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AG, The Authors' Guild, Inc., USA

Submitted by admin on Wed, 07/14/2010 - 09:34
AG, AG, The Authors' Guild, Inc., USA
31 East 32nd Street
Suite 901
New York
NY 10016
+1 212 563-5904
+1 212 564-5363
Chief Executive Name
Mary E. Rasenberger
Chief Executive Title
Chief Executive Officer
Chief Executive Email
Chief Executive Phone
(212) 563-5904
Key representative
Mary Rasenberger
Chief Executive Officer
(212) 563-5904
Key representative
Cheryl L. Davis
General Counsel
(212) 563-5904
To protect the rights and interests of professional authors in the following areas: copyright, payment, contracts, publishing, freedom of expression and taxation.
Year operations began
New Developments
New Developments (March 2020-May 2021):
Legislative Initiatives
Pandemic Relief: At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the Authors Guild immediately shifted both its programming and lobbying efforts to assist authors impacted by the pandemic. One if its first major initiatives was to lobby the U.S. Congress and Department of Labor to add eligibility requirements to the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” (the “CARES Act”) to ensure that freelance writers were covered under the newly created Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. These efforts proved successful, and a new category of freelancers was made eligible to receive relief under the CARES Act. The Authors Guild also lobbied with a coalition of creator groups for the passage of a new Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation benefit (which provided relief to writers and others who earned income both as employees and freelancers), and actively lobbied for relief funds for libraries and literary organizations. On the local level, in 2020 the Authors Guild joined the New York City Literary Action Coalition and signed the Coalition’s petition asking New York City Mayor de Blasio to expand COVID-19 relief funding to New York City’s literary arts community.
Small Copyright Claims Court: On December 22, 2020, the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act (the “CASE” Act) became law as part of the U.S. government’s year-end funding package. This new law calls for the establishment of an accessible and efficient forum to resolve “small” copyright claims – meaning claims valued at $15,000 or less (with a maximum of $30,000 per action). It will allow individual authors to protect their intellectual property rights without having to file an expensive, complex federal lawsuit. The passage of this bill was a victory after a decade of tireless advocacy by the Authors Guild and its partners in the copyright community. The U.S. Copyright Office is now asking for public comment in connection with implementing the legislation, and the Authors Guild playing an active role in this comment process.
Criminal Streaming Law: The Authors Guild worked closely with the Copyright Alliance to negotiate an amendment to the U.S. copyright law to create criminal liability for commercial-level piracy via streaming services, an effort which has been ongoing for fifteen years. These negotiations proved fruitful, and the “Protecting Lawful Streaming Act” was also enacted as part of the omnibus spending bill.
Anti-Piracy Efforts: The Authors Guild is taking a multi-pronged approach in combatting piracy. In addition to its lobbying efforts to strengthen the anti-piracy laws, it is actively working with platforms like Amazon, Facebook, Audible, Google, LinkedIn and others to urge them to use stronger technical measures to bar pirates from their platforms.
Collective Bargaining: The Authors Guild has been deeply engaged in efforts to win collective bargaining rights for all writers in the United States. Currently U.S. law recognizes only two types of workers: employees and independent contractors. Most writers fall in the latter category, and because the law treats them as independent businesses capable of negotiating their contracts, they’re prohibited from collective bargaining and working together or sharing information about advances, fees, or other financial matters. This puts writers at a tremendous disadvantage because in reality their bargaining position vis-à-vis publications is extremely limited. The Authors Guild is working to change this status quo by 1) supporting legislation called the PRO Act, which would amend the National Labor Relations Act to extend collective bargaining rights to independent contractors who meet certain criteria; and 2) lobbying for an express exemption for professional creators from antitrust laws. Over the past year, the Guild regularly met with Congressional leaders and staffers to press the need for writers to have collective bargaining rights.
