The Authors’ Guild Objects to Morals Clauses – Here’s Why

The Authors Guild objects to publishers’ new and increasing use of so-called “morals clauses.” These contract provisions allow publishers to terminate a book contract, and in many cases even require the author to repay portions of the advance already received, if the author is accused of immoral, illegal, or publicly condemned behavior. Publishers insist they need the clauses to protect themselves in the event an author’s reputation becomes so tarnished after the book contract is signed that it will hurt sales. But most of these clauses are too broad and allow a publisher to terminate based on individual accusations or the vague notion of “public condemnation”—which can occur all too easily in these days of viral social media.

Read more at The Authors’ Guild website.

3 thoughts on “The Authors’ Guild Objects to Morals Clauses – Here’s Why

  1. Ya, on the basis of libelous posts by a blogger I recently had a chapter pulled from a book on polytheistic theology (which, I suppose, makes the first edition into a collector’s item). I suppose, though, that an editor or publisher should be able to decide for whatever reason (they don’t like my skin colour for example) not to continue to publish a work they’d already accepted for publication?


    1. That’s true. But I think for me, the key issue is, who decides what qualifies as “immoral?” I’m far too used to being filed in that category because I’m Pagan, LGBTQ, feminist, sex-positive, lean to democratic socialism, etc. There’s nothing illegal or immoral about any of that, but I imagine a Mormon Conservative might strongly disagree, for example. These vague morals clauses could also be used to justify dismissal for personality conflicts, or for protesting unethical actions by the publishing company. Or worse, they could be used to justify political censorship.


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