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Random House Inc. has settled a lawsuit against an e-book publisher that was selling digital versions of Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle” and seven other popular titles. RosettaBooks will continue publishing the disputed works and will collaborate with Random House on additional books. “We are very glad to be able to put our differences behind us and to now work collaboratively rather than combatively to enhance RosettaBooks’ and our commitment to electronic publishing,” Katherine J. Trager, senior vice president and general counsel for Random House Inc., said in a statement Wednesday. “It’s a victory for all authors,” said Arthur Klebanoff, CEO of RosettaBooks, which has argued that authors, not publishers, control e-rights to books when the author’s contract has no specific language about the electronic format. The works in question, including “Cat’s Cradle” and William Styron’s “Sophie’s Choice,” predate the rise of the Internet. With rights to countless old titles at stake, the publishing industry had closely followed the case. Simon & Schuster and Penguin Putnam were among those backing Random House, while the Authors Guild and the Association of Authors’ Representatives supported RosettaBooks. But the settlement announced Wednesday leaves the issue unresolved. The two sides essentially agreed it was better to work together than to fight. “The settlement seems neutral about rights ownership; it doesn’t move things forward or back,” said Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, which represents thousands of published writers. RosettaBooks began issuing the e-books in early 2001 and was quickly sued by Random House, the world’s largest English-language trade publisher. But a federal judge rejected the request for a preliminary injunction. U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein of the Southern District of New York ruled that the publisher was “not likely to succeed on the merits of its copyright infringement claim and cannot demonstrate irreparable harm.” Last March, an appeals court reaffirmed that decision. Under the agreement, Random House will grant Rosetta exclusive e-book rights to “mutually agreed-upon titles,” both old and recently published. Random House authors include Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, John Grisham, Anne Rice and Donna Tartt. The e-book market has continued to grow over the past couple of years, although sales remain relatively small and several publishers, including Random House, have closed down their e-book imprints of original material. (Random House continues to release electronic versions of books it publishes on paper.) Klebanoff said none of RosettaBooks’ releases have sold more than 1,000 copies. “Our catalog is building. We’re setting precedents and we’ll set more of them,” Klebanoff said. All along, RosettaBooks has continued to acquire old titles by negotiating with representatives of the authors. Last year, it agreed with the estate of Virginia Woolf to issue such standards as “To the Lighthouse” and “A Room of One’s Own.” It is also releasing electronic versions of E.M. Forster’s “A Passage to India” and “Aspects of the Novel.” Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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