A few days ago I received a check for my work on a project, which is not unusual. What made this check special was that it was marked “royalties.”
Royalities are fees paid to a license holder of intellectual property for its use. For instance, when you buy a book, you make a payment that goes to the publisher, who (depending on the arrangement with the writer) shares or dispenses royalties to the writer or writers. The “royal” connection is historical: Rights to sell minerals were once granted by kings or queens to individuals or companies.
Royalities have become extremely complicated; they are dispensed based on complex agreeements, contracts, and licenses. An artist can sell his or her rights to intellectual property, and can also leave such rights to someone else via a will. Author Neil Gaiman worked with an attorney to develop a boilerplate will for authors’ literary estates and has made it available to fellow writers as a free download.
My concern about a creating a special will for a literary estate would be how it would fit with an existing will covering an author’s tangible property. But, as Gaiman points out, it’s much better to have something on record than to leave people guessing.
I hope I’ll get to worry about this some day!