Contracts on Fire: Amazon’s Lending Library Mess

Are any of the books in Amazon’s new e-book subscription/lending program properly there?

Earlier this month, Amazon launched its Kindle Online Lending Library as a perk for its best group of customers, the millions who’ve paid $79 per year to join Amazon Prime and get free delivery of their Amazon purchases. Under the Lending Library program, Amazon Prime members are allowed to download for free onto their Kindles any of more than 5,000 books. Customers are limited to one book per month and one book at a time – when a new book is downloaded, the old one disappears from the Kindle.

The program has caused quite a stir in the publishing industry, for good reason (as you’ll see).

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Posted in Advocacy, Authorship, E-Books

Authors Groups From U.K., Canada, Norway and Sweden Join Authors Guild, Australian Society of Authors, and Quebec Writers Union in Suit Against HathiTrust

J.R. Salamanca, Author of “Orphaned” Book, Also Enters

We filed an amended complaint this morning against HathiTrust, the University of Michigan and four other universities over the storage and use of millions of copyright-protected books.  The press release follows.

NEW YORK – The U.K. Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society, the Norwegian Nonfiction Writers and Translators Association, the Swedish Writers Union, The Writers’ Union of Canada, and four individual authors are among the new plaintiffs in an amended complaint filed today in Authors Guild v. HathiTrust.  Individual authors joining the lawsuit include University of Oslo professor Helge Rønning, Swedish novelist Erik Grundström, and American novelist J. R. Salamanca. The Authors League Fund, a 94-year-old organization supported by Authors Guild members that provides charitable assistance to book authors and dramatists, is also now a plaintiff, as holder of rights of to an “orphaned” book by Gladys Malvern.

The defendant universities have pooled the unauthorized scans of an estimated 7 million copyright-protected books, the rights to which are held by authors worldwide, into an online repository called HathiTrust.  In June, the University of Michigan, which oversees HathiTrust, announced plans to permit unlimited downloads by its students and faculty members of “orphaned” books (some consider works whose rights-owners cannot be found after a diligent search to be “orphans”). Michigan devised a set of procedures — including a protocol for searching for an author and posting the names of “orphan work candidates” at the HathiTrust website for 90 days – to determine whether it would deem a work an “orphan.” Several other schools joined the project in August.

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Posted in Advocacy, Authorship

University of Michigan suspends HathiTrust Orphan Works Project. Claims “proposed uses of orphan works are lawful,” and promises a reboot.

The 163 books on Orphan Row have a reprieve.  In a statement released this morning, the University of Michigan Library announced the suspension. “The close and welcome scrutiny of the list of potential orphan works has revealed a number of errors, some of them serious. This tells us that our pilot process is flawed.”

Michigan pledged to re-examine its procedures and create a “more robust, transparent, and fully documented process” and continue the project:  “we remain as certain as ever that our proposed uses of orphan works are lawful and important to the future of scholarship and the libraries that support it.”

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Posted in Authorship

Sidney Hook, authors with papers at archives, and more…

Here are some additional categories of “orphan work” authors for whom we have found leads through rudimentary online searching and through your comments.  (And, yes, we know, we should have identified Sidney Hook much earlier.)

Thanks again for all the help. Please go to Orphan Row to help us find others.

Sidney Hook
American Philosophers at Work (1956)
Status: Rightsholder Found!
Direct descendants living in California.

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Posted in Authorship

Orphan Row Update: Another Living Author, Two Books in Print, Literary Estates Held by Charities, Etc.

Thank you, everyone, for posting comments and sending e-mails with information on the HathiTrust “Orphan Works Candidates.”  We’ve compiled a lot (but not all) of it.  Here’s what we can tell you about authors of some of the books that HathiTrust is scheduled to release for downloading by hundreds of thousands of students.

The information is as accurate as we can make it at the moment, but we’ll be working to confirm all of this shortly.  Please let us know if you see any errors, and continue to pitch in.  The simplest way to do it is to leave comments on The Orphan Row List.

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Posted in Authorship

Orphan Row: Now It’s Your Turn

Here’s the list, alphabetized by author, of HathiTrust’s “orphan work candidates.”  It’s current as of yesterday. We’ve removed works by institutional authors, there were just a few, and shortened some book titles to fit this on a table.  We’ve also noted three of the books that HathiTrust has recently (we think) pulled from the candidates’ list.