New Federal Writers Project: During the Great Depression, the U.S. Congress created a program known as the Federal Writers Project as part of its broader public works initiative. The goal of the program was to provide unemployed and underemployed writers, editors, teachers, and others involved in the arts and humanities funding for writing and oral history projects, employing over 6,000 writers at its peak between 1935 and 1939 and producing a trove of important cultural documents like the American Guidebook Series and Zora Neale Hurston’s oral histories of the slave generation. Given the income losses suffered by authors during the pandemic, the Authors Guild and others have been lobbying for the creation of a new Federal Writers Project. On May 7, 2021, a bill creating such a project was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. The goal of this bill would be to provide writers with grants to undertake projects covering the broad effects of the pandemic on U.S. communities.
Court Decisions: On July 7, 2020 the Authors Guild initiated a lawsuit against the pirate site Kiss Library entitled Amazon Content Services et al . v. Kiss Library d/b/a as a joint effort with Amazon, Penguin Random House, and 10 authors. The plaintiffs won a preliminary injunction at an early stage of the litigation getting the domains used by Kissly taken down and stopping financial processing companies from working with the sites.
On December 18, 2020, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Appeals reversed a fair use decision of the District Court of the Southern District of California In Dr. Seuss Enterprises v. ComicMix, finding that ComicMix’s book was an infringement of Dr. Seuss’s copyright. The lower court had concluded that ComicMix’s book was a fair use of the Dr. Seuss property, a decision that startled many in the copyright community since the ComicMix book was a clear knock-off of the Dr. Seuss book, borrowed far too much to say it merely “conjured up” the original, and was sold in the same market in direct competition with the original. The Ninth Circuit disagreed with the district court, finding that ComicMix’s work did not result in a “transformative use” and was not fair use.
On April 5, 2021, in its first copyright case to address the question of “fair use” in more than 25 years, the U.S. Supreme Court found in Google v. Oracle that Google’s unauthorized use of Oracle’s computer “declaring code” to create software for Google’s new Android platform was transformative and was a fair use. The Authors Guild, along with others in the copyright community, had submitted an amicus curiae, or “friend of the court” brief to urge the court to bring clarity to the “transformative use” doctrine. Unfortunately, the decision only further muddles the meaning and role of “transformative use” as a factor in the fair use analysis. Although the Court expressly said that its decision only applies to the declaring code at issue in this case, it will inevitably be cited for the principle that a different use of the same work is a fair use because it is transformative, and will thus chip away at the derivative work right.
Model Book Contract: The Authors Guild released an updated version of its Model Trade Book Contract to its members on March 12, 2020, addressing such issues as the growing use of “morals clauses”, and the need for publishers to provide greater transparency in their royalty statements. While for years it was a benefit for Guild members, on April 15, 2021 the Authors Guild gave the general public access with the hope that more publishers will look to its terms, and so authors around the globe can understand what terms and issues they should be aware of before entering into book deals.
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Initiatives: On June 25, 2020, the Authors Guild and Authors Guild Foundation issued an anti-racism resolution recognizing the great harm that has been done to Black people and other people of color as a result of the United States’ racist history, and that part of that harm is reflected in the way in which Black people have been portrayed in the nation’s literature as well as the suppression of Black authors’ voices, which are not adequately reflected in the nation’s literary canon. The Authors Guild and Authors Guild Foundation recognized that it was part of their mission to foster diverse voices in American literature to ensure that a rich, diverse body of literature can flourish. The Guild and Foundation instituted a DEIA committee to help them create and implement policies and procedures both internally and for the Guild’s and Foundation’s programs. As part of these efforts, in July, July and August 2020 the Authors Guild and Authors Guild Foundation presented a three-part series of webinars entitled Black Voices: Pushing for Change with Black authors and illustrators of childrens’ books; these webinars were followed by a series of sessions that connected participating authors with agents and editors. The Guild and Foundation are working to present similar webinars for authors from other underrepresented or underserved groups, and to form partnerships with groups that support authors of color and underrepresented groups to see how the Guild can help these groups members. The Guild has enhanced the accessibility of its webinars by presenting them with closed captioning and is assessing additional ways to make the Authors Guild’s overall website generally more accessible.