General

Aiken Posts First Medical Records; Tells Us to Get Back to Work

Authors Guild Executive Director Paul Aiken has posted his first two sets of medical records pertaining to his ALS diagnosis: results of MRI, CT-myelogram, and x-ray reports from December 2012 through April 2013, and results from blood tests done this year. The reports appear at his n=2 blog, which he launched on Friday as the Guild sent out a press release announcing he had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Aiken says that he expects to have other pertinent medical records posted later today, including electrodiagnostic reports and neurologists’ evaluations of the tests.

He also says he’s still the boss, and we have to get back to normal blogging, pronto. The Guild has a 100-year history of not reporting medical news to members, he says.

Aiken also says we should tell people that we do welcome self-published authors into our membership, so long as they earn at least $500 in writing income in 18 months. He says the Guild truly doesn’t care whether a writer’s income is filtered through a publisher, the whole point is to provide professional support to those who earn at least part of their livelihoods through writing books and articles. He says we should post a link to our application form and a separate link to our eligibility requirements, even though they’re kind of hard to decipher.

He says he’d been intending to get to that, but things got crazy busy for him lately, what with Google, HathiTrust, Penguin and Random House getting hitched, developments regarding the Justice Department’s cavity search of book publishing, Washington’s moves toward significant copyright reform, getting word out on how Obamacare affects our members across the country, and all.

Aiken says his condition is “oddly liberating,” and that he feels good. (Knock wood.)

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Executive Director of US Authors Guild Has ALS. Aiken Says Early-Stage Symptoms in Remission with Steroids; Will Make Medical Records Public

Paul Aiken, the long-time executive director of the Authors Guild, announced today that he has early-stage Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a fatal illness also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease in the US and Motor Neurone Disease in the UK. There is no known cure nor effective treatment for the disease, which kills an estimated 125,000 globally each year.

Aiken, 54, said his ALS symptoms in his legs went into remission after he was treated on August 7 with the fourth in a series of epidural steroid injections he received for lower back and leg pain. Just two days earlier, doctors at Weill Cornell Peripheral Neuropathy Center had found fasciculations, involuntary muscular twitches that are symptomatic of ALS, in his legs, arm, back and tongue during EMG tests.

Aiken said that, separately, an emergency room doctor at St. Luke’s Hospital had given him oral steroids to combat a severe allergic reaction early in the morning on May 23rd, shortly after his first symptom, slurred speech, arose. Aiken’s wife noticed that his speech improved markedly after two doses of steroids.

“It was dumb luck, nothing else,” Aiken said,

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Booker Prize Opens to All English-Language Novels, Some U.K. Writers Less Than Thrilled

It’s official: Americans can now compete for a Man Booker Prize.

The Booker Prize foundation today announced it was opening up the award to any novel written originally in English and published in the U.K., regardless of the author’s nationality. After 45 years in which only authors from the UK, Ireland and Commonwealth countries were eligible to win, the foundation said in a written statement that it was time to expand the competition.

“We are embracing the freedom of English in its versatility, in its vigour, in its vitality and in its glory wherever it may be. We are abandoning the constraints of geography and national boundaries.”

The long-rumored change is controversial, to say the least, and drew criticism even before today’s announcement. The Guardian on Monday published a story quoting author Linda Grant, who was shortlisted for the prize in 2008 for her novel The Clothes on Their Backs.

“‘There are two career-changing prizes, the Booker and the Pulitzer. The Pulitzer has this big market in the US, and UK authors are closed off from that. If the Booker is open to US authors it will create a huge imbalance. UK writers will have more competition for a career-changing prize, whereas US authors will have a new prize.’”

Jim Crace, who is on this year’s shortlist for his novel Harvest, was quoted Sunday by the Independent:

“If you open the Booker prize to all people writing in the English language it would be a fantastic overview of English language literature but it would lose a focus. I’m very fond of the sense of the Commonwealth. There’s something in there that you would lose if you open it up to American authors.”

Anticipating that the change could send submissions skyrocketing, the foundation is also establishing a somewhat complicated cap on entries based on a publisher’s previous longlisted titles. The foundation expressed confidence that the new rules will make the process, “slightly less challenging in terms of reading than the 151 books the judges considered this year.”

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Guild Tells Court: Reject Google’s Risky, Market-Killing, Profit-Driven Project

Arguing that the Google Library Project violates authors’ rights to control the copying and distribution of their books, destroys a potential market for the works, and puts the material at greater risk of theft, the Authors Guild urges Judge Denny Chin to rule against Google in a court brief filed ahead of next Monday’s hearing on summary judgment.

While Google maintains that its mass unauthorized copying of books is “transformative,” and therefore protected as fair use, the Guild argues that merely digitizing a work doesn’t meet the legal standard of transformative.

