Archive for the ‘Copyright’ Category

Why Power/Rangers matters to readers

February 27, 2015

Why Power/Rangers matters to readers

I like parodies.

I even have a category for parodies I write on this blog.

I’ve done Alice in Wonderland, Sherlock Holmes (I think that may have come out the best), Star Trek, Leave it to Beaver, and more.

There is a significant difference between the first two above and the last two.

The first two are public domain works (well, most of the original Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes, for sure…that’s a bit complicated), and the latter two are still under copyright protection in the USA.

The United States Copyright Office specifically lists a parody as something which has been found to fall under “Fair Use”, meaning that authorization from the rightsholder need not be obtained.

FL-102

Essentially, Fair Use is recognized as a kind of criticism…you point out the flaws in something by exaggeration, commonly.

That’s not protected in all countries.

In the past, I think one reason we saw a lot of Canadian comedians working in the USA was a difference in parody protection.

Recently, a “grim” version of the Power Rangers was made in what is commonly called a “fan film”…a parallel to “fan fiction” (often shortened to “fanfic”).

It criticized the idea of teenagers being chosen as warriors…and what might happen to them afterwards.

I watched it on YouTube.

Our now adult kid was into Power Rangers (the version being parodied here…the first popular US incarnation, not any of the myriad Japanese ones), so I was pretty familiar with the canon.

I thought it was well done.

Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica) and James Van Der Beek (Dawson’s Creek) star.

Now, it’s important to note, that this is not a funny version…a parody need not be funny to be protected, or to be a parody. It needs to be, as I understand it, an imitation which would not be confused with the original, but comments on it (typically through some sort of warping of the original).

Fan films and fanfic are often characterized by people as not being for commercial purposes. It is possible to have protection even for something done for commercial purposes…look, for example, at parodies on Saturday Night Live or Mad Magazine, both of which are commercial enterprises.

So, why does all of this matter for readers?

First, Vimeo took the video down…then quite a bit later, YouTube did (despite it being in their most popular videos for days, which is quite a feat).

Producer Adi Shankar said in part that having the video was protected by “free speech”, and parody.

That’s something I hear from time to time…that when Amazon chooses not to carry a book, it’s a violation of free speech.

It’s not part of the constitutional of free speech.

Legal “free speech” has to do with what the government does, not what private companies do.

It means that the government can’t shut down your parody, based on current case law, as I understand it (I’m not a lawyer). A private company can decide not to carry something…pretty much for whatever reason they want.

As I looked into this more, it looks like YouTube may have taken it down because of the use of the music, which is not the original version.

That’s different…it’s quite a bit harder to argue that the use of a melody is a parody of that melody.

Weird Al Yankovic gets the rights to the music, from what I know (although, and I don’t know this, that might not have always been the case).

Vimeo and YouTube have no legal obligation to keep any video available.

My interpretation would be that Power/Rangers was legal…but there are tons of legal videos that YouTube doesn’t carry.

Moving this to books…

You can write a parody of something.

You can publish that parody.

Nobody has to sell it to the public for you or distribute it to the public for you.

You can write fan fiction.

If it criticizes a work, you can distribute it…the government is not going to arrest you for it.

That doesn’t mean a bookstore (brick and mortar, like I used to manage, or internet, like Amazon) has to make it available.

I found this Huffington Post interview with producer Adi Shankar important and interesting (and, incidentally, NSFW…Not Safe For Work, having profanity):

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/26/adi-shankar-power-rangers-bootleg-film_n_6764594.html

One thing Shankar says:

“I moved to America when I was 16 because this country was f*cking awesome, because of the First Amendment, because of freedom of speech…”

Absolutely.

However, we do have to be clear about what that means.

We can’t claim that free speech forces a commercial enterprise to sell something or give it away…the First Amendment constricts the government, not companies.

I’ve also seen this referred to as a “bootleg” (it’s in the page name at the HuffPo).

It’s not that, either.

A bootleg is an unauthorized recording done in a covert manner…someone records a movie in a movie theatre, for example, and then distributes that version.

Bootleg used to refer to hiding illegal liquor in your bootleg, as I recall it.

There was nothing in this fan film (according to the producer) that was original material, so nothing was bootlegged.

The term “cover” has also come up.

In a “cover”, one band/singer plays the music of another band/singer.

I haven’t completely verified this, but I always understood that those were done because the original musicians were a minority who were subject to commercial discrimination (stores wouldn’t carry records by certain races, for example…or perhaps, if they did, they would put them in what was literally called a “race music” section, where they wouldn’t sell to the mainstream). You need an “acceptable” face to put on the cover of the album…so someone else would record what was often a pretty faithful version of the original.

That also extended to radio stations not playing music.

“Covers” have later lost that sense of “covering up” the original artist.

Power/Rangers is also not a cover. In the original use of “covers”, the original songs were licensed…even though those contracts might arguably have been exploitative, they still existed. They were done with some sort of legally defensible authorization.

Power/Rangers does not duplicate a Power Rangers episode shot for shot, which a cover would do (or would nearly do).

It’s a brand new story line.

It is a parody.

I understand YouTube taking down the video, and I believe they have a legal right to do so.

The chilling effect does concern me a bit, though. Some companies (studios, publishers) and some authors go after parodies, and can influence distributors into not carrying them, and artists into not creating them.

I want people to feel free to criticize politicians and popular culture works through the use of parody…free, at least, from legal prosecution.

I don’t mind if they have to fight for distribution…just as creators of non-parodies do.

Interestingly, Adi Shankar is not “just a fan”. Shankar is a legitimate commercial producer, including such projects as Lone Survivor with Mark Wahlberg, Dredd with Karl Urban, and The Grey with Liam Neeson.

Shankar could fight this, and might have the power to do so.

I don’t see a path where the Supreme Court would rule that a store/distribution platform would have to carry a specific parody.

I can see something that might make companies less willing to go after fanfic and fan films, if this becomes a headache and a public relations black eye.

That’s probably unlikely, though.

All of this could strengthen Amazon’s own

Kindle Worlds (at AmazonSmile: support a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

program.

The works there are authorized by the rightsholders.

No author will get a cease and desist from a publisher because of a Kindle Worlds title.

Yes, the rightsholders get to set up rules for the world if they want, and if a work doesn’t fit it, well, you’d have to go a different route.

Still, there’s a lot in the Power/Rangers story that could impact us readers.

What do you think?

What’s your favorite literary parody (at AmazonSmile*)? Bored of the Rings, perhaps? What should Amazon do if a rightsholder challenges a book on copyright grounds? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

 

Round up #284: nicer readers, one book for world leaders

February 7, 2015

Round up #284: nicer readers, one book for world leaders

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Hotfile settles with major publishers

I think that the amount of e-book piracy has likely gone down over time.

