Author Archives: Erika Wilson

DMCA Takedown Notices: Know Your Rights

Posted June 22, 2017

Last week, the American Psychological Association (APA) issued Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notices targeting APA articles on 80 university websites in an attempt to restrict unauthorized use of submissions to APA journals. In some cases, this resulted in the removal of academic authors’ articles from personal websites and university repositories. In response to the outcry from authors, the APA altered its pilot program to focus on removing articles from piracy sites rather than also targeting individual authors. APA also reiterated that authors may post their pre-print submissions (not the final version as published by an APA journal), as per their publication agreements with the APA.

This is not the first time that a journal publisher has targeted academic articles on university websites with DMCA takedown notices. In 2013, Elsevier, publisher of nearly 2,000 research journals, began sending takedown notices to individual researchers and universities targeting articles posted on university-hosted pages. Like the APA, Elsevier distinguished between authors posting the final versions of articles from those posting earlier versions.

Although these publishers may have acted within their rights to send these takedown notices, for authors looking to share work broadly, it is hard to imagine a situation more frustrating than not being being able to share their own works. In the face of the possibility that DMCA takedown notices targeting institutional repositories may increase, what can authors do?

  • Review the terms of your publishing agreement: Many journal publishing agreements allow for journal authors to self-archive pre-print versions of their articles on personal websites, university repositories, and author networking sites (sometimes with an embargo period). Check the terms of your agreement to see whether this is permitted, and, if so, replace your article with an allowed version.
  • Review your institution’s open access policy: If your institution has an open access policy, it may allow you to deposit a copy of your work in your institutional repository without infringing on your publisher’s rights. If in doubt, check with your institution’s Copyright or Scholarly Communications Office.
  • Retain the rights you need to make future works available in the ways you want: When presented with a publishing contract, review the terms of the contract and don’t be shy about negotiating for terms that allow you to share your work on personal websites, university repositories, and author networking sites. For more information on how to negotiate with your publisher to allow you to share your work, see Chapter 6 of our guide to Understanding Open Access. You can also review journal publishers’ standard policies regarding self-archiving on the SHERPA/RoMEO database and opt to submit your work to journals that give you more control of your work.
  • Reach out to your institution’s Copyright or Scholarly Communications Office:  Copyright and scholarly communications staff can help you understand what rights you retained in your publication agreement, whether any version of your work can be posted online, and whether a copy can be uploaded to your institution’s repository. They can also help you understand your publishing contract before you sign.

For more information, check out our FAQ on copyright, which outlines some of the ways that authors can manage their copyrights in innovative ways, including with regard to academic journals. And our guide to Understanding Open Access provides even more detail about OA publication strategies.

Summer Reading List: Copyright Edition!

Posted June 13, 2017

Summer is here, and it’s the perfect time to relax with a good book. There are all kinds of reading lists out there—from fun reads for the beach, to prize-winning books you might have missed, to books on a favorite hobby or a faraway destination. Here at Authors Alliance, we like to keep up our copyright chops all year ’round, and we know that many of our members do, too. So, for a slightly different take on summer reading, here are some suggestions for new books that will keep you up to date on the latest in copyright, open access, and more!

Screen-Shot-2017-06-13-at-11.29.05-AMFirst up is Creativity without Law: Challenging the Assumptions of Intellectual Property,  edited by Kate Darling and Aaron Perzanowski, and published by NYU Press. This collection features essays about diverse creative communities by a number of noted IP scholars (and Authors Alliance members!), including David Fagundes, Aaron Perzanowski, Christopher Sprigman, Katherine Strandburg, Rebecca Tushnet, and Eric Von Hippel.

The book demonstrates how creative endeavors, from cinema and fanfic to fine cuisine and roller derby, push the boundaries and assumptions of intellectual property through community norms and self-regulation. As Perzanowski and Darling write in their introduction, “While IP is a crucial tool for maintaining creative incentives in some industries, scholars of creativity already understand that the assumptions underlying the IP system largely ignore the range of powerful non-economic motivations that compel creative efforts. From painters to open source developers, many artists and inventors are moved to create, not by the hope for monetary return, but by innate urges that are often quite resistant to financial considerations.”

