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Rosetta Books & Random House: What a 2001 Case Means for the Future of eBooks

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Last week, Random House threatened to take legal action against the Wylie Agency for its exclusive eBook deal with Amazon.

But will the publisher really sue? While they have said that they will not strike English language deals with the literary agency, Random House may not want to enter a legal battle. The publisher does not have a history of winning cases about eBooks.

In 2001 Random House sued eBook startup Rosetta Books for acquiring digital rights to Random House titles directly from the authors. Random House claimed that the authors had already granted the publisher the right to “print, publish and sell the work[s] in book form.” Rosetta pointed out that this did not include the electronic rights to the books. Rosetta won the case and Random House’s appeals that were rejected.

Random House may have a tough time pursuing legal action against the Wylie Agency. As Andrew Wylie told the NY Times: “The fact remains that backlist digital rights were not conveyed to publishers, and so there’s an opportunity to do something with those rights.”

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