After the William Morris Endeavor agency issued a letter to clients last week advising them to opt out of the Google settlement, the agency has issued a second letter reasserting its position and detailing it further. In the newest letter, WME states that the Authors Guild, in defending the settlement (which it helped to iron out), fails to "adequately address" the issue that writers, by remaining in, "waive, again for the term of copyright, their right to have Google remove their work from its database if they haven’t done so within twenty-seven months from the Notice Commencement Date."
Claiming that most publishers won't be making either "in print" or "out of print" books available for sale through the settlement, WME says that the Guild wrongfully asserts that terms of the settlement won't affect an author's ability to renegotiate with Google and that the search giant is making worrisome steps towards a monopoly. "We believe that the license being given to Google to publish and display with impunity out-of-print 'orphan' works (where the rights owner is unknown and estimated by the Financial Times to be between 2.8 and 5 million books out of 32 million books protected by copyright in the United States) will open the door to establishing Google as the most comprehensive database, potentially a monopoly, with unfair bargaining power."
Responding to this second letter from WME, Paul Aiken of the Authors Guild said he stands by the organization's initial response to the agency's first letter and that "authors who don't want to sue Google should stay in the settlement." Aiken went on to clarify: "Authors can terminate any and all displays, of in-print and out-of-print books, at any time. Publishers can't, under the express terms of the settlement, engage in wholesale blocking of out-of-print works for which authors hold copyrights."
"The settlement," Aiken continued, "opens up new markets for out-of-print works at excellent royalty rates. Authors aren't locked in to those royalty rates, however: authors and agents are free to block all displays and bargain for better terms with Google or anyone else at any time."
Gail Hochman, of the Association of Authors' Representatives (AAR), said her organization's board had not "taken an official stance" on the settlement and is, like the Guild, trying to educate members as best it can. Hochman said the organization is "urging our members to become educated in the issues in the settlement, and to help their clients become knowledgeable about these issues, so that the clients can make their own most informed decision on how they want to proceed."
Aiken added that any agents or authors with questions about the settlement can contact the Authors Guild at firstname.lastname@example.org.