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.
“The challenges are huge. I am thrilled to be a part of it all.”
Judy Blume, Richard Russo, and James Shapiro to serve as vice presidents.
At its annual meeting Wednesday, Authors Guild members elected Roxana Robinson as their president and Judy Blume, Richard Russo, and James Shapiro as co-vice presidents. CJ Lyons joined the Guild’s executive Council. Scott Turow concluded his presidency of the Authors Guild, the largest organization of published book authors in the US, after serving four years. Mr. Turow served tirelessly as the organization’s advocate and voice and led the Guild through its 100th anniversary celebrations in 2012.
During his term, Mr. Turow oversaw landmark mass book digitization and “orphan works” lawsuits against Google and HathiTrust that raise critical issues concerning authors’ rights to exercise control and be fairly compensated for uses of their works. Courts ruled against the Guild in the cases in 2012 and 2013; the Guild is appealing both decisions.
“Groundbreaking lawsuits are most often decided in higher courts,” said Mr. Turow. “We know we were right to bring these cases, and we expect to prevail at the end of the day.”
The lawsuits helped spur widespread debate over digital libraries and copyright, including the Copyright Office’s roundtable discussions last week on mass digitization and orphan works, and the European Union’s ongoing review of its copyright laws pertaining to libraries.
“American writing is alive and well. There is no question about the vitality of our literary community or the vitality of the literary impulse in the United States. There will always be authors, there will always books,” Mr. Turow said at the meeting. “We need to continue the struggle in order to protect writing as a livelihood.”
“As writers, we are living in very interesting times. The challenges are huge,” Ms. Robinson said after her election, “and I am thrilled to be a part of it all. We’re going to move ahead, we’re going to extend our membership, we’re going to continue to offer practical help and advice and a sense of community to our writers, and we’re going to continue to support the craft of writing.”
Guild members re-elected Peter Petre as treasurer and Pat Cummings as secretary, and re-elected Council members Peter Gethers, Annette Gordon-Reed, Nicholas Lemann, Douglas Preston, Michelle Richmond, Cathleen Schine, and Monique Truong.
We’re shutting down the virtual presses for the year. We’ll flip the switch back on January 6th, provided there’s news that merits your attention at that time.
Best wishes for 2014, everyone!
The Authors Guild
More than 1000 authors turned out for Indies First on Nov. 30, answering Sherman Alexie’s call to become a bookseller for the day.
You can watch the event unfold through photos posted by authors and booksellers on the Indies First Facebook page. (Scroll down and you’ll spot many authors you recognize, including T.C. Boyle, Pearl Cleage, Jon Scieszka, Isabel Wilkerson, and, we’re told, our very own Scott Turow looking sharp as he models the official blue Indies First tote bag.)
by Campbell Geeslin
When wintry days whistle in, it’s time to reach for Nicolai V. Gogol’s The Overcoat. Next to a warm fire, there’s nothing more satisfying than a vodka-sized shot of Russian literature.
The boisterous wind “cut his face like a knife, covering it with lumps of snow, swelling out his collar like a sail.”
A priest told Gogol that he must renounce his literary work and enter a monastery. He replied, “Not to write means the same to me as not to live.”
We were struck by the appearance in today’s New York Times of two prominently placed stories about media in transition. Both are well worth reading.
Dave Streitfeld explores the enduring appeal of the traditional book in the digital era.
“Even as the universe of printed matter continues to shrivel, the book — or at least some of its best-known features — is showing remarkable staying power online. The idea is apparently embedded so deeply in the collective unconsciousness that no one can bear to leave it behind.”
Writing that “efforts to reimagine the core experience of the book have stumbled,” Streitfeld notes that a number of tech startups that have tried to incorporate social networking or multimedia into books have either gone out of business or been forced to change their business model.
by Campbell Geeslin
David Orr, author of Beautiful and Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry, writes a column for The New York Times Book Review.
He wrote, “At any given moment, millions of people in this country are happily not reading poems, and dozens of poets are happy to say they don’t care.”
Does one have to study poetry to become a fan? Orr quotes Philip Larkin, “Oh, for Christ’s sake, one doesn’t study poets! You read them, and think, that’s marvelous, how is it done, could I do it? And that’s how you learn.”
Orr concludes: “When we talk about accessibility, we should remember that poetry, unlike churches and fortresses, has never loved a wall.”
First the Jerry Siegel heirs, in February; now the Joe Shuster heirs. The lawsuits over the rights of the heirs of Superman’s co-creators may be over. The Shuster heirs appear stuck with a 1992 agreement paying a “pension” of $25,000 per year. The Siegel heirs fared much better: their 2001 agreement included $3 million up front and an ongoing 6% of gross revenues.
Last Thursday, an appellate court effectively affirmed DC Comics’ ownership of the copyright for Superman in what may be the final chapter in a long, complex and ultimately losing struggle by the heirs of Superman co-creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster to regain their rights to the iconic superhero.
On Friday, attorneys for the heirs of Malcolm X told a federal court in Manhattan that The Diary of Malcolm X was available for sale online, in violation of the court’s November 8th temporary restraining order blocking sales of the work. Judge Laura Taylor Swain wasted no time, warning the defendant that it could be held in contempt of court if it disregards her order, and extending the order blocking the sale of the book until a court hearing in January, according to the Associated Press.
The Diary of Malcolm X, which was scheduled to be published earlier this month by Chicago-based Third World Press, is based on journals written by Malcolm X in 1964 as he traveled to the Middle East and Africa. Those journals have been on loan from the civil rights leader’s estate, X Legacy, to the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center since 2003. X Legacy had filed a copyright infringement suit earlier this month asserting that it had the sole right to publish his diaries.
Today’s obituary for Herbert Mitgang in The New York Times goes into much more detail than we did yesterday. For example, we wrote about Herb’s work for Stars and Stripes in World War II. The Times tells you he did much more than that during the war, serving as an Army intelligence officer, parachuting into Greece, and earning six battle stars.
The Times highlights Herb Mitgang’s 1988 book Dangerous Dossiers: Exposing the Secret War Against America’s Greatest Authors, which he wrote using FBI, CIA, and other files he obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.