In a similar vein is Made by Creative ComMade With Creative Commons - Covermons, by Paul Stacey and Sarah Hinchliff Pearson. It’s a collection of real-life examples that highlights the advantages of using CC licenses, both for sharing work and for building a sustainable business model. Case studies include everything from the party game Cards Against Humanity to the Public Library of Science (PLoS) to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

“Part analysis, part handbook, part collection of case studies, we see Made With Creative Commons as a guide to sharing your knowledge and creativity with the world, and sustaining your operation while you do. It makes the case that sharing is good for business, especially for companies, organizations, and creators who care about more than just the bottom line. Full of practical advice and inspiring stories, Made with Creative Commons is a book that will show you what it really means to share.”

The book is available as a free download (under a CC license, of course!), and may also be purchased in a print edition.

9781760460808-b-thumb-copyrightNew in paperback from Australian National University Press is What if We Could Reimagine Copyright?, a collection of essays by international scholars about the possibilities of copyright, edited by Authors Alliance members Rebecca Giblin and Kimberlee Weatherall. Like Creative Commons, ANU Press offers the book as a free download, as well as in print.

“What if we could start with a blank slate, and write ourselves a brand new copyright system? What if we could design a law, from scratch, unconstrained by existing treaty obligations, business models and questions of political feasibility? Would we opt for radical overhaul, or would we keep our current fundamentals? Which parts of the system would we jettison? Which would we keep? In short, what might a copyright system designed to further the public interest in the current legal and sociological environment actually look like? Taking this thought experiment as their starting point, the leading international thinkers represented in this collection reconsider copyright’s fundamental questions: the subject matter that should be protected, the ideal scope and duration of those rights, and how it should be enforced.”

Free Innovation - CoverFinally, we recommend Free Innovation by Eric Von Hippel, available in full as an open access title from MIT Press.

“Free innovation has both advantages and drawbacks. Because free innovators are self-rewarded by such factors as personal utility, learning, and fun, they often pioneer new areas before producers see commercial potential. At the same time, because they give away their innovations, free innovators generally have very little incentive to invest in diffusing what they create, which reduces the social value of their efforts.

The best solution, von Hippel and his colleagues argue, is a division of labor between free innovators and producers, enabling each to do what they do best. The result will be both increased producer profits and increased social welfare—a gain for all.”

Von Hippel’s book is just one of many titles that MIT Press has made openly available, and thanks to an exciting new partnership with Internet Archive, the MIT Press backlist will soon be available online as well. We’re following that project with great interest, and will provide more information and updates, so stay tuned for even more great reading to come!

Another Successful Bay Area Book Fest!

Posted June 7, 2017
IMG_4466.JPG copy

Brianna and Erika staff the Authors Alliance table on a sunny Saturday morning

Take two days of beautiful weather in downtown Berkeley, combine with an enthusiastic community of literature lovers, and what do you get?

The Bay Area Book Fest!

For the third year in a row, Authors Alliance was proud to be a part of this celebration of all things reading- and writing-related, from author appearances and panel discussions to kids’ events and—of course—books! We hosted a table on the central lawn of the festival and fielded questions from authors about everything from contract terms to rights reversion to fair use.

The Bay Area is home to an extraordinary number of creative people, and it was a pleasure to meet with so many members of the local writing community. We’d like to extend a warm welcome to those who joined Authors Alliance over the weekend! And, if you didn’t get a chance to sign up, you can always do so here. Basic membership is free, and our members are the first to hear about our latest tools, resources, and updates. We’re already looking forward to next year’s festival!


Erika with Tom Leonard, UC Berkeley University Librarian Emeritus and Authors Alliance board member

Meet With Authors Alliance at the Bay Area Book Festival!

Posted May 30, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 1.28.08 PM

For the third year in a row, Authors Alliance is proud to be a part of the Bay Area Book Festival, a two-day literary extravaganza in downtown Berkeley. Come and visit us on June 3-4, when we’ll be staffing an information booth on the lawn at Civic Center Park, in the heart of the festival. We’re looking forward to taking part in this can’t-miss event for everyone who enjoys reading and writing as much as we do.

