Publisher to Challenge E-Ruling

NEW YORK — Random House Inc., which last week lost a bid for a preliminary injunction that would have stopped an online publisher from selling several older Random House titles as electronic books, says it plans to file an appeal Wednesday of the judge’s decision.

In a statement, Random House, a unit of German media group Bertelsmann AG, said it believes “the district court misconstrued the prior cases dealing with ‘new technological uses’ by emphasizing the mode of delivery as opposed to the content.”

Random House, the largest English-language publisher, sued RosettaBooks LLC in February, a day after the online start-up began selling digital copies of Kurt Vonnegut’s classic “Slaughterhouse-five,” William Styron’s “Sophie’s Choice” and six other books online, products which are also known as e-books.

Random House claimed it owned the rights to e-books, even though electronic books didn’t exist when the original contracts with the authors were signed.

On July 11, U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein in Manhattan disagreed, saying Random House’s contracts to publish the works in book form don’t give the company electronic-format rights.

RosettaBooks, which applauded the decision, argued that authors, not Random House, held the electronic rights and could resell them as they wished.

The case, the first to tackle the question of who owns electronic rights in publishing, has divided the book world. Publishers Penguin Putnam and Simon&Schuster were among those lining up behind Random House, while the Authors Guild and the Association of Authors’ Representatives supported RosettaBooks.

Random House said it plans to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

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