September 26, 2011

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Interview with Shareholder Jon Tandler

This article was originally published in the
PubWest End Sheet, September 2011

Copywright 2011 PubWest - Posted by Permission

Jon Tandler, Ryley Carlock & Applewhite Attorneys

How did you get your start in publishing law?
While I was practicing corporate law in San Francisco in 1988,
I was asked to provide legal work for the publishers of a series of
popular coffee table books. They had just moved their company from
New York and wanted local counsel. Having no experience in publishing
or intellectual property, I said "yes!" I read books on copyright law and
started to work on projects; I oftentimes tapped into the expertise of their
New York counsel who still today is an icon in publishing law and a
mentor to me.

In 1990 the president of a new tradebook publisher, IDG Books
Worldwide, called and asked me to prepare his company's author publisher
agreement. IDG Books created and released the For Dummies series of
computer and general reference books several months later! I served as
IDG Books' outside publishing counsel from its inception through its sale to
Wiley Publishing over a decade later.

This was a tremendous learning experience. I first started
to teach publishing law in 1994. From my client work and presentations,
I've enjoyed meeting and working with professionals who work in many
different facets of the publishing industry.

What are two basic things to remember when preparing a contract
with an author and/or freelancer?

Author-publisher agreements are typically different and a little more
involved than freelance agreements. An author-publisher agreement
is primary and subsidiary rights royalty-based with calculations. A freelance
agreement is often structured simply with payment upon receipt of acceptable
material without royalty calculations .Develop and customize agreements to
reflect your company's particular content acquisition, publishing and financial
models; not one size fits all.

What is the biggest mistake you have seen? What can we learn from it?

I think the best way to answer this question is to mention something
I say when I teach: "It's easier to stay out of trouble than to get out of trouble."
I did not make up that homily and do not know who did. As examples only,
a publisher should do the following:
use best practices in the permissions process;

  • conduct clearance searches on proposed titles and trademarks;
  • secure registrations for marks;
  • adhere to print run limitations in stock photo agreements;
  • pay authors royalties on time in full with good statements;
  • have clear and understandable agreements with content providers and
    other persons.

Failure to do these things cost time and money when problems arise.
Lloyd Rich and I are speaking about a few of these topics at the PubWest
annual meeting in November.

What question should you ask a prospective attorney?

Whenever you seek legal advice for (an employment question, preparing a will
or estate plan, reviewing or preparing a lease, trademark advice or a divorce), ask
your prospective attorney about his/her work and experience in the field and with
your type of matter or project.

Understand the actual work that will be necessary to properly handle your matter
and obtain clear information on how the attorney will charge for that work and what
he/she expects in terms of the resulting legal fees and expenses.

Jon Tandler is a corporate, intellectual property and publishing law
attorney with Ryley Carlock & Applewhite Attorneys of Denver, CO,
and Phoenix, AZ. He also volunteers as PubWest's general counsel.
He can be reached at 303-813-6706 or