For authors in the digital age, there are more choices than ever for bringing one’s work to market, and an ever-broadening set of interests and goals. Hence, the launch of the Authors Alliance in 2014. Formed in the wake of the Google Books litigation by University California Berkeley law professor Pamela Samuelson (among others) the Authors Alliance endeavors “to further the public interest in facilitating widespread access to works of authorship by helping authors navigate the opportunities and challenges of the digital age” and to be a “voice for authors in discussions about public and institutional policies.”
Ahead of its fourth anniversary, how is the organization faring? PW recently caught up with Brianna Schofield, executive directors of the Authors Alliance.
The Authors Guild Alliance was launched in 2014 essentially in response to the Authors Guild lawsuits against Google, and many have since taken that to mean you are a counter to the Authors Guild. Is that a fair assessment?
In fact, we share many core objectives with the Authors Guild. Both organizations support authors by providing resources to help them understand and manage their rights, which are all the more necessary as digital networks continue to provide authors with increased options for creating and distributing their works. But it’s true that our policy efforts do reflect that many of our members’ interests are not just financial. For example, one of the key differences between the Authors Alliance and the Authors Guild is our stance on fair use. In a number of recent cases, including the Authors Guild v. Google Books case, and Cambridge University Press v. Albert (the Georgia State E-reserves case) we supported an interpretation of fair use that we believe helps authors get their works in front of new audiences.
Give us a status update—four years later, how is the organization faring?
Our membership, resources, and staff have grown steadily since our founding. We now represent more than 1,500 members and growing. And we have released three major guides: a guide to getting rights back, a guide to open access, and a guide to fair use for nonfiction authors. We are currently developing our fourth guide, a guide to publication contracts, which we hope to release this fall. All of our guides are freely available on our website.
In addition, we’ve established a solid presence in the copyright policy debates, giving voice to authors whose interests have long been absent in these conversations through activities such as public comments to the Copyright Office, participation in rule-makings, and as amicus curiae in litigation. Though our current resources are developed and vetted with U.S. law and practices in mind, but international members are welcome to join, and we currently have members from Canada, the UK, Australia, and beyond.
Self-publishing has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, but the terms on many self-publishing platforsm can be difficult to parse and often are non-negotiable. Will this be an area of focus for you?
Technology has opened up many opportunities for authors who might not attract the attention of traditional publishers, or who just want more control of their works. But self-publication does come without the services and support for authors that a traditional publisher can offer—and yes, one of the related issues is that some self-publishing terms are non-negotiable. While we have not yet created resources focused on self-publishing, our materials, such as the forthcoming guide to contracts, will certainly help authors understand their options, including self-publishing.
What issues are on the front burner for you right now?
On the educational side, we recently released a new guide, Fair Use for Nonfiction Authors to help authors make confident fair use decisions when incorporating source materials into their writings. And as I mentioned, the much-requested guide to publication contracts will be out this fall.
On the policy side, we have been actively involved with the U.S. Copyright Office, advocating on a range of issues, for example: a rule that would help authors make fair use of use DVD and Blu-Ray video clips in their e-books; to consider formally recognizing the authors’ right to integrity and attribution; and other non-economic author rights, such as the right to revive one’s work if it is no longer available commercially available. And on, the international stage, we will be participating in conversations at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) this year, as well as exploring a host of new partnerships.