

PG wonders if this story should be catalogued under “How Publishers Nurture Authors”.

Joshua A.T. Fairfield’s ‘Owned’ examines the ‘feudal system’ of digital property rights

18 September 2017

From Talking New Media:

The issue of digital property ownership recently, and surprisingly, came to the forefront during Hurricane Irma. Select Florida Tesla car owners received a notice that there was a software update available for their vehicles. The update, once applied, suddenly allowed gave their vehicles about a 30 mile increase in range. The idea was to help Floridians get out of harm’s way. But what it really did was remind the Tesla owners just who owns the software in their cars. It turns out that the only thing that had separated out two different models of Tesla — one that offered more range between charges, and one that didn’t — was the software in the vehicle, something that Tesla could change at any time.

In a way, this is the issue at the heart of Joshua A.T. Fairfield’s book Owned: Property, Privacy, and the New Digital Serfdom, from Cambridge University Press.

. . . .

“We own and control fewer and fewer of the products that we must use to function in modern society,” Fairfield writes. “Many computing devices (iPads, for instance) run only those programs approved by the device seller. We cannot even tell our devices not to reveal our personal data.”

“This is an untenable position in an information-age society,” Fairfield believes, and so he urges readers to promote changes in the laws governing such things, believing that right now we are living in a digital rights environment closer to feudalism than freedom.

. . . .

“First, internet technologies created an unprecedented ability to copy intellectual property — file sharing services spread pirated music like wildfire and fueled the music industry’s fears for its own future — before they created the ability to track and verify individual copies of electronic information,” Fairfield writes.

Then, the rise of free content created a situation were “software providers needed a revenue model that circumvented internet users’ refusal to pay for content that they could obtain — usually illegally, but with some degree of safety — for nothing. So software providers monetized information about their customers by surreptitiously monitoring everything their users typed, clicked or did, and selling that information to advertisers who could use it to extract more and often costlier deals from their customers.”

Fairfield’s observations are somewhat self-evident, we see examples of them every day, but the author gives the readers the background information, the cause and effect, and then lays out what needs to be done about, best summed up in the line “ordinary property ownership should apply to digital and smart property.”

Link to the rest at Talking New Media

PG suggests there are a lot of click-to-accept terms of use that might not hold up to well-lawyered litigation based on fraud, intentional misrepresentation, various consumer protection statutes and the like. He further suggests that smart lawyers will rein in their corporate clients’ overreach when establishing their legal relationship with their customers/users based on a mouse click instead of a signature at the bottom of several pieces of paper.

In PG’s litigating days, he observed that if, during the course of a trial, the judge decided one party or the other was a bad guy/gal, things didn’t go well for that party in the courtroom or in the judge’s decision.

Of course, a losing party can always appeal the trial court’s adverse decision. However, PG once heard an experienced trial judge say, “I know how to write an opinion that will never be reversed by an appellate court.” Knowing that judge, PG was inclined to believe him.

In PG’s experience, trial judges overwhelmingly want to do the right thing regardless of the legal arguments of the parties. Most good judges ascended to the bench because of a desire to do the right thing and could have earned more money by staying in their former practices. At the end of the trial, they want to walk out of the courthouse feeling like they helped make the world a little fairer with their decision.

In a fight between a giant corporation and the little people, most judges tend to identify with the little people.

De Gruyter Will Digitize the Entirety of its Backlist. All the Way Back to 1749.

5 September 2017
Comments Off on De Gruyter Will Digitize the Entirety of its Backlist. All the Way Back to 1749.

From No Shelf Required:

De Gruyter has taken the decision to digitize the entirety of its backlist all the way back to 1749. The decision to make this significant investment to complete the prestigious archive was taken earlier this year and the digitization process will begin shortly.

Many treasures are among works to be digitized, including Noam Chomsky’s “Syntactic Structures” as well as versions of “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” to name but two. The project is expected to conclude in 2020 with 3,000 additional titles to be available by the end of 2017. Of those titles digitized during the rest of this year, up to one hundred of the most important series will have priority, to allow librarians to complete their holdings.

