Canongate - a respected minor publisher - states that -
Canongate Books confirmed today, 21 September 2011, that it will publish Julian Assange: The Unauthorised Autobiography tomorrow. The publisher issued the following statement: On 20 December 2010, Julian Assange signed a contract with Canongate Books to write a book – part memoir, part manifesto – for publication in 2011.Assdange is reported as commenting that the memoir is an unchecked work in progress and the publisher was profiteering from an erroneous draft. His advance is understood by the BBC to be "a substantial six-figure sum".
At the time, Julian said,I hope this book will become one of the unifying documents of our generation. In this highly personal work, I explain our global struggle to force a new relationship between the people and their governments.Despite sitting for more than fifty hours of taped interviews and spending many late nights at Ellingham Hall in Norfolk (where he was living under house arrest) discussing his life and the work of WikiLeaks with the writer he had enlisted to help him, Julian became increasingly troubled by the thought of publishing an autobiography. After reading the first draft of the book that was delivered at the end of March, Julian declared, ‘All memoir is prostitution’.
On 7 June 2011, with 38 publishing houses around the world committed to releasing the book, Julian told us he wanted to cancel his contract. However, he had already signed his advance over to his lawyers to settle his legal bills.
We have decided to honour that contract and to publish. Once the advance has been earned out, we will continue to honour the contract and pay Julian royalties.
We disagree with Julian’s assessment of the book. We believe it explains both the man and his work, underlining his commitment to the truth. Julian always claimed the book was well written; we agree, and this has encouraged us to make the book available to readers.
We will publish the unauthorised first draft which was delivered to us in March. It fulfils the promise of the original book proposal and is, like its author, passionate, provocative and opinionated. We are proud to publish it.
Assange is also reported as commenting that -
The events surrounding its unauthorised publication by Canongate are not about freedom of information.with Canongate breaching the contract and personal assurances that the draft would not be released without his permission.
They are about old-fashioned opportunism and duplicity - screwing people over to make a buck
Posts in this blog have been critical of Assange's indifference to privacy, confidentiality, copyright and potential dangers to informants. Digital anarchists are in an ironic position when they invoke the law that elsewhere they have sought to destroy; everyone, Assange or otherwise, should be treated with respect and should not place themselves above the law.
Assange's subsequent media statement indicates that -
I am not “the writer” of this book. I own the copyright of the manuscript, which was written by Andrew O'Hagan. By publishing this draft against my wishes Canongate has acted in breach of contract, in breach of confidence, in breach of my creative rights and in breach of personal assurances. The US publisher, Knopf, withdrew from the deal when it learned of Canongate’s intentions to publish without my consent. This book was meant to be about my life’s struggle for justice through access to knowledge. It has turned into something else. The events surrounding its unauthorised publication by Canongate are not about freedom of information -- they are about old-fashioned opportunism and duplicity--screwing people over to make a buck. ...
I was informed that I could object to Canongate's actions on the basis that the proposal amounts to an infringement of copyright, a breach of the agreement, plus a breach of my right not to have my work subjected to derogatory treatment.
On 16 September 2011, I wrote a letter to my publisher informing them of my intention to obtain a temporary injunction unless they agreed to make immediately available to Q.C. Geoffrey Robertson a copy of the proposed book. In keeping with my rights under the contract, I requested five days for legal review of the manuscript by my own barrister, so that he could suggest any deletions reasonably required to protect our people from any adverse legal consequences that may arise from this publication. Jamie Byng attempted to extort legal immunity for his actions by refusing to giving me even a single chapter of the book unless I signed away my right to take legal action against Canongate. In his reply to my agent (16 September 2011), he wrote: "And we do need written assurances from Julian that he will not be taking legal action against the book before we can give our lawyers the green light to send over this chapter".
Canongate has stated that I have not acted on obtaining an injunction in the twelve-day window between the date of the letter informing me of the publication and the date that the book would go to press. This alleged twelve day window was in fact a five-day window, as I was only given the letter on Friday 9 September at 16:00. From the moment I was informed of Canongate's actions, I spoke to numerous solicitors. These solicitors were unwilling to take my case because I as the claimant must give a cross undertaking for damages when applying for an injunction. This means that I would be required to demonstrate that I was in the financial position to undertake to pay damages to Canongate in the event that the injunction should not have been granted. I am not in a position to provide such an undertaking. Canongate is aware of this. In a letter dated 14 September 2011, Canongate's lawyers write: "Please also note that if the Book is not published our client will incur very significant additional damage. As you will be aware the court will take this into account when considering any application for an injunction to satisfy itself that the cross-undertaking as to damages that Mr. Assange will need to provide is good in this respect. Furthermore, we understand that Mr. Assange is an Australian citizen and not resident in this country. If that is right he will need to provide security for costs."
Canongate is profiteering from an unfinished and erroneous draft, preventing me from exercising my rights as the copyright holder, denying me and many others of market opportunity for the book I wished to publish, and depriving me of the earnings I would eventually have made with the second and third instalments of the advance. It is acting on a contract that both parties agreed to terminate, but is, in any event, in breach even of that contract. My agent was negotiating a new timetable and we had agreed to draw up a fresh contract for the book I wanted to publish in my name. The last conversation with Jamie Byng on 16 June was friendly, positive and forward-looking. Since then, as Canongate secretly prepared the manuscript for publication, it has found excuses not to interact with me, presumably in order to avoid discovery. Canongate has refused contrary to contract to provide me with a copy of the edit that has gone to print for my lawyers to assess. Canongate has carried out this action with the knowledge that my financial situation prevents me from undertaking legal action against them. Canongate’s actions undermine the economic benefit I and WikiLeaks could have derived from the book deal at a time when my legal costs are mounting due to politically motivated legal attacks and a financial blockade jeopardises WikiLeaks' continued operations.
My ability to comment on the content of the book is limited. I am aware that there have been edits to the draft of 31 March 2011, but I do not know what they are. Andrew O’Hagan has not been shown the final edit. Tomorrow, I will have to buy ‘my autobiography’ in order to learn the extent of the errors and inaccuracies of the content of the book, but the damage is done.