Fox in the Henhouse – Authors Guild to Testify on IP Rights
Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing entitled “Targeting Websites Dedicated To Stealing American Intellectual Property.” Some might see a little irony in this hearing considering that among the witnesses that will testify is Scott Turow of the Authors Guild – the very same organization that negotiated the Google Book Settlement which represents one of the largest intellectual property setbacks in recent memory. As a letter from the National Writers Union, American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America to Congressional authors noted, “Mary Beth Peters, Register of Copyrights, testified before the House Judiciary Committee that the settlement [negotiated by the Authors Guild] would “turn copyright on its head.”
To be frank, the Authors Guild sold its member authors down the river. As followers of the GBS are well aware, the Authors Guild’s negotiators (who, as NWU, ASJA, and SFFWA note “represent only a tiny fraction of published writers”) worked with Google to craft a settlement that locks authors into the Books Rights Registry – unless, of course, these authors find out about the settlement and navigate the GBS’ incomprehensible website. In fact, the process is so impenetrable that Google and the Authors Guild had to file for an extension last week to extend the deadline for an “up front” cash payment for unauthorized digitization of entire works.
In short, by partnering with Google in the GBS, the Authors Guild has damaged its credibility when it comes to speaking for rightsholders on intellectual property issues. As the anniversary of the final Fairness Hearing comes around this week, the Google Book Settlement needlessly continues to tear the authors community apart at a time when essential issues like protecting the future of writing as a livelihood in the digital age is at stake. The committee hearing would be an opportune moment for Mr. Turow to take advantage of this public forum to apologize for what the previous Authors Guild leadership did to authors with the Google Book Settlement.