Archive for the ‘Copyright’ Category

Public domain makes strange bookfellows

February 24, 2016

Public domain makes strange bookfellows**

Copyright matters.

It affects what you read, and it affects what people write.

We’ve had a lot of discussions (with my readers commenting on my posts, and me responding) in this blog about copyright. I’ve explored the idea of permanent copyright, and have really appreciated the thoughtful and respectful arguments against that idea, and in some cases for even shortening current copyright terms.

In this post, I want to look at an effect of having copyright terms at all…published works which later fall into the public domain, and are then used by other authors in new works.

Under current US copyright law (and as stated in the Constitution), copyright is for a limited time. How long that time is has gotten longer over time since the original fourteen years (renewable once) to the current Life+70 years (in most circumstances).

After that, the work is owned by the public…it is in the public domain. From that point, anybody can publish and sell the book…and authors can use the characters and settings of that book however they want.

This can lead to some great and imaginative combinations…as well as some bizarre and arguably less successful ones.

At it’s best, for me, the new work pays respect to the older work, but brings something fresh and exciting, and often fun.

I also like it when someone brings together two (or more) disparate characters and/or settings.

Before I list a few examples, I want to define it a bit more.

Parody is something different. In the USA (but not everywhere in the world), you can use in-copyright characters without permission, providing that you are doing it as a form of criticism of the original work. Mad magazine, Saturday Night Live, Marlon Wayons, even porn parodies, are legal if they are commenting on the original.

Rightsholders may also do “crossovers”. L. Frank Baum, who to me was pioneering in so many ways, did crossovers…less popular characters from other books/series would appear in the super popular Oz books (arguably, to help boost their profiles…Baum tried to stop writing the Oz books, but those were what the readers wanted). A deal can even be worked out between different rightsholders: in 1976, Superman and Spider-Man “fought” each other in a comic book…despite being owned by two very different and competitive companies (DC and Marvel, respectively).

Fan fiction (“fanfic”) is prose of a different color.ūüėČ It typically takes in-copyright characters and writes new stories not for profit. It can be a bit of a gray area, but some rightsholders openly support it within certain parameters (J.K. Rowling, for one)

Okay, let’s talk about a few of these works which used public domain elements in new commercial works:

Silverlock (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)
by John Myers Myers
4.2 stars out of 5 | 92 customer reviews

First published in 1949, Silverlock brings together all sorts of characters, both historical figures and fictional. It’s considered somewhat of a classic in its own right. Serious readers can treat it as almost a puzzle, trying to recognize all of the references.:) Everybody can have fun with Robin Hood and Don Quixote, among many others. This one is available through

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

or you can purchase it for $2.88 at the time of writing. Note that there is more than one version of Silverlock in the USA Kindle store (but differentiated by additional material, from what I’ve seen).

Sherlock Holmes is one of the most adapted characters of all time, and certainly, the public domain status of most of the original works has made for some odd adventures for Sherlock. I loved

An East Wind Coming (at AmazonSmile*)
by Arthur Byron Cover
4.0 stars | 2 customer reviews

I am very excited to see that this work is not only newly Kindleized (with text-to-speech access) but also part of Kindle Unlimited!

Like Silverlock, it brings together a wide variety of characters…which arguably include (sort of) Sherlock Holmes pursuing a possible Jack the Ripper. This is all complicated by being set in the future where humans can assume the identities (and abilities) of fictional characters…a type of¬†super-powered cosplay.ūüėČ It comes after Autumn Angels (at AmazonSmile*) (also KU, and been available for more than a year), although that one is a bit different (featuring a character, for example, who is clearly Ham Brooks, one of Doc Savage’s in-copyright associates…without explicitly being Ham). You don’t need to read them in order.

There have been other version of Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper (which makes sense, given their similar timeframes), but I was curious, so I searched for ¬†“Sherlock Holmes in space” and ¬†got

The Adventure of the Skittering Shadow: Sherlock Holmes in Space (Nerio Book 1) (at AmazonSmile*)
by Sam Gamble
5.0 stars | 1 customer review

Several authors (even well-known ones, including Fred Saberhagen and Loren D. Estleman) have pitted the Consulting Detective against the Immortal Count…Dracula.

Dracula is another character whose versions are legion, from more than one comic book superhero version to Blacula in the movies.

The Land of Oz (I mentioned Baum earlier) has seen not only visitors from Baum’s other books (oh, and Santa Claus came to Ozma’s birthday party once…but Baum also wrote a Santa Claus book), but probably hundreds of other interactions since it fell into the public domain.

I thought a particularly interesting take, although unfortunately not available in the Kindle store, was¬†Philip Jos√© Farmer’s A Barnstormer in Oz. The original books had Oz interacting with the rest of the world (although in a limited manner…and it becomes concerning enough that they use magic to cut themselves off, which fails at being an absolute separation. This book (as Farmer would do in other works) asked what would happen if Oz actually existed.