The Bay Area Book Festival is a free and family-friendly event that runs from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM on Saturday, June 3 and Sunday, June 4. We invite our local friends and neighbors to stop by and meet us, and learn how Authors Alliance can help creators with copyright, publishing contracts, fair use, and more!

Authors Alliance Celebrates Three Years!

Posted May 18, 2017

photo by Annie Spratt | CC0

This month, Authors Alliance celebrates three years of empowering authors in the digital age! We’ve come a long way since our founding and are looking forward to more great work ahead.

In the year since our last birthday, our membership has grown to nearly 1,200 strong. Last fall, in partnership with Creative Commons, we released a beta version of, a tool that helps authors navigate the complexities of the termination of transfer provision of copyright law. We said farewell to Mike Wolfe, our founding Executive Director, and were thrilled to welcome Brianna Schofield as our new ED in February. We traveled around the U.S. and abroad to host workshops and panel discussions. And we continue to advocate for policy positions that champion broad rights for creators, from robust fair use to attribution and integrity.

We’re currently hard at work on a third educational guide on fair use for non-fiction authors, which is due out later this year, and look forward to sharing more details with you when the guide is published.

As we celebrate three years of supporting authors who write to be read, we encourage those of you who may not yet be members to join. Basic membership in Authors Alliance is free, and our members are the first to hear about our news and resources. Sign up today!

“A Good Guy Offering a Good Product at a Fair Price”:
Cory Doctorow on Fair Trade E-books, Publishing, Copyright, and the Optimism of Disaster

Posted May 9, 2017
photo by Jonathan Worth

portrait of Cory Doctorow by Jonathan Worth | CC BY-SA 2.0

As part of our mission to empower authors in the digital age, Authors Alliance encourages authors to embrace new strategies for publishing and ensuring the ongoing lifespan of their work, both in print and in digital formats. Best-selling novelist, blogger, and Authors Alliance founding member Cory Doctorow epitomizes this innovative spirit in myriad ways. We sat down recently with Cory for a wide-ranging talk about his newly-launched platform for selling fair trade ebooks, the pros and cons of traditional publishing, and his brand-new novel, Walkaway.


AUTHORS ALLIANCE: At the London Book Fair this past March, you announced your new model for selling fair trade ebooks, affectionately known as “Shut Up and Take My Money.” What was your inspiration for this new platform? How does it address some of the issues with traditional retailing?

CORY DOCTOROW: There are ongoing disputes among publishers and writers about the equitable way to share ebook royalties. I kept hearing from people in publishing that hell would freeze over before publishers would pay 50% instead of 25% for ebook royalties. Now, “never ever” is a long time, and things do change, but if this is a thing you want to feed your kids with, you shouldn’t hold your breath. I got started by retailing my own audiobooks on my website with a modest shopping cart program after I had been kicked out of the traditional audiobook market by refusing to agree to DRM [digital rights management, which controls users’ access to, and use of, copyrighted material]. When I sell my audiobooks directly on my website, I get paid twice: I get the retail cut, as well as the royalty from my publisher, which is pretty damn close to 50%. The same is true for the ebook fair trade model: if you sell an ebook on your website, the royalty plus your retail cut is close to 50%.

There is also the fact that, in the time since Creative Commons licenses were negotiated, publishers have entered into agreements with the large ebook retailers that allow for price matching. This is in part an artifact of anti-trust litigation, but it means that if someone somewhere offers the book at $0, it technically allows all of the other ebook stores to offer the book at $0 as well.

Thus far my publishers have been good about grandfathering in the CC-licensed books that I already had, but for the last couple of books I haven’t done CC licensing, in part because of the real fear that Amazon could set the price at $0 and there would be no recourse for my publishers—not even the recourse of not letting Amazon sell the book, because of deals ensuring that if Amazon sells one book of a publisher’s, they have to sell the whole catalog.

So I thought, “What can I do to accommodate the CC books and the non-CC books that will maximally benefit all the entities here, and play within the Realpolitik of these regulatory settlements?” And I came up with this fair trade ebooks idea.

