The Authors Alliance vs. The Authors Guild

I am a founding member of the Authors Alliance.

[The Alliance represents] authors who create to be read, to be seen, and to be heard. We believe that these authors have not been well served by misguided efforts to strengthen copyright. These efforts have failed to provide meaningful financial returns to most authors, while instead unacceptably compromising  the preservation of our own intellectual legacies and our ability to tap our collective cultural heritage. We want to harness the potential of global digital networks to share knowledge and products of the imagination as broadly as possible. We aim to amplify the voices of authors and creators in all media who write and create not only for pay, but above all to make their discoveries, ideas, and creations accessible to the broadest possible audience.

The Authors Guild (a nice medieval name) isn’t happy with the Alliance. Board member T.J. Stiles warns writers not to join the Alliance which he says is for academics and hobbyists and not for real authors like himself. I could reply but let me turn it over to full time professional writer and editor Virginia Postrel:

…the guild has for years actively undermined my interests while claiming in federal court to speak in my name. It channels commercial authors’ understandable anxieties about piracy threats and increasing competition into unjustified attacks on institutions and practices, such as fair use and computer indexing, that help us create new works and promote existing ones. It feeds authors’ fears while working to make it harder to write and sell books.

…In his blog post, Stiles invoked “people who copy and distribute your work without your permission.” You might assume he was talking about plagiarists and pirates. But what he really meant was the scanning, search and snippets offered by Google Books, or the digital preservation and indexing provided by the nonprofit HathiTrust. The Authors Guild has been fighting these projects in court. It claims that scanning books in order to make them searchable constitutes a copyright violation, even if the only thing shared with the public is a tiny bit of text (Google) or the page numbers on which a search term appears (HathiTrust)….

Last November, U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin dismissed the Authors Guild suit against Google. His ruling emphatically affirmed the “significant public benefits” of Google Books — including the benefits for authors and publishers — and declared the service easily within the legal definition of fair use. The Authors Guild said it would appeal the ruling. It is also appealing a 2012 circuit court ruling against it in the HathiTrust suit.

If the Authors Guild fears losing its members it has no one to blame but itself for supporting these ridiculous and counter-productive lawsuits.


Comments for this post are closed