News & Updates - July 2023

Check out the Policy Advisory Committee's monthly column, "News & Updates," rounding up news and articles of importance to writers.


UPS Strike

ABA Suggests Bookstores Prepare for UPS Strike

From Publishers Lunch

"As UPS and the Teamsters union stall over contract negotiations, it’s possible that workers will begin to strike on July 31, which would affect a vast number of book shipments to and from publishers.

"The American Booksellers Association suggested ways bookstores can prepare: This month, stores should order up on inventory, order stock for Fall author events, coordinate returns (even if they don’t use UPS), and ask publishers for an increase in their credit limits."


AI Ongoing News

Authors Sue OpenAI for Copyright Infringement in Training ChatGPT, Seek Class Action Status

From Publishers Lunch

"Following revelations that OpenAI’s ChatGPT — along with Google’s BERT and other foundational large language models — was trained on a corpus of over 7,000 books scraped from Smashwords without permission, along with another larger corpus of likely illegal written material — the first class action suit seeking to enforce authors’ rights was brought in a San Francisco Federal Court. Named plaintiffs and authors Paul Tremblay and Mona Awad seek class action status on behalf of a broad class of authors of copyrighted material, in a suit filed by the Joseph Saveri Law Firm and Matthew Butterick against OpenAI. They allege copyright infringement and violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for removal of copyright management information, along with unfair competition, unjust enrichment and negligence.

"Though the issues could be complex, the essence of the suit is quite straight forward: 'Plaintiffs and Class members did not consent to the use of their copyrighted books as training material for ChatGPT. Nonetheless, their copyrighted materials were ingested and used to train ChatGPT.' And 'they were copied into the BookCorpus dataset without consent, credit, or compensation to the authors.'"

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Third B&N Store Unionizes

From Publishers Lunch

"Following the successful unionization of stores in Hadley, MA and Union Square, NYC, the Barnes & Noble in Park Slope Brooklyn voted 88 percent in favor of unionizing, after announcing their intent in May. Like the chain’s other locations, the store joins the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

"The union now will go into contract negotiation with management, planning to address 'continued safety issues amid the rebound of New York City post-pandemic including workplace harassment, substandard pay for the industry below that of independent booksellers, unstable scheduling practices, a lack of structure when it comes to job duties and tasks at work, and favoritism,' RWDSU stated in a release. The union will represent more than 30 employees.

"A Barnes & Noble spokesperson said, 'We look forward to agreeing to a contract with the Park Slope booksellers.'”



Enduring Ventures Plans to Acquire Scribe's Assets

From Publishers Lunch

"A small investment company, Enduring Ventures, says it signed a letter of intent to acquire the assets of Scribe Media, pending financing ('we still need approval from the SBA/Bank and support from authors and shareholders for this to work') and other diligence. Enduring Ventures co-founder Sieva Kozinsky wrote in a lengthy LinkedIn post that he will become interim CEO of the newly created business, which is designed to “continue serving Scribe’s existing customers.' In the same post, created in the Scribe Media account, he notes that the company laid off 10 more people from the skeleton staff (87 people were laid off in May). The news follows the recent resignation of chief experience officer Meghan McCracken. It’s not clear from the post on whose authority the 10 additional employees were fired, or who is currently in charge.

"Kozinsky writes, 'Scribe’s ownership made mistakes and bad decisions. While we can’t undo the harm caused by those decisions, we believe that the mistakes holding the company back can be rectified.'”

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Hurowitz and Abu Dhabi-Based Mubadala Are Bidding for Simon & Schuster

From Publishers Lunch

"Investor and author Richard Hurowitz in partnership with the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala are among the second-round bidders for Simon & Schuster. Mubadala manages investments for the government of Abu Dhabi. Other bidders include private equity firm KKR and Harper Collins. The news was reported by the WSJ.

"A writer, investor and publisher of the quarterly magazine The Octavian Report, Hurowitz has been a bidder for other trade publishing companies in the past. And Hurowitz and Mubadala are considered by those with knowledge of the process to likely have been bidders for S&S in 2020 as well. Paramount Global executive Alex Berkett testified during the 2022 antitrust trial that the invited bidders included, 'a sovereign wealth fund backing a smaller strategic that we thought might be someone who might do something attractive economically to us. There was a small chance.' (There’s a reason we preserved the full record for everyone.)"

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