One issue is that one of the reasons people gave for when it would be okay to “pirate” (copy without authorization a book under copyright protection) a book is if the book was otherwise not available as an e-book.

With so many more books now available (the USA Kindle store has gone from about 80,000 to over three million in fewer than seven years), that motivation is less there.

Also, I think infringers are simply more likely to settle.

I apparently got an infringing site to stop the practice, by alerting the right people.

In another case, I apparently got a book removed from the Kindle store, again, for infringing on my copyright.

Pirate Bay was down (although it’s back up)…one of the very biggest of the sites where a lot of infringing is alleged to happen.

Hotfile was another site like that, and they are in the process of setting with publisher (after having settled over music previously).

My sense is that people are also much more aware that they will lose in court…so they settle out of court, which is faster.

For more information:

torrentfreak.com post by Ernesto

Kobo QOTD: one book for politicians

Kobo does a “Question of the Day” (QOTD), and today’s was intriguing but an easy one for me.

The question

https://twitter.com/kobo/status/563345822939480064

was simple:

“If you could require all the world leaders to read one book, what would it be?”

Several people suggested

1984 (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and I could understand that. Of course, there would be the risk that a politician would see its dystopian theme as a blueprint, not a warning. ;)

My first thought is that I would want them to read many books, not just one…and books with opposing points of view from diverse authors.

However, that’s not in the rules…and rules can be fun. :)

Some people doubt that…but it’s the rules that make a game a game.

Many years ago, a sibling and I playtested a game on the Alaska Oil Pipeline….no, we weren’t on the pipeline, it was an educational board game about it. ;)

It was okay, but there were two cards we recommended they remove.

You rolled a die and moved around a board. You landed on spaces and drew a card from a pile.

One card said, “You lose.”

Obviously, that’s a bad card in an educational game…or any other game. Who would want to be ahead in a game, and draw that card?

However, there was another card that said, “You win,” which we felt was equally bad.

Suppose you draw that card on your first turn? Whee, what a fun game…not really.

So, I’ll play the game by the rules.

Oh, I’ll mention one more game first we played in high school…pretty sure I invented the rules, but I’m not positive.

We called it “hyperspace chess”. You played against another player with two chess sets (two full sets of pieces, two boards).

The four middle center squares were “hyperspace squares”. On your turn, your move could be to “jump” a piece on one of those squares onto the equivalent space on the other board.

If there happened to be a piece on that exact square, you took it, but that was quite uncommon.

To win, you had to checkmate your opponent on either board, not on both.

I think that worked very well! Some people would get so caught up with jumping pieces that they would be surprised by a mate on a board with very few pieces on it.

I’ve also been told that it is good training for traditional chess, since those four squares are considered key in some parts of the game.

I have a (different from above) sibling who was a ranked chess player (and has written for Chess Life, the chess equivalent of Sports Illustrated), and I can play at level that I want to be able to do everything…where it isn’t  embarrassing. ;) Yep, I’ll lose to a tournament player, but I won’t have looked clueless doing it.

Where was I?

Oh, yes, a book for world leaders to read.

I’d go with

The Book of the D*mned (at AmazonSmile*)

by Charles Fort (I’m also really hoping Mark Zuckerberg picks that one for the reading thing going on at Facebook).

First, it’s going to be in the public domain…probably everywhere. Nice to show an efficient spending strategy. ;)

Second, it shows the interconnectedness of things, and how so often divisions between items are artificial.

Third, it’s been massively attacked at times, and I think generally with a misunderstanding of it (it’s not anti-science, for example).

Outside of that, I might recommmend…

The Human Zoo (at AmazonSmile*) by Desmond Morris

Ooh, and then there’s

Thinking, Fast and Slow (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) by Daniel Kahneman

and…timeout. Rules. Just pick one. Got it. ;)

Is Amazon going to face a Customer Service challenge with the Echo?

Serious readers tend to be nicer people.

I don’t know that for a fact, although I’ve seen some research that suggests they are at least more empathetic.

I see that reflected in the Amazon Kindle forums. Yes, there are  occasional disagreements there, and they can be strong and strongly worded (even ad hominem at times). Most of the time, though, people are tolerant of other ideas, and when they do disagree, they at least do so on the basis of ideas and evidence.

Not always, but the balance of the time.

On the other hand, and I want to be careful about how I say this, the Amazon Echo threads that I’m reading in the Kindle forum (there won’t be an Echo forum until the Echo is generally released…it will appear on the Echo’s product page), seem more…”internety”. ;)

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a thread in the forum where so many people are asked by other forum members to leave!

I think readers tend to welcome the exchange of ideas…it may be that gadgeteers are less inclined to do so.

After you’ve spent a considerable amount for one brand of gadget, you may not want to hear about another brand.

There has been a lot of…scratch that, let me say that there has been a sort of unwelcomeness for posters who favor Apple products over Amazon products in the thread.

Some of the response has been erudite and logically reasoned…some of it has been playground level name calling, or so it seems to me.

One of the things I like best about Amazon is that they allow divergence of opinion on their forums.

Somebody can go in and say, “Amazon stinks!” and it isn’t against the rules.

There are rules, by the way (there we are…back to rules), but Amazon only loosely enforces them. Here, here is one of the main threads on the Echo if you want to look for yourself:

Amazon Kindle forum thread (at AmazonSmile*)

The guidelines specifically mention not posting things which are “inflammatory” or “spiteful” or that “denigrate” others.

Let me also be very clear: many of the people in the Echo threads have also been well spoken, tolerant, and helpful.

It’s just that I see a higher percentage of…what might be considered more typical of online forums.

I think this may prove to be a challenge to Amazon’s vaunted Customer Service. They must need to deal with it with other non-book products, I guess, but if the Echo is as successful as I think it is likely to be, they may end up dealing with more hostile and dogmatic customers.

Hopefully, I’m wrong about that. :) I know how many people are both serious readers and likely to buy Echoes (and to be nice and smart about them in their questions).

My Echo is on order…still not expected before the end of May, though.

When I do have one, so I’m in a better position to answer questions for you, feel free to ask them here. I haven’t commented much in the Kindle forum Echo threads, except where I knew answers from the online documentation or from Amazon.

The one place I had a bit of an exchange was with someone over copyright law and reposting comments made in the thread, but that just went a few posts and was over. :)

Amazon going more brick-and-mortar?

There have been a couple of stories lately suggesting that Amazon may get into ventures which involve four walls, a roof, and a floor.

