I've written a short historical account on a local 17th Century shipwreck which I have been serialising on a Facebook group.

Given the very positive response I would like to publish as a small book with a local museum (not their usual thing but they are very keen). I'm planning to gift them all the sales revenue for free.

However, in the event that I can do more research and collate more information, I may opt to publish a larger book, which I would like to earn from.

Much of the facts in the book are in the public domain, and I'm even hoping that the museum could help with some facts.

Is it legal to offer a one-time non-exclusive right to publish? And is it ethical? Or should I self-publish and donate copies for their gift shop?

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    If it's legal and if it's ethical are two different questions. Which one are you asking? Jan 26, 2021 at 23:50
  • @Nai45 sorry, perhaps I should be asking "is my planned approach fair" i.e. fair to both the museum and myself? Jan 27, 2021 at 0:27
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    @Colin Dickie, What is fair is defined solely by the participants in the deal. If you and the museum are happy then its by definition fair. You are also asking if you've protected your future revenues with your limited rights terms. If you are serious about understanding the question, then you need to show the contract to lawyer, and get a legal opinion.
    – EDL
    Jan 27, 2021 at 19:57

1 Answer 1


Yes. It is legal. You can confirm this by reading the copyright law or seeing an IP lawyer.

Yes, it is ethical.
Nobody is forcing them to do it. What two parties freely agree to do is up to them alone.

Now, whether somebody would want non-exclusive rights is an open question. Many corporations insist on all rights. Unless you are truly desperate you should never cede all rights to anyone.

In most cases, you can take material you wrote about and use it again without any problems, as long as you have changed the focus, and especially when you increased the content significantly.

Now that being said, your serializing on Facebook has used up first publication rights, so you can only offer reprint rights. Whether you want those to be exclusive or non-exclusive is your call.

  • Thank you so much. Very helpful. I didn't know about first publication rights, so this as been very informative. Jan 31, 2021 at 11:46

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