Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Writers Ask Congressional Authors: Do You Know What Google and the Authors Guild Want to Do with Your Copyright?

/PRNewswire/ -- The National Writers Union, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America have written to their author peers in Congress, seeking their support in encouraging the Department of Justice to continue its opposition to the Google Books Settlement.

The Google Books Settlement is being negotiated between Google and several parties that sued it in 2007 for copyright infringement. Among those groups is the Authors Guild, which purports to represent the interests of all authors in the Settlement. In its letter to Congressional authors, the groups assert that their interests are not being fairly represented by the Authors Guild.

Award-winning author Ursula K. Le Guin's recent resignation from the Authors Guild highlights the growing tensions between the organization and its constituency. In her letter of resignation, Le Guin commented, "You decided to deal with the devil, as it were, and have presented your arguments for doing so. I wish I could accept them, but I can't. There are principles involved, above all the whole concept of copyright; and these you have seen fit to abandon to a corporation, on their terms, without a struggle."

In their letter, the author groups criticize the Settlement for the lack of notice to authors, the complexity in opting out, a new regulatory board that overrides individual contracts, the exception for publisher plaintiffs to have private side deals, the mockery of existing copyright law, and its attempt to supplant efforts to pass orphan works legislation.

"Opposition to this sweetheart commercial deal from the Department of Justice and nearly 400 other interested parties radically changed the course of this debate. However, the amended version of the settlement still creates a de facto monopoly for Google at the expense of all Americans," reads the letter. "The Constitution says copyright is essential and gives Congress responsibility for it, not Google and a gaggle of lawyers."

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