Le Guin: Petition Letter to the Judge of the Google Book Settlement.

The following petition will be sent directly to Judge Chin by January 28th, 2010, and will also be attached as an exhibit to the brief to be submitted to the court by the NWU, ASJA, and SFWA. After that it may be used in publicity for our side of the issue.

Everyone who has joined my list of authors opposing the Settlement will be a signatory of the letter — except those who don’t want to be.

Signing the letter does not involve you in a legal action of any kind; we are simply submitting an opinion to the court. But if you don’t want your signature on the letter, just write me at [email protected] or in comments below and say: Take my name off the letter, please.

You must do so by January 25th, 2010. After that the letter and signatures may be out of my hands.

The list is still open — people may continue signing on until January 25th. I invite you to join us in defense of authors’ rights!

And my heartfelt thanks to all of you who are speaking out with me this way.

Petition Concerning the Google Book Settlement

The Google Settlement was negotiated by the Authors Guild, without consultation with any other group of authors or American authors as a whole. The Guild cannot and does not speak for all American writers. Its settlement cannot be seen as reflecting the will or interest of any group but the Guild.

Three groups of American writers, the National Writers Union, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, are opposed to the settlement. So are all the signatories of this letter: professional writers, who make part or all their living from their copyrights.

Ireland, India, South Africa, and New Zealand (countries with active publication in English) protested the settlement and have been exempted from it. The governments of Germany and France protested unregulated digitization and have been exempted from the Settlement (and the French Government is suing Google for illegal digitization of copyrighted property.)

We ask that the United States also be exempted from the settlement. We ask that the principle of copyright, which is directly threatened by the settlement, be honored and upheld in the United States.

The “opt-out” clause in the Settlement is most disturbing:

First, it seems unfair that, by the terms of the class-action settlement, authors can officially present objections to the Court only by being “opted in” to the settlement and thereby subjecting themselves to its terms.

Second, while the “opt-out” clause appears to offer authors an easy way to defend their copyright, in fact it disguises an assault on authors’ rights. Google, like any other publisher or entity, should be required to obtain permission from the owner to purchase or use copyrighted material, item by item.

There is no justification for reversing that rule by forcing copyright owners to defend their right against every careless or predatory use of the material, thus rendering copyright essentially meaningless.

The United States Department of Justice agrees, having declared that Google should negotiate individually with copyright holders. The Director of the United States Copyright Office calls the Settlement “an end-run around copyright law.”

The free and open dissemination of information and of literature, as it exists in our Public Libraries, can and should exist in the electronic media. All authors hope for that. But we cannot have free and open dissemination of information and literature unless the use of written material continues to be controlled by those who write it or own legitimate right in it. We urge our government and our courts to allow no corporation to circumvent copyright law or dictate the terms of that control.

Author List (Added 18 Jan 2010)