. . . .

De Gruyter’s desire to secure its backlist for generations to come stems from the publishing house’s long tradition as a family-owned company which not only has a commitment to the past, but also a keen interest in shaping the future.

Link to the rest at No Shelf Required

PG sometimes tells his author clients before they sign typical legacy publishing contracts that those contracts will effectively last forever if the publisher wants them to do so.

Writers, Scam Artists, Agents, And More (Sigh)

29 April 2017

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Just when I thought it was safe to get back into the water…

I’m editing a lot these days. I only edit short fiction projects. Anthologies, anthology series (Fiction River), the occasional nonfiction book, and some magazines. I’m also consulting with the fine folks at WMG Publishing, because they’ll be handling the contracts for the revival of Pulphouse next year. Dean’s vision for Pulphouse includes reprinting some of the older stories, which means we have to deal with estates.

Too often, estates mean agents.

But even some lazy-ass living writers give their agents control of everything. It took me one year—one year—to get my hands on a non-fiction reprint that I wanted for a project of mine. The centerpiece for that project was an editorial written more than 20 years ago by a writer who had forgotten they had even written it. This writer, a friend of mine, doesn’t do email, and mostly stays off-line. (I know, I know.) I didn’t know about their tech phobia when I started into this, and had sent five different emails before I asked another editor friend how to reach this writer.

The editor advised snail mail.

Before I resorted to that, though, I called. The author and I are friends, after all. On the phone, the author told me that their agent handles everything. I do mean everything. The author—one smart cookie otherwise—can’t be bothered to concern themselves with touching anything to do with business. I had no idea this author was an Artiste, but I guess I know that now.

I also know why most anthologists refuse to reprint this author’s work.

I was pretty excited about this non-fiction project when I started it. I missed the publication window because of this agent and this writer. Fortunately, my publisher pushed the deadline back. We’ve pushed it back again, and again, and again. And frankly, I’m not feeling it any more. I have completely soured on the project.

The big bad agent, by the way, negotiated a horseshit deal for the writer that essentially gave me more rights than I would ever need. I offered the usual fee, which the agent did not negotiate up (although he could have). By that point, I was too pissed to give a break to these people. The amount of money—on publication, if there’s a publication—to the agent and the author will be negligible.

. . . .

Who the hell gives over control of everything, I mean everything, to an agent?

Oh, most writers. Never mind.

Still, I expect better. And if a writer is going to give control of the business side of her work to an “expert” then the expert better be damn good at negotiating and taking care of the writer’s interests.

So far, all of the agents I’ve encountered who handle everything are the worst negotiators in the business. They let things slide, they don’t care about being paid, they don’t ask for the right kind of language in a contract, they license the wrong rights or sell those rights outright.

. . . .

On one of the many projects I worked on recently, I contacted a writer to reprint one of their stories. I wrote a standard email letter, requesting permission to reprint, and the writer wrote back that they had no idea if the rights were available. The writer said I should contact the editor who originally published the story and ask.

I was taken aback. I had never had a writer say such a thing before in all of my years of editing. I knew the editor in question, and had worked with him many times. Never once did that editor, in all his various projects, try to control all the rights to a project. It wasn’t in his standard contract, the one he used for his anthology projects. It wasn’t in his special contracts, for other projects. It hadn’t ever happened, not in years of dealing with this man.

Honestly, this is where Writer Me and Editor Me had a conflict. Writer Me decided that Editor Me should get clarification from that writer before going to the writer’s editor. You see, Writer Me figured the editor in question would be confused at best or insulted at worst by the suggestion that he controlled the rights.

I did not want to offend him—as a person, not as an editor I might work with.

