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BY NICO VREELAND

The Authors Guild is not on a roll. Last year, they fought with Google over the rights to search inside books on Google Book Search. Earlier this week, they whined that Kindle’s text-to-speech was violating authors’ rights. I thought it was ironic, then, that the ad at left appears on the back cover of the Jan/Feb issue of Poets & Writers.

One salient passage reads:

Money is almost everything. It’s not just about royalty rates (though we can talk your ear off about those). It’s about reversions of rights and copyright clauses and options and non-competes, the sorts of things that can tie up your rights to your manuscript for a long, long time, or restrict your ability to publish your next book.

I don’t like the use of scare tactics here, and, frankly, I don’t trust the Authors Guild to effectively and productively manage the rights of authors. Especially when the job they’re doing so far has actual authors disavowing them:

Hit the jump for a full-sized picture of the ad, and more thoughts on the Authors Guild’s campaign against their own readers.

Thoughts on Authors Guild v. Google Book Search

Luckily, when the Authors Guild sued, Google didn’t just abandon the Book Search project, but settled and kept going. In a publishing industry that’s slowly dying, it’s absolutely ludicrous to go after a search engine that helps people find and buy books they will find useful.

Roy Blount Jr., president of the Authors Guild, says this about it on Google Books’ Thoughts and Opinions page:

“It’s hard work writing a book, and even harder work getting paid for it.   As a reader and researcher, I’ll be delighted to stop by my local library to browse the stacks of some of the world’s great libraries.  As an author, well, we appreciate payment when people use our work.  This deal makes good sense.”  – Roy Blount Jr., President of the Authors Guild

This is pretty much crap. Libraries are still free, and damn well should be, and attacking a system that organizes and distributes information (and encourages reading) is essentially attacking your readers.

(I’m also interested to see Blount’s local library, which apparently houses several of the world’s other libraries inside of it. Seriously, he’s the president of the Authors Guild; it’s embarrassing.)

This is the kind of thinking that makes students pay exorbitant copyright payments so professors can hand out copies of articles in classes. This is the kind of plan that leads to a complete lockdown of information, such that the sharing and the borrowing of books is illegal. It’s totalitarian, and obviously, viscerally wrong.

I’m certainly not against authors making money; however, I want to be part of a culture of reading that cares more about the discovery and sharing of literature than it does about nickel and diming readers who glance at something under copyright.

The Authors Guild tagline in the ad reads, “The voice of published writers since 1912.” Perhaps it should read more like, “The voice of published writers in 1912,” because almost a century later, their philosophy is broken.

UPDATE: I managed to delete some real comments while cleaning out our spam filter, but a commenter mentioned that Blount’s referring to Google’s proposed in-library terminals, which would access the full-text database. So I prematurely presumed idiocy on Blount’s part.

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Here’s the full-size ad. I hope the Guild doesn’t come after me for copyright payment for reprinting their advertisement. I wouldn’ t put it past them.

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