Harper Collins New Morals Clause

What do you think about Harper Collins’ new morals clause, which states that they can terminate your book deal (and make you repay your advance) if:

“Author’s conduct evidences a lack of due regard for public conventions and morals, or if Author commits a crime or any other act that will tend to bring Author into serious contempt, and such behavior would materially damage the Work’s reputation or sales.”

7 Comments

  • How interesting! Any idea whose conduct may have contributed to them creating the clause?

    I’d want a pretty clear definition of “serious contempt” and “materially damage” before signing something like this. What if my political or religious opinions would put me in danger of being in “serious contempt?” Or, my sexual orientation?

    • Joe Tynan says:

      I agree. It’s too broad.

      You see the same kind of wide-open language in job descriptions where they lay out your duties and then end with “Other tasks as assigned.” It doesn’t matter if you’re a bookkeeper. When the toilet’s clogged, grab the plunger, newbie.

      As written, this clause limits authors publicly, which I think is wrong. Just what I want as a reader – boring authors with no opinions on anything. What if they’re asked to comment on something during an interview? Will we get an honest answer, or a sanitized one?

  • Pete says:

    Author crimes which boost sales are presumably okay.

  • Chris Fowler says:

    I think this clause is so broadly worded as to be unenforceable. It would be very hard for HC to prove something as vague as lack of regard for community standards, or to prove that an action of the author had materially influenced sales. Also, since this clause intrudes into the author’s personal life, I suspect it infringes their civil rights. Anyway, I’m sure any agent would just strike it out.

    If they had enforced this in the past, when they published Jeffrey Archer, who spent time in prison in the UK, they would presumably have had to take back his advance … but then, of course, they would have argued the publicity as a result of his trial, conviction and time in prison actually _boosted_ sales. So, not really a “morals” clause at all, more a “action decreasing our profits” clause. Just what you might expect from a branch of the Murdoch empire.

  • amaris says:

    The clause seems pretty ridiculous to me, but I’ve always sort of assumed the author’s or artist’s right to eccentricities, which can sometimes be amoral or lead to a levied criminal offense (think: Hemingway and Stein drunk and running around Paris in lederhosen or Dali’s pet anteater trashing a restaurant). Ursula K. Le Guin apparently thinks its foolish: http://blog.bookviewcafe.com/2011/01/18/a-riff-on-the-harper-contract/

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