There are many other examples. Tarzan is (mostly) in the public domain…and encounters¬†Frankenstein (also in the public domain) in Owen Leonard’s Frankenstein Meets the Ape-Man: Tarzan (at AmazonSmile*)…KU or $0.99. I’ve read Doc Savage in an adventure on King Kong’s Skull Island

Of course, there was

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (at AmazonSmile*) by Seth Grahame Smith ($10.99, not KU)

which has a movie adaptation in the theatres right now (not breaking any box office records, though).

Is all of this an argument in favor of public domain?

I’d say yes.

I recognize the value of PD, both in making books available for free, and in making legal these sorts of innovative storytelling.

I think there is considerable room for improvement in copyright, and am thinking about different possibilities…

What do you think? Do you have a favorite book with public domain characters or settings in a new work you would recommend? What’s the weirdest crossover/mash-up/adaptation you’ve read? I left off so many (I hear some of you shouting out A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen written by Alan Moore)! 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 is take on Charles Dudley Warner’s famous line, “Politics makes strange bedfellows”…while Shakespeare used the phrase “…strange bedfellows” in the Tempest

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.

 

Concepts of Copyright

January 16, 2016

Concepts of Copyright

You are a reader.

What books you have to read depends, to a large degree, on copyright.

If there was no copyright protection, arguably, a lot of existing books would suddenly become available to you for free.

One of the questions, though, would be how it would affect future books.

Could someone make a living writing books if anyone could reproduce them and sell them with nothing paid to the author?

It is possible.

People might make a point of paying the author to support them.

Many people, though, wouldn’t, of course.

The USA didn’t invent copyright…it was at the least inspired by England’s Statute of Anne. America’s copyright came about 80 years afterwards, but even the idea that copyright belonged in the courts was derivative.

The copyright clause from 1787 explains the reasoning this way:

“To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

There was a lot of discussion of the clause at that time…and the discussion still goes on today.

The way it is written, it doesn’t say anything about a natural right to the copyright…that authors should own their creations because they created them.

It says it is to “promote the Progress”: I think we can safely say that means to encourage the production of new works.

With that idea, it goes basically like this:

“Authors will not create if they can’t have compensation for having created their works, so we offer them protection for a limited time.”

After that, the works then become available to everybody.

How long should that term be?

That’s where some of my readers,¬†have a very definite idea.

I respect these readers a great deal, and am…impressed by their passion.

I wanted to take a post to explore this a bit more.

First, I do want to bring up one thing that to me seems quite weird.

In much of the world, including the USA, the copyright term is based on the author’s life plus a certain number of years.

I’m open to a lot of things, but I particularly don’t like that one.:)

It seems inherently ageist and unfair, and I’m surprised that there haven’t been legal challenges to it.

It’s simple.

If you publish a book when you are 90 years old, and the copyright term is Life+70 years (which it is in the USA right now), you and your estate will be able to make a lot less money on it than if you published it when you were 20.

People also talk about Life+70 as being designed for the author’s kids to become mature adults.

So, should a childless author get a shorter copyright term?

The other reason I don’t like life+ systems is it makes it much harder to tell if something is in copyright or not. You can’t just look at the publication date and know.

My readers haven’t proposed that change (to a finite term), by the way.

I think a finite term would tend to “promote¬†the progress”. Some books take a considerable amount of time and effort to create, especially some non-fiction. While a 90 year old might have the same passion to create as a 20 year old, the money they could get for the book would be less…because the publisher would have a shorter time to make money.

If there is a finite term, how long should it be?

Ah, there’s the rub.ūüėČ

Proponents of shorter terms (as short as fourteen years) may believe that we have a shared culture. They may point out that, if Shakespeare was still under copyright, poorer people would have less access to it.

I think that’s a reasonable point…I read a lot of public domain works which I got legally for free.

However, those of lesser means can read in-copyright books now…through public libraries and donations, often from the publishers.

When I’ve explored the idea of permanent copyright (which would require amending the Constitution, so it’s very unlikely), I have suggested that, in exchange, greater Fair Use rights would be made available. I would allow the use of copyrighted books for scholastic study without compensation, for one thing.

Let’s ignore permanent for now.

What would be different if copyright was fourteen years versus if it was fourteen hundred years?

With the fourteen year term, you would be able to read a book published today for free in about a decade and a half.

That sounds good…but it seems obvious to me that publishers would have to do something different to make anything like the same amount of money they make now.

One option would be to charge a lot more money for the book. If a book can sell for, oh, one-fifth the amount of time it can now (at least, sell with compensation to the publisher), one could hypothetically charge five times as much for it to make the same amount of money.

That, of course, doesn’t work very well.:)

You wouldn’t sell the same number of copies.

Let’s go with $10 as a price for a new e-book novel (you can pay a lot less than that, of course, but we are really looking at the traditional publishing model right now). If the book cost $50, would as many people pay for it?

Nope.

Would piracy also increase?

Very likely.

Licensing might also tighten. We have what I consider to be quite generous licensing terms right now from the Kindle store. Typically, six people on the account can be reading the same book at the same time for one purchase price (what you are purchasing is a license). You could have 100 people (or more) on the account, and they could all read the same book…just, usually, not all at the same time.

