News for Authors

Protecting Our Authors’ Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression

by The Author Newsletter Team & The Penguin Random House Legal Department|April, 2018

The right to freedom of expression, and the protection of writers against censorship and unjust persecution, are indispensable to the development of society and culture. We at Penguin Random House are unwavering in our support of writers who seek out truth in their stories and stand with organizations that share in our commitment and devotion to free speech as a fundamental right.


Protecting Your Books

Under the American legal system and the constitutional protections of the First Amendment, the predominant system of censorship is financial. Because our Constitution outlaws so-called “prior restraints” (judicial suppression of written material), plaintiffs can threaten only monetary damages. Unfortunately, the cost of litigation is so high that defending a lawsuit can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, regardless of whether one wins or loses. For many authors and publishers, legal threat is too great a financial risk to withstand. Our lawyers and editors are mindful of these risks and the costs that can arise when legal challenges are asserted. We work closely with our authors to avoid or minimize legal risks while maintaining a firm and steadfast commitment to pursuing the fundamental truth and integrity of the books we publish.

Perhaps the most direct and hands-on way that we protect and preserve our authors’ freedom of expression is the day-to-day work we do to minimize the risk that our authors and their books will be subject to legal challenges. Our in-house legal team, with more than 150 years of combined publishing law experience, reads hundreds of manuscripts every year and collaborates closely with authors and editors to identify the legal risks within those manuscript, fortify those passages for publication, and defend against legal challenges that may arise.

For any major publisher, threats like these are ubiquitous. As the world’s largest trade book publisher, Penguin Random House is no stranger to these tactics—one cannot endeavor to publish great works if one isn’t willing to accept the possible consequence of upsetting powerful individuals.

Aside from internal legal support, Penguin Random House is also a major supporter of industry organizations with the mission of protecting freedom of speech and expression.


Banned Book Week

For years, Penguin Random House has been a lead supporter of Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of the freedom to read. This campaign rallies thousands of libraries, schools, bookstores, readers, and community centers across America and around the world to celebrate our freedom to read what we want—and to explore the histories and reasons behind literary censorship.

Last year, in addition to serving as the lead sponsor for the thirty-fourth annual Banned Books Week campaign, Penguin Random House rallied participation across all divisions and imprints, with a new dedicated landing page featuring a catalogue that highlighted a diverse collection of banned or challenged titles. This catalogue was included in 500 Banned Books Week kits distributed by the American Booksellers Association to adult and children’s retailers around the country.

We also launched a two-week national campaign to engage with readers and raise awareness about important books in our history that could have disappeared without the support of publishers and free-speech organizations. Readers were given the chance to learn more about the books and why they were challenged, and enter for a chance to win a custom Banned Books box, including books and Banned Books merchandise from our partners at Out of Print clothing.


Working with PEN America

At Penguin Random House, we think one of our most important roles is standing for and defending these freedoms for our authors as well as writers, artists, and individuals around the world. One of our greatest partners and allies in this cause continues to be PEN America. PEN’s mission to defend free expression, elevate marginalized voices, and foster dialogue across boundaries mirrors and builds upon our core values.

We work with PEN America to make it more affordable for our authors to join such an important group, with special discounts and opportunities to get involved. As a member of PEN America, you will receive regular updates on free-expression priorities in the United States and globally. You will have opportunities to raise your voice as an advocate for free speech and writers at risk, and be invited to literary events that celebrate writers and their works. Visit the PEN America website to learn more about the organization’s newest initiatives and to sign up, and keep an eye out for future discounts in the Penguin Random House Author Newsletter.