Paul Aiken, director of Authors Guild, dies at 56

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NEW YORK (AP) — Paul Aiken, the executive director of the Authors Guild who served for nearly 20 years as it confronted such digital age issues as copyright, e-book royalties and online selling, has died.

Aiken died Friday, just short of his 57th birthday, said his wife, Stefanie Rosenfeld. He had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as Lou Gehrig's disease. He died at home in Manhattan with Rosenfeld and their three children at his side.

"Paul Aiken was brilliant, fierce and generous," Authors Guild president Roxana Robinson wrote in a statement posted Saturday on the organization's website. "Brilliant and fierce can change the world, but it's generosity that makes it a better place."

A Chicago native and graduate of Lawrence University and Cornell Law School, Aiken was the Guild's executive director from 1995 to 2014, when he stepped down because of his health. Since 2013, when he announced he had ALS, he had blogging about his illness and possible treatments.

As executive director of the Guild, which represents thousands of published authors, Aiken had criticized the alleged "predatory practices" of, worked to help writers bring out-of-print books back in circulation, called for higher e-book royalties and testified before Congress about online piracy.

Aiken was Guild director when it sued Google in 2005 for scanning copyrighted books without permission. A proposed 2011 settlement was rejected by a federal judge, who later dismissed the case and ruled that Google's program did not violate copyright. Last fall, a federal circuit court also decided in Google's favor.