After years as a corporate lawyer, Morton L. Janklow ’53 became a literary agent in 1972, when his friend and client William Safire asked him to handle a book he was writing about President Nixon.
Mr. Janklow created tremendous attention for the book by requiring editors to come to his office and not allowing any pages to leave the room.
“We ended up getting a huge sum, unheard of at the time for nonfiction,” he recalls. He also ushered in a new era in authors’ rights when he successfully sued publisher William Morrow for trying to renege on the deal.
“They said, ‘You can’t force a publisher to print a book; that’s never been done,’ ” Mr. Janklow remembers. “We took the publisher out of the captain’s seat and put the author in it. The publisher is replaceable; the author is not.”
He quickly built the largest literary agency in the world, with clients including Judith Krantz, Danielle Steel, Sydney Sheldon, Ted Koppel, four U.S. presidents, and Pope John Paul II. He later founded the Morton L. Janklow Program for Advocacy in the Arts at Columbia and established the Morton L. Janklow Professorship of Literary and Artistic Property Law, now held by Professor Jane Ginsburg. Mr. Janklow also teaches in the program.
“A lot of my colleagues are worried about the Internet,” he says. “I’m not. I don’t care how many highways they build. I will decide which highway is the best and how much it will cost for my cars to drive on that highway. The increased distribution channels can only be good for intellectual property.”