So I asked for clarification from the writer on the problem and added, as I do with many writers—bestsellers and nonbestsellers alike—that I would be happy to look at the clauses or contract in question (with the pertinent information like SSN and payment blacked out) to see what rights the author had actually sold. After all, the author clearly had no idea. Frankly, I figured the author didn’t know how to read a contract, and certainly didn’t know copyright law. I’ve seen that dozens of times before.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Actor recites all 9 hours of Amazon Kindle T&Cs

16 March 2017

From CNet:

Do you read the terms of service for every service you sign up for? Stop lying, you don’t. But you have a very good reason. They’re very long and very boring, and you just want to get stuck into whatever you’re signing up for.

. . . .

To highlight just how ridiculous it is, Choice hired an actor named Laurence to read aloud all 73,198 words of Amazon’s Kindle terms and conditions.

Based on the estimation that 500 words is one A4 page, that’s 146 pages, and it took poor Laurence nine hours to slog through the whole thing.

Link to the rest at CNet and thanks to G.P. for the tip.

.

.

Having written, rewritten and read more Terms of Use than he cares to remember, PG says such “Agreements” always begin as shorter documents, then grow over time. They never seem to shrink.

Unless a provision is determined by a court or government agency to be illegal or unenforceable, it stays in the Terms of Service (or Terms of Use or Terms and Conditions) forever. These three titles (abbreviated as ToS, TOU or T’s & C’s when lawyers communicate with one another) tend to be used interchangeably to refer to the same type of document embedded somewhere on a corporate website or printed in tiny, tiny type on a much-folded piece of paper inserted into product packaging.

On occasion, stories arise about someone who inserts a provision at about the 80% point in a corporate TOU that offers to pay whomever reads the provision a reward of $100 with an email address to claim the reward. Months pass, then years, and the reward is never claimed.

While PG would never recommend treating the contractual provisions included in a TOU lightly, as a general proposition, most large organizations with lengthy TOU’s threaten violators with great vigor, but seldom seem to take enforcement actions to trial before a judge or (heaven forefend!) a jury.

In PG’s experience, TOU’s tend to be much, much longer than agreements on similar subjects that are negotiated between two parties who are each represented by counsel.

PG stumbled across an article in The Telegraph which indicates the islands from which the foundations of American law originated may have a more sensible view of TOU’s than the US does. It’s official: you don’t have to read the Ts & Cs

How a PR man became a giant of children’s literature

3 March 2017

From The Christian Science Monitor:

Two decades before The Cat ever donned a hat, Theodor Seuss Geisel was an oil industry ad man who was also the architect of a wacky navy, named for himself – a sort of PokemonGo of the late 1930s.

On March 2nd, fans will celebrate the 113th birthday of Dr. Seuss, as Geisel is now known, but precious few will recall the Seuss Navy, Geisel’s biggest success as an ad man and the tipping point of his life as he moved from illustrator to children’s author.

It was all about drumming up publicity for a client. “Back in 1935, while working in the ad department of the Standard Oil Company, Geisel was tasked with creating a campaign to launch Esso Marine Lube for the New York International Boat Show that was coming up in 1936,” Bruce Wells, curator for the Oil and Gas Historical Society in Washington, D.C., said in an interview, ” Esso (which still exists in Europe today) was part of Standard Oil which today is part of Exxon Mobil.

Geisel and his colleagues created an interactive campaign that engaged adults in boat races, games, contests, and an annual “Seuss Navy Luncheon and Frolic.” All manner of merchandise and prizes were created by Esso, some of which still haunt eBay today.

. . . .

The pivotal point of Geisel’s PR career came with his decision to generate three, 30-page, Seuss Navy story booklets with rhyming text and his crew of characters, says collector and Seuss expert Gregg Philipson of Austin, Texas, in a phone interview. Geisel later said his experience working at Standard Oil “taught me conciseness and how to marry pictures with words.”

. . . .

So how did Seuss move from doing PR for an oil company to becoming an icon in the field of children’s books? “I would like to say I went into children’s-book work because of my great understanding of children,” Seuss quipped in the Dartmouth interview. But actually, he continued, “I went in because it wasn’t excluded by my Standard Oil contract.”

Link to the rest at The Christian Science Monitor

PG says that far too many of today’s employment contracts would have precluded Geisel from writing or publishing anything derived from his work as an employee.

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