Authors Guild Attorney Testifies on Capitol Hill About Creating New National Digital Library

Posted on April 3, 2014

Jan Constantine, the general counsel for the Authors Guild, is on Capitol Hill today testifying before the House Judiciary Committee. Constantine is testifying on the issue of the mass digitization of books and the orphan works problems. The Authors Guild is currently appealing their losses in the Google book scanning case and the case against HathiTrust.

The Authors Guild has been very critical of the treatment of orphan works, which are scanned in full without regard to any royalties owing. Constatine notes that the Authors Guild usually can track down a missing author 80% of the time and that many of the so called "orphan works" are not orphans at all.

Constantine asked Congress to create a collective licensing organization like ASCAP which would deal with mass digitization of books and orphan works. The organization would eventually help create a true, digital, national library. The new organization would ensure authors get paid for the use of their works. The licenses would be non-compulsory, authors could decline the use of their works. The licenses would only be for out of print works, so there would be no disruption of commercial markets. The licensing would be for display use only, not for ebooks or printed books. If a fee could not be agreed to, there would be a tribunal to to adjudicate fee disputes. Constantine argues that this would benefit authors and society, by giving fair access to millions of out of print, copyrighted books.

You can read Constantine's full statement about the many copyright concerns that the Authors Guild has here.

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