Edward Snowden is not entitled to any profits from the sales of his memoir and the United States government can instead claim the proceeds, a federal judge found in a decision yesterday.
The National Security Agency leaker published the book, called Permanent Record, in September, but the Justice Department immediately stepped in with a lawsuit. Usually, intelligence agencies submit works to a prepublication review process to ensure no government secrets are released.
The government argued that since Snowden had failed to provide the book for a contractually obligated review, he had no right to the profits from the book or his public speeches. Snowden’s lawyers have countered that it would be impossible for the book to receive a good-faith review from the government.
But in yesterday’s ruling, a federal judge in Virginia sided with the government, finding that “the contractual language is clear.” The judge writes that Snowden’s “failure to participate in the prepublication review process” made it impossible for the judge to question hypothetical decisions about that review.
Brett Max Kaufman, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Center for Democracy who worked on Snowden’s legal team, said in a statement that it was “farfetched” to think Snowden’s book would receive a fair government review.
“We disagree with the court’s decision and will review our options,” Kaufman said, “but it’s more clear than ever that the unfair and opaque prepublication review system affecting millions of former government employees needs major reforms.”
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