Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Google and the Orphan Brats

Had I but world enough and time.... I'd write a LOT about the Google Books Settlement! Especially since it's all over the news (well, the kind of news feeds and newsletters I subscribe to), so there's a lot to think about and comment about. But I do find this piece especially interesting, which was in the most recent New York Times Book Review. It discusses the Google Books issue in the context of orphan works, a copyright-related topic that fascinates me.

One of the most fascinating parts of this article is just how many orphan works are out there. And even more fascinating is just how many of the works Google has scanned happen to also be orphans. Read the essay through to the end and you'll see just how cunning Google really is in terms of establishing a monopoly, especially in regards to these orphan works.

To this day, I still don't know how I feel about Google digitizing all these books. I love the idea of a universal library, but I want authors to be fairly compensated. I've listened to Google reps talk about Google Book Search and how much positive outcome it has for authors, but I'm still wary. I still feel uneasy. As someone who writes (granted, not currently for an income, but perhaps someday!), I just don't know how I feel about my words being out there on the internet, in perpetuity, accessible and usable by anyone in any way. I know that there are restrictions to what people can see and use in the Google Book Search for copyrighted works, but still. Just can't shake the uneasy feeling, just can't feel 100% right about it all. We'll see what other interesting tangents develop in this sordid tale!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

When software contracts bite back

Oh, those pesky software contracts!

Can Gmail users sue Google for bad service?

Not surprisingly, no.

I did notice the lapse in Google service on Tuesday, and I figured it was just the cosmos working against me. Maybe it was really a blessing in disguise to get me to stop checking email obsessively.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Theft vs. Piracy

I don't really have the time to regularly update this blog anymore at the level I'd like to--when I was upkeeping it, I really put a lot of time and thought into what I wrote and wanted to provide as much interesting and useful information as possible. I wish I had more time because I really enjoyed writing in here. But I just found this image and had to share it.

A rather simplistic guide, but it's pretty much accurate (and pretty accurately depicts a lot of what goes on via the web, like file sharing, and even what goes on during an average workday at the photocopier). Some would argue (myself included, perhaps?) that piracy is a FORM of theft, but it is not exactly the same thing as theft itself. Thoughts?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Do publishers even fact-check anymore?

It's happened again: another fake memoir has come to light.

This author invented her involvement in a gang and falsified her ethnicity and background. The "memoir," Love and Consequences by Margaret B. Jones, had received really great critical acclaim and seemed destined to become another one of those great memoirs when her sister saw an article about it and realized that the woman in the photo was not who she claimed to be and called Margaret out.

The publisher, Penguin Group USA, has recalled all copies of the book and canceled her author tour. This came after they had sunk "less than $100,000" into a deal with Jones (whose real name is Margaret Seltzer). (The editor who originally gave Seltzer/Jones the deal actually started out at Simon and Schuster and moved the contract over with her when she went to Riverhead.)

I can't help but think that these publishers and editors would have saved themselves a lot of grief, embarrassment, work hours, and, um, money, had they only had someone verify the stories in the Seltzer/Jones story.

The story details why the author made up the story, but I just can't understand why people think that making up a story and passing it off as true is right. If you create composite characters and base a story off things that happen in real life, it's no longer nonfiction and cannot be passed off as such.

Interestingly enough, I just checked on Amazon.com and the book is still available for purchase. There are numerous angry one-star reviews, most posted within the last 12 hours, calling for the book to be removed from the site. I'll be interested to see if and when the site removes the book from its listings.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Debut novel Beautiful Children released for free, sans DRM

There's a new book that was recently released called Beautiful Children by Charles Bock. I found out about it through one of my classes because it's this ridiculously hyped book, receiving the kind of hype from the publisher (Random House) you don't really see these days. We were mostly looking at it to examine its website, which is really flashy and splashy and visual but overall hard to get around. But today we started talking about it again because Random House is allowing people to download the book for free, from today through Friday, from their website as a PDF. (You can access the download site from the site I just linked above.)

The most interesting thing about the fact that the book is available for download without any sort of DRM (digital rights management) on it, so once it's downloaded, users could ostensibly do whatever they want with it. Of course Random House makes you click this little box on their site saying "Copyright: This book is protected by copyright and is reproduced here by permission of the author and Random House. I read/understand the above copyright." But I'm sure many of the people clicking on that box don't actually understand what they're clicking into at all, since Random House provides no further explanation anywhere on the site. My instructor showed us how he was easily able to convert the PDF of the book into a text file. This means the file can now be manipulated any way the user wants, which violates the brief, vague copyright agreement downloaders opted into by checking the box.

I wonder why Random House chose to do this; perhaps they're riding on the coat tails of the recent success of the Oprah website offering a free limited-time PDF download of Suze Orman's latest book. Beautiful Children has hit number 14 on the New York Times Bestseller List, so perhaps RH just sees this as one further step in promoting the book to new readers. Plus, it's a long book and people aren't yet accustomed to reading long texts on the screen, and not that many of us own electronic readers. Perhaps RH is banking on the PDF being a teaser to lead people into purchasing a print copy of the book.

I did download the PDF, which took only seconds to do, but I have no immediate plans to read it. I really had no desire to read the print version of the book, after looking at the obnoxious website, and I downloaded the book mostly out of curiosity. I'll probably page (cyber-page, rather) through it at some point, but I'm in no hurry. We'll see if I actually delve into it deeply.

I just wonder what will happen now that there will be all these free, downloaded, non-DRM-ed PDFs of the book floating around in the ether. Not that there's a great deal of value in pirating something that's already available for free, but still. Time will tell.

What do people think? Are free electronic versions of print books a good idea? Are they a good way to promote an author and boost his or her print sales, or are they just paving the way for people to pirate?

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Pirate's Dilemma: A Look at How to Work with, Not Against, Media "Pirates"

I've got good reason to start blogging on this site again regularly, because this semester, I'm enrolled in a class at Emerson called "Know Your Rights" that covers contracts, rights, permissions, copyright, and all things intellectual property. This means I'll be finding juicy stories once again as well as having fun and fab and just plain bizarre factoids to wax poetic about.

Tonight in class we watched a great slideshow presentation called "The Pirate's Dilemma" that talked about how digital media is changing the way people consume media in general and why the law should work with these "pirates" instead of against them. Granted, the slideshow is ultimately an advertisement for the creator's book, but it's enjoyable to watch and quite informative. I tend to agree with a lot of what he says. And who am I to criticize someone for marketing his book using the internets?

Check it out here or watch below.

Ah, it feels good to be back in the CopyRighteous blogosphere!

UPDATE: I just spent over an hour going through previous entries and tagging them to hopefully make it easier to find information on my blog. My sudden desire to tag was brought on because I am also taking an Electronic Publishing course this semester, and I'm giving metadata a nod. Plus, I love being organized. When I originally created this blog, I didn't really understand what tags were. But now.... oh, the wonders of the internet!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Great Videos on the Writers' Strike

I have dropped off the circuit for most of the semester, due to... well, the semester's existence. However, a friend did share this gem with me.

This video about the writers' strike is funny, and fitting.

Find the original page here.

Here's a video explaining why the WGA is on strike.

Find the original on this page.

For more information on the writers' strike, visit the WGA website, United Hollywood, and check out this site made by fans to support the strike too.

I miss the Daily Show.