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Publication Rights 101: What’s the Difference?

Publication Rights 101: What’s the Difference?

Publication rights – what are they and why are they important?  This guide will give you these answers and will also explain the differences between the various publication rights that exist so that you can become better informed prior to selling your work.

What is a publication right?

A publication right is basically a copyright that is given to a publisher who publishes a piece that has never been published before.  This publishing occurs after the piece’s original copyright expires.

Why are publication rights important?

Once you create an article or similar piece of work and put it into print, it’s automatically copyrighted as a way of protecting your intellectual property.  While some writers enjoy writing as a hobby, others do it as a profession and like to sell their work to companies, website owners, and the like.  Selling something such as an article means that you are selling the right for someone else to publish it.  As you will see in the following list, there are several different publication rights that grant publishers varying levels of permission over the use of your work.

All Rights

Selling these rights means that a client purchases full ownership of your work, so you won’t be able to sell its rights to anyone else.

First Print Rights

First print Rights are rather broad, since they do not specify any geographical location, such as FNASR (see below) with its North American designation.  First Print Rights give a publisher the right to be the very first to publish your work in print form.

First North American Serial Rights

First North American Serial Rights, or FNASR, gives a publisher the right to be the first to print a piece of work in North America.  By definition, these rights can only be sold once.  Selling these rights limit the other remaining rights you have to sell to publishers.  Many writers will deal with FNASR on a frequent basis.

First Serial Rights

First Serial Rights are usually similar to First Print Rights.  They involve giving a publisher the first rights to print your work and do not narrow down any specific geographic area.

First English-Language Rights

These are rather self-explanatory.  First English-Language Rights give a publisher the right to publish your work first in the English language.  No medium is specified here, such as print, Web, etc.  As for the English language designation, this could mean the United States, England, Australia, and so on.

International Rights

These can be sold to other countries and can be accompanied by more specific designations, such as First Australian Print Rights.

First Electronic Rights

First Electronic Rights are similar to First Print Rights in that they give a publisher the right to be the first to publish your work, except that they refer to an electronic form.  While this electronic designation can differ, it most often refers to publishing work in the form of e-books, CD-ROM, or on the Internet.

Second Rights

It comes as no surprise that Second Rights come after First Rights.  Once you sell your First Rights, you want to look for clients who are willing to reprint your work.

Reprint Rights

Similar to Second Rights, Reprint Rights involve a publisher that wants to reprint your work.  If someone asks for Exclusive Reprint Rights, this means that they want to be the only ones allowed to reprint your work.  This essentially blocks the further sale of your publishing rights, so beware.

Exclusive Rights

Exclusive rights are requested when a client wants to be the only one to publish your work for a certain period of time.

One-Time Rights or Simultaneous Rights

Such rights give a publisher the right to publish your work once.  Due to the format, One-Time Rights are sometimes referred to as Simultaneous Rights, since you can sell these to more than one outlet at a time.  Newspaper columns often deal with this category of publication rights.

One-Time Electronic Rights

This obviously grants a publisher the permission to publish your work once in an electronic format.

All Electronic Rights

These are purchased by clients who want total control over your work across electronic formats.

Web Rights or Internet Rights

Publishers have the right to publish your work on the Web.

Archival Rights

Such rights allow publishers to keep your work in back issues of online publications, such as webzines.

Electronic Distribution Rights

Not exactly ideal, Electronic Distribution Rights allow a publisher to distribute your work to different electronic outlets.  These rights may not be in your best interest, as you could be selling your own work to different outlets on your own.

English Language Periodical Rights

Rather specific in form, English Language Periodical Rights allow a publisher to publish work in English in a certain format, such as a periodical (newspaper).

World Periodical Rights

Publishers purchase these rights when they want to publish something in a periodical on a global scale, regardless of language.

Excerpt Rights

This gives a publisher the right to publish just a specific portion or excerpt of your work.

Anthology Rights

These are reprint rights purchased by anthologies (collections of literary works).


Here you work for someone as an employee and they pay you for the work you perform.  Once your work is submitted, you no longer own it and the employer can use it as they please.

Refer to these definitions of publication rights before you sell your work, as the last thing you want to do is to lose complete control and miss out on additional earnings that you deserve.

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