One of them is the bankruptcy of Radio Shack.

Amazon has been mentioned as a possible buyer…I wrote about that last year, before the current events:

Round up #269: how Amazon spent the summer, AmazonShack?

I still don’t see it as a particularly good idea…I’m not clear on the value for Amazon.

One argument is that Amazon has more and more hardware, and they might sell more Fire TVs, Fire Phones, Echoes, and the like, if there was a place people could physically examine them.

Yes, I suppose that’s possible…but enough more to justify the expenses of brick and mortar? I’m a former bookstore manager, and I just find that a challenge for Amazon. When you take into account the theft issues, the rent, and so on…I don’t see it.

Now, having a place to pick up things you order online, with perhaps some impulse items, but no browsing?

That I can see.

Amazon does it with lockers now, and as a reader sent me in a private e-mail (and other sources indicate), Amazon is moving into it on college campuses.

Indy Star article by Joseph Paul

Those are “staffed” college stores…there are sales clerks there.

Human sales clerks, by the way…not robots (yet).

That makes some sense, and should make Barnes & Noble worried.

You can order something online, and pick it up at the store.

Lots of college students (this is starting at Purdue, and expansion is planned) have difficulty with boxes being delivered to their living spaces. This is safe and relatively easy.

I would hope, again, that it isn’t a browsing place…you go there to get what you’ve already ordered, so it can be small, have fewer people on staff, and a lot less shrinkage (shoplifting, employee theft, and damage).

In terms of experience with the hardware, I think it would make more sense for Amazon to set up virtual experiences or simulator booths of some kind in other stores.

When Amazon releases its virtual (or augmented) reality device (there, I said it…and that’s just wild, spur of the moment speculation), or before that, with Hololens and Oculus Rift, you could get quite a good sense of how the Fire TV works, or where the Echo would sit in your house.

A simulator “room” (I’m picturing something like the size of a TARDIS…just the outside, of course) ;) in a store would work well, too. You would go in, and they’d have the remote for a Fire TV or an Echo, and you could try it against a remote presence of the device. You much more have to do hands on with a tablet or phone, but you could do that, too, without a lot of space.

If you were in Manhattan using Prime Now, you could probably order it there and it might beat you home. ;) Well, somebody has to be home to get Prime Now, but you get the idea.

Amazon actually having stores the size of a Radio Shack, though, where people go in without a clear plan of purchase? Seems unlikely to work to me.

What do you think?

Are book people nicer? Is doing Customer Service for serious readers easier than doing it for the average person? What book would you recommend world leaders read? Is piracy on the decline? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Amazon releases book digitizing software

February 3, 2015

Amazon releases book digitizing software

I will update this later, because I am currently just on my phone.

Note: this post has now been updated.

Amazon has just released software intended to digitize your books and other items so that they are available for the Kindle. This is a major move. The software is currently about $20

Kindle Convert (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I don’t know how they are addressing possible copyright issues, or if they are just thinking it is okay if it is for personal use. I will research more later today.

Update: I’ve had a chance to look at this now…and I’ve purchased it. I’ve also been able to look at the User’s Guide.

It’s both significant and intriguing…and likely to be misunderstood in two directions.

On the one hand, there will be people who buy Kindle Convert thinking it is going to be an easy way to take their paperbooks and convert them into Kindle books.

It’s not.

It’s going to take quite a bit of time and effort.

I’ve digitized books before, in my work with a non-profit. It’s much easier now than it used to be, but if you aren’t willing to tear your books apart (so you can scan the pieces more easily), you still have to at least turn the pages.

It says this will work with inexpensive scanners, and with a DPI (Dots Per Inch) requirement of as low as 300 (and up to 600, I think), that’s going to be true.

In my case, I’ll have the advantage of using my Xcanex:

The Xcanex: a better book digitizer

which will speed things up.

Still, a single book project has seven steps…and number six is “Editing the text and formatting of your book”…that could be a doozy.

There will be a somewhat steep learning curve, I would guess, and some people may give up.

This will probably not be a better choice for most people than buying the e-book, if one exists in the Kindle store and is available in your country (Kindle Convert is only currently available in the USA, by the way).

For hobbyists, it will be fun.

For me, I have books that simply are unlikely to become available…and that I would like to preserve.

This can also be good for non-books: I’m tempted to take a “scrapbook” or travel photos I have and turn them into a book this way.

Misconception one: this will be easy.

Misconception two: it won’t be worth it.

That’s the side you’ll hear from tech writers, who will cleverly point out to you how hard this will be.

If they’ve never digitized a book, though, they’ll miss the advantages this is going to give you.

This is going to go into your Amazon account (that’s important…I’ll address that shortly).

A converted book will act largely like a book you might purchase…that includes Whispersync (reading progress synchronization between devices), increable text size and dictionary look-up.

I don’t see them saying it anywhere, but I assume text-to-speech will work in the converted version on devices that can do it. For me, that would be huge! There are books which I would love to hear in the car.

I would assess this this way: it’s going to be a chore to digitize a book with Kindle Convert, but in many cases, it will be worth it.

Now, as to that copyright question…

This part is especially interesting to me.

It has not been clear to me that the purchaser of a book which is under copyright protection has the legal right to scan and digitize that book, even for their own commercial use.

It seemed logical that they would (like timeshifting with a DVR), but I haven’t seen explicit case law supporting that.

I have to assume that Amazon has checked this out thoroughly, and is comfortable with it being okay.

They make it quite clear: you can not share the books with people outside of your account (unless you share a physical device with them…and I’m not sure if Family Library would work yet), and you can not do this for commercial purposes (you can’t plan to sell the scan).

Another important point:

I would assume that if you leave Amazon, you no longer have access to the Cloud version of the book…and that you can’t download it and take it with you easily.

For the small group of people who will do this, that will really bind them to Amazon.

If I digitize a non-public domain book with this, I’m reeeeally not going to want to leave Amazon and lose access to that book!

I would also expect we may get a condemnatory statement from the Authors Guild in the next day or two.

You might also be wondering why Amazon would do this, possibly losing a sale from someone converting a paper copy.

As I’ve mentioned before, stores look at the population of sales, customers look at individual sales.

Let’s say you convert a book instead of paying $9.99 for it.

First, you paid $19.99 (at time of writing…looks like it will cost $49.99 soon) for the software. Amazon might make $3 for that $9.99 book, so they are doing okay with that.

Second, you are committed more and more to Amazon…which means you might join Prime, and then they can really make money from all the extra purchases you make.

I’ll let you know how good the OCR (Optical Character Recognition) is after I’ve done my first book, but I expect there will be a lot of buzz about this over the next month or so.

