Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has accused Canongate of "old-fashioned opportunism and duplicity" over it publishing of his memoir today (22nd September) without his approval.
Canongate made the shock announcement yesterday (21st September) that it was publishing Julian Assange: The Unauthorised Autobiography, despite the author's attempts to have his contract cancelled. Bookshops across the country have begun selling the book today with the likes of Amazon and Waterstone's listing it as in stock.
In a statement released overnight, Assange accused Canongate of acting "in breach of contract, in breach of confidence, in breach of my creative rights and in breach of personal assurances". He said: "The events surrounding its unauthorised publication by Canongate are not about freedom of information—they are about old-fashioned opportunism and duplicity—screwing people over to make a buck."
According to Assange, the book is a "narrative and literary interpretation" of a conversation between him and ghostwriter Andrew O'Hagan. Assange, who achieved public notoriety by becoming the public face of the organisation that leaked diplomatic leaks, said: "The entire book was to be heavily modified, extended and revised, in particular, to take into account the privacy of the individuals mentioned in the book."
Assange claims that in a meeting which took place on 20th May, Canongate publisher Jamie Byng assured him the book would not be published without Assange's consent. Instead, Assange was to write a new version of the book, with an aim to publish it in spring 2012. However, he then claims Byng refused to take any of Assange's calls. The next contact was in early September, when he was informed of the book's publication.
Assange said Canongate was acting "with the knowledge that my financial situation prevents me from undertaking legal action against them". O'Hagan has asked for his name to be removed from the book. Assange concludes hs statement, saying: "Tomorrow, I will have to buy 'my' autobiography in order to learn the extent of the errors and innaccuracies of the content of the book, but the damage is done."
Shireen Peermohamed, a partner in the publishing group at law firm Harbottle and Lewis LLP, said the use of the word "unauthorised" on the cover and the publicity about how Assange did not want to authorise the book would make it "very difficult" for him to argue it was authorised and sue. She said if he felt the contract backed him he could still take action for breach of contract and seek damages.
In a statement released yesterday, Canongate said because Assange has not repaid his advance, the contract stood and it was going ahead with publication. It said: "We believe it explains both the man and his work, underlining his commitment to the truth. Julian always claimed the book was well written; we agree, and this has encouraged us to make the book available to readers."
US publisher Knopf has pulled out of publication. Spokesperson Paul Bogaards told the US blog Publishers Marketplace: "The author did not complete his work on the manuscript or deliver a book to us in accordance with our agreement. We will not be moving forward with our publication."