From the Authors Guild blog.  This is important stuff:

About two minutes of googling turned up a professor emeritus of one of the HathiTrust “orphan works” candidates.  He lives in suburban Maryland.  His second book sold a reported one million copies, and he’s listed in IMDb (two of his books were turned into movies: one starred Elvis Presley, the other Warren Beatty). He has a literary agent, and he signed an e-book contract earlier this month.

No, we’re not making this up.

Just before we filed our lawsuit, we did some cursory research into some of the names on the list of “orphan works” candidates at the HathiTrust website to see if we could find contact information for a copyright holder.  There are now 166 books (the original 27 listed by Michigan in July plus others added in August by various institutions) being readied for distribution.  Works deemed “orphans” by HathiTrust are scheduled to be available for full-text display and unencrypted downloads to at least 250,000 students and faculty members at campuses in several states, starting in less than a month.

We weren’t hopeful, because we knew that research librarians were behind the project, and they were likely to be especially careful to avoid any embarrassing slip-ups in this first go-round.  We thought, at best, we might find the representative of some obscure literary estate.  We were wrong.

Here’s what we did.  It took two steps.

Step #1. We googled “book author [author name].”

This turned up, on the first page of results, a July 24, 2000, Publishers Weekly interview with the author.  The interview mentions the name of his literary agent.

Step #2. We looked up the literary agent in a standard online phone directory.

We found the number and called.  We spoke to the agent’s wife.  She confirmed that her husband represented the author, who lives in Maryland.  A couple hours later, the agent called us back.  He had no idea his client’s first book, “The Lost Country” (the one made into the Elvis Presley movie), was headed to the orphanage in a few weeks.  He wasn’t happy.  He told us that his client had just signed an agreement to release his second book, “Lilith” (the one made into the Warren Beatty movie), as an e-book by Tantor Media.

The author is J.R. Salamanca.  His agent is John White of the John White Literary Agency in Connecticut.

The next day, it was the day before yesterday, we spoke to Richard Salamanca, the son of the author.  (Jack Salamanca has a hearing problem, so Richard handles phone duties.)  He told us that he, too, hadn’t heard of the HathiTrust Orphan Works Project and was stunned to learn that his father’s first book was set to be released online to hundreds of thousands of students.

All told, it took us two-and-a-half minutes, give or take, to reach the agent’s wife.

Mr. Salamanca is a professor emeritus of the University of Maryland.  He’s listed in the current University of Maryland graduate school catalog.  He lives in Maryland, just as he has for decades.

“The Lost Country” became a movie in 1961, “Wild in the Country,” starring Elvis Presley, Hope Lange and Tuesday Weld. “Lilith” (1964) stars Warren Beatty, Jean Seberg (nominated for a Golden Globe for best actress), Peter Fonda, and Kim Hunter. Mr. Salamanca has a brief entry in IMDb, which links to the two movies.

There are other ways to find J.R. Salamanca, of course.

Alternative #1. The librarian we have on staff uses Contemporary Authors, a standard reference.  It lists Mr. Salamanca’s office at the English Department of the University of Maryland in College Park.

Alternative #2. Google “j.r. salamanca,” which brings up as the second result on the first page a 1969 Time Magazine review for his third book, “A Sea Change” (“J.R. Salamanca succeeds in finding an appropriate vehicle for his insights and his fluid poetic prose”). That article reports that the author teaches English at the University of Maryland.  A phone call or e-mail to the department should have done the trick.

If HathiTrust’s researchers can’t locate a bestselling author with a literary agent, an author who’s also a retired professor from a major East Coast university, how are they going to locate authors in other countries?  How will they find an author of a work in Finnish (more than 4,000 books in the collection), Hindi (more than 35,000 books), or Japanese (more than 150,000 books)?

Few of the authors of those books would have had the successes of Jack Salamanca. But countless of them, no doubt, would want to maintain control of their works.

Thanks to GalleyCat for the heads up.