A Worrisome Harbinger of Changes in Copyright Law

Posted May 3, 2017

Pamela Samuelson, President, Authors Alliance

Note: This article was originally made available to subscribers of the Chronicle of Higher Education on April 23, 2017. The full text is reprinted below with permission.

With all the hoopla and dysfunction in the White House and Congress, you might think that the copyright bills pending before Congress do not need your attention. Think again. Momentum is building for three of these measures, and the impact of these bills on institutions of higher education will not be welcome.

The most likely to pass (and relatively soon) is H.R. 1695, The Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act. It has bipartisan support from 32 House members, and the endorsement of 3 key members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill calls for the Register of the U.S. Copyright Office (its CEO) to be a Presidential appointee for a 10-year term, subject to Senate confirmation. This bill has already been reported out of the House Judiciary Committee.

The Librarian of Congress has historically been the official who selected the Register of Copyrights. This made sense because the Copyright Office is a subdivision of the Library, and the Office supplies the Library with copies of registered works to add to its collection. The Register’s main job has been to ensure that the copyright registration system works well, so the general practice has been to promote someone with long experience in the Office to become Register. Because Librarian Carla Hayden has commenced a search to replace Maria Pallante, the Register who resigned (to avoid being demoted), Congress will have to move quickly on H.R. 1695, or Hayden may fill the position on her own—which would be good for universities.

H.R. 1695 finds support among industry insiders who are nervous that Hayden, who has made a career as a public librarian, would appoint as Pallante’s successor someone whose positions on copyright issues might be more closely aligned with the interests of libraries and the public than with interests of those who commercially exploit copyrights and who have long had considerable influence on the Office’s policy prescriptions.

The ostensible reason to elevate the Register as a Presidential appointee is the much greater significance of copyright in the U.S. and global economies today. As a Presidential appointee, the Register would be able to speak with greater authority in advising the President on key copyright policy matters, just as the Presidentially appointed Commissioner of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office already does.

So why should universities worry about H.R. 1695?

If President Trump appoints the Register, this will further politicize copyright law. Until now, professional competence and deep knowledge of copyright and of the Office’s duties were the primary qualifications for the Register’s job. Since copyright industry groups will almost certainly have more influence with the President and members of Congress than universities do, H.R. 1695, if enacted, seems likely to favor copyright industry interests over university interests.

A second bill worth watching is H.R. 890, the Copyright Office for the Digital Economy Act. Like H.R. 1695, it calls for the Register to be a presidential appointee. It would, however, go farther by removing Copyright Office from the Library of Congress’ aegis and making it into an independent Congressional agency.

Even during Pallante’s tenure, tension existed between the Library and the Office over the level of financial support that the Library provided to enable the Office to upgrade its technology infrastructure. As an independent agency, the Office would be free from the Library’s control.

Under this law, the Office also would be free to make recommendations to Congress without any oversight, consultation, or review by other federal agencies. Universities may consequently lose opportunities they now have to appeal to executive agencies to influence the Office on policy matters.

Further down the road, but nevertheless building up steam, is a legislative proposal to create a small claims tribunal within the Copyright Office to adjudicate infringement claims valued at $30,000 or less. H.R. 5757, the Copyright Alternative in Small Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act of 2016 has not been re-introduced in the 115th Congress. But Rep. Robert Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia, announced earlier this year that the small claims proposal was a key part of the copyright reform agenda he expects to pursue in this session of Congress.

One of the two key drivers of this bill is the desire of entertainment-industry companies to have a low-cost way to litigate claims against peer-to-peer file-sharers and other Internet users who “pirate” their works (including students at colleges and universities). The other main driver has been groups of photographers and graphic artists whose works are routinely infringed, often in online environments. The high cost of federal court litigation makes it infeasible for them to vindicate their rights.

If this legislation was carefully designed to give these copyright owners a low-cost way to get reasonable compensation for wrongs done to them, that would be one thing. But the bill has some problematic features, including the creation of two new sets of statutory damages.

One would benefit copyright owners who register copyright claims pre-infringement (as entertainment industry firms typically do). For these owners, a small claim could yield a tribunal award up to $15,000 per infringed work and up to $30,000 total. This is worrisomely high given that the challenged use need not have caused any harm to the copyright owner.

