Notes from An Alien

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Tag Archives: Google Book Scanning

Why is the Authors Guild so Mad at Google Books?

I’ve written before about the Authors Guild of the U.S.A.—rather critical articlesseems they’re organized more to favor legacy publishers than authors… 

The Guild’s latest outrage is directed against Google Books.

Recently, a federal appeals court ruled that Google’s scanning of “snippets” from books, to present in their search results, was legally “fair use”.

Yet, according to an article in Consumerist, the Executive Director of the Authors Guild had this to say:

“It’s unfortunate that a Court as well-respected as the Second Circuit does not see the damaging effect that uses such as Google’s can have on authors’ potential income. Most full-time authors live on the perilous edge of being able to sustain themselves through writing as a profession… so even relatively small losses in income can make it unsustainable to continue writing for a living.”

Joe Konrath, an author who’s had a successful career in both traditional and self-publishing, responded on his blog with Fisking the Authors Guild.

An excerpt from Joe (here’s a definition of “Fisking“, too):

“The Authors Guild has lost similar battles. During Authors Guild vs. Bill Smopey, they sued him because he’d sat in a Barnes & Nobel and read half of The Terror by Dan Simmons but hadn’t bought it. Smopey’s defense, “After the first 500 pages, the monster wasn’t even in it anymore, and I got bored and put it back.” The Guild claimed that Smopey owed Simmons’s publisher half of the cover price for reading without paying, and for partially crinkling page 342. The court dismissed the case…”


“With Authors Guild vs. Janet’s Mother, they sued because Janet bought a full price hardcover of Stephen King’s The Cell, then loaned it to her mother to read. The Guild demanded Janet’s Mother pay Stephen King a royalty, because she had no right to read what she hadn’t bought for herself. Janet’s Mother’s legal team dazzled with the famous, “Well, what about libraries?!” defense and the suit was dropped.”


“That lead to Authors Guild vs. Libraries, where the Guild insisted that every library extract a pound of flesh from patrons who borrowed a book, in lieu of collecting royalties. But unlike the impossibility of separating blood from flesh,  making the acquisition of a pound of flesh quite impossible, the court did decide it was possible to separate the experience of reading a book with the fiduciary duty of monetarily compensating the author for having done so. Yep, you can read without paying.”

I recommend that all authors who may be contemplating joining the Authors Guild go read the rest of Mr. Konrath’s article
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