If the rights are for a much shorter time, I would expect them to want to crack down on “serial reading”, where one person (or set of people) read the book, then another person does. I expect that my descendants can read my ebooks…clearly, with a fourteen year term, that’s not going to happen as much the same way. They’ll read the books for free.

As a purchaser, the value of the book goes down considerably if it’s only good for a relatively limited time…why not wait?

The value comes in reading it before other people, and while it is “hot”.

It becomes a luxury.

The value has gone down in terms of multiple readers with shorter terms, which could drive down the price, but the prestige has gone up, which could drive up the price.

Read the current Stephen King for $100, or one from the year 2000 for free? There would be people who would pay the $100, but there would be fewer of them.

I want to return at this point to the purpose of copyright.

I would say there are two basic conceptions here:

  • It is a business license
  • It is to protect a natural right

As a business license, it makes sense that it can be for a limited time. The only considerations, really, have to do with money. Authors are granted a limited term to have exclusive rights to the work so they can make money on it to encourage them (and others) to write more works, which benefits the culture.

After that limited time, the book becomes the property of the public, and becomes part of our shared culture.

The “natural right” concept says that the author created the work, and has a natural right to control its use. In that case, it seems to me that an unlimited copyright is a reasonable possibility.

One argument against the natural right means permanent argument is that the natural right only exists for the creator, and some extend it to the creator’s children. That creator’s children part supposedly explains life+70: seventy years is a reasonable approximation of life expectancy, so it means that if an author writes a book, dies right away, and has an infant child, that child can be supported by the book throughout its expected life. I find that a pretty unlikely scenario, personally.

Some people don’t like that properties end up under the control of a corporation: they say it then becomes “profits in perpetuity”, and that it likely is no longer benefiting the author or the author’s ¬†descendants.

They wouldn’t want Disney or Sony determining how Mark Twain is used by the world, for example.

They also see it as benefiting an entity which has done nothing to deserve it.

The author, though, chose to license the rights to the publisher. If the author has control over the work, why isn’t that something they should be able to control? The longer the copyright term, the more potential value to the company, the more the likely purchase price will be. Authors should theoretically make more money when the copyright is longer, in terms of licensing fees.

It also seems to me that Disney has done a great deal of work on perpetuating the value of Mickey Mouse. The example of Mickey is often brought up in copyright discussions. We go back to Steamboat Willie, the first Mickey Mouse cartoon (1928). The Disney company has undeniably lobbied to have the copyright terms extended when Steamboat Willie’s protected end time was nigh. A 1998 act is sometimes colloquially referred to as the “Mickey Mouse Act”.

I’m not talking about those lobbying efforts as things Disney has done with Mickey…although that does show time and effort.

They have carefully promoted the character.

They have built on it over time.

Anybody who doesn’t think the Disney corporation is a large factor in why we even think the rights to Steamboat Willie are valuable…well, I’d be interested in hearing the arguments that without the Disney corporation, Mickey Mouse would be equally as valuable today as it would be if copyright had run out on Steamboat Willie in 1942 (or 1956…the original 14 year copyright term was renewable once).

Another argument in favor of earlier public domain status is that it allows more creative works to happen. People can then build upon the earlier works.

Two iconic examples of that are West Side Story (based on Romeo and Juliet) and Forbidden Planet (based on The Tempest).

The argument goes that those wouldn’t exist if the original Shakespeare works weren’t in the public domain.

I’m not convinced of that.

If the creators of those works had to license the originals, would that have made been an impossible hurdle or unreasonable burden?

Sure, it would have been up to the rightsholder. If the hypothetical “We Bought Shakespeare Corporation” didn’t like science fiction, or didn’t want the social commentary of West Side Story to happen, they could have refused the rights.

That is a perfectly legitimate argument: that’s a point¬†I understand, about not wanting a limited group to control how something which is part of our shared culture to be used.

I also think it isn’t as simple as to say that when something is in-copyright, creativity is stymied.

Let’s say you wanted to take the beloved Archie Andrews characters (Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, and so on), and put them into a violent zombie comic. That would be up to the publisher…and Archie Comics allowed just that with the popular and critically-acclaimed

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

If Archie had been in the public domain, anyone could have created an Afterlife with Archie type comic, of course…but how many people would ever have seen it? Since it was under license (being in-copyright) to a major distributor, it could get comic book store distribution…and the company spent money on promotion and quality control.

What about Superman flying or the existence of Kryptonite? Both brought to the company from outside, both approved by the company (see my article, xxy).

Remember, also, that in the USA, parody is protected by copyright. There are also some rights around “fanfic” (fan created fiction), at least where characters are not trademarked. What allows both of those? Fair Use. I do think that balancing longer copyright terms with greater Fair Use provisions is a possible balance.

