Wednesday, February 24, 2010

GBBR: The Authors' Vote Is In

The Authors Guild of America represent some 8,000 authors the Society of Authors in the UK has another 8,500 members and both support the revised Google Book Settlement. Today came the surprising and shocking news from the Guardian that some 6,500 authors agents and publishers have exercised their right and consciously opted out of the settlement.

Many in the industry advised the authors to opt in by default with the proviso they could collect their few bits of silver and then opt out at a later date. Many have followed that route with caution, many are still lost is the reams of paper, complexity of legal jargon and some still don’t know about it. However, 6,500 had taken the bold step to say ‘No’ and with some defiance send a cold message to their representative bodies. The silent majority is speaking out and should have their concerns listened too.

The list of opt outs is also surprising as it is littered with significant names from authors such as Ursula K Le Guin, Jeffery Archer , Zadie Smith , Monica Ali, Jacqueline Wilson, Jeanette Winterson, , Anne Fine, Helen Dunmore, Conn Iggulden, Graham Swift, Keri Hulme, John le Carre, Andrea Levy, Quentin Blake, Philip Pullman, Louis de Bernières Melvyn Bragg and Simon Sebag Montefiore. Literary estates have also opted out and include ; Roald Dahl, Rudyard Kipling, H G Wells, J G Ballard, James Herriott and Neville Shute. The list goes on and agencies have also opted out on behalf of their clients.

6,500 is no mean number and in terms of those who created the deal and supported it revision it must question their judgement. This is without the orphans and estates who where overridden and dragged into this settlement. The sheer weight of literary objection should make the people behind this cheap backdoor sale of copyright have sleepless nights. Let’s hope that common sense prevails and that the courts reject it as a bad settlement. The question we have to ask is how you put 6,500 objectors back in the bottle if is accepted?

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