A second would be available to unregistered copyright owners. A small claim could yield up to $7500 per infringed work and up to $15,000 total per case, even if an infringement caused little or no actual harm.

The CASE Act also raises due process concerns. Although someone notified of a small claim can opt-out of the proceeding within 30 days, unrepresented recipients of claim letters may ignore them. Non-response will result in a default judgment, which the copyright owner can take to a federal court to get an order requiring payment.

Should universities be concerned about this? The short answer is yes. Cambridge University Press (CUP) may have had little success so far in the Georgia State electronic course reserve case, but suppose it learns that a professor has uploaded to a course website a chapter from a book published by CUP. CUP is unlikely to bring a federal lawsuit against the professor (or her university). But a small claim against her (or her institution) would be cost-effective and much faster. The Copyright Office tribunal might well be receptive to CUP’s claim. If one claim succeeds, CUP would have reason to bring others.

This is only one example of the many ways in which universities, faculty, and students might find themselves subject to new rounds of copyright claims. Copyright Office tribunals may not be as receptive to educational fair use defenses as federal courts.

These bills are a worrisome harbinger of what lies ahead for institutions of higher education on copyright policy issues. As with so many other issues currently facing this country, awareness and vigilance must be watchwords of the day.




Rights Reversion Success Story:
Tracee Lydia Garner

Posted April 19, 2017

Just in time for the second anniversary of our Guide to Understanding Rights Reversion, we’re pleased to feature Authors Alliance member Tracee Garner’s success story. Since gaining back the rights to two of her previously published novels, she’s resumed work on her Jameson Trilogy, due to be published next spring. We met with Tracee at the AWP conference in Washington, DC, earlier this year, and she generously shared her rights reversion experience with us in the following Q&A.

Novelist and Authors Alliance member Tracee Lydia Garner

AUTHORS ALLIANCE: What first motivated you to get the rights back to your previously published novels?

TRACEE LYDIA GARNER:  I hadn’t really thought of reversion until I heard other authors asking how to go about it. Then I went to a conference in 2015, and a young woman came up to me and asked me if I would ever write Jojo’s story [the continuation of a character featured in her previous books.]  I admit that at first, I was annoyed—not so much at her, but more at myself, because I hadn’t finished with him, and I secretly did want to!

Then I had to look at how I could make it happen. If I was going to write Jojo’s story, I wanted to fold it in with my earlier books, update the covers and content, and release them as a new set, since any marketer will tell you that sets do very well. But in that case, I had to ensure that I could get the rights to those earlier books back. And then I had to get new ISBNs and do a bit of reload and relaunch to make it all work. All of that was the catalyst for formally requesting my rights.

AuAll: How did you go about requesting a rights reversion?

TLG: First, I researched online about writing a reversion letter to my publisher. Then I had to dig out my almost twenty-year-old contract and figure out whom to contact. (When you have one of the largest publishers in the world, with offices in NYC and Canada, it seems like real investigative journalism!) Contracts are very intimidating, and you have no desire to revisit it at all. You resist (and our creative minds can even make it more difficult than it has to be).

Once I figured out the jargon, found a sample letter online, and tracked down the right contact people (or their replacements), I e-mailed my request to my publisher. Then I waited (a good little bit)! I think I re-sent the letter at least once, saying “Hey, over here.” It took months until I got the letter saying that I had, in fact, fulfilled my seven-year contractual obligations. Very official!

AuAll: So you were eligible to exercise a clause in your contract granting reversion rights?

TLG: Yes, my contract was for a term of seven years. After seven years had passed, they were my books in theory, but it’s never good to assume, so I made the request to ensure that I received appropriate documentation to that effect. With the influx of digital rights and an ability to make use of ebook versions and audio versions, it’s important to be certain you are cleared for these kinds of rights, too. Be sure there was no addendum to your contract that permitted your publishers to hold onto these rights, and only revert some of the parts back to you.

AuAll: Did you face any obstacles in getting your rights back? Is there anything you wish you’d known going into the process?

