We're always amused to hear people talking about how copyright "protects the creator," when we mostly see cases where the original creators have effectively sold off their copyrights to giant gatekeepers: record labels, movie studios, book publishers, etc. That can lead to some unfortunate situations for the actual creators, such as the following story, sent in by someone who prefers to remain anonymous. Phil Foglio, author of a series of "Girl Genius" novels, recently found out that the American publisher of the books, Night Shade Books, is going out of business
and is trying to sell off its contracts. However, the publisher looking to buy wanted to renegotiate the contracts in a ridiculous manner, massively decreasing Foglio's royalties. What follows, however, would make for an interesting game theory case study:
A certain percentage of Night Shade authors have to agree to this hose job before the deal goes through. Yay! We're safe! You'd have to be an idiot to sign onto this! True– So let's bring out a stick and threaten you! If they don't get enough authors willing to eat this crap, then Night Shade has no choice but to declare Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Then all the books in question go into a legal limbo. No one has the rights until the bankruptcy is resolved, which might take years- or possibly, NEVER! This has happened before to way better authors than us. This means that once said books go out of print, the authors can't resell them. Can't reprint them. Can't sell any adaptation rights. Can't write any sequels.
A rock and a hard place, basically. If enough authors sign the deal, then bad royalty rates are forced upon them. If not enough authors sign the deal because the royalty rates are crazy, then the copyright may end up in limbo limiting what Foglio can do with the work. And I thought copyright was supposed to protect the artist?