back to article You leak our secrets? We'll leak your book sales, speech fees – into our coffers: Uncle Sam wins royalties fight against Edward Snowden

A federal judge has ruled that the US government can collect royalties from the sale of ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden's memoir Permanent Record and any fees from related public speeches. The US Justice Department sued Snowden and his publisher Macmillan in September when the book was released. Uncle Sam's lawyers argued …

  1. JohnFen Silver badge

    Only one option then

    I am very interested in reading Snowden's book, but was holding off because I didn't want to take the chance that the profit from the sale would go to the government. I guess that now I'll have to get it from a source where I don't have to pay.

    1. Steve Button

      Re: Only one option then

      I read it, thinking that he would get some of the money. It's a shame that money is going to the wrong place, but in the grand scheme of things it's like pissing into the ocean. The most important thing is that I actually read it.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Only one option then

        "in the grand scheme of things it's like pissing into the ocean"

        True. This is more a "principle of the thing" for me. I will certainly read it. The only question is how I'll obtain it.

  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "I didn't write this book for money,"

    All the same a publisher with no exposure to the US court system would have been a good move if only to allow the rest of us to buy it without worrying about who gets the royalties.

    1. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change Bronze badge

      As in Самизда́т?

      Or in this day and age, free online publication. Perhaps with a suggested donation to his choice of charity.

      1. james_smith Silver badge

        Upvoted for the reference to samizdat!

  3. Brian Miller

    Use a different publisher?

    Instead of using a US publisher, why not use a publisher in a different country? I supposed a lawyer would have to chime in.

    1. rcxb Silver badge

      Re: Use a different publisher?

      If said foreign publisher buys/sells/owns ANYTHING in the US, or even needs to transit anything through the country or aboard US flagged ships, those assets will be subject to seizure, until the full amount is reached.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Use a different publisher?

        An e-book edition from a publisher that doesn't deal with the U.S. then.

        For that matter, he could knock up a quick e-shop himself.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Use a different publisher?

      The term "publisher" is very vague these days. Ed doesn't need any promotion of the book, tour support or help booking appearances. A ghostly "publishing" company in Russia and other places can be whomped up and print books outsourced to printer in China somewhere and shipped by yet another fly-by-night company with no real information posted online.

  4. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Streisand Effect

    Free Publicity - I expect that Snowden will make the book available in PDF format on the internet soon - so the result of this action will probably be that far more people will read it. If he makes a BTC address available I'd pay for it.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Streisand Effect

      I would go for that too, stuff paying the USG before they pay for all the illegal slurping they have done.

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Streisand Effect

      I expect that Snowden will make the book available in PDF format on the internet soon -

      If he won't, I'm sure there's a lot of websites that will. There's quite a few pirate types out there.

      1. Securitymoose

        Re: Streisand Effect

        I wonder if the pdf will be 'leaked'. One would think he might arrange that out of spite for his homeland's decision.

      2. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Streisand Effect

        I just had a look on a private ebook pirate site I know, and yes, there's two copies of the epub*, and two copies of the audiobook. I'm sure there's copies on the more public sites as well.

        * PDF version? What kind of masochist are you? Unless you've got something where the layout matters more than the text, epub (which is basically a zip of html files) is the standard.

    3. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: Streisand Effect

      If he makes a BTC address available I'd pay for it.

      Unfortunately that would be exactly the sort of action that would make the courts sit up and pay real attention to BTC, and not in an enjoyable way.

      Whatever you think of Snowden and his actions, and whatever you think of BTC, I don't see the American legal system simply rolling over and saying "Oh, well, the transaction isn't in dollars". Do you?

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Streisand Effect

        The courts don't "sit up and pay ... attention" to things until some legal action is brought.

        The Feds might try to pursue cryptocurrency payments going to Snowden, but whom would they name as defendants? Snowden hiimself is unlikely to pay attention to any additional judgement against him. If payers are anonymous and Snowden doesn't use a cryptocurrency exchange in the US (and why would he?), who else is there?

