Monday, April 8, 2013


There is an interesting op-ed opinion, in The New York Times of April 8, 2013, by best-selling author Scott Turow, who is also president of The Authors Guild.

It is entitled "The Slow Death of the American Author."

Turow outlines the inventive ways publishers, and even libraries, are circumventing intellectual property rights, stealing in effect from authors a larger and larger portions of the proceeds on their works. Authors' royalties are being reduced and sometimes disappear completely under various schemes.

"Authors," says Turow, "practice one of the few professions directly protected in the Constitution, which instructs Congress 'to promote the progress of Science and the useful Arts by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries'. The idea is that a diverse literary culture, created by authors whose livelihoods, and thus independence, can't be threatened, is essential to democracy."

Even  the Supreme Court (or should i, considering its recent history of giving voting rights to money, not be surprised?) is getting into the act. Turow specifically refers to the Court's "decision last month to allow importation and resale of foreign editions of American works..." by which ruling "authors won't get royalties."

Warns Turow:

"The culture is now at risk. The value of copyrights is being quickly depreciated, a crisis that hits hardest not best-selling authors like me, who have benefited from most of recent changes in bookselling, but new and so-called midlist writers." I say this means self-published authors who aren't given a level playing field in the market of ideas.

My take is that we are witnessing and living in the period of intellectual usury. Usury, remind you, is a sin in the Bible. But we live in times where people leave the Good Book on the threshold of their houses of worship, and people of Law dispense mercantile justice.

As I wrote in a recent letter on behalf of The indiePENdents: “In our democracy, unfortunately just as in the defunct Soviet Union, the public does not have unimpeded access to a majority of printed books. The reasons are different: theirs were political, ours are economic, both detrimental to the quality of the society and the freedom of its culture.”

Jasha M. Levi, author
Founder and President

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