Category Archives: copyright

google, bookended

As she most skillfully elucidates, I present Ursula, vindicated:

And the sneakiest gambit is that of talking as if only orphaned books are being illegally digitalized. All the time the Settlement has been in the courts, Google has been blithely going ahead digitalizing any book it wanted without obtaining permission, let alone contractual terms. (I can attest to this, since they have thus pirated several of my books, with no attempt whatever to contact the publishers, my agent, or myself — none of whom are exactly hard to locate.)

Such methodical theft looks like more than corporate indifference to the law. It looks like a deliberate effort to destroy copyright. In other words, the corporation would like to do away with the concept of workers getting a fair share of the profit from their work.

That would “be good” for the corporation. Not good for the worker, the writer — or for readers, or for anybody else.

And yes, I have a gmail account, proving Ursula’s point #1. So there.


Fascinating expose about the rise and influence of Wikileaks. I find it interesting that companies are spending so much money to prevent the already preventable:

It’s a well-worn carpet. Since late 2007 every major security software vendor, from McAfee to Symantec to Trend Micro, has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to acquire companies in the so-called Data-Leak Prevention (DLP) industry—software designed to locate and tag sensitive information, and then guard against its escape at the edges of a firm’s network.

The problem: DLP doesn’t work. Data is simply created too quickly, and moved around too often, for a mere filter to catch it, says Richard Stiennon, an analyst for security consultancy IT-Harvest, in Birmingham, Mich. “For DLP to function, all the stars have to align,” he says. “This is a huge problem that can’t be stopped with a single layer of infrastructure.”

Dead horse, meet sledgehammer:

WikiLeaks’ founder, in fact, seems to have trouble accepting that Mudge is working for the other side. “He’s a clever guy, and he’s also highly ethical,” says Assange. “I suspect he would have concerns about creating a system to conceal genuine abuses.” He dismisses Cinder as just another system of digital censorship. And those systems, he says, will always fail, just as China’s Great Firewall can’t stop well-informed and determined dissident Internet users. “Censorship might work for the average person but not for highly motivated people,” Assange says. “And our people are highly motivated.”

Very similar to issue of file sharing and DRM in the movie, music, even the publishing industries: hackers, geeks and now even disgruntled employees will always be one transnational step ahead.  Who would have thought that forcing companies to be honest could be such a grassroots movement, albeit a highly dangerous and potentially lethal one.

But where it’s called transparency in the corporate world, it’s called open source for libraries, as they actually try to promote the sharing of information, whether it through the Web itself or their own repositories.  Specifically with the rise of Wikileaks, where is the library’s place in advocating information dissemination? Are we to promote access to leaked troop positions or emails detailing corrupt politicians and their corporate enablers that may potentially endanger the lives of these or peripherally connected people?

After hard thought it seems that Wikileaks is really no different than Wikipedia in principle: users, whatever their intentions, can post factual, sensitive and/or erroneous information at will. And not that either is an inherently bad/evil idea or virtual creation; it’s just that no one thought that either would be so significant in generating user interest and participation. I suppose a coming challenge for libraries and librarians is to start incorporating informational ethics into their instructional literacy sessions. Just think…we’d make a killing with the corruptible market out there…charging by the hour plus adding a fee for virtual downloads, etc. We could create our own unaccountable banking system.

corporatizing copyright

Ursula Le Guin has some stones.  This whole Google digital books settlement is a bit complicated, but it boils down to something more than opting in and out for the authors.  It’s about signing away your authorship, and forcing companies like the great and powerful Goog to negotiate with you before you do so and not after they’ve been caught.  Le Guin says it better:

The “opt-out” clause in the Settlement is most disturbing:

First, it seems unfair that, by the terms of the class-action settlement, authors can officially present objections to the Court only by being “opted in” to the settlement and thereby subjecting themselves to its terms.

Second, while the “opt-out” clause appears to offer authors an easy way to defend their copyright, in fact it disguises an assault on authors’ rights. Google, like any other publisher or entity, should be required to obtain permission from the owner to purchase or use copyrighted material, item by item.

The free and open dissemination of information and of literature, as it exists in our Public Libraries, can and should exist in the electronic media. All authors hope for that. But we cannot have free and open dissemination of information and literature unless the use of written material continues to be controlled by those who write it or own legitimate right in it. We urge our government and our courts to allow no corporation to circumvent copyright law or dictate the terms of that control.

Google has some stones as well, dictating the terms of their own settlement to authors of works they’ve digitized without consent.  Perhaps Google is trying to claim some sort of perverted sense of fair use by chumming with libraries to assist in their digitization without bothering to negotiate with authors and forking out the dough to buy the item they want to scan from Amazon or AbeBooks.

why the e-book orgasm is not mutual

Or, why e-books are so “popular”. Random House shrieks “all mine”:

On Friday, Markus Dohle, chief executive of Random House, sent a letter to dozens of literary agents, writing that the company’s older agreements gave it “the exclusive right to publish in electronic book publishing formats.”

Backlist titles, which continue to be reprinted long after their initial release, are crucial to publishing houses because of their promise of lucrative revenue year after year. But authors and agents are particularly concerned that traditional publishers are not offering sufficient royalties on e-book editions, which they point out are cheaper for publishers to produce. Some are considering taking their digital rights elsewhere, which could deal a financial blow to the hobbled publishing industry.

It would seem that e-books are the literary equivalent to reality TV shows: cheap to produce, and therefore generating higher stream of revenues to distribute. But for whom is the question worth asking. Never mind if the reader prefers the physical book.  This is why amazon and such are promoting the hell out of their devices.

amazonian irony

Amazon remotely deletes purchases from Kindles.  Removes 1984, causing Orwell to promptly pop a 360 underground.

Amazon CEO Jeffrey P. Bezos has apologized to Kindle customers for remotely removing copies of the George Orwell novels “1984″ and “Animal Farm” from their e-reader devices. The company did so after learning the electronic editions were pirated, and it gave buyers automatic refunds. But Amazon did it without prior notice.

Of all the titles it was 1984.  Sweet.