What do you think? Are you going to buy this? Would you buy a scanner just to use with it? What books would you want to digitize that you own? It’s going to preserve things like autographs and inscriptions (presumably as images)…any good stories about a book with annotations like that in your collection? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Bonus story: if you like to try to predict the Oscars, you might enjoy participating in my

2015 BOPMadness (Bufo’s Oscar Prediction Madness)

No charge, and we are usually pretty accurate as a group…the more people who play, the more fun it is for me, but up to you.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Round up #274: the adventure of the standing ruling, infringer down

November 5, 2014

Round up #274: the adventure of the standing ruling, infringer down

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Infringing site taken down

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that a site was reproducing all of the posts in this blog…every day..verbatim…without permission.

One of my readers, Clint Bradford, suggested I use

http://www.whois.com/

to find out who the host was, to report the infringement.

That didn’t work exactly, because the company it said was hosting it wasn’t actually the right one.  It identified GoDaddy, and that company was nice enough to give me the accurate name, lunarpages.

After informing lunarpages, within days, the site was down.

To me, this is a story about the good in the world.

The website was infringing…that’s not good, although it could have been done out of ignorance.

I first notified Google AdSense, and they apparently pulled their ads…thanks, Google!

Then Clint helped me…thanks, Clint!

Then GoDaddy helped me…thanks, GoDaddy! They weren’t under any obligation to do that.

Then lunarpages helped me…thanks, lunarpages!

On balance, there was a lot more good in this sequence than bad…and that’s the assessment I generally make of the world. :)

Fire TV $15 off

I use our

Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

every day, and it’s on sale right now for $84 instead of $99. They’ve been putting it on sale on and off, and there may be more sales before the holidays…although I don’t think this specific sale will be continuous until then.

You can get that one right away, unlike the

Fire TV Stick (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

which is currently expected to arrive for consumers placing new orders after January 16, 2015. I’m glad I recommended that people jump on the chance to buy it…and lots of people did do so!

These two devices will work well with the new Prime benefit announced today in this

press release

With Prime photos, Prime members get unlimited Cloud storage of their photos…and can view them easily on many devices.

That is a really nice additional benefit: we now have shipping; Prime video; Prime music; the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library; and early access to Lightning deals.

U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear Sherlock Holmes case

I’ve written before about a legal fight going on over the copyright status of Sherlock Holmes.

It’s a bit tricky. In the USA, most of the original Holmes stories are clearly in the public domain. There are a few stories, though, that are not. The estate essentially argued that, when people write fiction about Holmes, it is likely influenced (and some cases, specifically so) by those still under protection works…so that new unauthorized may be infringing.

The Supreme Court declined to review a lower court ruling saying that wasn’t the case…making it okay to write new Holmes works without obtaining permission or paying royalties, but keeps the ten stories which were under protection in that condition.

In other words, you can go ahead and write a new Holmes story…

Fun image

EBOOK FRIENDLY is especially good at finding clever e-book related images, and I thank them for the heads up on this one:

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/132996995221820561/

Star Libraries

This is a fascinating

Library Journal article by Ray Lyons & Keith Curry Lance

It analyzes libraries in some very intriguing ways. One thing is that people are now trying to measure the impact a given library has on the community…the article says specifically:

Outcomes are an entirely different matter. They are changes experienced by library users—changes in knowledge, skills, attitude, behavior, status, or condition.

One of the stats they give us is circulation per capita…and the library listed with the highest is in Avalon, New Jersey, with a very high 121.6. The next one only has 95.5, so you can see it is a stand-out.

Why your favorite author’s next book isn’t finished

This

Buzzfeed article by Arianna Rebolini

reports on a survey of authors by Stop Procrastinating about what distracts them from writing.

23% said “videos of animal internet celebrities”, while 4% said…sex.

Hm… ;)

What do you think? If you are a writer, what keeps you from writing? I hope reading is on that list! After all, that’s probably one of the best fuels for the literary engine. Are you satisfied with the outcome of the infringing site being taken down…or do you think that was too harsh or not harsh enough? Do you think libraries should be measured by their impacts…or should they simply stand as a public good with no performance evaluation? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Last day to submit petitions for copyright exemptions

November 2, 2014

Last day to submit petitions for copyright exemptions

Monday, November 3rd, is the last day to submit petitions (you can upload them) for “Exemptions to Prohibition Against Circumvention of Technological Measures Protecting Copyrighted Works”.

The details are here:

http://copyright.gov/1201/

This is the triennial review of technological blocking of features and full works for copyrighted works.

This review is mandated under the Digital  Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

I’m not a lawyer (if you are an intellectual property lawyer, I’d welcome your comment on this post getting more technical), but here’s the basic situation as it pertains to e-books.

Publishers can insert code into an e-book file that prevents copying it or from doing certain other things to it. Using that code is often referred to as DRM (Digital Rights Management), although that’s actually a broader term.

It is generally illegal under the DMCA to “strip the DRM” so you can get around the publisher’s intended use policies.

Under certain circumstances, though, it is legal.

This review looks at changes to those exemptions…and could hypothetically add additional exemptions.

The first case that comes to mind for me, as regular readers of this blog know, would be blocking text-to-speech access.

Currently, a publisher can insert code into an e-book file which prevents text-to-speech software from accessing that text and reading it out loud.

My understanding of it, as an interested layperson, is that it is not illegal to use text-to-speech (since it does not create a copy, but it does streaming), nor is it illegal for a publisher to block the access…provided (in the latter case) that an accessible version for people with print disabilities is also available.

In other words, a publisher can block text-to-speech in the Kindle store version for most people, if a version where TTS works is available to those who can certify a disability.

I feel that TTS is not an infringing use, and I think the Copyright Office would generally agree. Let’s say, as an analogy, that publishers blocked increasing the text size to make it easier to read (I’m sure that would be technologically possible…PDFs presented as image files can’t be read by typical TTS software, for example).

Increasing the text size is a non-infringing use.

Would it be legal for the publishers to block text size increase?

Probably…but doing so couldn’t prevent the specific population of those who need larger text size to be able to access the book in some way.

Many people thought an exemption would be granted for TTS in previous “rulemakings”, and some argued that it had been (but that was, at the least, not unambiguous).

I explained that one of the rulings that led to people thinking the exemption had been granted here:

Flash! Hacking Kindle TTS still not legal

I did think that the case was just not as well presented as it could have been.

This time, the bar is lower:

“Unlike in previous rulemakings, the Office is not requesting the submission of complete legal and factual support for such proposals at the initial stage of the proceeding. Instead, in the first step of the process, parties seeking an exemption may submit a petition setting forth specified elements of the proposed exemption, as explained in the notice.”