Danny Adams

Max Adams

Nona Aguilar

Sara Amis

Douglas A. Anderson

Donna Andrews

Judith Arcana

Lori K. Baker

Susan Pease Banitt

Darryl Barnes

Anita Bartholomew

Michel Basilieres

Elizabeth Bear

William Bedford

Carol Berg

David Biespiel

Madeline Bodin

Irene Brady

R V Branham

Greg Breining

Marie Brennan

Patricia Briggs

N M Browne

Jonathan Buckley

Beverly Burmeier

Julie Ann/ Jenn Saint-John Burton

M.L. Bushman

Mary Lynn Cabrall

Sheila Callahan

Michael Capobianco

Amy Sterling Casil

Richard Cass

Victor M. Cassidy

Karen Christino

Margaret Chula

Chris Clarke

Amanda Cockrell

Brad Crawford

J.D. Crayne

Barbara Crooker

Eliza Cross

Raul daSilva

Meryl Davids

Steve Davidson

Robert A. Davies

Kathryn Lynn Davis

Francesca De Grandis

Pamela Dean

Alyx Dellamonica

Barbara Demarco-Barrett

Jackie Dishner

Roger Dorband

John Dougherty

Matt Doyle

Noreen Doyle

Hal Duncan

John Edge

Rosemary Edghill

Sabine Eiche

Michael Elcock

Thomas Evans

Julie Fanselow

Fawn Fitter

Sean P. Fodera

Tim Folger

Barb Freda

I.G. Frederick

Judith Freeman

Paula Friedman

Mark L. Fuerst

Cathie Gandel

Melissa Gaskill

Phillis Gershator

Laura Anne Gilman

Stephanie Golden

Toni Goldfarb

Lisa Goldstein

Mickey Goodman

Jodie Gould

Steven Gould

Rosalie V. Grafe

Beverly Gray

Frances Grimble

Mavis Guinard

Eileen Gunn

Marilyn Hacker

Andrea Hairston

Nancy W. Hall

Kate Hanley

Nick Harkaway

Justin Adams Haven

John Hedtke

John G. /Jack Campbell Hemry

John Henley

Saxon Henry

James A. Hetley

Jack Hillman

Bill Hinchberger

Jim C. Hines

Harriet Hodgson

Rachel Holmes

Kay Hooper

Deborah R. Huso

Blake Hutchins

Angie Jabine

Betsy James

Roby James

Victoria Janssen

Jan Jasper

Mary Kaiser

Stacia Kane

Judith Karpova

Christine Kuehn Kelly

Katharine Eliska Kimbriel

Ellen Klages

Marc Laidlaw

Ruth Laney

Cassandra Langer

Rodger Larson

Janine Latus

Christina R. Lay

Stephen Leigh

Lisbeth Levine

Peter R. Limburg

Norman M. Lobsenz

Elise Logan

Roger Marshall

Lee Martindale

Gwendolyn R. McAlister

Bonnie McGinnis

Vonda N. McIntyre

Mary Mihaly

Sandra Miller-Louden

Randi Minetor

Fred Minnick

Devon Monk

Elizabeth Moon

John Moore

Robin Morgan

Stephen Morrill

Randy Myers

Katherine Nabity

Joanna Nadin

Elizabeth Sussman Nassau

Judy Nedry

Erik Ness

Fredrick Rea O’Keefe

Jerry Oltion

Luis Ortiz

James A. Owen

Helen Oyeyemi

Richard Parks

Claudia Pearson

Susan K. Perry

Catherine M. Petrini

Lavinia Pisano

Kate Pocock

Joan Price

Phyllis Radford

Cornelia Read

Melissa Readon

Bonnie Remsberg

Laura Resnick

Karen Packard Rhodes

Dick Richards

Linda Riebel

Madeleine E. Robins

Kim Stanley Robinson

Deborah Robson

Peter Rock

John Rosengren

Manuel Royal

John Royce

Beth Rubin

Helen Ruggieri

Sue Russell

Jesse Jayne Rutherford

Vicki Salemi

Deb Salisbury

Anne Sanders

Patricia Sargeant

Willa Schneberg

Lani Schonberg

Candace Schuler

Daylle Deanna Schwartz

Kamila Shamsie

Anna Sheehan

Tamara Sheehan

Walt Shiel

Cheryl Solimini

Lisa Spangenberg

Bud Sparhawk

Gillian Spraggs

Charles C. Spray

Allen Steele

Jonathan Steinberg

John Stickler

Brooke C. Stoddard

Claire Sykes

Judith Tarr

Charlene Teglia

Bridget Mintz Testa

Sheree Renee Thomas

Amy Thomson

Rachel Tillman

Pamela Toler

Debra Traverso

Jerome Tuccille

Barbara J. Turner

Donna Van Cleve

Elisabeth Vonarburg

Dian Vujovich

John Walker

James Waller

Jo Walton

Andrea Warren

Bud Webster

Marvin Weisbord

Brook West

Martha Ullman West

Charles Whipple

Russell Wild

Bob Wilson

Marsha Winborn

Michele Wojciechowski

Sharon Wood Wortman

Helen S. Wright

Jane Yolen

Martin Zucker

How to get on or off the Author List:

Email UKL at [email protected]
Add your name to the comments below and be clear that you want your name added to the list (or removed). Please indicate whether your email address may be included on the petition sent to Judge Chin. Expressions of support are appreciated but not sufficient to put you on the list.



