Monthly Archives: April 2014

Authors Guild: Amazon was Google’s Target

Authors Guild: Google Yanked Readers out of Online Bookstores Through Mass-Digitization Program

Amazon was Google’s prime target, says appellate brief

NEW YORK, NY – In a sharply worded appeal, the Authors Guild today renewed its contention that Google has enhanced its search engine, driven customers away from online booksellers, increased its advertising revenue and stifled its competition by digitizing, distributing and monetizing millions of copyright-protected books without permission or payment.

Roxana Robinson, Authors Guild president, issued the following statement:

“Authors and authors alone have the right to decide whether and how their books are converted to e-books. Yet in its effort to gain commercial advantage over competitors, particularly Amazon, Google chose to usurp that basic right, putting authors’ works and livelihoods at risk. Without the permissions that Amazon had painstakingly acquired for its Search Inside the Book program, Google digitized authors’ works in order to lure book buyers away from online booksellers to its turf, seeking to bring countless eyeballs to its ads. Google is yanking readers out of online bookstores.

There’s a far better way forward. Congress should create a National Digital Library that would be available at every campus and in every community. Libraries, research institutions, authors and corporations can all coexist peacefully, but the first step is to stop the theft of books.”

The Authors Guild first sued Google in 2005, citing “massive copyright infringement” in developing its Google Book Search database. The Guild filed its brief this afternoon with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Court in Manhattan.

A National Digital Library
The Authors Guild proposes that Congress establish a collective management organization, similar to ASCAP, to license digital rights to out-of-print books. Authors, publishers and other rights holders would be paid for the use of their works, and they would have the right to exclude their books from any or all uses. The collective management organization’s authority would be strictly limited, however. It would not license e-book or print book rights (only the author or other rights holder could do that), and it wouldn’t collect its administrative fee until it paid the rights holder.

The National Digital Library would display full book pages, not mere “snippets.” It would be the equivalent of a great research library that anyone can view from their dorm room or through access to a high school, public library or other subscribing institution. It would be a level-the-playing-field leap for small colleges, remote libraries and communities everywhere. It would help level other playing fields, as well. The National Digital Library’s digitized text and digital page images would be fully accessible to the visually impaired.

Bulletin Board

This week’s batch of contest includes awards for poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction. The deadline for each is May 15.

The James Laughlin Award is given to honor a second book of original poetry, in English, by a citizen of the United States. To be eligible, a book must have come under contract with a United States publisher between between June 1, 2013 and June 1, 2014. Suggested length is between 40 and 75 pages. The winner will receive $5,000. Deadline: May 15, 2014. For more information, please visit the website.

The Georgia Review is currently accepting submissions for the Loraine Williams Poetry Prize for a single poem, originally written in English and never before published either in print or online. Work previously published in any form or submitted simultaneously to other journals will not be considered. Entries may include up to three poems, but no more than a total of ten pages. The winner will receive $1,000 and publication in The Georgia Review. Entry fee: $15. Deadline: May 15, 2014. For more information, please visit the website.

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Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

The deep lines of a life of adventure—of “searching”—are vivid in a photograph of Peter Matthiessen’s face in Sunday’s The New York Times Magazine.

The 86-year old author died April 5 in Sagaponack, N.Y. He is the only writer ever to win the National Book Award for both nonfiction and fiction. His last novel, In Paradise, was published April 8.

Matthiessen had leukemia. He was interviewed at his Long Island home just before being hospitalized. The photograph was by Damon Winter.

Jeff Hemelman’s account of the author’s life ended with a quote from one of his more than 30 books, The Tree Where Man Was Born (1972). Matthiessen wrote: “Lying back against these ancient rocks of Africa, I am content. The great stillness in these landscapes that once made me restless seeps into me day by day, and with it the unreasonable feeling that I have found what I was searching for without ever having discovered what it was.”

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New Books by Members

This week’s recent and upcoming books by our members include titles by John Annerino, Lisa Doan, Norman H. Finkelstein, Julia Glass, Cara Hoffman, Ward Just, Peter Matthiessen, Gordon McAlpine,  Denise Lewis Patrick, Roger Roffman, Jill Smolowe, and Gabrielle Zevin. Titles under the jump.

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Bulletin Board

This week’s batch of prizes includes one for budding poets, another for authors who have not published a book yet, and one for nonfiction writers. Deadlines range from May 1-15.

Southwest Review (SWR) is now accepting submissions for the David Nathan Meyerson Prize for Fiction. The prize is open to writers who have not yet published a book of fiction, either a novel or collection of stories. Entries should be no longer than 8,000 words. No simultaneous or previously published work. The winner will receive $1,000 and publication in SWR. Entry fee: $25. Deadline: May 1, 2014. For more information, please visit the website.

