Ursula Le Guin Resigns from the Authors Guild: "You Have Sold Us Down the River"
*If you don't know what the hell is going on here, first read or listen to this interview with Professor James Grimmelmann at the New York Law School*

Calling the Authors Guild cowards and claiming that they have done a deal with the devil as a result of the Google Book Settlement, Ursula Le Guin -- one of the most well-respected writers of fiction on planet Earth (five Hugo awards, six Nebula awards, and one National Book Award) -- has resigned from the Authors Guild, hinting that the leadership of the Guild has become out of touch with real working writers as a result of easy living and enervated Eastern decadence.

Here is Le Guin's official letter of resignation:

"18 December 2009

To Whom it may concern at the Authors Guild:

I have been a member of the Authors Guild since 1972.

At no time during those thirty-seven years was I able to attend the functions, parties, and so forth offered by the Guild to members who happen to live on the other side of the continent. I have naturally resented this geographical discrimination, reflected also in the officership of the Guild, always almost all Easterners. But it was a petty gripe when I compared it to my gratitude to the Guild for the work you were doing in defending writers' rights. I went on paying top dues and thought it worth it.

And now you have sold us down the river.

I am not going to rehearse any arguments pro and anti the "Google settlement." You decided to deal with the devil, as it were, and have presented your arguments for doing so. I wish I could accept them. I can't. There are principles involved, above all the whole concept of copyright; and these you have seen fit to abandon to a corporation, on their terms, without a struggle.

So, after being a loyal if invisible member for so long, I am resigning from the Guild. I am, however, retaining membership in the National Writers Union and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, both of which opposed the "Google settlement." They don't have your clout, but their judgment, I think, is sounder, and their courage greater.

Yours truly,

Ursula K. Le Guin"


Here is the Authors Guild's response:

"We appreciate Ursula K. Le Guin's many years of membership and regret that she has chosen to resign from the Guild. We are open and eager to discuss this matter with her at any time.

In many respects, we agree with Ms. Le Guin. We hold the principles of copyright to be fundamental -- they are bedrock principles for the Authors Guild and the economics of authorship. That's why we sued Google in the first place.

It would therefore have been deeply satisfying, on many levels, to litigate our case to the end and win, enjoining Google from scanning books and forcing it to destroy the scans it had made. It also would have been irresponsible, once a path to a satisfactory settlement became available.

Litigation, particularly litigation over the bounds of fair use, involves risk. Some critics of the settlement wrongly dismiss that risk, but the fact is that we certainly could have lost the case. Losing would have meant that anyone, not just Google, could have digitized copyright protected books and made them available through search engines. Since creating a search engine is rather simple, anyone with a website -- Civil War buffs, science fiction fans, medical information providers -- would then have been empowered to start the uncontrolled scanning of books and the display of "snippets." Authors would have no say in those uses and no control over the security of those scans. The damage to copyright protection would have been incalculable.

The lessons of recent history are clear: when digital and online technologies meet traditional media, traditional media generally wind up gutted. Constructive engagement -- in this case turning Google's infringement to our advantage -- is sometimes the only realistic solution. Google's scanning project won't be the only battlefield, there are countless challenges ahead. We need the institutional resources to deal with those challenges. We need the Book Rights Registry, our ASCAP, as desperately as the music industry needed its with the advent of radio.

The settlement is a good one for authors. It will open up new streams of revenues for authors from out-of-print books, books that provide no income to authors now. The settlement allows authors to decide whether, when and to what extent to make their works available through Google. In an increasingly challenging online environment, authors need every bit of income they can earn."


Le Guin to AG: "You are gutless cowards and you sold us down the river without a fight."

AG to Le Guin: "God lady: don't you know ANYTHING about history or science?"

Posted by miracle on Thu, 24 Dec 2009 05:52:21 -0500 -- permanent link

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