By Jenny Chang
On May 9, WIPS members (old and newly recruited!) gathered in the offices of leading Hong Kong law firm Oldham, Li & Nie to learn what NOT to do (or rather sign away!) when it comes to publishing contracts and copyright. The firm’s founding partner Gordon Oldham and Head of IP Benjamin Choi had put together a great presentation, and the subsequent discussion could have gone for hours or at least until the generously provided wine and snacks ran out! We got so many important takeaways. We now know that copyright in an original manuscript lasts 50 years after the author’s passing and can be established simply and cheaply via Hongkong Post and a sealed envelope. Book titles are not exclusive to anyone, but for marketing purposes it pays to be original. While winning a literary competition is obviously wonderful, it’s important to remember you’ll be bound by the contest organiser’s terms and conditions which you signed during your initial submission.
A discussion on libel and defamation pitfalls revealed hilariously tall (and maybe even stark-naked!) happenings in one early 20th-century colonial outpost. Unsurprisingly, that story never made it into print even after the protagonist had long departed for gin-soaked appearances on celestial balconies!
By the end of the evening, the first-time and not yet published writers amongst us were reminded that the publisher holds a lot of the contractual power and so we should only work with the reputable players. It really is important to instruct a lawyer on contractual matters, publishing related or otherwise, right from the get-go. If you are Hong Kong based and want practical and impartial advice on some not so fine print, contact Gordon and Benjamin!