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What are Resale Rights?

By John Sunshine
Updated May 17, 2024
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Resale rights have become popular with the popularity of the Internet. A very similar idea called reprint rights existed before the Internet. If you owned reprint rights to an article, a piece of music, or a work of art, you could make copies of the work and sell them. When the Internet became popular, this idea was translated to the electronic medium, and since printing was no longer required, the term resale rights became more common.

Resale rights allow the owner to sell or resell a work to others. This is very common with e-books. You can buy an e-book on its own, or you can buy an e-book and resale rights.

If you only purchase the e-book, you can only use it yourself. You cannot sell or give the book to others. If however, you also purchase the resale rights, then you can also resell the e-book.

Very frequently, resale rights are included in the purchase of an e-book. This may give the purchaser more value for the money spent. The purpose of many of these e-books is to get as wide a readership as possible.

Many e-books contain sales pitches for other products. It is the author's intention in many cases to make money from the sales pitches embedded in the e-book rather than from the e-book itself. Sales from the e-book are a bonus.

Resale rights are also important to freelance writers. When an article is written and sold, it is actually various rights to the article that are changing hands. The purchaser of the article may insist on and pay for exclusive resale and reprint rights. In this case, the author may not sell the article to another publisher.

The purchaser may also purchase non-exclusive reprint or resale rights. In this case, both the author and the purchaser are free to sell the article to any other publisher. The author may also sell one-time print rights, in which the publisher may use the article once and cannot reprint or resell it without further permission from the author. A publisher must pay more for exclusive reprint and resale rights than for non-exclusive or one-time reprint or resale rights.

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Discussion Comments
By anon932733 — On Feb 13, 2014

I have a question about reselling, but not on print items. My dilemma started when someone turned me into a manufacturer for breaking buckets of a cake decorating product into smaller quantities and selling on eBay. I was issued a cease and desist letter claiming that breaking the item into smaller quantities could harm the products' integrity and render the product unstable.

I find this ludicrous because the product is in the form of a finished covering, such as a fondant, so that the ingredients are already well penetrated and combined, and breaking a piece off would not disturb the original chemistry.

Does the company have the right to stop me from doing this after I purchase their product in a larger quantity from a distributor?

By David09 — On Jul 18, 2011

@Charred - I think if you’re just testing the waters with the ebook business, you should start with free ebooks. You can find free ebooks on the Internet.

I don’t think you have ebook resale rights with the free ebooks – what would be the point of selling them if they’re already free to the public? These are basically public domain books.

Here’s what you can get out of free ebooks, however. You can use them as marketing tools. Build a list and see how many people can sign up for your free ebooks. You can quickly determine how popular one title will be over another.

Yes, some people will realize that they can get the ebook somewhere else, but most won’t bother, since it’s free in either case. They’ll just ask you for the ebook and you’ll get a pulse on where to direct your marketing efforts based on your customers’ responses.

By Charred — On Jul 17, 2011

@hamje32 - I think you can make money with resale rights products, but I agree that most of the time the stuff becomes outdated by the time you purchase it.

I believe you’d have to get your hands on the ebooks or whatever while the topic was still hot. However, this begs the question. If the topic is still hot and the original author is still banking big bucks, why would he be in a rush to resell the ebooks?

My personal opinion is that the ebook resale rights are not released until the books have run their cycle and have become somewhat stale. Again, you can beat the system if you get them while their still hot, but you need to do enough research to determine the viability of the product before you buy it.

By hamje32 — On Jul 17, 2011

@mrkam - I was looking to start my own business on the side and have run across various websites offering to sell me resale rights for various ebooks.

So many gurus have been touting that ebooks are the way to get rich on the Internet. However, after some due diligence, I discovered that while you can make money with ebooks, there are few authors who actually get rich with them.

I also discovered that ebooks have a life cycle. In other words, the title may be hot for a few months, and then it’s not such a best seller anymore, because the information in the ebook has become common knowledge and few people are willing to pay for it. Basically, you have to keep putting out new ebooks.

I decided not to purchase the ebooks with resell rights because a lot of the topics have become passé. I didn’t think I’d really make money with them.

By NathanG — On Jul 16, 2011

@mrkam - My understanding is that ebooks with resale rights fall into one of two categories: private resell rights and master resell rights.

With private resell rights, you can change the content as you see fit and slap on your name as the author. With master resell rights, you can resell the book to the customer, and grant him the same license to resell the book as he sees fit.

However, the master resell rights don’t allow you to change the content.

Personally, I think this arrangement doesn't make sense. The word “master” to me would imply you could do anything you want with the content, but it actually has to do with the ability to transfer the resell license.

Obviously if you want to change the content, you should check to see if you were given private resell rights with your ebooks.

By mrkam — On May 13, 2008

Hi everyone

I have a question about reprint rights. Anyway, I bought reprint rights to book a while ago. My question is: will I be able to add text, images etc to it and if so, do I have to mention the original author's name. Thanks again everybody!


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