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Bruce Bortz: Literary Lawyer

When he founded Bancroft Press in 1992, lawyer Bruce Bortz believed he would be spending most of his time editing and publishing books. Yet, during the past dozen years, without looking for clients, he's found himself handling the full gamut of legal matters that involve book publishing. Hearing through word of mouth that he's a lawyer who understands the nitty-gritty details of book publishing, clients have searched him out.

A lawyer since 1978, he helped found “7 on Your Side,” the consumer investigation unit of WJLA-TV in Washington, DC. In the early 1980s, he served as Assistant Bar Counsel to the Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland, handling client complaints about Maryland lawyers. During the mid-1980s, he founded a program where he taught repeat failures how to pass the Maryland Bar Exam, and 80 percent succeeded. In all these activities, Bortz has always pulled for the underdog.

The following represent some of the legal activities he's engaged in since 1992, when he began devoting most of his energies to book publishing:

Negotiated and enforced contracts between authors and:

  • Literary agents
  • Dramatic rights agents
  • U.S. book publishers
  • U.S. reprint publishers
  • Foreign publishers
  • On-line publishers
  • Audio publishers
  • Book clubs
  • Movie-makers (studios, producers, etc.)
  • Anthology publishers
  • Publishers of periodicals (involving excerpts)
  • TV production companies

On behalf of authors, he's also:

  • Resolved or litigated copyright infringement claims; and
  • Resolved problems with the U.S. Copyright Office
  • Litigated money disputes with publicists and other contractors
  • Provided advice on the necessity of obtaining clearances for material quoted or used in their books
  • Served as an expert witness in arbitrations against publishers

Occasionally, fellow publishers have sought his services. On publishers' behalf, he's:

  • Resolved disputes with printers
  • Resolved disputes with distributors and wholesalers
  • Resolved disputes with advertisers
  • Negotiated and drafted joint venture agreements
  • Negotiated settlements involving co-op advertising agreements

Because he so identifies with the underdog, Bortz deliberately underprices the cost of his services, usually charging $100 an hour, or, when he strongly believes in a client's case, on a contingency basis where he retains no more than 25 percent of his client's eventual gains.

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