Some members of SFWA reported finding their material posted on Scribd and other similar sites to the SFWA e-Piracy Commitee and complained about the infringement. SFWA responded and sent a notice to the sites responsible and requested they take the material off else legal action be taken. The sites responded by doing exactly that (at least in the instance of Scribd, since this is where it all explodes from). Cory Doctorow had a fit, here, because his work was taken off even though he never gave SFWA authorization to remove it (because he had not authorized SFWA to act as his copyright agent, to put it simply), and apparently this has happened to several other authors. SFWA publicly apologized, here, for the incident. Of course the good Mr. Scalzi has already discussed the topic here. But, we're not here about what Scalzi thinks, we're here about...
No offense to Scalzi. It's a genius, but yeah.
So what do I think about it?
Well, to be honest, SFWA should be thankful that really bad legal action hasn't been taken against them. Maybe there has and it's behind the scenes, but they clearly made a mistake that no organization with that much respect should have.
I do think the apology says a lot about the state of things, though. The organization was quick to acknowledge their mistakes, something that certain politicians might never have done, and issued apologies not only to the public but to the individual authors. SFWA has ever right to protect authors they are authorized to represent, obviously, and they did do exactly what they should have done when they received the notice by removing many works that never should have been on Scribd and other sites to begin with. This is not Scribd's fault. If you look all over the net you can find pretty much anything anyway, so it's no surprise that a site like Scribd unintentionally let some stuff slip under the radar.
So SFWA really handled the issue poorly. They went ballistic when they should have looked at it rationally. Would it have been hard for the SFWA people to sit down and look at the list of alleged infringements to figure out which authors they were authorized protect? Nope. Probably would have taken 5 minutes with today's database technology. And in that instant they could have looked at all the other names and perhaps made a judgment call and sent emails instead of running out and demanding things be pulled down.
SFWA didn't do that, unfortunately. So, poor judgment call on their part, but thankfully they acknowledged their stupid mistake and made efforts to fix things. That takes some balls, in my opinion.