Le Guin: Petition Letter to the Judge of the Google Book Settlement. — 50 Comments

  1. Just to let you know: the provision barring those who have opted out of the settlement from objecting to it in court is basic class action law, not just something in this case. If you opt out, you’re not part of the class and therefore not a party to the lawsuit, so you have no legal right to appear.

    However, any member of the class — in this case, anyone who has not opted out — can not only appear to object to the deal, but can also appeal if they don’t like the court’s settlement approval. I hope that some of the official objectors — SFWA or the NWU or someone — have a few class members on tap for such an appeal in case the court approves the current deal.

  2. SFWA stayed in the class itself for exactly that reason.

    This seems to me to be a perfect Catch-22. If you stay in the settlement, you’re bound by the terms even if you object to them. If you don’t stay in the settlement, you can’t object to it even if you object to the terms.

  3. Well, the technical legal explanation for why people who opt out can’t object to the settlement is that the settlement doesn’t cover them. Of course, the trouble with this in a class action is that those who drop out frequently don’t have the resources to pursue their own action, which is what makes it a Catch-22.

    I brought this up just to make it clear that the court isn’t putting an unusual requirement on people when it says opt outs can’t appear. Opt outs lack standing — a very big deal, legally.

    This is why the class representative has the responsibility of representing the best interest of the class and has to be approved by the court. This is also why the court has to approve the settlement, which is unusual legally.

    Objectors are an important part of the process, particularly in cases where the class representative is not doing a good job of representing everyone. In this suit, the fact that the Federal Trade Commission is also involved is good, as that agency should carry some weight with the court.

    I’m a SFWA member and strongly support SFWA’s approach to this suit. I don’t think the Author’s Guild has done its job as class representative. I hope all the objections and criticisms are going to lead the court to reject the deal and perhaps replace the class representative with some groups and individual writers who will actually represent the best interest of writers in negotiating with Google.

  4. This issue affects authors worldwide, so I’m jumping on your bandwagon, trusting there’s space for us non-US writers too.\

    Thanks for taking up the cause.

  5. Jenny, thanks — Ursula will get your name from your blog entry here, or you may email her at

    [email protected]

    One problem with blog software is keeping related posts connected and keeping track of the conversation.

    If you put “Google Settlement” in the search box at the top right of this screen, you should find the series of posts on the subject. The first one was creaking under the weight of the number of comments, but comments are enabled on several of the others, including this post.


  6. Please add me a signatory. I am an AG member but the AG has never asked its members whether we want them to do this. I certainly don’t, and see no reason to believe that other members do, either. Tnx.

  7. Good for you, Ursula, for taking this on! The Google Books Settlement threatens everything I have spent the last 30 years of my life creating. I opted out several months ago. And beyond my personal self-interest, this settlement threatens the future of our libraries and, in fact, our very culture. Google, a private corporation, has been trumpeting its plan to become the whole planet’s repository/cyber-library for the entirety of human knowledge and literature.
    I whole-heartedly support your campaign against the Google Books Settlement and have emailed you my name to be added to your list.

  8. I’m all for Asimov’s dream of a universal library, but my concern is how this will affect publishing. Once entire texts are easily acquired online, how eager will publishers be to reissue these “out-of-print” books? A project of this scale will have consequences, and Google owes it to selected authors to contact them individually rather than assuming, by default, their consent. Do the Google-unsavvy lack rights?

    Sign me up, Ursula, and thank you!

  9. I already signed the petition and want my signature to remain. Thank you, Ursula LeGuin, for your leadership! (Not to mention some truly great books, in the old-fashioned sense of the word “great.”)