TLG: The hardest part was finding the words to use and finding the appropriate persons to contact. Reversion doesn’t seem commonplace, at least not yet. Who would’ve thought we could ask for our rights back, repackage, edit, slap on a new cover (after design headaches, of course!), add new ISBNs, relaunch…and voila! New audience, new eyes, new readers. But there is also something intimidating about rights being returned to you. Rights back? For what? What do I do with them?

I imagine that at least some writers might have thought that ABC Publishing Company would publish forever and we’d all be fortunate enough to collect royalties like the estate holders for Michael Jackson and Elvis and all the popular TV shows and radio artists—only to find out that no, it doesn’t work like that!

AuAll: What advice do you have for other authors who might want to pursue a reversion of rights?

TLG: Remember that someone has already been through every incident you could possibly think of. Even though we sometimes feel like we write alone in our little caves, there are people out there to help. And it is worth the effort!

AuAll: How has reversion helped you? What have you been able to do with your book since reversion?

TLG: I had written two books in a planned trilogy, but I never finished the series. So I will be editing and repackaging the two books that I have back. I am finishing the third installment now. Fixing the books is no small feat, but the excitement of having a new trilogy propels me toward completion. It’s very exciting that, thanks to reversion, your characters get a second life, as does your career overall.

Tracee Lydia Garner is a bestselling, award-winning author. Her sixth book, the romantic suspense novel Deadly Affections, was released in March 2017. Born and raised in a suburb of the Washington DC metro area, Tracee works in health and human services, and is a speaker and advocate for people with disabilities. Her forthcoming Jameson Trilogy—made possible thanks to rights reversion—is scheduled to debut next spring. Find Tracee on the web at

Authors, if Tracee’s success story has inspired you to consider reverting rights to your previously published work, you don’t have to start from scratch! We’ve already done much of the preliminary work for you. Visit the Authors Alliance Rights Reversion Portal, where you’ll find our complete Guide to Understanding Rights Reversion, as well as letter templates for use in contacting your publisher, plus a collection of reversion success stories.

If you value our work and are not yet a member of Authors Alliance, please consider joining today. Basic membership is free, and our members are the first to hear about our latest tools and resources.

Authors’ Rights Beyond Attribution and Integrity:
The Rights to Revive and Revise

Posted April 6, 2017


“Author from BL Harley 4425, f. 133” by Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun is licensed under PDM 1.0

“Author from BL Harley 4425, f. 133” by Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun is licensed under PDM 1.0

The following article, by Authors Alliance co-founder Molly Shaffer Van Houweling, continues our series of posts on the topic of moral rights. Molly is Professor of Law and Associate Dean at UC Berkeley, and a faculty co-director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology. She also serves as Board Chair of Creative Commons.

The Copyright Office is considering whether U.S. Copyright law ought to recognize authorial attribution and integrity rights. Authors Alliance submitted comments in support of these rights—if they are carefully crafted and limited—but also proposes two other authorial rights: one to revive one’s work and the other to revise one’s work if the copyright is owned by another.

Here’s why:

Consider the plight of an author who has assigned her copyright to a publisher who is no longer printing the book or making it available online. Perhaps the publisher has lost interest because sales are low; but the author still maintains a strong interest in having her work available to readers. Authors Alliance member Paul Heald’s research suggests just how prevalent this problem is.

The only tool that U.S. copyright law currently provides to authors of works that are effectively locked up in a publishers’ vault is a right to terminate a copyright transfer 35 years later. In theory, authors could use the termination of transfer provision to revive works that have fallen out of print. In practice, the daunting intricacies of the scheme make it difficult for many authors to take advantage of their rights. These challenges are not insurmountable. Authors Alliance and Creative Commons are making efforts to help authors exercise their rights. But even if it works as smoothly as possible, the termination of transfer provision is an awkward solution for authors who want to revive their works. Most glaringly, termination does not take effect for decades after a work was created. In most cases this will be long after a book has gone out of print.

Now consider an author who has changed her mind, on the basis of new research, about an argument she made in a book to which a publisher owns the copyright. She wants to disseminate a revised edition but the publisher denies her permission to create a derivative work based upon the original. An author who is not the owner of copyright in her own work cannot insist, under U.S. law, on her right to revise that work beyond what is permitted by fair use. And, again, the termination right might not be a timely or practical solution.