Stepping away from the corporations for a minute, another argument I hear is that people don’t want there to be a class of people who are well off through inheritance, in this case, inheritance of intellectual property rights. That’s an interesting question of social engineering. My own feeling on that is that it should apply in a similar manner to other property rights. If intellectual property rights have limited inheritance, so should other property rights. I’m sure there are people who would agree with that: ¬†I’ve seen serious proposals for a 100% death tax: you die, and your property goes to the government, which then uses it to for the public good…including taking care of orphans, presumably.

I think that sort of discussion¬†is beyond the scope of this post.ūüėČ

Oh, I also hear people say that authors are only able to create their works because of the society in which they grew up, and that the audience for their works exists because of society. The public paid for their educations, and the readers can read because of the school system. When people say that, I wonder…do they think someone who immigrated here as adult and then wrote a book should get a longer copyright term, because they don’t have to “reimburse” society for the public schooling?ūüėČ Do we really educate people only as a loan for the good they can do society, and they should have to pay it back? What if someone calculated the costs of their education, then paid the government that money, then wrote a book…should they be entitled to longer copyright terms?

I’ve gone on quite long enough, but I do want to make one more point.

The 14 year term came about in 1787.

What was the intent of that length?

Presumably, it had something to with exploitation of the value of the created work, and the point at which it would benefit the public for it to be free to copy

I would suggest that neither of those are the same today.

There are so many more revenue streams today than there were in 1787.

One of the most significant is movie/TV adaptation.

Publishers, and authors, can make a great deal of money from licensing the rights for the kind of media adaptations which just didn’t exist in 1787.

If the copyright term was fourteen years, how often would a movie or television studio simply choose to wait fourteen years before spending significant money on the production? A book might not become popular for a few years after publication, which makes it a shorter time from interest to screen.

Of course, on the flip side, how many movie studios would pay $200m to make a blockbuster movie…when it would be free to distribute in fourteen years? I’m guessing you could say good-bye to movies like Star Wars: ¬†The Force Awakens and Jurassic World ¬†if the copyright term was significantly shorter.

At any rate, this is all a very complex topic. I’m not decided on anything (although, as I mentioned, I really don’t like life+ terms). There are people who have it as a matter of faith (they believe they will never change their minds) that copyright terms should be short, or that there should be no copyright, or that it should be permanent. I’m not one of those folks.

I know, as a writer myself, I’m probably emotionally prejudiced in favor of longer terms. I do feel like I should own my creations (although I 100% accept the idea of Fair Use, including where my own works are concerned). I can set aside emotional prejudice, though: I suppose that’s one reason I’ve been on three juries in the past ten years.ūüėČ

I’m very interested in what you think about this. I have no doubt many of my regular readers are skipping this one, and waiting for something lighter in the next post…which is okay by me. Others of you are deeply interested and will want to express your opinions to me and my readers. Feel free to do so 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‚Äôll 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)‚Ķand the good feeling you‚Äôll get.¬†:)¬†Shop ‚Äôtil you help!¬†:)¬†By the way, it‚Äôs been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to ‚Äústart at AmazonSmile‚ÄĚ 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‚Ķunless that access is blocked by the publisher inserting code into the file to prevent it. That‚Äôs why you can have the device read personal documents to you (I‚Äôve 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‚Äôt deliberately link to books which block TTS access here (although it may happen accidentally, particularly if the access is blocked after I‚Äôve linked it). I do believe this is a personal decision, and there ¬†are legitimate arguments for purchasing those books. In this particular case, text-to-speech is not available, but that will be due to a technical issue. The “text” is actually part of the illustrations, and not available to TTS.

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 revised the public domain publishing policy again, and I think it’s…

January 11, 2016

Amazon revised the public domain publishing policy again, and I think it’s…

great!:)

Back in 2011, I wrote about

New guidelines for public domain content

for publishers (often one person) using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing.

At that point, they required that original material be added to public domain works for them to be published through KDP.

Let me explain that a bit more.

A “public domain” work is one that is not under copyright protection…in this case, that would often involve a book where the copyright term has expired. That work is no longer owned by the author or the author’s estate…the public now owns it (hence “public domain”).

Throughout the history of copyright in the USA, there has been a limited term of protection*. In fact, the idea of a limited time is in the original “copyright clause” of the Constitution:

“To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

So, once a book falls into the public domain, anyone can publish it and sell it and do whatever they want with it, without having to get permission from or pay anybody who originally created it.

One advantage¬†of that to society is that it is a way for books (and magazines and newspapers) to become available to the public again. If you have a book in your garage which is out of copyright, you could digitize¬†it and put it online…legally.

This is, by the way, not quite the same as “orphan works”. You may hear about that. The issue there is books which are not in the public domain, are “out of print”…and have no one to “speak for them”. For example, a book might have been published in the 1950s by a¬†publisher that then went¬†out of business, but had no “reversion rights” (under which the rights would have gone back to the author or author’s estate). That is being reviewed at the national level.

The one big drawback to Amazon’s¬†2011 policy was that it likely had a chilling effect on the variety of books available to us…and may have lead to the loss of some material.

Why is that?

Quite simply, not everyone is a creator. If someone had a box of old magazines in the garage, they might have digitized them and made them available (for a price) through the Kindle store…but not if they had to write something new about them.