        While researchers have had some success in probabilistic tracing of cryptocurrency transactions, those techniques aren't suitable for revealing participants in specific transactions, much less identifying them to a degree of confidence that would stand up to legal scrutiny.

        So in your proposed scenario, the Feds would ... do what? Ask the court to ban cryptocurrencies entirely? Even assuming a suitable legal framework could be found, how would that be achieved in practice?

        1. LucreLout Silver badge

          Re: Streisand Effect

          So in your proposed scenario, the Feds would ... do what? Ask the court to ban cryptocurrencies entirely? Even assuming a suitable legal framework could be found, how would that be achieved in practice?

          Trivially, in practice.

          Simply prohibit the use of crypto and all the American owned and ran debit/credit card companies won't be allowed to process any transaction to or from a crypto currency purveyor. The cash value becomes almost zero.

          In much the way that sports betting used to be very highly regulated in those united states, crypto is an easy ban for them too. What they need, is a saleable reason to do it - something the average voter won't question, some sort of bogeyman figure detrimental to the national interest.

          Now, before you get to thinking why they won't or can't do that, they already did with the alleged-but-now-timed-out rapist Assange and Wikileaks, which crippled the latter financially. Snowden is the perfect fall guy for heavily regulating/banning crypto.

    4. james_smith Silver badge

      Re: Streisand Effect

      Google "Permanent Record PDF". There's a link in the Reddit thread where someone asks about it.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    And they keep up the charade that this is about the rule of law...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ...but didn't want [PDF] the government to edit his life story

    because he didn't believe those who acted in bad faith would act in good faith when vetting the copy.


  7. quartzz

    I hate to bring this up, but the pro-Shamima Begum argument is that she can't be made citizen-less for ISIS, but Snowden could be made that (passport revoked) because of his whistle (or not) blowing

    1. Ptol

      passport != citizen

      Its common enough for people waiting trial for significant crimes to have to surrender their passport. By cancelling his passport whilst he was in transit in Moscow, the US made it much more difficult for Snowdon to choose his country of exile. The US seem quite happy for him to return back to the USA. in fact i think they have a bed waiting for him.

    2. robidy Silver badge

      Begum held British nationality.

      Under British law you can't revoke citizenship if that renders someone stateless...a reasonable statement.

      Snowden doesn't appear to have a route to any other citizenship Begum has a route to slightly different.

    3. mark l 2 Silver badge

      I saw a YT video regarding statelessness and the US is one of the only countries in the world where you can become stateless by revoking your citizenship and not having citizenship of another country at the time. Nearly every other countries rule is that you will automatically default back to that countries citizenship if you don't have citizenship of another country or your application fails for citizenship for some reason.

      I am not sure if this applies to the US revoking your citizenship though, and whether they can do that if the person hasn't got a 2nd citizenship to fall back on.

      Cancelling his passport if different anyway, as he could still return back to the US to face trail even without a passport as the US embassy would be able to grant temporary travel documents to him for the trip back to the States, just as they can do for any citizen if they loose their passport while travelling overseas.

  8. bungle42

    An Alternative Option for Publishing?

    Well I suppose Snowden could have gotten into bed with the America's other arch-nemesis and published his book on Wikileaks.

    If he could find his way to the UK then I am sure it could be arranged for him to share a cell will Assange which would give them ample time to compare notes.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: An Alternative Option for Publishing?

      Bungle by name, bungle by nature.

  9. cb7 Bronze badge

    One man vs uncle Sam.

    Snowden has bigger balls than any man I know.

    1. CountCadaver Bronze badge

      is there sweat on his biggety balls?

      (link for those who don't know: )

    2. Aodhhan

      If Snowden had balls, he wouldn't have ran. He would have stayed and faced a jury. It's not a sure bet, all jurists would vote to convict.

      It doesn't take balls to be a snitch, and then run away from the consequences. This is what cowards do.

      A US publisher was likely used, because of where his widest audience is--giving him the best deal in regards to money.

