Is it legal for a publisher to terminate a royalty agreement if a book is no longer in print?

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Question: My father passed away recently.  He wrote a book in 1975 and per his royalty agreement with his publisher, was receiving royalty agreements for his work.  After his death, the publisher informed us that the book was no longer in print and therefore no more royalties will be sent.  Is this legal?

Response: The royalty agreement that your father had signed is part of the contract that he negotiated with the publisher that sought to exploit the creation for profits. The answer to your question determines in large part on the terms of the original contract back in 1975.  Even though he has passed away, the contract is still valid and enforced.  Also, the fact the book is no longer in print doesn't necessarily mean that there are no royalties generated.  Royalties are also considered personal property; when your father died, the rights to the royalties would be part of his estate and would have been transferred to his heirs.  It would be important to see who owns these royalty rights and this would depend on if there was a will or written instructions of your father's intentions for his personal property.  If you are one the heirs, you can take control of this matter and determine your rights to the royalties. Moving forward, it would be best to consult with an Entertainment Lawyer to determine the best course of action for your case.

Answered by Jason Tong 

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