    I’ve been very much afraid that my own government will not support my fundamental rights, and even wondering what English-speaking country I can move to that will. I have nothing against New Zealand, but am I going to have to move there just to be able to continue paying for my groceries?

    I am very concerned even about the Open Book Alliance’s dream of a “universal library.” What I am seeing is that many people think the supposed public good of a free e-library with every book in it, should outweigh my own rights to control whether my work gets distributed as unprotected and/or free e-files, and my sales thereby gutted by piracy.

    I cannot support any copyright movement that will not support my own right to completely refuse to let an entity publish or distribute my work. Whether that entity is Google, the Open Book Alliance, the US Government, or whoever. I sincerely hope the writer’s groups in the Open Book Alliance agree with me.

    Anyway–Thank you again, Ms. Leguin!

    Fran Grimble
    Lavolta Press

  10. I am more an academic than a fiction writer, but I have published papers, book chapters, and other works. I want to be part of this petition and have already opted out. I want copyright to mean that I get to control who uses my work, and how. I support those who write to make a living and see no reason why Google should just appropriate their work.

  11. The arrogance of Google to steal our work in the name of readers is obscene. Who would buy our work when it was available for free? What writer would spend writing a book just for fun?

    Their label of “orphan works” is even more so. I cannot speak for others, but although my books are no longer published by a publisher, certainly Google could find me easily. First, my name is listed in Google, where with others with the same name they could find me there — 9,000 times. Many of my books are described there, too, and one is for sale, the one they have already digitalized. My street address as well. I live within 50 miles of their offices. How hard would it be?

    I am a member of the National Writer’s Union, and I have opted out.

    Louise Lacey
    [email protected]

  12. I am a member of the Authors Guild. They have not done a good job representing the interests of AG members much less authors at large.

    Google, with the help of many academic libraries, has engineered the biggest theft of intellectual property in history. Sorry, but this is not fair use, it is copyright infringement.

    Please add my name to the petition.

    Nancy Mulvany

  13. This entire thing has baffled me from the beginning. It’s as if I could take things in the store, only have to give back when the clerks catch me and no reprecussions for my attempts to steal. Please add my name.

    Shawn Granger

  14. By “unsavvy,” I just meant that not every writer is even aware of the Google settlement. We’re expected to keep abreast of the laws of our own states and countries, the policies of our employers…and deadlines set by corporations we have no ties to? Since when did getting published make me Google’s vassal (unless I “opt out” and unswear my allegiance?)?!

  15. I have just sent to say that I do want to be on the petition, but I also want to post a comment. I opted out long ago and it really bugged me that it meant I couldn’t comment. My husband is an attorney, and he asked me what they were going to do to if I sent a protest? So I did, and it was officially recorded. So why not?

    I agree with all those who are appalled by Google’s arrogance. I too have to wonder, if Google wins, what does this mean for the future of creative endeavors in this country. And what message does it give to other groups about their rights to use our work. Further, at a moment when our country is concerned with overseas piracy, if the Google Settlement is approved, are we not legally condoning piracy by our own corporations?

    One last comment–I joined the Author’s Guild for the first time only to get information on the Settlement. I will never join again. They are extremely biased and might as well have been a mouthpiece for Google.

    Sallie Lowenstein
    [email protected]

  16. Please add my name to the list. Yes, my e-mail address may be included on the petition sent to Judge Chin.

  17. Thank you for making this stand, and putting a clear and cogent statement of objections. I would be happy to sign it; but I do not qualify, being neither a US citizen nor a professional writer, although I hold copyrights in published books which are prejudiced by the Settlement.

  18. Please add my name and include my email. My thoughts on this have been expressed well by nearly every commenter here. I love the Library concept, but would never want a corporation owning or controlling one.

  19. Please add my name (Steven Brown … legally) to the list. And you may include my email, also.

    And thank you for organizing this.

