Report on June 2018 event: Sean McCarthy on contracts for editors

by AJ Collins AE 


Sean McCarthy, Principal Solicitor and Director at McCarthy Commercial and Construction Lawyers, speaking on contracts for editors at our June meeting. Photo: Nicole Mathers

On 14 June I sat at home on a typical Melbourne wintry evening, dark and bereft of warmth, wondering if I really had to travel into the city for a dry, boring talk on contracts for editors. Sigh. I thought about CQ's tasty finger food, the glass of red that awaited me, chatting with my edibuddies, and did I get my butt into gear? Yes, I did. And I was pleasantly surprised to be addressed by Sean McCarthy, a lawyer with a sense of humour. Who knew?

It turns out editors and lawyers are kindred spirits. Both are pedants when it comes to grammar, syntax and sentence length. Relationship established, Sean went on to answer the following questions.

What is a contract?

A legally binding agreement setting out:

  • an offer
  • an acceptance
  • consideration for an exchange of something of value between parties
  • a commitment: promise to do or not do something
  • an intention to be legally bound.

Why have a contract?

A contract:

  • provides clarity: articulates expectations, obligations and scope of work
  • protects both parties with built-in rights and remedies
  • allocates risks, provides indemnity.

Are contracts standard? (No)

Standard contracts:

  • may not cover all conditions
  • can be longwinded and difficult to read
  • have non-relevant content.

Is a verbal contract sufficient? (No)

A verbal contract:

  • creates a 'we said'/'they said' situation
  • generally has no witnesses
  • does not clearly set out all the terms.

Editor contracts

Sean suggested that a standard editor contract should include the following express terms:

  • number of reviews of the work
  • timeframe for each draft/stage
  • start date
  • completion date
  • cost
  • hours
  • extent of input.

Indemnity clause

Sean explained that including an indemnity clause is a wise idea, as it lets the editor off the hook for any of the following issues:

  • content errors
  • accuracy
  • licensing of intellectual property: plagiarism, copyright, permissions.

Dispute resolution clause

Sean pressed the point that dispute resolution should be a key component of any contract, as it can ensure parties agree to attempt to resolve any issues between themselves, or with a mediator, before escalating a claim.

Insurances for editors

Professional indemnity insurance may (depending on individual policy coverage) protect the editor in circumstances where there may be a delay in delivery of work, errors made or a warranty claim. Some editors also indicated that they have been required to take out insurance in order to secure a job with a particular organisation.

Sum up

Sean indicated that contracts can be complex or as simple as an email setting out an editor's terms and conditions – which is better than no contract at all.

AJ Collins AE is a member of the events subcommittee.