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So What’s the Deal with Authors Alliance?

Authors Alliance celebrated its public launch on May 21. A membership organization devoted to “promoting authorship for the public good by supporting authors who write to be read,” Authors Alliance:

…embraces the unprecedented potential digital networks have for the creation and distribution of knowledge and culture. We represent the interests of authors who want to harness this potential to share their creations more broadly in order to serve the public good….The mission of Authors Alliance is to further the public interest in facilitating widespread access to works of authorship by assisting and representing authors who want to disseminate knowledge and products of the imagination broadly. We provide information and tools designed to help authors better understand and manage key legal, technological, and institutional aspects of authorship in the digital age.

Which sounds fine and good. After all, what author outside of J.D. Salinger doesn’t want to be read? But what if you want to be read…and paid?

Ah. There’s the kicker.

In a blog post for MichelleRichmond.com, T.J. Stiles breaks down the stated mission of Authors Alliance, an organization dedicated to “radically fair use.” He urges readers not to join Authors Alliance due to their “aggressive and expansive agenda that was crafted without working authors in mind.”

Executive Director Pamela Samuelson, a law professor at Berkeley, told Publisher’s Weekly that Authors Alliance is intended to “represent the interests of authors who don’t write for a living—academics and hobbyists.” Other potential organizational positions include:

  • allowing people to resell digital files the way they can resell used physical books
  • allowing libraries to digitally copy your books, even if you have an e-book edition for sale
  • allowing private for-profit corporations to copy your books in their entirety and selling advertising against searches of them, and otherwise making money from your work
  • allowing potentially unlimited copying for educational uses
  • requiring proper attribution of others’ works

Stiles goes on to note that the founding members, as academics, “don’t care about the commercial market for books or writing.” They all earn six-figure salaries from their day jobs, or they are independently wealthy. Which means “Their interests lie in getting your books at low cost to supply their own academic work, and in advancing their own careers and incomes by making their own work available for free.”

Authors GuildStiles is careful to say that if authors want to give their work away that is perfectly fine—he’s nothing if not “pro choice.” He just doesn’t want anyone making the decision for him.

As a board member of the Authors Guild, the nation’s largest and oldest professional society of published authors, Stiles does have a horse in the race. But he’s also a working writer who expects to be paid for his efforts.

The Authors Guild has been the nation’s leading advocate for writers’ interests in effective copyright protection, fair contracts and free expression since it was founded as the Authors League of America in 1912. It provides legal assistance and a broad range of web services to its members. Their website is http://www.authorsguild.org/.