Category Archives: Rights Reversion

The Authors Alliance Guide to Crafting A Reversion Letter

The first step in reverting rights to previously published work is to initiate a conversation with the rightsholder—usually a publisher. This process is not always straightforward, so Authors Alliance has created a concise collection of templates and sample language that may be used as a starting point. The Authors Alliance Guide to Crafting a Rights Reversion Letter (including letter templates) is intended to help authors take the all-important initial step in the rights reversion process. We’d like to thank Nicole Cabrera, Jordyn Ostroff, and Brianna Schofield of the Samuelson Law, Technology, and Public Policy Clinic at UC Berkeley Law for their work in creating this guide, which is a companion to their primer on Understanding Rights Reversion.

A collection of rights management tools is available on our Resources page. Check back often for updates and new information!

Joseph Nye: A Rights Reversion Success Story

Posted January 22, 2016

We are pleased to feature the following guest post by Brianna Schofield, a teaching fellow at UC Berkeley Law and co-author of our Guide to Understanding Rights Reversion.

Cover_Artboard 1-2

Joseph S. Nye is an Authors Alliance member, Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor, and former Dean of the Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.  He is the author of over a dozen books in the field of international politics and coined the term “soft power.”  In a recent survey of international relations scholars, Professor Nye was ranked as the most influential scholar on American foreign policy.

Notwithstanding Professor Nye’s significant contributions to the fields of political science and international relations, his 1971 book Peace in Parts: Integration and Conflict in Regional Organization fell out of print long ago.  When Professor Nye learned of his colleague Robert Darnton’s success securing the necessary rights to make two of his early books openly accessible, Professor Nye was inspired to see what he could do to get Peace in Parts back in the hands of readers.

Professor Nye was hopeful that his original publishing contract for Peace in Parts might include a reversion clause and that the book’s out-of-print status would trigger a right of reversion.  However, like many authors of decades-old books, Professor Nye could not locate a copy of his publication agreement.  With the help of the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at Berkeley Law, Professor Nye contacted the book’s publisher to request a copy of the original contract.  The publisher was also unable to locate a copy of the publication agreement after searching its internal databases and offsite storage facilities.

Happily, the publisher issued a letter making it clear that it claims no rights or interests in Peace in Parts and that it has no objection to Professor Nye making his book available in the ways he wants. After confirming that a subsequent reprint license to a different publisher had expired, Professor Nye was armed with the permission and information he needed to make the book freely available to readers.

Since Peace in Parts was already scanned as a part of the HathiTrust collection, Professor Nye filled out a form asking HathiTrust to unlock the full text of Peace in Parts.  Now, after decades languishing out of print, Peace in Parts is available free of charge online to all readers.  In the interest of reaching as many readers as possible, Professor Nye additionally opted to dedicate the work to the public domain using a CC0 license.

Share your own success story! If you’ve already used our Understanding Rights Reversions guide to make your work more available, please contact us at We’d love to hear about it.

John Kingdon: A Rights Reversion Success Story

Posted December 8, 2015

We are pleased to feature the following guest post by Nicole Cabrera and Jordyn Ostroff, students at UC Berkeley Law and authors of our Guide to Understanding Rights Reversion.


John W. Kingdon is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He is the author of several books on political science and public policy, including the influential Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies, which received the 1994 Aaron Wildavsky Award from the public policy section of the American Political Science Association.

In 1968, Random House published Candidates for Office: Beliefs and Strategies, a revised version of Professor Kingdon’s dissertation. Although the book was well publicized at the time, Candidates for Office has been out of print for several decades now. Professor Kingdon learned about Authors Alliance’s rights reversion campaign from his former University of Michigan student, Authors Alliance co-founder and board member, Molly Van Houweling. Eager to make Candidates for Office available to readers once again, he decided to work with Authors Alliance and the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at UC Berkeley to regain the rights in Candidates for Office so he could make it openly accessible to readers online.

Professor Kingdon sent a letter to Random House requesting reversion of rights and was pleased to receive notification just two weeks later that Random House agreed to revert all rights in Candidates for Office to him. Since Candidates for Office had already been scanned and was discoverable through HathiTrust, Professor Kingdon then approached HathiTrust with confirmation that he held the rights in his book. Using this form, he requested that HathiTrust unlock his book to make it fully readable online for free. He also chose to apply the Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND license to his work so that even more people could discover and read Candidates for Office.

