HarperCollins — a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and thus a corporate sibling of Fox News — has added a morals clause to its authors’ contracts. HC will terminate a contract if the “Author’s conduct evidences a lack of due regard for public conventions and morals, or if Author commits a crime or any other act that will tend to bring Author into serious contempt, and such behavior would materially damage the Work’s reputation or sales.”
Sure, you don’t have to sign such a contract. The ball is in your court, right? And if you haven’t committed a crime, then there’s no reason not to let the local cops, state police, FBI, or anyone else with a badge walk into your home and conduct a search — or even take you somewhere for questioning. How could these scenarios possibly go wrong?
That contract is the golden ticket to authordom. At that point, are you really going to turn it down? No, you’re going to sign on the dotted line and hope that a blog post or Tweet or attendance at a political event doesn’t rile the bluenoses and beancounters at the book company. You’re going to hope they don’t turn something innocuous into a reason to not pay you and to take your book out of print overnight.
George Orwell warned us about the encroachment of government in our lives; if only we had listened. But he didn’t tell us that an equal threat would come from our corporate masters who — despite their own sins and crimes — tell us that we’re on the clock 24-7 and will live our lives as good corporate citizens. Or else.
Of course, we can refuse to work for such companies. We can get jobs elsewhere … in this economy. How hard can it be to opt out of Corporate America?
HarperCollins is making yet another excellent argument for both self-publishing and the demise of the publishing industry as we have known it.