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Writers and Editors (Pat McNees's blog) RSS feed

Authors Guild vs. Authors Alliance

Writing for a living vs. the broadest possible sharing of one's work

(trade authors hoping to earn royalties from book publishing

vs. academic authors who want broadest possible free distribution)

What is the Authors Alliance? May 15 note from Authors Guild board member T.J. Stiles to the San Francisco Writers Grotto, criticizing the Authors Alliance. "However, if you are an academic, or scorn the idea of making a living from writing as a quest for “fame and fortune,” the Authors Alliance may be the organization for you. If you think, in our digital age, that the biggest problem facing authors is how hard it is to give your work away for free, it’s for you. If you think you’ve got too much power over people who copy and distribute your work without your permission, by all means sign up....

     "It’s an astroturf organization. It was not organized by authors, nor is it governed by them. The four directors are Berkeley academics. The executive director and her right-hand-woman are law professors who have made many proposals to reduce copyright protections for authors and restrict remedies for infringement. (I take that wording from the writings of Prof. Samuelson.) As Samuelson stated in Publishers Weekly, the organization is intended to represent the interests of authors who don’t write for a living—academics and hobbyists. See my comments below on the financial interests they represent, and how they are at odds with those of authors who write for a living."
      The Authors Guild sent out a note later that week: "Some of our academic authors have written to make clear they don’t share the radical copyright views this organization espouses....Far too often, copyright is used to separate scholars and scientists from their intellectual property. Scientific and scholarly journals frequently insist on seizing the author’s copyright as part of the price of publication. For scientists in particular this can be galling: their work is usually publicly funded, yet privately locked up."
Why Authors Alliance Supports a Broader View of Fair Use Than the Authors Guild (Authors Alliance co-founder Pamela Samuelson, 2-22-2016) "When the Authors Alliance filed a brief in support of Google’s fair use defense, it emphasized that Google Books helps authors because it allows prospective readers to discover that their books exist and contain relevant information....Google Books also allows authors to discover other authors’ works that are relevant to their own research....If the Supreme Court decides to review the Google decision, the Authors Alliance will file a brief to explain why Google’s different purpose use is much fairer to authors than the Guild has so far been willing to admit."
Author vs. Author: The Authors Guild and the Authors Alliance Set to Duke It Out? (Rick Anderson, Scholarly Kitchen, 6-4-14) "The natural constituency of the Alliance is academic writers who make their living primarily through salaried work (which includes writing for publication) and who benefit more from building their brands than from selling their copyrights. The Guild, on the other hand, is, as its name suggests, a trade organization that exists to help its members make a living as professional writers—a mission that implies a much greater dependence on traditional publishing, and thus a greater investment in the publishing system that currently exists." The "Alliance has very explicitly set itself up as an organization in support of authors who are primarily concerned with the broadest possible sharing of their work and with new approaches to rights management and to the signaling of scholarly quality." Stiles asserts that the Alliance “exists to make it appear that there is a grassroots authors’ organization in favor of loosening copyright protections and limiting remedies for copyright infringement.”
The Authors Alliance vs. The Authors Guild (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution, 6-3-14) An interesting exchange of opinions, and in the comments a good example of how Google snippets make it unnecessary for writers to buy books (because they can get what they need from the snippets).
Founder of Just-Launched Authors Alliance Talks to PW (Peter Brantley's interview with law professor Pamela Samuelson, Publishers Weekly 5-15-14)
Authors Alliance launches, to the chagrin of the Authors Guild (Kirsten Reach, Melville House, 5-28-14). The problem: "the Authors Alliance—founded by Berkeley academics interested in providing support for authors interested in sharing their content for free—is causing some disruption at the Authors Guild, an advocacy group for published writers...focused on copyright and fair contract terms." Find a way to work together, writes Reach.
Authors Guild, Authors Alliance Battle Over Speaking for Writers (Mercy Pilkington, goodEreader, 5-18-14) Open access is the slippery slope T.J. Stiles was attacking. "AG’s feelings about a group that supports access to information by the masses should come as no surprise given its lawsuits against both Google and the Hathi Trust for scanning and digitizing rare works that have been locked away in academic libraries all this time....Authors Alliance co-founder Pamela Samuelson gave an interview to Publisher’s Weekly that very clearly illustrates how the [Authors Alliance] isn’t even on the same radar as the Authors Guild, instead planning to advocate for authors who are interested in making their works available on a widespread, no cost basis [that is, free]." See Fair Use Has a Posse (Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing, 5-14-14)
What is the "Authors Alliance?" (Authors Guild, 5-16-14) Authors Guild warning against the Authors Alliance (from T.J. Stiles to the San Francisco Writers Grotto) "If any of you earn a living as a writer, or hope to, I strongly urge you not to join the Authors Alliance....As Samuelson stated in Publishers Weekly, the organization is intended to represent the interests of authors who don’t write for a living—academics and hobbyists. See my comments ... on the financial interests they represent, and how they are at odds with those of authors who write for a living."
• BIO's Fair Use: A Statement on Best Practices for Biographers (Biographers International Organization) is clearly influenced by Authors Allliance -- perhaps because so many of its board members are in academia? I hesitate to link to it in the section on Codes of Best Practices and Fair Use Guidelines because, among other things, it fails even to refer to the "four factors" at the center of fair use decisions under current copyright law:
1) The Transformative Factor: The Purpose and Character of Your Use 
2) The Nature of the Copyrighted Work
3) The Amount and Substantiality of the Portion Taken
4) The Effect of the Use Upon the Potential Market.
Surely BIO does not believe that all writers start with a clear understanding of the principles spelled out in copyright law. This fair use statement seems to have been developed mostly as an argument with book publishers who require authors to clear permissions for any material quoted from other works -- and leans on the Authors Alliance argument that quoting from someone else's work not only doesn't harm the market for their work but improves it by mentioning them. It's more a case for weakening fair use than a clear guide for authors on the framework for determining what's fair use in biography. Perhaps it's because the Alliance comes from academia, where so much of their writing is hidden behind paywalls for scholarly journals, that they are for expanding "fair use," and I don't disagree with them there, but please:  what practical examples from real life and the rest of the publishing world can we talk about here, and in what ways do the Guild and the Alliance truly differ?


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