      Going to a publisher outside the US doesn't restrict the US government from recouping royalties. In fact, it's likely the US would have had an easier time getting the money without going to court. Most western companies (where the audience for this book is), honor judgements for copyright, patents, etc. of other companies. So a judgement made in one country will be honored by others.

      Then there is the "use your head" clause. This is the US government/tax payer money... nearly every western country receives assistance from the US government--even England. So there is little chance, any publisher outside the US is going to steal from the US gov't/tax payers.

      Additionally, you likely will not see Snowden drop a sanctioned copy of his book out on the Internet free of charge. Doing so, will go against his agreement with the publisher, and leave him open to further legal action.

      Last. I don't believe Snowden's statement about "...not doing this for the money". If this is true, he wouldn't have used a publisher. There are many sites on the Internet, who would have gladly published it for free--to get his story out.

      1. DiViDeD Silver badge

        If Snowden had balls ... faced a jury

        There would have been no jury. Espionage trials in the US are very simple and straightforward. In the case of releasing information the government would rather people didn't know about, there is one, and only one charge to answer: "Did you release the information?"

        The options to plead are No or Yes. There is no "Yes, but ..." defence. Public interest is not a defense. Exposure of wrongdoing by the government or one of its agencies is not a defence.

        Snowden would have been found guilty, sentenced, and locked away, probably for the rest of his life to avoid him later talking about it (there is no such thing as a Statute of Limitations in US espionage cases - if he's talked about it 50 years later he would be imprisoned again)

        But at least he would have shown the court his balls, eh?

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: If Snowden had balls ... faced a jury

          Ed has stated many times that he would return to the US and stand trial if he were allowed to defend himself and be tried by a jury of his peers. The US won't do that so it's better for him that stays a free man in Russia. I think he did a good thing and maybe President Trump will pardon him in the usual flurry of pardons that outgoing Presidents usually do at the end of the terms. Given that Joe Biden is being counseled to not debate the President or answer questions live, Trump can only lose the election through his own actions. It's been very apparent that Mr. Biden is past his "best by" date. Once again, an election cycle with no good choices.

  10. Demon investors


    The real problem for Snowden here is the speaking fees. Those are his lifeline for income in exile. One thing the article doesn't say is if this includes speaking fees not directly related to the book. If he loses those then I hope he has savings outside of the US because otherwise he's going to be broke pretty soon.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Unfortunate

      "if this includes speaking fees not directly related to the book."

      My understanding is that it would not. The legal basis for this action is to eliminate the incentive to continue to discuss things that haven't been cleared by the feds, and to prevent "unjust enrichment". It's not technically intended to be punitive. If Snowden were to make a speech solely about how awesome cheese is, the feds would have no legal basis on which to seize the fees from that.

      Of course, the US really hates Snowden, so they'd likely try anyway, just to cause him pain. Then he'd have to sue to get the money back, which might entail appearing in a US court -- which he certainly wants to avoid, at least right now.

  11. Big Al 23

    What will he do when they come for him?

    I wonder what will happen to Snowden when they catch him. Will he just vanish or be tried for his crimes? If he's tried will he write another book? If so will the feds take all fees and royalties again?

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: What will he do when they come for him?

      "Will he just vanish or be tried for his crimes?"

      It's certain that he'll be tried with as much of a public spectacle as the government can manage, for propaganda reasons. Whether or not the trial will be actually fair is an entirely different question.

    2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Re: What will he do when they come for him?

      If he's tried will he write another book? If so will the feds take all fees and royalties again?

      Unless they have rules that prohibit writing about/profiting from a trial, then he'd be in the clear on that one.

      They've got him in the case of his current book because his employment contract explicitly prohibited him from writing about his work without getting permission and having the book vetted before publication - so they can stop him profiting from his breach of contract.

  12. SotarrTheWizard

    Well the obvious solution. . .

    . . . is to go check ThePirateBay or other torrent site. I'm sure it's there already. I remember the last time a country tried suppressing a book: the UK banned a book called "Spycatcher", late 1980s.

    It eventually, did not succeed. Not that I have much interest in Snowden's book, but all the current actions will do is de-monetize it. . .

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