The brief also says that a program as all-encompassing as the Library Project “eviscerates” any possibility that license holders could form a collective market for the works.

On the issue of security, the brief outlines the risks of Google making digitized books available without any accountability for keeping it safe. What’s worse, if such programs are considered fair use, “others will engage in their own unauthorized book digitization programs, putting more books within the reach of digital thieves,” the brief says.

The Guild rejects a number of Google’s justifications for the project, including the contention that it’s actually helping authors by increasing exposure to their books (the “we were only trying to help” defense) and that the program is “only indirectly commercial.” In fact, according to the brief, “the primary motivation for Google’s exploitation of the authors’ books is for Google to gain a competitive advantage in the online search marketplace” by increasing traffic and therefore ad revenue.

Recognizing that the “fair use doctrine is not designed to address the enormity of Google’s infringement,” the Guild argues that it’s up to Congress, not the courts, to revise copyright law to deal with technological advances. Earlier this year, the House Judiciary Committee said it would begin a review of U.S. copyright law. In the meantime, the brief says, “Google’s unilateral and profit-driven effort to upset the balance between copyright owners and users must be rejected.”

Posted in Advocacy, General

London Police Ready for Piracy Crackdown; U.K. Author Blasts “Moral Squalor” of Digital Book Theft

In the U.K., two new separate efforts aim to defend copyright, one by enforcing the law, another by highlighting the immorality of piracy.

The London police department is launching a 19-person intellectual property crime unit, The Bookseller reports.  Publishers Association chief executive Richard Mollet applauded the new unit as “a hugely significant development in the fight against online intellectual property crime which undermines the creative industries on a daily basis.”

Meanwhile, acclaimed author Philip Pullman today ignited public debate on unauthorized book downloading with his scathing piece in Index on Censorship magazine.

“The technical brilliance is so dazzling that people can’t see the moral squalor of what they’re doing. It is outrageous that anyone can steal an artist’s work and get away with it,” writes Pullman, who is president of the Society of Authors. “It is theft, as surely as reaching into someone’s pocket and taking their wallet is theft.”

Read More…

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Updated Edition of “The Writers Legal Guide” Helps Authors Succeed in a Fast-Changing Market

While most authors would rather focus on their craft, The Writer’s Legal Guide helps them navigate the unavoidable entrepreneurial concerns of their profession, including protecting their work from theft, avoiding legal risks and, of course, making as much money as possible.

A newly updated version of the Guide goes in-depth on the latest developments in digital royalties, copyright law, self-publishing and other topics. The Guide, co-published by the Authors Guild and Allworth Press, had its last update in 2002. Since then, “The literary marketplace has fundamentally changed,” its authors Kay Murray and Tad Crawford write.

They point out that traditional publishers and bricks-and-mortar booksellers are struggling to adapt to a market where “readers expect instant, inexpensive access to literature” and content aggregators like Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook and The Huffington Post reign.

On a brighter note, they say, “the advent of digital delivery systems offers writers new ways to reach a paying audience.”

The updated Guide helps readers sidestep the dangers and take advantage of the opportunities posed by changes in the market. It also addresses business issues authors have confronted for decades.

In the Guide, authors can find out:

  • How to avoid defamation, privacy and infringement liability
  • How to understand copyright and fair use
  • How to use Freedom of Information laws to access troves of data compiled by the government
  • When to consult an attorney.
  • What to expect from a literary agent.
  • How to understand and negotiate book, magazine and blog contribution contracts
  • How to establish collaboration agreements that prevent misunderstandings later in the process.
  • Which print and online sources provide crucial industry information.
  • How to tackle the practical steps of self-publishing, from hiring a cover designer to  obtaining an ISBN.
  • How to minimize their tax bill, but still be in good shape if they get audited.
  • Why they should join a professional organization.

 

writers_legal_guide_front_coverBuy book.

 

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Committee Votes to Send Shield Law Legislation to the Senate, Broadens Definition of Journalist

A federal shield law protecting journalists from overzealous government intrusion is one big step closer to becoming a reality today, after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve the Free Flow of Information Act and send it on to the full Senate.

As defined in the act, the law would cover a wide range of information gatherers including nonfiction authors, bloggers, students and freelancers, regardless of whether they’re being paid for the work. In addition, a federal judge could rule that someone who doesn’t fit into any of the categories laid out in the law is covered.  The committee broadened the definition of “covered persons” with an amendment approved today ahead of the vote on the full act.

That more inclusive definition makes this a double victory for free press advocates, who feared that the law as previously written would leave unprotected many journalists who work in non-traditional media.

The bipartisan legislation seeks to strike a balance between the First Amendment rights of journalists to not to reveal their sources and other private information and the need to protect the public from the dangers created by leaks of classified information.