  1. Nobody ever expected Google would really do a (thorough) research for those authors?!

    They just looked which works were out of print, declared the author lost in time and space and used the material. Google considers itself and its ‘mission’ “too big to fail”, so this swat on the nose might just come in time.

  2. Thomas is right. One of the most bizarre aspects of the now defunct Google Book Settlement was its effort to make a distinction in the copyright status of a book depending on whether it was currently in or out of print. Nowhere in copyright law is that distinction made. Google’s reasoning seemed to be that, to keep your book in copyright you had a duty to keep it in print, so anyone who wanted a copy could get one. Like those who want to reduce medical costs by create a ‘duty to die,’ the GBS included a ‘duty to publish.’ Publish or be pirated.

    Of course, if you apply that strange reasoning to unpublished works, then a book that’s never been published has no copyright protection. Steal a copy of J. K. Rowlings next book, and she can’t stop you from publishing it because it’s “out of print.”

    I never have been able to figure out what was going through the heads of Google’s lawyers. Highly paid corporate lawyers aren’t stupid. As best I can understand, they hoped to create a ‘fait accompli,’ keeping authors unaware of what the settlement really meant until it was a done deal.

    The settlement seemed to include a clever Catch 22. If you opposed the settlement and opted out, you then lacked what the court would call the ‘standing’ to challenge it. You were unaffected by it, and thus could not complain. If you opted in, you had standing but, in the process of opting in, you had agreed not to sue. And finally, those who knew nothing about the settlement had a standing of sorts, but the very fact that they didn’t know what it meant also meant that they didn’t know they should oppose it.

    Google was almost successful. Virtual every article in the media, including the tech media, echoed Google’s press releases like parrots. Reporters didn’t seem to understand that when the original GBC and its FAQ talked vaguely about a “copyright interest” it was talking about the US copyright of every author on the planet whose books were currently out of print. And since Google would only be displaying the books to those with US IP address, an author in, say France, would have trouble finding out what had been taken from him. I also suspect that Google was hoping other countries would get so angry at what a US court had done to their authors, that they’d do something similar to US authors.

    Also, as the article above points out, the media were all too eager to buy Google’s claims about “orphaned works.” In the case of academic works, the main category Google was scanning at university libraries, that was absurd. Academics are surrounded by colleagues who know what happens to them even long after they retire. Very few academic works are likely to become orphaned within the lifetime of their copyright.

    I can give an example. In the late eighties I began to research a book written in the mid-thirties at UC Berkeley. Wanting to know more about the long-dead author, I contacted his university department. Within a week I was in touch with his former department head, who remembered him well.

    It was the three-month extension the court allowed in the settlement that did Google’s scheme in. It gave enough time–just barely–for the opposition to grow sufficiently to kill the settlement. The judge placed particular stress on that opposition in his ruling against it.

  3. It’s worse than that. Google did not even check whether or not a book was out of print, let alone out of copyright .

    They scanned most of my books, all of which were in print at the time, readily available in stores and online through, with e-editions as well. And–had Google bothered to use its own search engine–a search on my name would have produced my website at the top of the page, including a list of my books. Also on the site is contact information–for me, my agent, and my publishers.

    Google (and the libraries which lent Google the books to scan) did NOTHING to protect authors’ rights…they did not even consider authors’ rights. I am still flabbergasted that the first judge to see the original suit against Google didn’t say “You’re breaking the law. Stop it now and pay everyone’s expenses or get fined down to your toenails.”

  4. This is not a suit against Google, it’s a suit against HathiTrust and the universities. It’s really about determination of fair use. HathiTrust, et. al. are claiming that allowing their libraries to provide ebooks of these works to their faculty/students without getting permission is allowed under the educational/not for profit section of the fair use tests. Apparently part of the suit argues that HathiTrust, et. al. can’t use the scans from the joint project with Google because they are “tainted sources”, but from what I’ve read, Google is not a part of this case. Please save your Google bashing for a more germane article.

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