  20. Thank you, Ursula! As a reader of SF since I was about 5 years old, I can see that given possible political peregrinations and Google’s plan, it is not such a far jump to a Fahrenheit 451 type of scenario sometime in the future. My books are non-fiction, so far, and mostly self-published, and one has already been nearly usurped by a BC government department; even so, I do not want Google or anyone to have rights over my works without my permission. Has anyone checked out Google’s plan with the UN agency called WIPO?, Anyway, please put my name on the petition, and the judge can have my email address, if he wants/needs it.
    [Maggie M. Paquet, MAIA Publishing]

  21. Please add me to the petition! (include name, e-mail, address, shoe size, what ever you need.)

    Larissa Brittany Johnson
    [email protected]

    Just because you guys’ e-mail is great doesn’t mean I want you to steal my royalties.

  22. As much as I am a fan of literature being available on the internet, I think it’s the author’s right to determine its ultimate availability. Please add my name as a non-author, in support of this petition. BTW, thanks to Ursula and others for some fabulous works!

  23. Hello,

    Please add my name to the petition. I want my rights protected. The only people making cash from my short story collections should be me and my heirs. Anyone else should do a deal with me. The notion that you are in the deal unless you ‘opt out’ is the mark of a weasel.

    Bill Williams

  24. I can’t sign it. This petition, like the SFWA position fails to address the very real issue that Google, or any other digitization project has to face, the tragedy of orphaned works.

    I make my living on the works of my keyboard. The protection of intellectual property is a principle I hold very dear. But Ms Le Guin’s position is indefensible.

    To bury your head in the sand, to say as the president of SFWA has said, that there is no orphaned works problem i simply wrong. The amount of work which is now available for which no current copyright holder can be identified, even with extensive searching is impressive.

    The petition claims that an electronic commons should exist, but then says “Google, like any other publisher or entity, should be required to obtain permission from the owner to purchase or use copyrighted material, item by item.” — how? What mechanism does Ms Le Guin suggest for Google to identify the copyright holders of works published anonymously or under pseudonym in the 1930’s by houses and magazines no longer in operation? What presumption should they make.

    Congress, at the behest of Disney and the Movie industry passed a ridiculous extension of copyright, thus thwarting the entry of millions of documents into the public domain. Until, or unless, Congress addresses that problem by defining a mechanism for the orphaned works, Ms Le Guin, whose copyrights are unlikely to become difficult to track the owner of even after her death, is taking an indefensible position if she means what she says:”The free and open dissemination of information and of literature, as it exists in our Public Libraries, can and should exist in the electronic media. All authors hope for that.” Apparently she does not, except for that small minority of works whose ownership is clear.

    Google has done what Congress and the copyright office of the Library of Congress has been too scared to do. They have made a definition. “If you want us to not scan your works, tell us.” There, that was simple. Something ELSE… registration renewal, the abrogation of the Bern convention, almost anything else would have been better, but if Ms Le Guin can’t come up with a better solution, then God Bless Google.

  25. I am appalled at the Google plan and find it a stunningly baldfaced move towards turning everybody but corporate executives into peons. I never believed that “information wants to be free” balderdash when people like John Perry Barlow were hawking it and I sure don’t believe or support it now. If I read it correctly, not only does this plan give Google unheard of rights, it places any number of artificial barriers to entry in the path of anybody who might presume to compete with them. This is something on the order of the royal patents absolute monarchies used to sell to unscrupulous opportunists to fill the treasuries they had squandered to buy gems, wars, and mistresses.
    I am also deeply disturbed that nobody much seems to be covering the very scary implications of one unaccountable private company becoming some sort of sole authorized channel for a great deal of content. Organizations in such positions always censor. Always. While they may now be shucking and jiving about their actions in China, it’s ample proof of their willingess to do so.

    As a writer, as a publisher, and as a reader, I utterly oppose the Google settlement and the broader principle of “opt-out”. If they want to buy our rights, they can approach us and get terms we agree to, one by one. If that’s not worth their time then that’s just a shame. They have no right to assume our compliance just to ease their path towards even greater control and power.

  26. I am fearful to leave my real name. Google has very very much personal information about all of us and it would concern me to stand out. This alone should be cause for concern. I would rather be on a government watch list than a Google watch list.

