GBS: Ed Hasbrouck Thinks Authors Are Getting a Raw Deal

I know that I’m using the word “interesting” a lot, but this open letter by Ed Hasbrouck justifies the term yet again. He’s an author—and an officer of the National Writers Union—and he doesn’t like the settlement. Like some other authors who’ve already spoken up, he thinks the payouts are way too small, given the range of copyright damages; he objects to going to an opt-out regime. I think this piece of the debate has achieved stasis, so I won’t bore you by repeating my disagreement.

What Hasbrouck’s essay adds to the conversation is a relatively detailed analysis of the Author-Publisher Procedures, which he sees as inappropriate for small-press authors and those who negotiated e-book rights with care. This perspective is partly informed by his comparison of the Google case to the case formerly known as Tasini and currently known as Muchnick. From an authors perspective these class actions do look quite similar: both are about unexpected electronic uses of a work for which no explicit permission was ever sought. I simply don’t know enough about the publishing world to assess the truth-value of many of his claims in Part 2; I pass along the link because I found them, yes, “interesting.”

Some of my same points about how the settlement would trigger adverse consequences for authors under existing author-publisher contracts — particularly how Google “usage” could create a basis for claims by print publishers that books are still “in print” and thus that rights can be retained by print publishers when they would otherwise revert to authors — are made in the extremely significant objections by Mark L. Levine, who objects as an author (of a book on negotiating book contracts) and Authors Guild member, but who notes that he is also a lawyer for authors who writes a column on book contracts in the Authors Guild Bulletin (!).