So, you could submit a petition explaining why it should be legal to circumvent (get around) TTS blocking code, even without citing all the precedent.

A petition, by the way, does not, in this case, mean something with a bunch of signatures…think of it more as a formal request. You don’t need to get a 1,000 people to sign something by Monday to make this work.

I honestly don’t think I’ll get anything submitted this time…but if they don’t rule it as a legitimate exemption this time, I’ll put it on my calendar for three years from now!

I should be clear: people with a certified print disability can use a plug-in with Kindle for PC to make all books TTS accessible, even if the publisher has blocked the access:

Flash! Kindle for PC with Accessibility Plugin makes all books TTS enabled for the print disabled

However, that doesn’t mean you can read it on any Kindle devices. To the dismay of some, the current crop of Kindle EBRs (E-Book Readers…non-Fires) don’t have sound at all, so they can’t do TTS, but that plug-in won’t work for Fires, either.

I’d be delighted to see a ruling that just flat out said that, whether you can certify a disability or not, it’s legal to circumvent DRM for the purpose of TTS access.

I would take advantage of it personally (I currently don’t get books that block the access…nor do I knowingly link to them on this blog), but for me, it’s more about other people. Certifying a print disability can be difficult…and it’s logistically much more complicated for a print disabled family member to get an accessible version and other members of the same family have one accessible to sight-reading. The print-disabled accessible versions often don’t come out at the same time, as just one issue.

Many people with print disabilities would love the convenience of using a

Kindle Fire HDX 7″ (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

or other device (I’d linked that one because that’s the one I personally use daily…and regularly for TTS in the car), rather than having to use a PC version or other reader. The HDX has a lot of accessibility features (audible menus, the ability to read aloud what you are touching on the screen), and would be a big plus for that group.

What would happen if they rule that it’s okay for anyone to circumvent for TTS?

I think, right away, we would see apps that could do it…and probably free ones.

Not too long after that, it’s possible the publishers would simply stop blocking it. If the block was ineffective for many people, it might not be worth the costs (it has to cost something to insert the code…and there are public relations costs) to block it.

There won’t be a decision immediately, but virtual fingers crossed…

If you do submit a petition (or have already) and want to share it with me and my readers, feel free to comment on this post. If you have any other thoughts on this (Are there other exemptions which should be in place? Should publishers be able to block TTS to protect audiobook sales?), again, feel free to comment on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

No First Sale doctrine outside the USA?

October 17, 2014

No First Sale doctrine outside the USA?

Update: thank you to several readers who pointed out something I had missed. I’ll comment on that after the original post.**

I finished reading

Wool Omnibus Edition (Wool 1 – 5) (Silo Saga) (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shoppiing*) by Hugh Howey

when I was work today, and had quite a long drive back in front of me.

I decided to listen to

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer (at AmazonSmile*) by John Grisham

with text-to-speech in the car on the way back.

This is a childrens’ book by the famous legal thriller author…my Significant Other read it a while ago, and I figured I’d try it. I as in the mood for something light.

In this case, the TTS actually did read me the rights statement in the beginning of the book.

I do tend to read those (I usually read all the words in a book…acknowledgements, index, and so on).

Something in this one caught my eye…er, ear. ;)

It said:

“Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.”

Penguin says what? ;)

According to this, it sounds like you couldn’t sell your copy (obviously, not of your e-book…I assume they just copied this from the p-book…paperbook) of Theodore Boone in England without first getting permission from the publisher (Puffin, an imprint of Penguin).

Not in a used bookstore…not at a garage sale…and you couldn’t even lend it to somebody in your family, from the way I read it.

I was curious, so I did a search for this book on

http://www.usedbooksearch.co.uk/

Limiting the results to the UK, there were plenty of copies available.

Gee, it must have been hard for all of those people to get permission to sell theirs from Penguin. ;)

Publishers are not allowed to do this in the USA, thanks to something called the “First Sale doctrine”.

It basically dates back to 1908, and a case where Macy’s discounted a book (I’m simplifying things here, legal scholars). The publisher had put a statement in the book that it couldn’t be sold for under a dollar. Macy’s did, and the issue got all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Court essentially said that the copyright only covered the first sale of the copy of the book (in this case, from the publisher to Macy’s), not subsequent sales.

That was codified in 1976.

Section 109 (a) of U.S. copyright law says:

“Notwithstanding the provisions of section (3), the owner of a particular copy or phonorecord lawfully made under this title, or any person authorized by such owner, is entitled, without the authority of the copyright owner, to sell or otherwise dispose of the possession of that copy or phonorecord.”
http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#109

Without that, you would legally be under the same restrictions as the rights statement I quoted suggests.

With e-books, I’ve seen people up in arms because they can’t resell them.

That’s not a “natural right” that’s always been true (in practice)…it’s a specifically granted right.

It’s possible at some point that it would be taken away, of course. Not likely (it’s survived more than a century), but not impossible.

I wonder if Penguin actually expects anybody to follow this, and if they ever try to enforce it.

People say a lot of things just hoping it scares people into compliance…but they might not want the issue to get into court and have some precedent decided that doesn’t benefit them going forward.

For a birthday, I gave my SO a parachute jump (this was some time back).

My SO is in insurance claims, and laughed at the release they had to sign…and let them know it would never hold up.

One provision was that nobody in your family could sue if something happened to you.

Of course, my SO doesn’t have the authority to sign away my rights! That paper would never have had legal standing to stop me from suing.

However, I would guess it works as intimidation…and to impress upon people how serious the activity is, which is a good thing.

Anyway, if you are outside the USA (and I have readers all over the world), I’m curious: do you have used bookstores? Are you aware of any kind of restriction like this, or an equivalent of  the First Sale doctrine? I’m especially interested in hearing from you if you are an intellectual property lawyer outside the USA. Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

** Thanks to Dragi Raos, Denis, and Harold Delk (so far) ;) who pointed out that I had missed this part of Penguin’s statement: “… in any form of binding or cover other that in which it is published”. I had incorrectly took that as “or in any form of binding or cover…” In other words, I understood it as saying that even if you put it in a different cover it wasn’t okay to resell it, when it actually reads as the injunction being against putting it in that other cover and selling it, not selling the original.  This may be an example of how we process differently when using text-to-speech…I do think I perhaps fill in more gaps with TTS than when sight-reading. That said, this still raises some questions for me. Why is it okay to put it in another cover in the USA, and not in the rest of the world? If you can turn books into art and tsotchkes (which always makes me shudder…do you really want to eat off a serving platter made up of books which have been torn to pieces for that purpose?), what’s wrong with creating your own cover for a book when you resell it? If I understand this correctly, if I put a book into a library type binding (putting a clear, strong layer on the original cover), I might not be able to sell it? Anyway, this is one of those cases where I will openly admit to having been wrong…I misheard what the statement said, and then didn’t re-read it when I put it into the article. Thanks again to the readers who helped make this blog more accurate!