Under the 2011 policy,they might have just tossed them.

Well, I was looking today, and the policy has changed! It now says

“In order to provide a better customer buying experience, our policy is to not publish undifferentiated versions of public domain titles where a free version is available in our store.”
https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2OHLJURFVK57Q

This should make more books available to us…and provide people with another way to make some money. The money can compensate them for the not inconsiderable work of digitizing a public domain work.

I have done that myself in my work with a non-profit (in the past)**.

In fact, this makes it quite a bit more likely that I will digitize some of the works I have for the Kindle store…and ones that aren’t available now. Don’t look for anything soon…it does take quite a while to do it reasonably well. It will be on my list of things, though.:)

If you have some old books/magazines/newspapers, and are curious as to whether or not they might be in the public domain, I recommend starting with the

That can show you if a book is pretty definitely in the public domain.

If that doesn’t say it is the case, then you can go to

http://copyright.gov/records/index.html

and start researching there.

Within certain timeframes, you can determine if a work is in the public domain there.

It’s all gotten much more complicated since it became no longer necessary to include a copyright notice, among other things. Copyright is now automatic…you don’t have to register them, although it can help.

The Copyright Office is working on getting older records to be searchable online through the Digitization and Public Access Project…they are making progress, but they don’t indicate they are done yet.

Summing up, I think that this loosening of the guideline is a good thing which may save some works from being lost, give us more options for things to read, and provide another possible revenue stream for individuals and organizations.

What do you think? Do you read public domain works? Do you think it’s reasonable for someone to charge for a book they didn’t write or help to initially create? Do you have any works you might digitize? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this work.

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

* I have explored the idea of permanent copyright in exchange for more robust Fair Use rules in Should copyright be permanent?

**One of the books I digitized (and Norberto Pellicci worked on it after me) was Behind the Flying Saucers [Annotated] (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping) I  added an afterword where I gave some of the historical context

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 #314: Discovery Zone, A Truth Worth Tellin’

December 19, 2015

Round up #314: Discovery Zone, A Truth Worth Tellin’

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

This is how Kindle Unlimited should work

I read a good book recently.

Now, that shouldn’t be a rare thing.:) I often say I’ve never read a bad book, and I do believe that. I think I’ve gotten something good out of every book I’ve read…although there have been parts of books I haven’t liked and certainly, there have been some with massive flaws.

That doesn’t mean I’m uncritically accepting, or think that all books are equal.ūüėČ

It was refreshing to read a novel that I felt had a strong voice, good plotting, and wasn’t gimmicky.

That book was

A Truth Worth Tellin’ (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)
by Toni Teepell

This isn’t a case where I know the author at all, or had even heard of the book.

What happened was that my Significant Other wanted a new book to read (especially on the treadmill).

We are happy members of

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

Amazon’s subser (subscription service). People pay $9.99 a month (although there have been discounts for longer subscriptions) for an “all you can read” service. You can have up to ten books out at a time, and multiple people on the account can be reading a book at the same time.

We like to do that.:)

If we both read the same book, we can then talk about it later…it’s a social thing.

I looked for a book, and I started by looking for Southern fiction. That’s something my SO particularly likes…both more serious, like Pat Conroy, and funny, like Fannie Flagg.

I think I searched for “Southern fiction” in Kindle Unlimited, then limited it to Contemporary Fiction, and then sorted by average customer review.

I skipped what appeared to be romance (I read that sometimes, but it’s not my SO’s preference)…the publishers pick the classifications, by the way.

Then, the cover of A Truth Worth Tellin’ caught my eye…and it currently has 18 customer reviews, all 5-star.

I don’t want to build this up too much,ūüėČ but that was a good rating…so we tried it.

It is, in a sense, a bit old-fashioned. By that I just mean that it isn’t saying, “Hey, look at how I’m disrupting the traditional novel by adding graphic sex, non-linear storytelling, and characters you hate!”ūüėČ I’d say it could have been written in the 1950s…not in a bad way.:)

It was interesting: I didn’t even look at the price of it until I started writing this post. It’s $4.99.

I’m hoping that some of you read it and enjoy it…both for your benefit and for the author’s.

When people criticize KU, they tend to bring up the alleged lack of well-known novels (although there are actually a lot of famous books, they don’t tend to be current bestsellers). A Truth Worth Telllin’ (a first novel) exemplifies the argument for KU as discovery for lesser known novels.

And of course, if you borrow it, read a bit of it, and don’t share my opinion, you can just move on to another book…

Why Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an argument for permanent copyright

More than five years ago, I published what may be my most controversial post:

Should copyright be permanent?

In it, I explored the idea of making copyright permanent in exchange for greater Fair Use provisions.

In other words, an author and the author’s estate would continue to control the commercial use of a creation (which might, of course, include having licensed it to a publisher) in perpetuity, but the work could be used for educational and research purposes generally without compensation.

That’s the simplified version.

There are reasonable arguments on both sides.

