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The Authors Guild

Report Calls Out Credit Cards’ Ties with Piracy; Senator Leahy Takes Action

There’s no question that websites trafficking in stolen creative works profit handsomely from their piracy, compete unfairly with legitimate sites, and generally play the role of the thorn in the side of creators everywhere.

The question is how to stop them. Many of these sites are hosted offshore, and any writer who’s tried to send a DMCA takedown notice knows that once a pirated work has been taken down, there’s a decent chance it will pop back up somewhere else.

A recent report commissioned by the Digital Citizens Alliance proposes an answer: put pressure on the companies whose services the pirates depend on, and who profit in turn from the piracy. “All it takes for bad operators to succeed,” the report says, “is for the facilitators of commerce—payment processors and the advertising industry, among other stakeholders—to do nothing.”

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Bulletin Board

This week’s batch includes a mixed bag of prizes including a residency, a translation prize, and an award that caters to writers with families. Deadlines range from Feb 1-Feb 27.

The Philip Roth Residence in Creative Writing offers emerging writers four months of writing time at Bucknell University, without formal academic obligations, so that they may complete their first or second book. Bucknell now offers two residencies each year, one in each semester. The fall residency extends from late August to mid-December; the spring residency from mid-February to late May. Each residency provides on-campus housing, an office in the Stadler Center, and a stipend of $5,000. This year the residencies will be awarded to prose. Deadline: February 1, 2015. For more information, visit the website.

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Amazon Is Not the Reader’s Friend, Says Debate Audience

A lively audience of readers gathered last Thursday evening at New York City’s Kaufman Center to hear a panel of four authors hash out the contentious proposition that “Amazon is the reader’s friend.”

The Oxford-style debate, hosted by Intelligence Squared (IQ2), featured two writers arguing for the motion and two against it. In the Amazon corner were self-publishing guru Joe Konrath and Matthew Yglesias, Executive Editor of Vox. Pitted against them, former Authors Guild President Scott Turow and Franklin Foer, former Editor of The New Republic, contended that Amazon is not, by a long shot, the reader’s friend.

The IQ2 debates declare a winner by polling the audience at both the beginning and the end of the arguments, and comparing the results. The side that sways more people takes the cake. Before the debate, 41% of the audience voted for the proposition that Amazon is the reader’s friend, 28% voted against it, and 31% were undecided. At evening’s end, there was a clear victor: the Amazon apologists managed to increase their backers by a mere one percentage point, while Turow and Foer earned a 22% spike, overwhelmingly capturing the undecided vote.

Throughout the evening, Yglesias and Konrath largely stuck with the appealing arguments that Amazon’s low prices for readers and higher royalty rates for its self-published authors are benefits without downsides. But Turow and Foer’s effectiveness lay in taking a position that honored the diversity of the literary ecosystem. Left unchecked, they suggested, we may end up with a book world controlled by Amazon. The better option by far is a competitive plurality of publishers and distributors.

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Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

James Laughlin died in 1997. He was a unique figure in literature. He took his inherited millions and founded New Directions. He published Paul Bowles, Henry Miller, Tennessee Williams, Dylan Thomas, Boris Pasternak and many others. My shelves are punctuated with New Directions titles. The jackets, by top designers like Alvin Lustig, are works of art.

Dwight Garner reviewed two books about Laughlin in The New York Times:

Liturchour Is My Beat: A Life of James Laughlin by Ian S. MacNiven, and The Collected Poems of James Laughlin edited by Peter Glassgold.

Garner wrote that “Laughlin was a hard man to know, his charming public face eating into his private one.” Gertrude Stein told Laughlin his poetry was inferior, and he suffered from a bipolar disorder that he inherited along with his fortune. Garner ended the review with: “If there’s a literary heaven I hope Laughlin the publisher is in it. ‘I fear death,’ he wrote a friend, ‘because I can’t recall that Dante mentions any book in hell.’”