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Google takes action on infringement?

October 16, 2014

Google takes action on infringement?

I’ve run into situations before where someone has infringed on my copyright.

About three years ago, after an alert and kind reader let me know about running into some of my work in a book purchased in the Kindle store (not one of my books), I let Amazon know and the book was removed:

Infringement, plagiarism, and Amazon to the rescue

As I said then, “…I’m not a big person for punishment, public shame, or revenge.  I usually just want the situation fixed.  :)”

I mentioned recently that my posts (in their entirety…and every one of them in sequence, at least the latest ones) were appearing on a site without my authorization.

I named the site then, because I couldn’t see any way to contact them…and I figured, hey, if they are publishing my material, they are probably reading it. :)

I gave them a couple of days to remedy the situation (and a way to contact me privately, if they wanted to arrange permission…I have allowed some things before, even without compensation).

That didn’t happen.

I saw that they had ads (making this a commercial enterprise), powered by Google’s AdSense.

I clicked the link for AdSense, and they nicely had a specific way for me to report the infringement…it even automatically linked back to the website. I stated I was the copyright holder: I am…I obviously don’t register the copyright before I publish these posts, but copyright in the USA is automatic. You don’t need to register it to have protection, although registering it gives you more options. I have registered some copyrights in the past.

Google said, in part in this short excerpt: “We will promptly review this website to ensure that it complies with our policies and, if necessary, take the appropriate action.”

Well, I’m pleased to report that while the infringement is still happening at this point, the ads are gone from the site.

Hopefully, this will get them to remove my material, or contact me for permission. Since they aren’t profiting from it via the Google ads any more, and they’ve been informed of the infringement (I think the vast majority of infringers are simply ignorant of the relevant law), I’m hoping  the situation is fixed soon.

I’d really rather not take additional action…that’s no fun for anybody.

I see at least one post from someone else I (virtually) know on there…I’ll alert that person, although, of course I’m only assuming that they didn’t get permission.

I’m quite confident that Google removed the ads…thanks, Google!

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Copyright law: inherently unequal?

October 11, 2014

Copyright law: inherently unequal?

Copyright law matters to you as a reader.

It has a huge effect on what is available to you.

Books that are not under copyright protection, that are in the “public domain” (owned by the public), are often available free as e-books. No one needs to be paid for the rights to publish those, and with the advent of e-books (and in particular, the exemplary and valuable work of Project Gutenberg), an effort has been made to take advantage of the low costs of production and distribution to let readers read them.

For books under copyright protection, it is that law which largely makes it possible for authors to make a living as writers.

By setting the rules under which books can be reproduced, the government creates a structure of compensation.

Certainly, it is possible to distribute works without regard to copyright, and to simply ask for people to pay for them, if they want. It is a stretch to see that generating the kinds of income we see through licensing of works, though. You could also have individual contracts to allow the reading of the books, but that would be unduly cumbersome.

So, copyright is important: and the fairness of the ability to use that copyright to make money from your intellectual property is important.

In the USA (and in many other countries), that opportunity is unequal.

Why?

The copyright terms are based on the life of the author plus a certain number of years (in the USA, it’s Life+70).

The intent here, presumably, is that the author and the author’s children (if any) can benefit from the creation of the book…and after that, the government removes their right to control the work, and it falls into the public domain (effectively eliminating its value as a way to generate income).

I’ve wondered before if the idea of a copyright term like that is a good idea in and of itself. See what is perhaps my most controversial post:

Should copyright be permanent?

There are those who simply don’t believe in copyright…if you create something, they argue that the society should have unencumbered (and uncompensated) access to it. I assume they also think it is okay to go into a stranger’s house and eat the food in their refrigerator, or to drive away with someone else’s car without their permission. ;)

Let’s leave off the extremes of permanent copyright and no copyright, and just look at the issue of Life+a certain number of years: what’s wrong with that?

You want to know what’s wrong with that? Mortality.

Suppose a fifty year old writes and publishes a book. Let’s just say that, on average, that book is going to generate royalties of a thousand dollars a year.

We’ll further say that the author can be expected to live to be age 100.

That book will generate $120,000 for the creator and the estate: one thousand dollars each year of the author’s remaining life,then a thousand dollars a years for each of the subsequent seventy years.

Now let’s do that math with a twenty year old author.

Again, assuming they live to be 100, there are eighty+seventy years of copyright protection: that’s a lifetime value of $150,000. That’s $30,000  (25%) more.

Given the statistical probabilities of life expectancy, the older author won’t earn as much as the younger author for the same thing…and that’s unequal protection under the law, and should be illegal under the Constitution.

The “equal protection” of the Fourteenth Amendment actually only applies to the states, as I understand it, but in Bolling v. Sharpe, the Supreme Court basically said the Federal government shouldn’t have a lesser responsibility than the states, and so “equal protection” is sort of covered by “due process”. I’m not a lawyer, but that’s how I read it.

I’m surprised this hasn’t been successfully legally challenged, but given that Life+x years is a widely used copyright term in other countries as well, I assume there are treaties involved. That complicates things.

I also don’t like Life+, because it makes it much harder to figure out when something goes into the public domain! Just knowing when something was first published in the USA doesn’t do it (if the publication is after 1977), since you have to know when the last surviving author died. For famous authors, that’s not that hard to find…but not all authors are famous. With something like half a million independently published books a year now (I’ve seen that estimate), it’s going to be very difficult to figure out.

You often don’t even know the author’s real name…there is no requirement that they put that on a published work, and copyright exists even without registration (although it’s more difficult to go after infringers if you don’t register it).

Do I think a challenge to the Supreme Court could change Life+ to a finite term? I do think it could be successful, but I really don’t expect it to happen.

We will simply continue to institutionally disadvantage older authors as a group.

That is, unless there is really major overhaul of copyright, which I would like to see.

I still find the idea of permanent copyright, in exchange for greater Fair Use provisions, to be an intriguing idea. I’m not advocating for it, and it doesn’t seem to be what copyright was intended to do (the Constitution specifically calls for “limited times”), but things have massively changed in terms of content consumption in the past couple of hundred years.