  27. this is a ploy to make sure your books are on iphones 50 years from now while some guy in a suit from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt says what happens to your works

    change with the times google did

  28. Rick Boatwright is incorrect about SFWA’s position regarding orphan works. SFWA does believe that orphan works exist and that they are problematic. Where we differ from the settlement’s position is that we believe a work can be declared an orphan only after there has been a truly diligent search for the work’s rightsholders; the opt out nature of the settlement means that works become fair game if the rightsaholders fail to show up for their pittance, and places the burden of protecting a work on the author. SFWA’s full position on orphan works can be found at: http://www.copyright.gov/orphan/comments/OW0607-SFFWA.pdf

  29. My apologies to Mr Capobianco. If the site would allow comment edits, I would do so to clarify my statement.

    I am unaware that SFWA has taken any action, or indeed any position at all since it’s statement to the registrar of copyrights in March of 2005. If SFWA made any lobbying call, or position statement on the Orphaned works act of 2006 or 2008, I can not find them. That being the case, I took the position as abandoned. My apologies.

    Indeed, if the orphan comments that SFWA made in 2005 had been translated into legislation, or if the copyright office or Congress would make a definition of “diligent search” and if legislative or regulatory definitions were in place to define the nature of a escrow payment for electronic access, if an easily updated electronic registry of authors (an opt-in position I would point out) existed, then Google would be in the wrong here.

    Sadly, nothing has happened in Congress since the vote to move the Orphaned Works act of 2008, as poor as it was, out of subcommittee in May of ’08. Congress is dead stopped. If congress won’t act, the market will. That would appear to be Google’s role here. If Google’s actions result in a groundswell of authors contacting their congressmen and senators and some legislation going forward well and good.

    Realize that Google themselves has asked that a better definition be put in place. If we’re reaching back to the copyright office’s request for comment, it is educational to review Google’s position. http://www.copyright.gov/orphan/comments/reply/OWR0134-Google.pdf

    But of course, no such legislation is currently before congress. No action is contemplated by the registrar. That being the case, what would Mr Capobianco have Google, or indeed anyone, including repository libraries do _now_?

    Google has put a line in the sand here.

    The correct forum for legislating how to deal with orphaned works is in the legislature. Otherwise, the only way for Ms Le Guin’s ”free and open dissemination of information and of literature … in the electronic media. ” is through the market. No more expensive, no more painful, and no more inappropriate mechanism is available to us than the courts. This is what we elect legislatures for.

  30. Yes, SFWA has done some lobbying in support of its orphan works position. If you check the Copyright Office’s list of position papers, you’ll see that several other writers’ groups signed on in support, as well. I’m the closest thing SFWA has to a lobbyist, and, when I was President in 2007-2008, I had a lot of other things on my plate. Not an excuse, but a statement that SFWA has limited resources, and sometimes they become overwhelmed.

    You say “If congress won’t act, the market will.” I don’t see how a class action suit that gives Google a monopoly on orphan works represents the will of the market. And, in my opinion, the will of the market in the absence of copyright is “information wants to be free.”

  31. Rick Boatright said: “But of course, no such legislation is currently before congress. No action is contemplated by the registrar. That being the case, what would Mr Capobianco have Google, or indeed anyone, including repository libraries do _now_? ”

    Sorry I didn’t answer your question. I would ask Google to make the settlement opt in instead of opt out. I would ask Google and the Book Rights Registry to devote a substantial amount, say $5,000,000, to setting up a voluntary registry of contact information for authors, and clean up the Copyright Office’s records so that there was a definitive list of which works were still in copyright. Many of the works published between 1923 and 1964 were not renewed, but there’s no actual list. And I would ask the parties involved to take the question of fair use to a conclusion, as the original lawsuit was meant to do.

    I see that you just joined SFWA, by the way. Welcome. If you’d like to continue this discussion in the SFWA discussion area, I’d be happy to do so.

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