Now, several decades after its initial publication, Candidates for Office is once again available to students, scholars, and all readers, ensuring that Professor Kingdon’s work can continue to contribute to the scholarly discourse for years to come.

Share your own success story! If you’ve already used our Understanding Rights Reversions guide to make your work more available, please contact us at We’d love to hear about it.

Everybody Wins:
Jeff Hecht’s Rights Reversion Success Story

Posted October 26, 2015

We are pleased to feature the following guest post by Nicole Cabrera and Jordyn Ostroff, students at UC Berkeley Law and authors of our Guide to Understanding Rights Reversion.


Jeff Hecht is an Authors Alliance member and the author of several books on a wide variety of topics pertaining to science and technology, including lasers, fiber optics, and dinosaurs. Faced with the declining availability of his book, Understanding Fiber Optics, Mr. Hecht worked with his publisher to make it more affordably available to his readers. Mr. Hecht’s story is yet another example of how rights reversions and negotiations with publishers can benefit authors and publishers alike, as well as current and future readers. Part of Mr. Hecht’s experience is featured in the Authors Alliance guide to rights reversion, but since then Mr. Hecht has pursued new ways to increase his book’s availability, and we are excited to share this update with you.

We first spoke with Jeff Hecht in the fall of 2014, while conducting outreach to authors and publishers in preparation for the Understanding Rights Reversion guide. At that time, Mr. Hecht explained to us that Prentice Hall published the fifth edition of Understanding Fiber Optics in 2005. With time, sales of Understanding Fiber Optics slowed and Mr. Hecht was approached about collaborating on a sixth edition. Mr. Hecht brought this proposal to Prentice Hall, but it declined to publish a sixth edition because it did not believe that it could effectively market any new editions of the book. Instead, Prentice Hall agreed to revert to Mr. Hecht the rights to all future editions of Understanding Fiber Optics so that he could try to bring a sixth edition to market independently or with another publisher. Prentice Hall retained the rights to the first five editions, and Mr. Hecht happily got to work on a sixth edition of Understanding Fiber Optics.

This initial success did not mark the end of Mr. Hecht’s and Prentice Hall’s efforts to ensure the continued availability of Understanding Fiber Optics. After reverting rights to future editions of the book, Prentice Hall eventually stopped selling full-length versions of the fifth edition. Instead, Prentice Hall limited distribution of Understanding Fiber Optics to licensing individual chapters of the book for use in college course packets. Since it was important to Mr. Hecht that his book be available in a full-length edition, Prentice Hall agreed to allow him to independently sell full-length copies of the fifth edition subject to one caveat. According to the terms of their agreement, Mr. Hecht must make clear that Prentice Hall had previously published Understanding Fiber Optics but that it is not publishing the full-length version that Mr. Hecht is now selling. Mr. Hecht is happy to oblige, and has created his own small press to publish full-length digital and print-on-demand versions of Understanding Fiber Optics.

Mr. Hecht is quite pleased with how his negotiations with Prentice Hall worked out. Not only does he continue to earn royalties on Prentice Hall’s licensing of individual chapters of Understanding Fiber Optics, but he has also achieved his vision for making his book widely available at an affordable price. In fact, the first purchaser of the digital version of Understanding Fiber Optics was a student in Botswana searching for an affordable introduction to fiber optics. Mr. Hecht told us that he couldn’t think of a better symbol of achieving his goal of making his book more broadly accessible than ever before.

Share your own success story! If you’ve already used our Understanding Rights Reversions guide to make your work more available, please contact us at We’d love to hear about it.

Authors Alliance Hosts “Understanding Rights Reversion” Webinar

Posted October 2, 2015

On September 30, the Authors Alliance Rights Reversion team hosted a webinar on Understanding Rights Reversion for ASERL (the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries). The webinar, led by Nicole Cabrera, Jordyn Ostroff, and Brianna Schofield of the Samuelson Law, Technology, and Public Policy Clinic at UC Berkeley, offers a step-by-step look at how authors can regain rights from publishers in order to make their work more available. Interested authors can watch the full video above, check out our team’s slide deck, or grab a copy of the guide, which is available both online and in print.

