After the New York Times reported that the William Morris Endeavor agency would be officially advising clients to opt out of the Google settlement, the Authors Guild issued a statement of its own Monday afternoon claiming the agency was off base in its assessment and recommendation. In an open memo to agents and authors, the Guild, one of the main plaintiffs in the case brought against Google over copyright issues associated with Google's Book Search program, said WME's advice to clients "contains several errors that are likely to sow some confusion."
The Times quoted WME attorney Eric Zohn saying that the settlement gave Google a "license to sell your books at a pre-negotiated one-time royalty rate that you're stuck with." The Guild, in its memo, claims this isn't true, noting that authors are not bound by the negotiated rate. The only good reason to opt out of the settlement, the Guild maintains, is if "you want to sue Google."
The Guild adds that WME's "principal mistake is that it appears to think that the uses that the settlement permits Google to make are interminable." In reality, the Guild says, "all rights are terminable at will by the rights holder." To clear up any confusion about the settlement, the Guild is hosting a free conference call on Thursday called Understanding the Google Book Settlement. The full memo from the Guild can be found here.
WME's stance on the settlement, and the Guild's reaction to it, points to the confusion and hesitation among authors and agents about the agreement and what it means. PW contacted a number of agents asking what they were advising their clients to do--and if their agencies had an official stance on the settlement--and many said they could not comment. Robert Gottlieb, of Trident, said he needed more information before he made any recommendation, but noted that he is "deeply concerned about overarching deals of this nature."