by Nomsa Chirisa

Raincemba Publishing is an independent publisher who supports independent authors. This is mainly because a lot of authors want help to write and publish their manuscripts while retaining total control of their book writing business. Writers want full publishing rights of their work in order to control their pay check. This is exactly what Raincemba Publishing as an independent publisher seeks to provide to authors – full publishing rights for the author. However, this is often confused with copyright.

Copyright and publishing (or reproduction) rights are two different things. The distinction between the two might seem clearer if you think of copyright as “the right to copy” – copy is written content; and publishing rights as “the right to produce.”

What is Copyright?

Copyright is the control or right of the author to exploit their work or to authorise others to do so. By being the creator of an original, you automatically own the rights over the copy of the work. For instance, you can allow or prohibit the publisher or others, such as performers or translators, to publish, publicly display, or digitise your work for a specified period of time. You also decide if your work should be published electronically or in print format, who to publish it and how. Copyrights are the liberties enjoyed by the creator of work on what they want or do not want to be done with it.

What are Publishing rights?

Publishing rights are also referred to as reproduction rights. Publishing rights are what writers sell, assign, license, or otherwise hand over when they allow others to publish their work. In essence, these rights are transferable by the writer, who is the copyright holder at the creation of the work to the publisher who, in some instances, will become the copyright holder. The publisher is given the rights which enable the book to reach the audience by whatever means necessary as agreed by both the author and publisher.

In this article, I am going to focus on the protection of publishing rights in book publishing.

Publishing rights

Publishing rightsFormat
Making the work public
Public performanceReciting
Theatre works

How are Publishing rights protected?

Upon creating a book, the writer owns 100% copyright and publishing rights to their work. This means that you have full control over your work – you are the king of the castle, you control who comes into the palace, who does what and how, you select the guards to protect your family; the list goes on.

However, when an author makes the decision to publish their work with a traditional publisher, they are required to hand over some of their publishing rights, if not all, to the publisher. But, when you get help from an independent publisher, the author gets and pays for all publishing support while retaining 100% of their rights (copyright and publishing rights).

Protecting Publishing rights

By virtue of the author’s work being original and fixed in tangible form (written), they automatically qualify for copyright protection. The first thing is to ensure that your work is original and in a fixed state. This will guarantee you automatic protection for your work and award you the publishing rights.

As both the author and publisher get into a publishing agreement, among other things, they specify who gets which rights and for how long. The contract specifies the rights which are being signed off to the publisher and those being retained by the author. Both parties need to be clear about it.

How does copyright law benefit authors and their works?

1. Writers can assign publishing or reproduction rights of their work, for a fee, to enable others to publish it. If someone takes a piece of work without the copyright holder’s permission, whether from the internet or anywhere else, they’re stealing publishing rights that might otherwise have been sold elsewhere. They are in breach of the writer’s copyright, and liable to be prosecuted.

2. Copyright rewards authors for their creative efforts and provides an economic incentive for them to write and publish. Surely, after all the resources channelled towards writing and publishing, authors and publishers deserve some incentive. Take it as remuneration for a job done.

3. Copyright law also exists to provide legal protection in case of infringement of the law. The magistrate will rule the case in your favour when the law is on your side and you can actual claim damages when your copyright is infringed.

4. Copyright provides legal ownership of a piece of work. Because you have created an original work, you are entitled to that legal ownership. Third parties which seek to use your work can therefore contact you as the owner and seek for permission. It acts as that title deed for your intellectual property and is proof that you own it.

5. Research and education are advanced under copyright law, through the free use provisions. As discussed in the previous post, copyright is exempted under free use, provided its provisions are observed. This advances the learning, teaching and research ecosystem by allowing the use of copyrighted material to be used for these purposes, saving the user from infringement claims. Without copyright, it would be impossible to use copyrighted work in teaching and learning setups.

6. Copyright promotes creativity within and amongst artists. Because copyright protects original works, artists cannot replicate other authors’ works hence they are compelled to be creative by being unique and different.


Before handing over your rights to the publisher or third parties, be fully aware of what you are entitled to and what you are signing off. Most writers have legal representative to consult for such issues. While publishing contracts may clearly stipulate who gets which rights, it would be wise to seek legal counsel and understand all the finer details before signing on the dotted line.





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