Authorâ€™s Guild gains class action status vs. Google but do they really represent all authors?
There’s an interesting case that’s making headlines right now about how Google was attempting to push the Author’s Guild out of the suit to sue Google for its Google Books initiative (where they would be the end all source for practically everyone’s book material with their all-inclusive Google Library). Yesterday, a judge determined that Google can’t push the Author’s Guild out of the picture. On the surface, this isn’t all that big a deal, but there are a couple of things that are probably important to point out.
First off, most of the critics have already addressed the fact that not every author really wants to be part of this lawsuit, as quite a few independent authors have zero problem with what Google is doing. However, unless they personally choose to opt out of the action, the Author’s Guild is going to go forward pretending it has a lot more power and influence than in really does. And most people tend to ignore these sorts of things, so they’re now going to be “included” in this action even if they’re not really interested in what’s happening. This is one of those things that always bothers me with class action lawsuits because in cases like those against Apple and their antenna for the 4G debacle, a lot of us who owned Apple iPhone 4s didn’t really care that much for taking action against Apple. We were kind of happy with our products. Yet, a class action lawsuit moves forward as if it is representing a lot of people who may never actually be a part of the settlement. There’s a lot of presumptuousness that takes place with class action lawsuits, but that’s a completely different story.
A more important issue to me is the one that isn’t getting any attention yet, and that’s the fact that the Author’s Guild, a writer’s advocacy group, is an extremely exclusive club that lets very few actual authors into its ranks. According to their guidelines for eligibility, if you want to be a member of the Author’s Guild, don’t even think about it unless you have been published by an established American publisher, and I mean VERY established. Using a subsidy publisher, Amazon Kindle direct services and such, or anything along those lines, and you’re guaranteed to be turned down by the Author’s Guild that keeps a tight hold on its allowance for membership. While their elitism has dwindled a bit over the last year (Matt Paust, who regularly publishes to Open Salon, updated us with an article on April 27, 2012, in which he pointed out that their new requirements indicate that you can gain membership if you’ve received at least $500 from publishing in the last year, although their web site is still heavily leaning towards pointing out its old archaic standards of exclusivity).
As a writer myself, I’ve been on the fence about the whole Google books thing. I sell books through Amazon Kindle as well as Barnes & Noble’s Nook, so I haven’t been all that focused on Google, as most things Google does tends to be overly complicated and often unusable (like their advertising service that I finally gave up trying to figure out one day after I ended up getting charged $5.00 to make a listing that could never be approved and then left me unable to even remove the ad that wouldn’t ever run). So, I’ll be interested to see what happens with this, as I’m sure a lot of others will as well.