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I have written several guest blog posts for a website with a large readership. I didn't ask for payment because the site is set up primarily as a public service in the special interest area.

Now I have written a guest blog post that I would like to re-use (possibly in a slightly different form) in a future book. I have asked the site manager about this and find her response confusing. First, she pointed me to the site's reprint policy, which says

"articles cannot be reproduced for resale."

She also said, "Your writing will always be your own intellectual property - even if it’s published on our site."

Should I request an exception to this in writing before my article is published on their site?

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IANAL, but, you own all the rights to work you create. No one else acquires any rights to that work unless you grant it to them through an explicit agreement. By sending them your articles to publish, you grant them permission to do just that: publish them on their site. Unless you agree to grant them something more than that, that is all they have the right to do.

The terms and conditions that you did not read when you signed up for StackExchange included a grant of rights to SE for the stuff you write here. (I don't know exactly what it is, because I did not read it either.) Same goes for Facebook and every other site you have an account on. If you signed up for the site in question and agreed to its terms and conditions then those terms and conditions tell you who owns your work.

If you just emailed them stuff, then what is said in those emails (and whatever the work for hire rules in your jurisdiction say) tells you who owns what.

None of us can know for sure what rights you granted to them. That is in the text of your agreement with them and applicable law. But they cannot just claim rights after the fact just because you allowed them first publication rights. They own what you agreed they would own. You own everything else.

  • Yes. If you signed something that says that you agreed that they own anything you submit to them, then they own it. If they have some page on the site that says "by submitting material to this site, you agree that ...", that's probably legally binding, though those sort of by-default contracts have been challenged. If you never agreed to anything, then you get into very hazy areas. – Jay Mar 6 '17 at 22:01
  • "grant of write"? – aparente001 Mar 7 '17 at 4:28
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I agree with what Mark Baker said, but you might want to consider the following.

If she said it is your intellectual property, that suggests you still own the copyright and you didn't give it away. However, you can't just copy what is on the website because they have added to what you supplied (font used, heading colour, etc.).

But if you are writing a book, you won't want something that is exactly the same as you would find on a website. You would want it formatted differently and you would change at least some of the text. This would mean that you are not reproducing the article, you are reusing the ideas, which you supposedly own.

  • I want to publish it on other online venues as well. I want to get the information out to other people who will find it helpful. I'm starting with this one because it's a high traffic site. When I publish it elsewhere I will mention that it was previously published at their site. – aparente001 Mar 7 '17 at 4:27
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I agree with what Mark Baker and S. Mitchell said, but I would make a few additional suggestions.

After you review whatever agreement you made, if you are still unclear, go back to them (in email, so it is in writing) and explicitly ask what they mean by anything you are unsure about, such as "what do you mean by reproduce?" It may mean they don't want someone printing out the article and selling it, etc.

Many places that publish guest article or contributions to their journal/magazine/etc. ask that the author reference them if and when they have the article published again later on (such as in a collection). I would suggest that you have an Acknowledgements page that includes a reference to these folks, and let them know you are planning on doing that. It's common courtesy and may make them feel better about you re-publishing.

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"Articles cannot be reproduced for resale" and "Your writing will always be your own intellectual property - even if it’s published on our site" aren't necessarily contradictory. If I was the judge and saw those two statements in a contract, I'd think the obvious interpretation would be that articles cannot be reproduced by anyone other than the original author. In the absence of any agreement, that would likely be the default understanding of a court: you own what you wrote, you allowed them to publish it, but the fact that you let this site publish it doesn't mean that you are allowing anyone else to re-publish it. By submitting it, you either explicitly or implicitly gave them permission. But no one else.

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