The major US writers' group, the Authors Guild, claims to represent all writers when it sues over library book-scanning and other fair uses; a new group, the Authors Alliance, has been launched by leading copyright expert Pam Samuelson to represent the authors who like fair use, users' rights, and who reject censorship and surveillance. I'm a proud founding member, along with Jonathan Lethem, Katie Hafner and Kevin Kelly.
The Authors Alliance has both inward facing and outward facing roles. The inward facing role is to provide authors with information about copyrights, licensing agreements, alternative contract terms, the pros and cons of open access, the reversion of rights, and the termination of transfer. A lot of people who have works from 10 or 15 years ago that they want to make more widely available don’t necessarily know that much about copyright and licensing. In other words, “What are the options, how do you talk to your publisher about them, and what can you try to negotiate for?” We also seek to take advantage of the opportunities of networked digital environments that were not in place 10, 15, or 20 years ago when a lot of the works that authors want to make available were originally published.
An outward facing role is representing the interests of authors who want to make their works more widely available in public policy debates. We will launch with a statement of principles and proposals for copyright reform. To the extent that the Copyright Office or Congress takes initiative on orphan works or mass digitization, we will advocate for our interests and discuss why we think that orphan works, for example, is not just important to libraries, but also to those of us who do nonfiction research. When proposals come the table on these matters, we want to advocate for authors. Although libraries have done a great job talking about the importance for cultural heritage preservation purposes, there are some things that are not as important to them as to us.
Another outward facing role is working out which organizations we should ally with on these public policy issues. Depending on the issue, we might align with Creative Commons (CC), or Public Knowledge, or the Center for Democracy and Technology; there may even be some issues that we would want to form an alliance with the Authors Guild (AG).
Founder of Just-Launched Authors Alliance Talks to PW [Peter Brantley/Publishers Weekly]