Authors Guild

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The Authors Guild is a not-for-profit American organization of and for authors. It has around eight thousand members, among them published authors, literary agents and attorneys who mainly deal in book publishing. The current president (as of April 2010) is Scott Turow and the current vice president is Judy Blume.[1] It provides members with free legal and business advice on book contracts, periodical and literary agency contracts, subsidiary licensing, royalty and copyright issues and other matters relevant to publishing. It has been involved in conflicts with Google and Amazon.

History[edit]

The organization had its beginnings in 1912, when the Authors' League of America (ALA) was formed by some 350 book and magazine authors, as well as dramatists. In 1921, this group split into two branches: the Dramatists Guild of America for writers of radio and stage drama and the Authors Guild for novelists, short story authors and nonfiction book/magazine authors including academics, biographers, historians and memoirists.

Conflict with Google[edit]

On September 20, 2005, the Authors Guild, together with Herbert Mitgang, Betty Miles and Daniel Hoffman, filed a class action lawsuit against Google for its Book Search project.[2] According to the Authors Guild, Google was committing copyright infringement by scanning books that were still in copyright. (Google countered that their use was fair according to US copyright law.)

On October 28, 2008 the Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers, and Google announced that they had settled Authors Guild v. Google. Google agreed to a $125 million payout, $45 million of that to be paid to rightsholders whose books were scanned without permission. The Google Book Search Settlement Agreement allows for legal protection for Google's scanning project, even though neither side changed its position about whether scanning books was fair use or copyright infringement. The Settlement also establishes a new regulatory organization, the Book Rights Registry, which will be responsible for allocating fees from Google to rightsholders. The settlement is subject to approval by a federal court.[3]

The Guild employs approximately fifteen full-time employees, collected US$1.6 million in 2006 and 2007, and paid expenses of $1.8 million and $1.5 million during those years [4][5] while generating $30 million in 2009 for the law firm representing the guild in the Google Books settlement, according to Paul Aiken, Executive Director of the Guild.[6]

In 2009, direct and indirect revenue to the Guild should exceed US$50 million due to the Google settlement, with $34.5 million paid upfront as a "registry fee" to a separate, not-yet-established organization set up by the Guild.[7][8] In September 2009, the US Department of Justice announced that it was pursuing an antitrust investigation into this settlement [9] and on September 20 recommended to a New York court that they reject the Google book deal.[10]

Authors Guild vs Simon & Schuster[edit]

On May 17, 2007, Authors Guild Executive Director Paul Aiken released a statement warning members of a new clause in Simon & Schuster contracts. The standard industry contract allows for the reversion of rights. In other words, the specific rights granted to the publisher by the author under their contract (copyright itself remains the author's) revert from the publisher to the author if the book’s sales fall below a minimum level or when the book goes out of print. Simon & Schuster’s new clause stipulates that as long as the book is made available in electronic format, the rights remain with the publisher. This would effectively extend the publisher’s ownership for the entire length of the copyright, thereby preventing an author from seeking other avenues for their book. As Simon & Schuster is a major American publishing house with many imprints, the concern is that such a clause, left unchecked, would eventually become standard industry procedure.

On May 22, Simon & Schuster released a statement that the Authors Guild “perpetuated serious misinformation regarding Simon and Schuster, our author contracts and our commitment to making our authors' books available for sale.”[citation needed]

As a result, on May 30, the Guild launched a high profile campaign, Republish or Perish, which coincided with the 2007 BookExpo America. The campaign involves ads placed in general interest magazines informing authors of this new clause, organizing symposia on the new contract terms, providing advice on how they can protect themselves.

On May 31, 2007, Simon & Schuster executives Jack Romanos, Carolyn Reidy, and Rick Richter apologized for “any early miscommunication” regarding reversion of rights and stated their interest as wanting “to keep books in print more effectively and to market frontlist and backlist titles more vibrantly. They further indicated their willingness to negotiate a “revenue-based threshold” to determine whether a book is in print.[citation needed]

Amazon Kindle controversy[edit]

The Authors Guild have claimed that the text-to-speech facility of the Amazon Kindle 2 is a violation of American copyright law.[11] On 24 February 2009 Roy Blount Jr, as president of the guild, wrote an op-ed article for the New York Times,[12] in which he wrote, "...the guild is being assailed. On the National Federation of the Blind’s Web site, the guild is accused of arguing that it is illegal for blind people to use 'readers, either human or machine, to access books that are not available in alternative formats like Braille or audio.' ... The federation, though, points out that blind readers can’t independently use the Kindle 2’s visual, on-screen controls."

On February 27, 2009 Amazon announced that it would give publishers the right to limit text-to-speech on books, but hoped that most copyright holders would not take that path.[citation needed]

The Guild, in particular its president Scott Turow, has been highly critical of ebooks as far as 2013.[13]

Publishers vs authors controversy[edit]

The Guild has also been criticized for supporting the big publishers rather than the authors.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Board of Directors". The Authors Guild. Retrieved 2012-01-12. 
  2. ^ "FAQs". Google Book Settlement. Retrieved 2012-01-12. 
  3. ^ Google Book Search Settlement Notice to Rights-holders - Books & Inserts Registry. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2012-01-12. 
  4. ^ "Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax". Retrieved July 29, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax". Retrieved July 29, 2013. 
  6. ^ "An Open Letter Concerning The Authors Guild Vs. Google, Inc.". The Rumpus.net. Retrieved 2012-01-12. 
  7. ^ "$125 Million Settlement in Authors Guild v. Google". The Authors Guild. 2008-10-28. Retrieved 2012-01-12. 
  8. ^ "Settlement Agreement". Retrieved July 29, 2013. 
  9. ^ Singel, Ryan (2009-09-04). "Privacy Group Asks to Join Google Book Lawsuit As Deadline Approaches | Epicenter". Wired.com. Retrieved 2012-01-12. 
  10. ^ Krazit, Tom (2009-09-18). "DOJ: Google's book settlement needs rewrite | Relevant Results - CNET News". News.cnet.com. Retrieved 2012-01-12. 
  11. ^ Beaumont, Claudine (February 11, 2009). "Kindle 2 ‘violates copyright’, claims Authors Guild". Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 14 February 2009. Retrieved February 27, 2009. 
  12. ^ Blount, Roy (February 24, 2009). "The Kindle Swindle?". New York Times. Archived from the original on 25 February 2009. Retrieved February 24, 2009. 
  13. ^ "Authors Guild's Scott Turow: The Supreme Court, Google, Ebooks, Libraries & Amazon Are All Destroying Authors". Techdirt. 2013-04-08. Retrieved 2013-04-20. 
  14. ^ "Authors Guild Shuts Itself Off From Public Criticism, As People Realize It Represents Publishers, Not Authors". Techdirt. Retrieved 2013-04-20. 

External links[edit]