Bestselling Authors And Rights Groups Support Authors Guild In Asking Supreme Court To Review Google Ruling

Feb 02, 2016, 12:42 ET from The Authors Guild

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Yesterday, bestselling authors, book publishers, rights organizations, and copyright experts from around the world filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the Authors Guild's petition asking the Court to hear its case that Google must be held accountable for digitally copying millions of copyrighted books without permission or payment.

Authors and dramatists adding their names to a friend-of-the-Court brief filed in Washington, DC include Stephen Sondheim, Margaret Atwood, Tony Kushner, J. M. Coetzee, Malcolm Gladwell, Douglas Wright, Michael Frayn, Marsha Norman, and Yann Martel. Major publishers Elsevier and Hachette were among those filing a separate brief, while other briefs came from the Copyright Alliance and the Copyright Clearance Center, among others.

"The court of appeals subordinated the very right that lies at the heart of copyright—the right to reproduce," said the publishers' brief.

It has been one month since the Guild, the nation's largest and oldest society of professional writers, filed a petition asking the Court to review a Second Circuit court ruling in its decade-old copyright infringement case against Google. The tech giant copied 20 million books from libraries and other institutions in exchange for offering them a digital copy in return—but without seeking permission from authors. At least four million of those books were protected by copyright.

"We are pleased to see so many esteemed authors, publishing groups, and copyright experts supporting us," said Mary Rasenberger, Executive Director of the Authors Guild in New York. "Their level of support proves that this matter is critical to the future of fair use under copyright law—if not the future of publishing and authorship itself."

The briefs submitted today cite a broad range of facts, case law and precedent to support their positions. The brief of the Copyright Clearance Center and others, for one, related that Google (now the world's biggest company in terms of value) played fast-and-loose while its competitors stuck to the rulebook: "until it abandoned the effort in May 2008, Microsoft […] was pursuing a book digitization project similar to Google Books but for the fact that Microsoft did not scan or display copyrighted books without permission of the copyright owner."

Joining the Copyright Clearance Center in its brief are the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations, based in Brussels, and Marybeth Peters. As U.S. Register of Copyright from 1994 through 2010, Peters helped shape current copyright law. The group's brief contends that "Google built its database by systematically copying millions of copyrighted books in their entirety."

The Supreme Court is expected to decide this spring if it will hear the case.


The Authors Guild has served as the collective voice of American authors since its beginnings in 1912. Its over 9,000 members include novelists, historians, journalists, and poets—traditionally and independently published—as well as literary agents and representatives of writers' estates. The Guild is dedicated to creating a community for authors while advocating for them on issues of copyright, fair contracts, free speech, and tax fairness. Please visit


SOURCE The Authors Guild