The prospect of these dilemmas is one motivation for authors who are increasingly retaining and managing their own copyrights. Unfortunately, that movement comes too late for authors who have already assigned their copyrights to publishers. For some such authors, it may be possible to exercise a contractual right of reversion or renegotiate as described in the Authors Alliance Guide to Understanding Rights Reversion. But not every contract includes a reversion clause and not every publisher is willing to renegotiate—even assuming that the publisher is still the copyright owner and can be easily identified and located that purpose (not a safe assumption in light of the well-documented problem of orphan works).

Perhaps what these authors need—in addition to rights of attribution and integrity—are statutory rights to revive and revise their works. Although such rights are not separately identified as part of the authors’ rights tradition, there are some features of copyright laws of other nations that at least nod toward their importance. In a recent article in the Houston Law Review, I explain how the U.S. could borrow from and improve upon these approaches to prevent the dilemmas faced by authors for whom copyright stands as an obstacle to reaching readers with both their existing works and their new ideas.

For more in our series on moral rights, read on!

Pam Samuelson on “A Case for Recognizing Attribution and Integrity as Moral Rights”

Authors Alliance on “The Need for a Nuanced Approach to Attribution and Integrity Rights”

Our comments in response to the Copyright Office study on moral rights

“When Everything’s Made Up”: Authors Alliance
on the Free Press

Posted April 3, 2017

The following guest post was written by Thomas Leonard, University Librarian emeritus and Professor of Journalism emeritus at UC Berkeley, and a member of the Authors Alliance board of directors. Leonard is an expert in the history of American journalism; his books include The Power of the Press: The Birth of American Political Reporting and News For All: America’s Coming of Age With the Press

Some of the most damning lines about American media are gaining new currency these days:

“Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper,” President Thomas Jefferson said in 1807. Now, slightly revised, it is a Trump line.

“Whenever his liquor begun to work, he most always went for the government”—Huck Finn’s verdict on his father may be a fair statement about many of us, dazed by our new President’s administration.

It took some hard lessons before our Constitution’s glorious words about freedom of the press were understood as a libertarian sacrament in the early Republic. The John Adams administration managed the arrest of some two dozen critics under the Alien & Sedition Acts before the Constitutional principle of a free press took its modern shape, following the realization that this could happen to anyone not holding the reins of power.

Similarly, respect for the press was not robust at the creation of American government. This value developed through political struggle. The first U.S. copyright law of 1790 provided the privilege for books, maps and charts; just how authors of newspaper and magazine stories were to protect themselves was not addressed. The first Congresses did not report their own proceedings in any detail, let alone make it easy for journalists to hear what was going on. Rights for a free press and for the citizens who would need it were built over time, and with a variety of special interests doing much of the lifting.

Consistency and purity of motives have never been common features of our civil society, particularly in our history of a free press. Self-interest has been the anchor (perhaps a better one than idealism alone), and self-interest across the political spectrum is likely to deflect the harshest threats against the press today. Until recently, Donald Trump’s most noted attack on journalists was his statement in February, 2016 about how they could be brought to heel: “We’re going to open up those libel laws. So when the New York Times writes a hit piece which is a total disgrace or when the Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected.”

Since taking office, the President has suffered from a case of libel nerves. Last week, he went after the New York Times with the tweet, “Change libel laws?” The question mark is significant. The Supreme Court’s New York Times v. Sullivan decision of 1964 famously protected journalists against libel actions.  But it protects politicians as well when they say harsh things about other public figures. Politico reported last week that Trump is hearing that he might be sued. Office holders would surely become large contributors to law firms in an attempt to protect themselves from defamation suits (especially if they were tweeters who did not weigh every word about public figures they dislike).

“Whose Line Is It Anyway?” was a game show that many will remember fondly. It had comforting rules: “Everything’s made up and the points don’t matter.” This is amusing but wrong in every respect when applied to politics. Holding all political actors to the law, and reminding them what they have to lose in dreaming up punishments for critics, matters tremendously. The age-old dispute between people in power and a press that would bring them to account, requires all the wisdom we can summon.  Authors Alliance, whose members share common values and diverse means of expression, must be ready to meet this challenge.