A group of writers and copyright experts concerned over Authors Guild overreach has formed its own new author advocacy group, the Authors Alliance, to advocate in favor of fair use of works. Publishers Weekly has a fairly long interview with one of its directors, law professor Pamela Samuelson of the UC Berkeley Center for Law and Technology.
(Samuelson’s name has popped up a few times on TeleRead as one of the critics of the proposed Google Books settlement and the Authors Guild’s role in it, and an organizer of the Berkeley Digital Library Copyright Project.)
The Authors Alliance is a 501(c)3 nonprofit group with a board of four directors, a 23-member advisory board, and about 200 founding members. Samuelson describes one of its missions as to provide authors with more information about copyright, license agreements such as Creative Commons (one of the Alliance’s co-founders and directors is also a founding director of Creative Commons), contracts, rights, and the sort of copyright issues that are new to the digital age. She says it is also intended to advocate in public policy debates for authors who want to make their works more widely available, and to reach out to other organizations to work together on specific issues.
Samuelson feels that the Authors Guild “does a great job representing the interests of the authors who subscribe to it,” but that Alliance members are more likely to appreciate the extra exposure Google Books gives their works. She also notes that the Alliance would not have brought the suit against Google that the Authors Guild did.
We think that Google has made Fair Use of these works. We think that the class action lawsuit [the Authors Guild] brought should not be certified as a class because they don’t represent the interests of the majority of the authors whose books were being scanned from the research library collections; most of those books were written by scholars, for scholars.
The advisory board listing reads in part like a who’s who of copyright reform activists, including such luminaries as danah boyd, Cory Doctorow, Joi Ito, Edward Felten, Brewster Kahle, and Lawrence Lessig. Given the number of complaints we’ve heard from those quarters about the Authors Guild’s stances, I’m only surprised they didn’t get a group like this together years ago.