The market value of Sherlock Holmes is arguably much bigger now than it was when the copyright term first expired, for example. One could argue that that is in part due to it having gone into the public domain (for the most part…some of the original stories are still under copyright in some parts of the world), allowing for more experimentation with the character (and perhaps more nimbly adapting to changing audience tastes).

I also have people say that they don’t like that it would be corporations owning the rights a hundred years after the author died, not the author and their descendants.

That point, though, may be changing. As independent publishing becomes increasingly viable, more authors will retain their rights…and could have something to pass on to generations of descendants.

The other argument I get from people is about “cultural ownership”. Shouldn’t Shakespeare and Mark Twain’s works belong to everybody equally? I’m not quite sure why. If you can take the rights away from the family 100 years after it was written, why not 99? Then why not fifty? Then why not after one week? I just haven’t quite understood the logic of that, and I’d be happy to have someone explain it to me. :)

What do you think? Is the copyright concept of Life+ unfair? It doesn’t matter how old you, the rule is the same…it’s just that we know that, statistically, the result won’t be: is that okay? Copyright terms have continued to get longer since they were introduced (in the USA) at fourteen years, renewable once (if the author was still alive…not a certainty, given life expectancy in the 1700s, and the age at which someone might publish back then)…do you think that will continue to be the case? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

 

 

Round up #263: parody legal in the UK, Kindle case for those with grip issues

August 3, 2014

Round up #263: parody legal in the UK, Kindle case for those with grip issues

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Kindle case for those with grip issues

I have a sibling with a medical condition that makes it hard to hold on to things…lots of things get dropped.

We happened to be visiting today, and my sibling told me about a Kindle case which had been recommended in a class…and which really worked very well:

MarBlue Atlas (new) for Kindle Case, Purple (Fits Kindle Paperwhite, Kindle and Kindle Touch) (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

You can’t see it at all well in the product pictures, but it has a broad strap on it…roughly the size of a deck of cards (well, an almost two dimensional deck of cards).

My sibling is able to slip a hand in there, and then can even turn the Kindle upside down without dropping it.

It could be useful for a lot of people who want to make sure they can hold on to a Kindle (even in the bath, for example).

It’s $24.99 for basic colors at time of writing, and is also available with a customizable design (which could be good for gifts, or if the person is in a group living situation).

One other thing: we don’t use leather, and this one is all synthetics.

My Fire Phone tells me where to go

No, it wasn’t insulting me. ;)

I’m liking my

Amazon Fire Phone (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

more as I use it more.

Today was the first time I tested it out for navigation (using the native Maps app).

It worked fine. :)

I liked the timing of it…with my S4, I sometimes wouldn’t get the upcoming directions at the right time…too soon or too late. One test isn’t enough, of course, but the timing seemed quite good. It didn’t announce the next move way ahead (once I was on the right path), which meant it was less “chatty”. Oh, and if it had to re-route (because I went a different way), there was just a little chirrupy sound, and it seemed to re-route very quickly…within half a block, I’d say.

I’ve also been playing

Planet Puzzles (at AmazonSmile*)

which came on my phone. It’s a puzzle game: you have a Rubik’s Cube looking thing, and there will be two squares of the same color on it. There might be several pairs. All you have to do is “connect the dots”, coloring the squares in between, say, blue and blue.

That sounds easy…it very quickly became quite a challenging puzzle!

It has the dynamic perspective, the sort of 3D effect.

I had a New Millennial (born roughly between 1980 and 2000) relative try it (and play around with the phone). The response was good. :)

August Kindle First books

The

Kindle First (at AmazonSmile)

books are out for August, and this time, I had an easy choice.

Prime members can choose one of these pre-release titles…not to borrow, but to own.

The choices this time are:

  • Fantasy: The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
  • Mystery: A Cold and Broken Hallelujah by Tyler Dilts
  • Historical Fiction: Portrait of a Girl by Dörthe Binkert (translated by Margot Bettauer Dembo)
  • Romantic Suspense: Crazy for Her by Sandra Owens

I went with The Paper Magician…

If you wait until they are released (in September), you should be able to read them through Kindle Unlimited, and borrow them through the KOLL (Kindle Owners’ Lending Library).

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Public Domain Detective

I haven’t reported on this one yet, but the U.S. Supreme Court, according to this

BBC article

and other sources, declined to hear an emergency appeal by the Conan Doyle estate, effectively ending (at least for now) a legal battle over the copyright status of Sherlock Holmes.

It’s a bit of a tricky case, but very interesting and potentially with sweeping implications (including for fan fiction, in my opinion).

It goes like this:

A lot of the Sherlock Holmes stories are in the public domain in the USA. That means that the public owns them: they are not under copyright protection. Anybody can publish them, distribute them, profit off them, and make media adaptations of them without first getting permission.

Ten of the stories, however, are not.

The estate argued that a new work which is “informed” (my term, not theirs) by the last ten stories would infringe upon their rights if unauthorized.

The suggestion was that a new work with Sherlock Holmes as a character might infringe their copyright…because those last ten stories were under protection.

The declination to rule clears the way for new Holmes works…although not, of course, for reproduction of the last ten, without permission.

In a related story, the British House of Lords has just okayed the use of parody there, according to this

The Drum article by Angela Haggerty

and other sources.

I think most Americans don’t realize our relatively freedom to parody works (which I’ve done many times in this blog).

When you parody something, you can use the original characters (even the names) if what you are doing is critiquing that work. In the USA, we see it all the time…Saturday Night Live, Mad Magazine, and so on.

That hit me years ago as the explanation for a mystery: why are so many comedians (including ones on SNL) working in the USA Canadians? John Candy, Dan Aykroyd, Jim Carrey, Eugene Levy…the epiphany was that Canada doesn’t specifically have parody as a defence in copyright cases. In order to make parodies, it makes sense for them to come to the USA to practice their art. That’s not the only reason, I’m sure, but I would guess it is a contributing factor.

Another way that the UK is updating copyright laws is to make format shifting legal of items you legally own, when you do it for your own use:

Intellectual Property Office PDF

I’ve been saying for some time that the USA needs to make this explicit change as well.

Currently, it isn’t clear that it is legal for you to digitize a p-book (paperbook) you own, if it is not in the public domain…even for your own use.

Oh, the odds are that no one would come after you, of course, but you can’t judge morality and legality just on whether or not you will get caught (at least, I don’t).

The hard thing in the USA is that it might be legal…this is one of those fuzzy areas that the Copyright Office often has.

I’d like to just see a straightforward statement: format shifting for your own use of legal items (just like it is now in the UK) is legal.

