The Authors Guild

The Anti-Google Mass Book Digitization Campaign Goes Global

Authors Malcolm Gladwell, J.M. Coetzee, Michael Pollan, Margaret Atwood, Peter Carey Support Lawsuit Against Google’s Theft of Books Through Digitization

New York, NY- Prize-winning authors, international rights organizations, and legal experts Monday joined the Authors Guild in fighting what they call Google’s dangerous and unprecedented violation of copyright law. They filed eight stinging friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the Guild’s appeal in Authors Guild v. Google, agreeing that Judge Denny Chin’s decision in the case should be overturned. The briefs can be viewed in their entirety at the end of this blog post.

“Google’s ambitions respected no borders,” said Authors Guild president Roxana Robinson. “Millions of copyrighted books by authors from every major country were swept in to Google’s scheme. As the new filings demonstrate, not just authors but also photographers, visual artists, songwriters, and publishers around the world find it particularly galling that a wealthy American company would try to find a way to use their creations for free.”

Authors from Australia, Canada, and South Africa joined one brief, including Margaret Atwood, Thomas Keneally, J.M. Coetzee, Yann Martell, Peter Carey and Michael Frayn. In a separate filing, an array of international rights organizations warned that if this massive expansion of “fair use” is allowed to stand it turns the United States into a rogue nation, in violation of international norms of copyright.

Copyright experts, including Marybeth Peters, Former U.S. Copyright Register, Jon Baumgarten, Former General Counsel, U.S. Copyright Office, and professor Raymond T. Nimmer, filed briefs as well.

American authors Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Pollan, Karen Russell, Ursula K. Le Guin, Ron Larson, Taylor Branch, Tracy Chevalier, Lawrence Hill, Diane McWhorter, Robert Christopherson and Tracy Kidder submitted a brief that highlights how Google has left little room for authors and publishers to develop partnerships and licensing opportunities of their own.

And fifteen U.S. groups, representing textbook authors, songwriters, visual artists, illustrators and photographers, filed briefs of their own. These organizations collectively represent thousands upon thousands of individuals dependent on copyright for their livelihoods. Their conclusion sums up the strong case against Google: “One group cannot simply be allowed to take from creators and give works to the public for free with impunity. This undermines the very purpose of copyright law and ultimately of fair use.”

The Authors Guild first sued Google in 2005, citing “massive copyright infringement” in developing its Google Book Search database. The Guild filed its brief on April 11, 2014 with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Court in Manhattan.

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Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

Adam Begley’s biography of John Updike was published last week. Begley wrote, “He wasn’t despairing or thwarted or resentful; he wasn’t alienated or conflicted or drunk; he quarreled with no one.” Doesn’t sound like Hemingway, Fitzgerald or Faulkner or anyone else on the short list of great American authors, does it?  The quotes are from a review in The New York Times.

On the sensitive subject of sex, Begley wrote: “That Updike had affairs, sometimes with his friends’ wives, is not news.”

On that subject, Rebecca West, who wrote two biographies, observed: “Just how difficult it is to write a biography can be reckoned by anybody who sits down and considers just how many people know the real truth about [the subject’s] love affairs.” Her subjects were St. Augustine and Henry James.

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New Books by Members

This week’s recent and upcoming books by our members include titles by Alex Beam, Robert J. Begiebing, Paul Buhle, Sarah Campbell, Jan Carr, Lydia Davis, Arthur Dorros, Susan Middleton Elya, Beth Fehlbaum, John Gierach, Bill Harley, Phoebe Hoban, Marthe Jocelyn, Seymour Morris, Jr., and Laurence Pringle. Titles under the jump.

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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.

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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