The American Society of Journalists and Authors, the National Writers Union, and Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America have asked the Department of Justice to review last week’s settlement between the AAP and Google that ended the publishers’ seven-year copyright fight with the giant company. Most of the details in the agreement are confidential and the three organizations, worried that the settlement could hurt authors’ rights by selling copyrighted books illegally, said they want the DoJ to see if the deal may violate antitrust laws.
The organizations are calling on publishers and Google to make all the settlement terms public, including and how much money changed hands. “Writers are partners with publishers in the joint venture of royalty publishing. We are contractually entitled to full disclosure of a deal that affects our books, rights, royalties, and livelihoods,” said ASJA president Minda Zetlin.
A major issue for the organizations is the fate of books published before publishing contracts contained language about the ownership of e-book rights, with the writers contending that in contracts where the rights are not spelled out, e-book rights remain with the author. According to the writers, when publishers agree to give Google access to backlist books, it’s likely that the publisher is taking money for rights owned by authors, not publishers.
“We are concerned that this new, secret agreement will give Google erstwhile permission to ramp up its illegal scanning. Even for those books to which publishers can legitimately license e-book rights, many questions remain. The secrecy of the deal lends itself to abuses,” the organizations wrote, adding that if the publishers and Google won’t voluntarily disclose the terms, the DoJ should investigate the deal.
On Wednesday morning, no one from the AAP was available to comment.