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New Books by Members

This week’s recent and upcoming books by our members include titles by Linda Ashman, Paulette Bogan, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Michelle Falkoff, Nikki Grimes, Jennifer Niven, Mary Pope Osborne, Marjorie Blain Parker, Gene Perret, Deborah Reber, April Pulley Sayre, and Cynthia Weill. Titles below the jump.

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Journalist Will Not Be Compelled to Testify; Guild Renews Call for Federal Shield Law

In a minor victory for press freedom, journalist James Risen has prevailed after a seven-year legal battle to maintain the confidentiality of a source in the face of government demands that he reveal it. According to a New York Times report (subscription required), the Justice Department said on Monday it would not call Risen to the stand in the trial of former CIA official Jeffrey Sterling. Sterling, whose trial began Tuesday, is charged with leaking the details of a poorly-executed plan to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program, which Risen recounted in his 2006 book State of War. The Risen case, however, still underscores the glaring absence of a federal reporters’ shield law.

Risen’s struggle had become a cause célèbre among journalists and free speech groups concerned that the government’s crackdown on internal leaks doubles as a crackdown on the reporters receiving those leaks. After Risen refused to comply with a subpoena compelling his testimony in the Sterling trial, a federal appeals court ordered him to do so. Risen then took his case to the Supreme Court, which in June declined to hear his case.

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Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

Miranda July’s arrival as a first-time novelist made a big splash in The New York Times. The book’s title is The First Bad Man and publication date is January 13. July, 40, lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their two-year-old son. She is an artist, an actor, screenwriter, film director and author of a book of stories, No One Belongs Here More Than You (2007).

She was the subject of a major article on the front of the Times’s Art section last Friday and the “By the Book” interview in Sunday’s Book Review. On Friday it was revealed that she is planning a large-scale work of art for exhibition in London next year. She said, “What’s most comfortable for me is to know that the next thing I’m going to do is completely different. That’s my security blanket.”

In the Review, she was asked what drew her to the work of Lydia Davis, Steven Millhauser and Amy Hempel. July said, “They are liberating writers, writers who make you feel like you can write (even if you can’t really). They seem to show seams, process, unfinished thoughts, and that gives dignity to one’s own imperfections. One starts to feel that if her imperfections are perfect, then maybe mine are too.”

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New Books by Members

A new year means new books! This week’s recent and upcoming books by our members include titles by Chris Atkins, Win Blevins, JL Fields, Gregory Funaro, Gail Godwin, David Hicks, Tami Hoag, Sophie Littlefield, Jan Moran, Roy A. Teel Jr., Lisa Unger, and Ben Yagoda. Titles below the jump.

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Court Filing Ends AG v. HathiTrust Copyright Litigation

Court papers filed yesterday evening brought to an end the Guild’s copyright infringement lawsuit against the group of research libraries known as the HathiTrust. The Guild claimed the library group infringed by reproducing copyright-protected books for inclusion in its HathiTrust Digital Library, a searchable database.

The case arose in June 2011 when the HathiTrust announced its “Orphan Works Project,” which would begin freely distributing digital copies of “orphan works”—books that are still under copyright, but whose rightsholders cannot be found. HaithiTrust abandoned the Orphan Works Project shortly after the lawsuit was filed. The Guild had demonstrated that the copyright owners of most of the books were easily found, forcing HaithiTrust to acknowledge that its search methodology was flawed.

The resolution of the case follows a June 2014 decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which approved two limited uses of the HathiTrust Digital Library—full-text search and display to the print-disabled—but sent down to the district court the question of whether the copies made by HathiTrust for “preservation” or “replacement” purposes were done in accordance with the copyright law’s exceptions governing libraries, which require that libraries determine that the original was either damaged or lost and not obtainable at a reasonable price before making a copy to replace the original.

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Guild Condemns Attack on Paris Newspaper

Yesterday the Republic of France suffered its most deadly terrorist attack of the millennium. The target of the attack was a Parisian satirical newspaper. As of today, at least twelve are dead, including its editor.

The Authors Guild is appalled and saddened by this morally impoverished attempt to suppress free expression and to intimidate those who practice it. We support the free speech of authors around the world as part of our core mission, and today we join the countless others speaking out to condemn this cowardly act.