Hello TopSecret readers!
When Gary Gygax founded TSR in 1973 he insisted that the company allow its employees, himself especially, to retain all copyrights, trademarks, and royalties for their works rather than assigning them to TSR. This policy was largely maintained until Gygax was effectively removed from the company in 1985. 
Lead by TSR, the tabletop RPG industry would take a different approach to handling copyrights: they would belong to the publisher and not to the author of the work.
This has become one of the defining distinctions between independently developed games and games produced by the major players of the tabletop RPG industry. If you want to own the copyright to your game, you need to publish it yourself.
Fortunately, with the rise of print on demand services, it has now become easier than ever to publish and distribute your own RPG book. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a large number of self published books that could have benefited from the services of a large scale publisher: editing, layout, art, and promotion.
At TopSecret we don’t think it has to be this way, we believe that authors can keep the copyright to their work and still utilize the practical benefits of a publisher. To that end, all of our authors are keeping the copyright to their works.
Instead of the traditional business model, our authors keep their copyrights and grant us a license to their work for some years along with a short period of right of first refusal.
As a company, we are not prepared to deprive an author of the creative control over their work. While arranging for a publisher owned copyright would simplify operations from both a business and legal perspective, we don’t feel that it’s necessary to have a mutually beneficial relationship with our authors.
Our motives aren’t entirely ideological, we believe that this model makes sound business sense. Once our right of first refusal expires, our authors will be free to publish material under the copyright on their own or even with another publisher. This allows our authors to create as much amazing RPG content as they desire at the quality that they desire without being forcefully constrained by our production schedule. This means more content related to the games we sell which means that we can sell more games and reach a wider audience.
Our maintaining a license instead of the copyright results in a book publishing model that appears closer to a profit-sharing model than traditional book publishing, with each author receiving a portion or the overall profit from every book sale. This means that when you buy a TopSecret Tabletop, your money actually goes to the authors that wrote it.
At TopSecret we’ve chosen to take a non-traditional approach to publishing, by maximizing the freedom and creative control of our authors. We feel strongly that this is the right publishing model for us and that Gary Gygax would approve. We don’t expect our model to shake up the industry or become a new standard, but we believe it is a good model and we hope you find it worthy of your support.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for sneak peaks at the upcoming tabletop anthology.