One thing I hear from people is that a work staying in copyright deprives society of a common culture…that te world (or, at least the USA) should own works like Shakespeare and Alice in Wonderland.

Well, I have to point out: is Star Wars any less of our shared culture than Romeo and Juliet?

Do people know “May the Force be with you” less than they know “Wherefore art thou, Romeo?”

Do they talk about Star Wars less than they do about Shakespeare? Are fewer kids named after Star Wars characters and actors than Romeo & Juliet ones? Well, okay, there are a lot of Romeos out there…but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were many Lukes and Leias born in early 1978.ūüėČ There also¬†aren’t that many Mercutios…

You might guess it’s because Star Wars is more contemporary…but, based on the original copyright terms in the USA, it would have been in ¬†the public domain by now (the original term was 14 years, renewable once for a total of 28, if the author was still alive…not as probable then as it is now).

Three quick tips

  • On a touchscreen device, “long press” (hold your finger or stylus on something for about a second) for more options
  • Menus often look like three horizontal lines on top of each other
  • To get help, you can go to http://www.amazon.com/kindlesupport

Help other readers find books

Just a reminder about

ILMK Readers’ Recommendations: book discovery zone

There will be many people new to KU in the next couple of weeks, especially since you can

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

You can help them out by going to the Book Discovery Zone and “voting” in the polls to endorse books, and by narratively suggesting books I can add.

Skipping the Flip(board)

Ooh, this was tough for me!

I skipped my morning

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

read this morning, although I will do it later today.

Why?

To avoid Star Wars spoilers.:)

My favorite thing in entertainment is to be surprised, and it can be hard to do. For that reason, I really don’t like spoilers, myself…and I also think they are…well, when done intentionally, I would consider them morally wrong.

Let me be clear: I don’t mean when you accidentally reveal a twist in a story, or when you do it without thinking about it.

I mean when people do it intentionally.

I read an article recently where the writer recalled standing outside of a movie in the Star Wars franchise, shouting the twist at people before they entered the theatre.

To me, it’s a form of intellectual bullying. That’s not to minimize traditional bullying. I think, though, it comes from similar impulses. You are using your superior power (knowledge, in this case), to take something away from someone else.

I love discussing movies (and books), but only when everybody present wants to do that.

I also think there is no statute of limitations on spoilers.

I believe that a nine-year old reading The Wizard of Oz in 2015 has the right to the same experience of the book as a nine-year old reading it in 1900 had.

I’ve been very pleased to see that mainstream media, and much of social media, has recognized the value of avoiding spoilers with regards to SW: TFA.

However, Flipboard (at least the way I have it configured) contains many non-traditional sources, and I’m guessing there will be spoilers in it this morning.

We are seeing the movie at 11:25 this morning…so I’ll read Flipboard after we’ve seen it.ūüėČ

Jeff Bezos is one of Barbara Walters Most Fascinating People of 2015

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO (Chief Executive Officer) has had an interesting year: space news, an attack on the Amazon work culture, and an explicitly political comment.

Here is an

ABC video

of Barbara Walters’ “Most Fascinating People of 2015” segment with Bezos.

What do you think? How did Jeff Bezos do on Barbara Walters? What will happen to Amazon after Jeff?  Should people make references to plot twists openly (for example, jokes about maybe the Wizard of Oz in relationship to public figures), or should there be spoiler alerts? Have you discovered any books or authors through KU? Feel free to tell me and my readers 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.

Round up #311: Orwell, Open Road

October 29, 2015

Round up #311: Orwell, Open Road

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

Getting comfortable¬†with the 7″ Fire tablet

I’ve had the

Fire, 7‚Ä≥ Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB ‚Äď Includes Special Offers, Black (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) $49.99

for about a week now, and I feel like I have a pretty good sense of it.

I would describe the device itself as serviceable, and the Fire OS 5 (which will come to some older models) as superior.

I certainly miss having dictation for the keyboard, and trace typing (like Swype…you drag your finger around to make words). I use both of those a lot on my now discontinued Kindle Fire HDX 7 (which is still what I’ve been using most of the time.

The biggest problem I’ve had with it, and I called Kindle Support to check it with them (no almost instant onscreen Mayday help), is that I can’t use it as a nightstand clock.

My Kindle Fire HDX is my nightstand clock. I have it (unplugged, just running on battery) next to the bed. The native clock app has a nightstand mode. The numbers are red, it’s dim, and it stays on all night. It takes about half the battery charge, which is fine…it charges up quickly enough in the morning.

With the new Fire, the clock app has a Night Mode…but it doesn’t override the autosleep timing! In other words, when I’m sleeping, it’s sleeping, too: no display. I don’t know about you, but I want to be able wake up groggily in the middle of the night, glance over, see what time it is….and decide if it’s appropriate to wake up the rest of the way and get out of bed. I don’t want to have to wake up the tablet to decide that.

One issue is that you can’t set the autosleep on the device to “Never”, which is my preferred setting. I’ll put my devices to sleep when I choose.:)

It’s a minor irritation, and I’m still using my KFHDX7 next to the bed.

