Novelist and Authors Guild Council Member Douglas Preston has gathered a grassroots opposition to Amazon; his open letter to the bookseller is currently catching wildfire among the authorial community.
The letter calls on Amazon to resolve its dispute with Hachette without incurring any more collateral damage to authors and readers. “No bookseller,” Preston writes, “should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want. It is not right for Amazon to single out a group of authors, who are not involved in the dispute, for selective retaliation.”
Preston began circulating the letter two weeks ago, hoping to find a dozen fellow authors to add their signatures. Publishers Weekly reports that the list of supporters—still growing—had snowballed to over 300 by this morning, and includes such luminaries as Stephen King, Scott Turow, Nora Roberts, and James Patterson.
Preston, who hasn’t yet sent the letter to Amazon, is still collecting signatures. To add your name to the list, send Doug an email at email@example.com.
In a 6-3 decision hailed by copyright proponents and the creative industries, the Supreme Court held today that Aereo, a subscription service that allows users to watch television programs over the Internet mere seconds after they are actually broadcast, violates copyright holders’ exclusive right to “publicly perform” those programs.
The case, American Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo, was brought by a coalition of television networks and other industry groups. But the decision resonates beyond the broadcasting industry, reinforcing the bedrock copyright principle that authors and other rightsholders are entitled to compensation for uses of their works.
Apple has come to terms with 33 U.S. states and the class of individual consumers who sued the corporation as a result of its e-book pricing agreements with five major publishers. In that class action lawsuit, which was set to go to trial on July 14, the states and consumers were seeking up to $840 million in damages from Apple. The precise terms of the settlement—which is awaiting final court approval—have not been made public.
This settlement stems from the April 2012 U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit accusing Apple and five publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster) of working behind the scenes to fix e-book prices by adopting the “agency” pricing model. Agency pricing would have allowed publishers to set the price of e-books, sidestepping the pricing traps set by Amazon, whose dominance in the digital and online book markets haunted every corner of that case. We’ve long maintained that the DOJ’s focus on Apple and the publishers ignored, and even sanctioned, Amazon’s anti-competitive conduct.
In a remarkable move, Amazon released a statement yesterday defending its slow-walking of Hachette Book Group titles. The normally tight-lipped corporation broke its silence amid a barrage of press—including Authors Guild President Roxana Robinson’s appearance on the Bloomberg TV program “Market Makers”—concerning its ploy to pressure Hachette into accepting unfavorable contract terms.
by Campbell Geeslin
If, at the beach this summer, the water is too cold, critic Janet Maslin suggests, choose “something else to dive into.” In Sunday’s New York Times she wrote that “we have entered the fun season with the sandy nickname, the one known for books impossible to put down.” Her articles about beach books are an annual event.
This summer? “If there’s one overriding motif, it’s this: “The crazier, the better.” The longest title: You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About.
Maslin wound up with “Here’s a sure way to tell when the summer reading season is ending. . . . Leaves will change color.” The ones on trees. Not those in books.
Blackmail works best. That seems to be Amazon’s negotiating strategy, at least. The online retailer is now refusing orders on some Hachette Book Group titles in an attempt to extort better contract terms from the publisher.
We reported earlier this week on Amazon’s “slow walking” of Hachette Book Group titles. Amazon was putting pressure on the smallest of the Big Five publishers as the two firms try to negotiate a new contract.
Amazon and Hachette Book Group are still battling it out as Amazon seeks to squeeze the publisher’s profit margins in their new contract. Amazon continues to deploy a tactic we’ve called “slow walking,” purposefully putting what appears to be hundreds of Hachette books on two to three week back order to remind Hachette of Amazon’s market power. (See “Amazon Slow-walks Books by Gladwell, Colbert, Others in Spat with Hachette” for more.)
Authors Guild board member T.J. Stiles sent a note to the San Francisco Writers Grotto yesterday about the Authors Alliance, which launches next week. We thought you should see it.
May 15 note from T.J. Stiles to the San Francisco Writers Grotto:
I would like to pass along a warning about a new group that is trying hard to attract members, calling itself the Authors Alliance. In a recent interview in Publishers Weekly, founder and executive director Pamela Samuelson presented the Authors Alliance essentially as a counterweight to the Authors Guild. As an Authors Guild board member you may consider me biased. I have read the Authors Alliance materials, am familiar with the work of its directors, and met with one of them and developed a pretty good picture of what it’s all about.
If any of you earn a living as a writer, or hope to, I strongly urge you not to join the Authors Alliance. If you think authors should be the ones to decide what is done with their books, then I strongly urge you not to join.
Authors Guild executive director Paul Aiken, who announced in September that he has ALS, is taking a 6-month medical leave-of-absence. In the September announcement, Aiken said his symptoms were being held in remission by steroids, a novel treatment he’d stumbled upon by “dumb luck” when treated at an emergency room last May for a severe food allergy.
Steroids continue to hold his ALS in check.
“The issue now is side effects from my treatment,” said Aiken. “Corticosteroids are powerful drugs with significant side effects at high doses. I’m working with several doctors to address the side effects and to seek alternatives to the steroids. This has taken an increasing amount of my time, leaving too little time to properly attend to my duties.”
While Aiken’s on medical leave, Guild chief operating officer Sandy Long will be acting executive director.
“Sandy’s been with us for seven years,” Aiken said, “and we’re lucky to have her. Before joining the Guild she held senior management positions with leading advertising and marketing firms and with Waldenbooks. She’ll work closely with general counsel Jan Constantine, who has been with us for eight years. The Guild is in very good hands.”
While on leave, Aiken will continue to work on select projects for the Guild.
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.