One of the books now off Orphan Row is “The Communist World and Ours,” by Walter Lippmann. Lippmann is probably the most famous American author with a work on the initial list, and we hadn’t tried (beyond rudimentary measures) to chase his estate down.  It appears someone noticed the name and did some research.

So have at it, Guild members and others.  See which authors and estates you can find.  Report results in comments, if you like, but be careful not to reveal private information.

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Posted in Authorship

Two more? Another professor emeritus (Stanford) and a Pulitzer winner who left rights to Harvard

Yesterday, we began an effort to dig in more deeply to the HathiTrust list of “orphan works” candidates.

These two jump out as a bit too easy.

Wikipedia does the heavy lifting in re-uniting an “orphan” with the first author. According to the site, “Albert Bandura is widely described as the greatest living psychologist.”  He’s the David Starr Jordan Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University. The Stanford Daily wrote about him in March.  The HathiTrust orphan work candidate is his 1959 book, co-authored with Richard H. Walters, “Adolescent Aggression: A Study of the Influence of Child-Training Practices and Family Interrelationships.”

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Posted in Authorship

Found one! We re-unite an author with an “orphaned work.”

About two minutes of googling turned up a professor emeritus of one of the HathiTrust “orphan works” candidates.  He lives in suburban Maryland.  His second book sold a reported one million copies, and he’s listed in IMDb (two of his books were turned into movies: one starred Elvis Presley, the other Warren Beatty). He has a literary agent, and he signed an e-book contract earlier this month.

No, we’re not making this up.

Just before we filed our lawsuit, we did some cursory research into some of the names on the list of “orphan works” candidates at the HathiTrust website to see if we could find contact information for a copyright holder.  There are now 166 books (the original 27 listed by Michigan in July plus others added in August by various institutions) being readied for distribution.  Works deemed “orphans” by HathiTrust are scheduled to be available for full-text display and unencrypted downloads to at least 250,000 students and faculty members at campuses in several states, starting in less than a month.

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Posted in Authorship

Authors Guild, Australian Society of Authors, Quebec Writers Union Sue Five U.S. Universities

Suit seeks impoundment of unauthorized scans of 7 million books

This afternoon, we filed suit against HathiTrust, the University of Michigan and four other universities over their storage and use of millions of copyright-protected books. The press release follows.


Digital Files Provided by Google at Issue, As Plaintiffs Seek to Impound Unauthorized Scans of 7 Million Copyright-Protected Books, Pending Congressional Action

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Posted in Authorship

Jason Epstein on Publishing’s Past, Present and Future

At the request of a member, we are posting this essay by Jason Epstein, originally delivered as a speech at the Hong Kong Book Fair in 2008, and published in the Winter 2009 Authors Guild Bulletin as “Backlist Maestro: Mr. Epstein’s Dream Machine.” Editorial director of Random House from 1965 to 1995 and co-founder of The New York Review of Books and The Library of America, Epstein is now Chairman of On Demand Books.

Backlist is a publisher’s most important asset: titles that have covered their initial costs, earned out the authors’ advances, require no further investment except the cost of making and shipping the book itself and sell steadily year after year without advertising or significant sales expense. Without a substantial list of such titles a publisher cannot survive. The same can be said of a civilization, for the books that survive the test of time, books that are treasured and read year after year, are humanity’s backlist, our collective brain. I do not refer simply to the classics of our various traditions but also to more recent books, hundreds of which are published every year and join the backlist, if not permanently, at least long enough to move the process forward, and provide depth and complexity to our understanding.

Journalism is often called the first draft of history. Books are the second, third, and in some cases final draft. Books are the ongoing dialogue of the present with the past, the endless confrontation of the human mind with the problem of existence. Even those millions who may never read these books: even those who may never have heard of them could not survive if our collective backlists, our racial memory, the wisdom of our species were to disappear.

Since I joined the publishing business as an editorial assistant in 1951, I have been obsessed with the preservation and distribution of backlist, for I understood from the beginning two important truths about our business: the first is that publishing is not really a business at all, at least not a very good business. If it’s money that you want to make, go into a real business and take your chances. The second truth is that publishing is a vocation, a secular priesthood, for publishers are caretakers of our collective memory, indispensable servants to those other caretakers, poets, story tellers, librarians, teachers and scholars. The cultivation of backlist is not only our business but our moral responsibility.

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Posted in Authorship