Outside of that, it’s pretty good. I’d feel fine with having it for a guest or in ¬†doctor’s waiting room. We don’t call them that any more, by the way…it’s a negative connotation.. They probably say you are “in the lobby”, in the “reception area”, or just “out front”. I loved a cartoon that I saw years ago which has a patient saying to the doctor, “If you want me to be more active, why have I been sitting in your waiting room for forty-five minutes?”ūüėČ

Jane Friedman sounds like someone I would like to know

Jane Friedman is the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of Open Road Media.

That’s been one of the best publishers for e-books. They typically publish backlist titles (older titles…the books that aren’t in the front of the catalog), and they secured the e-book rights for those when the bigger tradpubs (traditional publishers) were still hadn’t really awakened to the need.

In this

The Bookseller post by Porter Anderson

Friedman talks about the philosophy of the company.

I agree with a lot of it!

It’s definitely worth a read: this is a company that is still “…chasing profitability”. It has a clear-eyed view of the glory of resurrecting p-books (paperbooks) for the digital era. Plus, the good-humored CEO has close to 10,000 p-books at home…I can empathize.ūüėČ

Orwell again

One of the most infamous incidents for Amazon and the Kindle was when they removed copies of a certain edition of George Orwell from customers’ Kindles.

No doubt, the irony of it being George Orwell added to the coverage of it.

Amazon apologized, compensated customers, and even Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos called it “stupid”. They said they wouldn’t do the same thing in the same circumstances again, and to my knowledge, they haven’t.

Now, my understanding is that what happened was that a publisher had this book in the Kindle store, but specifically for the Australian market where the books are in the public domain (no longer under copyright protection, so no permission is needed). Amazon apparently accidentally made them available in the USA, where they were (again as I understand it, unintentionally on the publisher’s part) infringing on the rights of the estate.

In trying to rectify that, Amazon reached into customer’s devices, and deleted the unauthorized file.

Possessing that file on your Kindle, by the way, was not illegal. In

Dowling v United States

the Supreme Court of the U.S.A. found that possession of infringing copies of a copyrighted work was not the same as possession of stolen goods (despite people commonly conflating the terms “theft” and “infringement”, they are different…that’s not to say that one is less “bad” than the other, but they aren’t the same).

One of my first posts, more than six years ago, was a parody about this situation:

All’s Well That Orwells

Well, recently, there’s been another story involving Orwell’s works and alleged infringement.

In this

TorrentFreak post by Ernesto

it’s reported that “internet radio host Josh Hadley” had some designed removed from an online retailer (one I’ve used) because of a complaint supposedly from the Orwell estate.

The design had the number 1984 prominently, and I think most people would see it as a clear allusion to the Orwell book.

However, allusions are not illegal…and you can’t copyright a title.

You can trademark it, but that doesn’t seem to me to be what’s being suggested here.

On the basis of the limited information in this article, it does appear to have been an overreach…the kind for which Disney has been famous.

The retailer is within their rights (and may be wise) to remove an item when they receive a legitimate looking claim of infringement.

They are under no obligation to carry anything. If they did continue to distribute something after having been told it was infringing, and that did turn out to be the case, they could be liable.

So, irritating as it might be, someone can make a claim of infringement, and most retailers would, I think, remove the item.

I’ve made a claim like that myself to Amazon, and a work (which was infringing) was removed.

I did have to attest that I was the copyright holder, and I had to send them evidence. Amazon could have hypothetically gone after me if I had lied to them (and I didn’t and I don’t).:)

Just based on what I’ve seen, Hadley was probably within rights to make the design.

The retailer was within rights not to carry it.

If the estate did not file the complaint in good faith…I’m not sure what the legal ramifications could possibly be. Restraint of trade?

I’ve had the same sort of thing happen to me a couple of times when I was reasonably sure I wasn’t infringing.

One was a t-shirt design where I used a public domain illustration. Somebody complained, I guess, and it doesn’t even have to have been the rightsholder.

I basically shrugged about it.

The other one was more amusing.

We did a t-shirt that said, “Frickin’ panda heads”. Yes, that was a reference to playing on the Wii Fit. I don’t think that’s an infringement…but, oh well.

It might be different if I was designing t-shirts for a living…if my family depended on it. Then, it might be worth fighting for it.

For me, it wasn’t.

Supergirl and Pat Savage

I know some of my readers are fans of Doc Savage, who is one of my fictional heroes. If you are, you might be interested in a piece I recently wrote in The Measured Circle:

Supergirl is a hit! Thanks (again), Doc Savage

What do you think? Should I have fought the takedown notices, in order to defend people who do rely on it? What should retailers do with infringement claims? Do you use a tablet a nightstand clock? Do you have an app you like that overrides the global sleep setting? 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.

Google wins appeal

October 17, 2015

Google wins appeal

It’s been almost two years since I last wrote about legal challenges to Google’s book scanning activities…and I started writing about it more than four years before that.

What’s changed in those two years?

Not much…and that’s important.

