an agreement on the use of works of literature, science, or art, concluded between the author (or his heirs) and a publisher, theater, film studio, etc. An author’s agreement may be drawn for a completed work or function as a commission. Depending upon the use made of the work, author’s agreements can be classified as publishing, theatrical, screen, and so on. As a rule, an author’s agreement is concluded in written form in all cases requiring, because of his rights to the work, the author’s permission to use it.
In Soviet law the basic conditions of the author’s agreement and the responsibilities of both parties are defined by civil codes, standard author’s agreements, and decrees on authors’ honoraria. Conditions worsening the author’s position in comparison to the law or the standard agreement become invalid. The author must complete the commissioned work according to the conditions of the author’s agreement and give it to his organization, that is, publisher, theater, etc., within the time established by the agreement and in the stipulated form. Within the time specified in the standard author’s agreement the organization must review the work and inform the author in writing of the acceptance or rejection of the work on the basis of the agreement’s stipulations, or of the necessity for corrections with precise instructions on their substance. If the notification is not sent in time, the work is considered accepted.
As a general rule, the organization must use the accepted work—publish it, present it on the stage, radio, or television, etc.—within the time established by the agreement (which cannot be more than two years from the day of acceptance) and must also pay the author his fee, the amount of which is defined by the agreement within the limits of the approved rates for the author’s honorarium. The fee is paid in installments at intervals specified by the standard author’s agreement. Upon conclusion of an author’s agreement an advance may be given to the author for the order; in some types of author’s agreements, the author’s advance is obligatory. If the author through his own fault has not produced the work in time or has done the work dishonestly, and in several other instances specified by law, the organization has the right to break the author’s contract and to take from the author the entire fee he has received, including the advance. The author keeps the advance if the work has been done honestly but has been rejected on grounds of ineligibility. If the organization does not use the work it has accepted within the specified time, the author may receive the entire agreement fee, unless the failure to use the work has been produced by circumstances depending upon the author himself. The regulation of author’s agreements is constructed on similar principles in foreign socialist countries.
Legislation in the bourgeois countries as a rule avoids detailed definition of the conditions for agreement between authors and the users of their works, leaving the definition of conditions for author’s agreements, in correspondence to the principle of “freedom of contract” common in bourgeois civil law, to the discretion of both sides. Actually, in most instances the conditions of author’s agreements bind the authors to powerful employers and are more profitable for the latter.
I. A. GRINGOL’TS