Definitions

Authors Guild

The Authors Guild

The Authors Guild is an advocacy organization of and for published authors. It currently boasts at least eight thousand members, which includes not only authors, but literary agents and attorneys (who mainly deal in book publishing). The current president is Roy Blount Jr. As they are primarily an author’s advocacy group, particularly new ones who are not versed in the business side of the book publishing industry, the Guild often runs into conflict with individuals and organizations whose interests seem to take advantage of the unsuspecting author.

History

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 and nonfiction book/magazine authors.

Conflict with Google

On September 20, 2005, the Authors Guild, together with Herbert Mitgang, Betty Miles and Daniel Hoffman, sued Google for its Book Search project. According to the authors, Google is liable because of copyright infringement of the individual writers. According to Google, the Google Book Search project "directly benefits authors and publishers by increasing awareness and sales of the books."

Authors Guild vs Simon & Schuster

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.”

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.

An alert to AAR members states that on May 31, 2007, Simon & Schuster executives Jack Romanos, Carolyn Reidy, and Rick Richter, for the purpose of discussing the reversion of rights issue. apologized for “any early miscommunication” regarding reversion of rights and wanted to clarify their position as being able “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.

This issue, however, remains unresolved.

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