According to this

Associated Press article by Larry Neumeister, reproduced in CBC News

and other sources, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld Judge Denny Chin’s decision that the way Google is scanning and distributing books falls under Fair Use, meaning that it does not infringe on the rightsholders’ rights.

Here is the actual

decision

rendered today, October 16th, in the Authors Guild vs. Google, Inc.

Here’s the sum up:

“The Court of Appeals concludes that the defendant‚Äôs copying is transformative within the meaning of Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., 510 U.S. 569, 578-585 (1994), does not offer the public a meaningful substitute for matter protected by the plaintiffs‚Äô copyrights, and satisfies ¬ß 107‚Äôs test for fair use.”

This short excerpt, however is where I at least emotionally am in a different place than the court:

“Thus, while authors are undoubtedly important intended beneficiaries of copyright, the ultimate, primary intended beneficiary is the public, whose access to knowledge copyright seeks to advance by providing rewards for authorship.”

It brings up the basic  dichotomy.

We use the term “copyright protection”, and that’s how I think of it…as protection for the authors’ intellectual property from unfair exploitation.

The other side of it is that copyright law is intended to benefit the public…and that could be at the expense of the individual.

How does enabling an author to get compensation help the public?

It does it by encouraging the creation of more works.

It also, very specifically, sets a limited time for the author¬†to benefit from that work…and then it becomes owned by the public (it becomes part of the “public domain”).

Now, I am a reader and a writer, so I think to some extent I can see both sides.

Do I take advantage of the public domain and Fair Use?

Absolutely.

I love being able to read free public domain “classics” for free.

However…

I play within the rules. I like rules. I used to manage a gamestore, and rules are what make games fun.

That doesn’t mean, though, that I wouldn’t be interested in having the rules change.

More than five years ago, I wrote one of the posts that got me the most pushback:

Should copyright be permanent?

It explores the idea that copyright should be permanent, in exchange for more Fair Use.

Over this half decade, I’ve started to like the idea more.

Schools would be able to use current, copyrighted works for educational purposes without paying for them.

A hundred years from now, though, the movie of The Martian could still generate money for a rightsholder.

One immediate response to that people make: it would be a corporation making the money, not the author or the author’s descendants, in most cases.

That assumes the older model: the creator sells the rights to a publisher/distributor.

That may be less true over time with authors independently publishing, and keeping those rights for their descendants.

Regardless, my feeling is that the public doesn’t have an inherent right to a “shared culture” without recompense.

It just doesn’t feel right to me that eventually, Shakespeare belongs to everybody.

I’m sure many of my readers will disagree with that, and that’s fine with me.

I’m not saying I’m right and other people are wrong…I’m just trying to communicate how I feel about it.

It’s also important to note that this decision doesn’t say that Google can copy authors’ books and distribute them in full without the authors’ permission.

It does say they can copy them…even give a digital copy to a library.

They seem to be arguing that it is distributionright, not copyright.:)

They (it’s a three judge panel, with the decision written by Judge Pierre N. Leval) make it clear that a profit motive is not a barrier to Fair Use.

That’s also something that should be said¬†unequivocally. When you see Saturday Night Live doing a parody, they are certainly doing it with a profit motive. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t also driven by a creative impulse, but there is nothing wrong with making a profit off Fair Use.

Could the Authors Guild appeal this to the Supreme Court?

Sure…they promote themselves as an advocatory agency, and one place advocation happens is in court. Fighting in court helps demonstrate their worth to their members.

My guess is that this won’t be the last time I write about this.:)

So,  what does this mean for you?

It means you can search using Google Books and see a “snippet” of a book under copyright protection without the author’s permission.

It may also increase the likelihood that books survive, because the digital copies Google makes and gives to libraries (the specific library that loaned them the book) is something the library might not have been able to do. Google uses special technology, and can put a lot of money into it.

I want books to survive, of course…but for me, I would rather have a book disappear forever than have it made available to the public against the author’s wishes.

Ooh, it hurts to say that…practically (and selfishly, as a reader), that sounds bad, but for me, ethically, it feels right.

I’m very interesting in hearing what you think. I have intelligent, compassionate readers who may be able to argue for the other side very effectively. Ideally, that’s what I want for my readers…to hear multiple viewpoints ably presented.

Feel free to tell me an my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Update: thanks to reader Barbara Barry, whose comment helped improve 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‚Äôll 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)‚Ķand the good feeling you‚Äôll get.¬†:)¬†Shop ‚Äôtil you help!¬†:)¬†By the way, it‚Äôs been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to ‚Äústart at AmazonSmile‚ÄĚ 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.

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.ūüėČ

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.ūüėČ

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.ūüėČ 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.ūüėČ

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.ūüėČ

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”.ūüėČ

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)ūüėČ 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.ūüėČ 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‚ÄĒchanges 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…ūüėČ

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‚Äôll 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)‚Ķand the good feeling you‚Äôll get.¬†:)¬†Shop ‚Äôtil you help!¬†:)¬†By the way, it‚Äôs been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to ‚Äústart at AmazonSmile‚ÄĚ 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.


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