Ruminate Magazine is currently accepting submissions for the Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize. All submissions must be previously unpublished work. Entries can include two poems, no longer than 40 lines each. The winner will receive $1500 and publication in the Summer 2014 issue. The runner up will receive $200 and publication. Entry fee: $20. Deadline: May 1, 2014. For more information, please visit the website.

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Guild to Call for National Digital Library in Congressional Testimony Today

Jan Constantine, General Counsel of the Authors Guild, is testifying before the House Judiciary Committee this afternoon on mass digitization of books and so-called orphan works. Those topics, of course, are at the heart of two Guild lawsuits, Authors Guild v. Google and Authors Guild v. HathiTrust.  An advance copy of Jan’s written testimony is available below.

Authors Guild House Judiciary Testimony (Text)
Here are three highlights:

Out of print books only

1. We’re proposing that Congress empower the creation of a collective licensing organization (something like ASCAP or BMI) to deal with both mass digitization and “orphan” books.  Such an organization would pave the way for a true national digital library, but it would have to be limited in scope, just as ASCAP is.

Here are the key components:

A. Authors get paid for the uses, naturally.

B. Licenses would be non-compulsory.  Authors get to say no.

C. Licenses would cover out-of-print books only.  No disrupting commercial markets.

D. Display uses only.  No ebooks or print books.

E. There would be a tribunal to go to if the licensing agency and an institution couldn’t agree on the fee.

Such agencies are already in place around the world, licensing limited photocopy uses of books. They all license orphan books as part of the package.

There are millions of out-of-print copyrighted books. Making these books available would have an enormous societal benefit and bring our nation’s great research libraries to computer screens at our smallest colleges and most remote rural libraries.

Guild says 1963 copyright hearing “eerily prescient” of Google’s book scanning project

2. A Copyright Office hearing on February 20, 1963, is eerily prescient about what was to come.  (Irwin Karp, legendary and curmudgeonly counsel for the Authors Guild and Authors League was there.)  It’s as if everyone saw Google and its mass digitization of books under the banner of fair use coming.  Not only that, they addressed it in legislation – it was an early hearing for what became the 1976 Copyright Act.

UMI found “Orphan Row” authors decades ago

3. Fifty years ago, people knew how to find authors and other rights holders of books, they didn’t just declare out-of-print books to be “orphans”.  UMI, Bell & Howell, and 3M raced to see which company could pre-clear the most books for the new print-on-demand technology.  UMI boasted it would “go to Timbuktu” to clear rights.

And, get this: Remember “Orphan Row,” our term for the list of 100-plus books that HathiTrust was preparing to release in ebook form?  UMI cleared the rights to seven of them decades ago, long before the Internet made searching for rights holders easy.  It’s amazing what you can find when you really want to find it.

Here are some “snippets” from that 1963 hearing, followed by the list of Orphan Row books UMI had cleared rights for by the 1970s.

KAMINSTEIN (Copyright Register): I was going to hold this for later on, but I have a telegram from Reed Lawlor, who says, “I suggest you consider adding the following section 6: ‘In any event reproduction of a copyrighted work in machine readable form for use in the analysis, citation and reasonable quotation of the work by means of an information storage and retrieval system shall be considered a fair use.’.” We were going to hold this for the discussion of fair use, but I certainly have no objection to opening up the subject here. Did you want to comment on it?

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Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

“The Internet long ago revamped publishing and bookselling,” wrote David Streitfeld in The New York Times.  “Now technology is transforming the writing of fiction, previously the most solitary and exacting of arts, into something nearly the opposite. It is social, informal and intimate, with the result not only consumed but often composed on the fly.”

Wattpad is the new way to tell stories. More than 2 million writers produce 100,000 pieces of material a day for 20 million readers. For free. For nothing.   Charles Melcher, host of an annual Future of Story Telling conference, told The Times, “Now that everyone’s been given permission to be creative, new ways of telling stories, of being entertained, are being invented. A lot of people are lamenting the end of the novel, but I think it’s simply evolving.”

Allen Lau, Wattpad’s chief executive, was interviewed at the company’s office in Toronto. He said, “Almost all our writers serialize their content. Two thousand words is roughly ten minutes of reading. That makes the story more digestible, something you can do when standing in line.”

Readers respond to the writers. The Times said that traditional publishing is watching Wattpad closely, “not only as a source of new talent but also for techniques to increase reader engagement.”  But the writers go unpaid.

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