Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Be Sure to Help Us in Our Mission of Screwing Authors by Completing Your Authors Coalition Survey

Just when I think it’s become a tired trope to bemoan the breathtaking -- and ultimately self-serving -- incompetence of the authors’ organizations, they drop another unsolicited straight line into my inbox.

This week’s is a mass email from the National Writers Union with the subject line “Alert to Published Members on Upcoming Authors Coalition Survey.” The full text:

Dear Fellow NWU member:

In the next few days you will be receiving a letter that is extremely important to you and your union. It will explain the annual Authors Coalition survey, which will be enclosed. The number of responses to the survey determines the amount of funding that the union will receive from the Coalition this coming year. Last year we received $430,963.04.

Your early response is crucial. Your union depends on your response to this survey to generate the funds that keep the Union’s services to you functioning even though the NWU, like most unions, has suffered from declining membership dues.Please don’t delay. Take a moment and fill out the survey and send it back in the enclosed self-addressed NWU envelope.

Thanks so much.

In solidarity,

Gerard Colby
National Writers Union

First of all, I haven’t been a member of the NWU since 2001, so I have no idea what I’m doing on the recipient list. (Nor did the union respond to my query about this.)

But that’s a decidedly secondary irony. The real howler here is that the NWU is doing extraordinary outreach in this case to get its members to help “your union” keep its “services to you functioning.”

Services, one supposes, like botching copyright class action settlements. Not only did the recent $10-to-$18-million settlement -- which we are appealing to the Second Circuit -- come in at pennies on the dollar, if not fractions of a penny, of its real value. Not only did it screw the 99% of class members who are in Category C. Not only did it attempt to codify an unconstitutional "License by Default." It also had such rushed, hush-hush, mixed-message communications that an appallingly small number of affected writers knew about it, and fewer still were motivated to do anything about it.

I don’t recall ever receiving a similar email from Jerry Colby, for example, alerting members to the settlement. I do recall a series of tortured press releases and kaleidoscopic website sales pitches for filing claims that were so riddled with errors and distortions that they were sent back to rewrite more than any magazine piece Colby ever wrote (for which, of course, he too would be entitled to a $5 claim award under the UnSettlement).

The most recent ex post facto “alert” was discussed on this blog a few weeks ago: "NWU: Wake Us Up When September Ends,” Reference to this item subsequently was removed from the NWU website, though the link in our blog post to the item itself still appears to be good.

What, I ask, is the purpose of authors’ advocacy associations that make a big deal out of the Authors Coalition -- essentially a vehicle for passing the hat around to foreign publishers who have reused American writers’ works, and giving the proceeds of their bake sale to the organizations -- while dropping the ball on the most important legal confrontation defining the rights of their members, and writers everywhere, in the new digital age?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Irv:

I have a nasty question. How is the socalled Authors Collalition able to collect and use what is esstentially the money due to individual authors for uses of their work? Why is this permitted? I recently joined the Authors Licencing and Collecting Scoiety in London. They collect and distribute the Public Lending right money and they accept American (and other nations') members. See their web site for details. But here is the thing: Like you I discontinued my NWU membership and still get e-mail from them. They are not the only writer's organization in the nation. I mentioned six others besides them and the ASJA and the Authors Guild in my Pro Se filing opposing the settlement. So how and why are they being given money which does not belong to them? Their membership is declining because they do not reprsent the interests of the members; they sold us out.


Francis Hamit

9:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My apologies for all the misspellings in the previous post. It was written before my cataract surgery, which has made all the difference. unfortunately it hasn't done anything for my dyslexia.

10:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please pass this along to old Vanderbilt HUSTLER compatriot, Irv Muchnick, via email - Thanks, Bo Carter - Carrollton, TX

Dear Irv - A hearty hello froma fellow HUSTLER compadre, alum and Cardinals' fan! I still have your business card from 20-25 years ago at the Vine St. address in Berkeley and will be sure to order a book - Saw the note in Vandy Communications' briefs and great to get a nice mention from Roy Blount. My days with the Big 12 Conference ended in Aug. 2006 (not totally voluntarily) but I'm consulting with the National Football Foundation at:

Bo Carter, Consultant (
National Football Foundation
433 E. Las Colinas Bldv., Ste 1130
Irving, TX 75039
O: 972-556-1000, ext. 19
H: 972-492-3915
C: 214-418-6132
Fax: 972-556-9032

6:32 PM  

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