Pearson Education, a major education services company (and the parent company of trade publisher Penguin), is currently requesting vastly extended licenses for copyrighted text and images that it has received permission from rightsholders to include in its print textbooks and other publications.
The original licenses were limited by language, territory, and/or format. Here's an actual example: North American English rights only, for a first printing of 5,000 copies.
Pearson's extension request expands that limited scope to include pretty much everything, everywhere. Here's the exact language:
We are now requesting Extended rights for your selection(s) to include the following: All Languages, World Rights, Print Versions and Non-Print Media, Subsequent Editions, Derivative Versions, Disability Accessible Version and Promotional Use.There's no doubt that this expanded language reflects the growing importance of digital publishing, with its proliferation of non-print formats and erosion of traditional territorial rights. But it's also alarmingly vague, and enormously expands not just the scope, but potentially the duration of the permission license.
My source for this information, an agent at a well-known agency, told me that when she contacted the third-party service that is handling the extension requests, she was told that she wasn't the first agent to call with concerns about the expanded language. She and the author have decided to deny the extension.
"My concern," she says, "is for authors without representation--that they would just sign [the extension] and not truly understand the repercussions."