Understanding Rights Reversion: Now in Print

Posted September 15, 2015

When we released Understanding Rights Reversion this past April, we published the guide as a digital file under a Creative Commons license with the goal of putting it in reach of anyone who might need it. We’re pleased to say that the guide is now available, digitally, through any number of outlets, from NYU libraries to Australian Policy Online, as well as from our website.

But digital can’t reach everyone and many of us find paper resources easier to read and navigate. For everyone with a preference for paper, and for those who want to support Authors Alliance’s continuing non-profit mission, Understanding Rights Reversion is now available the old-fashioned way. After joining or donating, purchasing a guide from us is one of the best ways to stand behind our organization. Buy one today (below or in our store) and who knows, we might even throw in some stickers!

Robert Darnton and Authors Alliance:
 A Rights Reversion Success Story

Posted September 11, 2015



We are very pleased to announce that two books by Robert Darnton, The Business of Enlightenment and Mesmerism and the End of Enlightenment in France, are now freely available in their entirety online. Darnton, an Authors Alliance Advisory Board member and an emeritus Professor of History and outgoing University Librarian at Harvard, has, with Authors Alliance assistance, secured the necessary rights to release two of his books under Creative Commons licenses.

Continue reading

Questions About Rights Reversion? We’ve Got Answers!

Posted August 27, 2015

It may be August, but our rights reversion project shows no signs of slowing down for the dog days of summer. If anything, we’re gaining momentum in our efforts to support authors seeking to regain control of their work. In April of this year, we published an online guide to rights to reversion, and we recently received a shipment of beautifully produced hard copies from the printer.

Our community has found the guide to be clear and comprehensive, but even the most thorough investigation of a topic often raises more questions than it answers—especially when it comes to publication contracts.  In light of this, we are pleased to announce that Authors Alliance is now offering personal assistance with your rights reversion questions. Thanks to the Samuelson Law, Technology, and Public Policy Clinic at UC Berkeley and the support of the Mellon Foundation, we have the resources to help guide individuals through various aspects of the rights reversion process.

Even after reviewing the guide and your publication contract(s), you may have concerns or areas needing clarification. You may still be unsure whether you or your publisher holds copyright, and to what extent. You may have received a request to post work to your department website or deposit it with an open access repository, but still aren’t sure whether you need further permission. Or perhaps you may be stymied by unclear contract language, or not have a written contract at all. Whatever your circumstances, we invite you to contact us at to see if we can provide you with personal assistance.

What will you do after recovering your rights?
 Stephen Sugarman’s success story

Posted August 18, 2015

Authors Alliance is encouraging its members to consider reverting rights to their out-of-print or commercially dormant titles in order to see those works made more widely available. Stephen D. Sugarman, the Roger J. Traynor Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law and an Authors Alliance founding member, writes below about his recent experience in making one of his books available online.

John E. Coons, William H. Clune, and I published Private Wealth and Public Education with Harvard University Press (Belknap) in 1970. In the book we showed how wealthy public school districts around the nation spent considerably more money per pupil (while imposing lower tax rates on their property owners) than did low wealth school districts; and we advanced a legal argument as to why this regime should be declared unconstitutional by our courts. The book had a big impact in many states and on the education law literature – an impact that continues to the present as lawsuits challenging school finance inequalities remain vibrant around the nation. But, although the book is not technically out of print, Harvard is understandably not promoting it, and new copies have not been sold in some time. It is available in many libraries, but we suspect that many potential readers would be much more interested in having online digital access (with searchable text).

To ensure that the book will be able to reach these readers, we asked Harvard University Press for assistance, and the Press kindly returned all of the publishing rights to the book to us (although Harvard technically retains the formal copyright and told us we would have to pay to have that assigned to us). While we did not have a digital copy of the book to release, we were pleased to find that it had already been scanned from the library of the University of Michigan, and that it has long been discoverable (though not readable) via both HathiTrust and Google Books. The letter that Harvard provided to us sufficed for HathiTrust to provide us with digital copies for our own records, and to unlock the full version of the book for the public at large to read and share under a Creative Commons license. We are hoping next to get Google Books to also unlock access to the full text.

We believe that Private Wealth and Public Education still has much to offer and are glad that it has this new opportunity to reach more readers online.

Share your own success story! If you’ve already used our Understanding Rights Reversions guide to make your work more available, please contact us at We’d love to hear about it.