It seems unlikely that we’ll get that soon, though. We need a major overhaul of copyright: I’ve suggested one possibility would be to go to permanent copyright in exchange for much greater Fair Use provisions for educational and non-profit uses. That may have been my most controversial article to date, even though I didn’t advocate for the idea, just explored it:

Should copyright be permanent?

A great example of the value of Kindle Unlimited

I was working with a physical therapist who recommended a book to me:

Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change your Life (at AmazonSmile*)
by Michael Merzenich
4.3 out of 5 stars, 74 customer reviews

I’m guessing this will be the kind of book I won’t want to re-read.

It’s price in the USA Kindle store right now is $9.95…but I could borrow it for free as part of

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

So, this month, I’ve already almost saved enough with KU to pay for itself…with one book. :)

What do you think? Should it be legal to format shift books? Will the US make any major changes to copyright in the near future? If so, what would you like to see? If you are on the trial of KU, will you pay for it when that trial is up? Which Kindle First book did you pick? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

 

Kindle’s 10 most wanted: July 5, 2014

July 6, 2014

Kindle’s 10 most wanted: July 5, 2014

When I last wrote about this, back in August of 2010, the situation on “backlist titles” being in the Kindle store was quite different.

The backlist books are typically books that are at least a year old, although that’s a bit of a fluid definition. I’m a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager. We would get catalogs (yes, on paper) of books from publishers.

The front of the catalog would be the new titles…often with the splashiest ones first. A new Stephen King, for example, would be in the very front.

The older titles (which still sold) would be in the back of the catalog…they were the “backlist”.

Four years ago, there were about 650,000 titles in the USA Kindle store: now there are 2,663,833.

The books that I listed as being most discussed as wanted (based on my impressions of what I saw in the forums?

So, all three of those are available.

Here are the ones I listed as most wanted back then, based on the list at

eReaderIQ

which I consider the most valuable resource on the web for Kindleers:

  • Claudius the God and His Wife Messalina by Robert Graves: available
  • And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmeyer: not available
  • The Great Book of Amber by Roger Zelazny: while that particular omnibus is not available, several Zelazny Amber books are
  • Sarum: The Novel of England by Edward Rutheford: available
  • Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart: not available
  • Night Train to Memphis by Elizabeth Peters: available
  • Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman: available
  • Crimes Against Liberty by David Limbaugh: available
  • When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman: available
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger: not available

As you can see, great progress has been made. Only three out of those ten are really not available (legally through the USA Kindle store), and then we have the Zelazny Amber situation…which I think we can consider to be unavailable, since I don’t think the ones available are the ones in that omnibus.

What are the top ten most wanted now?

#10: The Neverending Story
by Michael Ende

#9: Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart (repeat from above)

#8: The Belgariad, Volume 1 by David Eddings: the first one of the three books in this series is available…and can be borrowed through the KOLL (Kindle Owners’ Lending Library). The other two are not

#7: Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey: a number of other Pern books are available

#6: A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

#5: The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye

#4: Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKindley

#3: Mary Stewart’s Merlin Trilogy: these books were available (under the title “Legacy” at one point, but don’t appear to me now)

#2: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

#1: The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (hasn’t dropped in rank since I checked in 2010)

Some of you may be thinking that some of these are “classics” and should be out of copyright protection. That’s not the case. If they were, you can bet that there would be versions legally available in the Kindle store. When something is in “the public domain”, the public owns it: anybody can publish it without getting permission.

Eventually, all books (under the current rules) will fall into the public domain, but it could be a while. That’s especially true for authors who are still living…the current basic term is Life+70 years, at least for books first published in the USA since March 1, 1989. That can be stretched back to 1978, provided that the book had a proper copyright notice (I think we may be the only country with copyright rules which are this convoluted).

The Crystal Cave, for example, was published in 1970…if it followed all the rules (and it will have), it would fall into the public domain on January 1st of 2066, I think.

That doesn’t mean we will have to wait that long, though. :)

As you can see from the number which have been Kindleized since the 2010 list, deals do get made.

That’s the key thing.

Authors retain rights which they haven’t licensed.

If they haven’t explicitly licensed the e-book rights to somebody, no one can legally publish the book as an e-book (except the author)…even if they have licensed other rights.

That’s why you’ll see audiobooks of some of the “missing” title above…the audiobooks were negotiated, the e-books were not.

Prior to about 2005, it wasn’t common to license e-book rights. In the case of The Crystal Cave, it would have been very unlikely for anyone to license the rights back in 1970 for a medium which didn’t really exist yet. :)

In that case, a publisher would need to go to the author (or the author’s estate) and negotiate the rights…and often, negotiate them separately for different markets (although I do believe that global rights sales are becoming more common).

As you can imagine, that can be complex.

Under the current situation, we’ll get a bunch of books falling into the public domain in 2019 (books published in 1923…earlier books are already in the public domain).

However, you can count on there being a push to extend copyrights again.

Now that there is a market for older works (that really wasn’t true until we had media which could both store those works and make retrieval commercially viable), the rightsholders will want to be able to keep control of them.

Copyright terms have only gotten longer over the years…again, in part, I think, because of the improvements in technology.

Works published fifty years ago (1964) have a lot of commercial value still (think of a number of the Beatles’ songs, for example).

In 1964, how much commercial value was there for works published in 1914? Some, but the percentage of popular works from 1914 in 1964 is much lower than the popularity of 1964 works now in 2014.

In one of my most controversial posts, I explored the idea of making copyright permanent, in exchange for a considerable expansion of Fair Use rights:

Should copyright be permanent?

Non-commercial uses, such as academic use in a classroom, would become much easier, while commercial rights would tend to stay out of the public domain.

I have to say, I think many of my readers hated the idea. ;)

Back to the list of the books that are the “most wanted” (to be Kindleized).

You can go to eReaderIQ and start a “watch list”. They’ll send you a free e-mail letting you know if a book you have listed has been Kindleized. There is no charge for that.

I’m not connected to that site except as a user, although we have had some correspondence…

What do you think? Are there any books you are particularly waiting to see Kindleized? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

** A Kindle with text-to-speech can read any text downloaded to it…unless that access is blocked by the publisher inserting code into the file to prevent it. That’s why you can have the device read personal documents to you (I’ve done that). I believe that this sort of access blocking disproportionately disadvantages the disabled, although I also believe it is legal (provided that there is at least one accessible version of each e-book available, however, that one can require a certification of disability). For that reason, I don’t deliberately link to books which block TTS access here (although it may happen accidentally, particularly if the access is blocked after I’ve linked it). I do believe this is a personal decision, and there  are legitimate arguments for purchasing those books. 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


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