While attempts at passing a federal shield law have failed in the past, most recently in 2009 with legislation similar to the act approved in committee today, momentum for putting the protection into place has been building since revelations earlier this year that the Justice Department secretly obtained the emails of a Fox News reporter and the phone records of Associated Press reporters.

Outrage over the revelations led Attorney General Eric Holder to issue new guidelines for obtaining journalists’ records while investigating leaks. But without the force of law, those guidelines could be changed at the whims of the current or future administrations. Legislators and First Amendment advocacy groups, including the Authors Guild, have been pushing for legislation that would expand on those guidelines and make them law.

Posted in Advocacy, General

With Senators Set to Consider Shield Law Thursday, First Amendment Advocates Push for Passage

Free press advocates are stepping up efforts to raise support for the Free Flow of Information Act, as the Senate Judiciary Committee prepares to consider the federal shield law legislation on Thursday.

“Journalists work hard every day to give life to the promise of the First Amendment. The ability to protect confidential sources is the oxygen that investigative reporting needs to survive,” a media coalition supporting the act writes in a letter  sent to Judiciary Committee members Monday afternoon. The letter is signed by the Authors Guild, along with news companies, media trade groups and other First Amendment supporters.

Coalition leaders are also asking advocacy organizations to encourage their members to call senators who serve on the committee and urge passage of the legislation.

Interest in a federal shield law was reignited earlier this year after revelations that the Justice Department secretly obtained the emails of a Fox News reporter and the phone records of Associated Press reporters. Outrage over the revelations led Attorney General Eric Holder to issue new guidelines for obtaining journalists’ records while investigating leaks. The current legislation, based on a 2009 bill that made it through committee but failed to become law, would expand on and codify those new DOJ guidelines.

The Judiciary Committee began considering the bi-partisan legislation on Aug. 1, but postponed a vote until after the August recess. In its letter, the coalition urges the committee to support the bill and oppose any amendments that would weaken it.

Posted in Advocacy, General

Harper Lee Reaches Agreement In Lawsuit Against Former Agent

Harper Lee has reached settlement agreements with all parties, including her former agent, Samuel Pinkus, named in a lawsuit over royalties for To Kill A Mockingbird, her attorney, Gloria Phares, confirmed Monday morning.

Phares declined to comment on terms of the settlement, but said dismissal papers in the complaint against Pinkus will be filed soon. On Thursday, papers were filed dismissing the complaints against Leigh Ann Winnick, Pinkus’s wife, and journalist Gerald Posner.

In the lawsuit, Lee sought to recover royalties dating back to 2007, when Pinkus allegedly tricked her into signing over copyright  to her classic novel as she was in an assisted living facility recovering from a stroke. The 87-year-old author regained rights to the novel in 2012, but Pinkus has continued to collect royalties, according to the suit.

In media reports, Vincent Carissimi, a lawyer for Pinkus, also declined to comment on terms of the agreement, saying, “The parties reached a mutually satisfactory resolution and everybody would like at this point to put it behind them.”

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Order Confirms Publishers Can Renegotiate Apple Terms on Staggered Schedule; For Macmillan, a Four-Year Wait

As expected, the court has ordered Apple to modify its contracts with the five publisher defendants in the price-fixing case to exclude any restrictions on ebook discounting for at least another two years. After the two-year period, publishers can renegotiate their deals, including adopting agency terms, on a staggered schedule, one every six months.

The schedule corresponds to the order in which the publishers settled with the Justice Department in the case. Hachette will be the first at 24 months “after the Effective Date of the Final Judgment,” according to the order for injunctive relief signed by Judge Denise Cote. HarperCollins comes next, at 30 months. Simon & Schuster comes third, at 36 months. The final two publishers to settle come last, with Penguin at 42 months and Macmillan at 48 months.

That means Macmillan, the first publisher to openly defy Amazon by deciding to sell books on agency terms, will be locked out of using the model for the next four years.

Cote’s written order, set to go into effect on Oct. 5, confirms her comments at a recent court hearing, when she indicated that she would impose an injunction on Apple that was significantly softer than what the DOJ had originally requested. Apple nevertheless said on Friday that it will appeal the injunction .
Under Cote’s order, Apple will be overseen by an external monitor for two years (the DOJ first proposed 10 years), with a one-year extension if the court decides it’s necessary. Terms for selling content other than books won’t be affected. And Apple won’t, as the DOJ proposed, be forced to let other ebook retailers directly link to their own bookstores for in-app purchases without paying a commission.

The injunction may close one chapter in this long, tumultuous period for the publishing industry. But Apple still faces a trial on money damages next spring. And it is appealing not only the injunction, but the judge’s original guilty verdict. So we are far from seeing the end of this.

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