Category Archives: copyright

Republicans hate Democrats voting even more than they love corporations?

The Republican stop-people-voting bill in Georgia is very bad. And despite Republican lies, it does indeed ban providing food or water to anyone standing in line to vote. Florida’s now imitating Georgia. I’m sure they won’t be the last Republican-led state to do so.

The remarkable thing is, they’re so committed to voter suppression they’re even turning on corporate America. Mitch McConnell’s suddenly decided corporations should stay out of politics. An interesting take for someone who supports Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that puts unlimited corporate money into play; Moscow Mitch is fine with corporations intervening in politics, just not when it clashes with his agenda. Accirdubg to the new right-wing buzzword the issue is corporate communism which apparently means “a corporation did something I don’t like!” Which is pretty much all communism means to these guys. But they’re all in on outrage of Major League Baseball pulling the All-Star game out of Atlanta: Texas Governor Abbott is refusing to throw out the first ball at the year’s first Rangers game and SC Rep. Jeff Duncan says if Major League Baseball pressures Georgia over its anti-voting bill, the Party will take away baseball’s antitrust exemption. Funny, that’s pretty much how the Communist Party ran the USSR: if you want your business to flourish, don’t piss off the party. It’s always projection with Republicans.

Fox News’ Kat Timpf is shocked that liberals have puritanical objections to Rep. Matt Gaetz allegedly committing statutory rape. I wonder what she thinks of Gaetz, when he was in the Florida legislature, playing a game of seducing women for points. Jonah Goldberg weighs in and gratuitously insults a woman he saw with Gaetz as a slut. The Washington Post points out that contrary to Gaetz’ statement his travel records prove his innocence there’s no way to do that. Oh, and would you believe Gaet fought against a revenge-porn ban when he was in the Florida legislature? And that he allegedly sought a blanket pre-emptive pardon from Trump for unspecified acts.

The judge in the Alex “Sandy Hook is a false flag” Jones defamation case sanctioned him a couple of years ago. The Supreme Court turned down Jones’ appeal. They also killed the suit over Trump’s right to block people on Twitter as moot — but Clarence Thomas threw in that Twitter, FB etc. should not be allowed to moderate content. I’m sure if Thomas ever gets his way he’ll next discover a constitutional exception for banning liberals from the Internet.

I am, however, sympathetic to Neil Gorsuch’s argument that employees’ religious rights deserve greater protection.

The Supreme Court also ruled for Google and against Oracle in a lawsuit over Google allegedly infringing Oracle’s Java copyright. Judging from this Twitter thread, it’s a fair use issue. The judges have also weighed in on a Kentucky abortion case though I’m unclear about the significance.

Mississippi pastor Shane Vaughn complains South Africa worked great until black kids started going to college — because of George Soros! So, both racist and anti-semitic.

Arkansas just made it legal for medical workers to refuse non-emergency treatment if they have moral objections to treating someone. This will not go well. And while the governor vetoed an anti-trans bill the legislature overrode him. And Montana’s governor is expected to sign a bill that gives anyone — including corporations — a right to discriminate if non-discrimination violates their religious beliefs. Misssippi’s governor is simply a liar, claiming the deficits under Trump were not because of tax cuts. Montana Senator Steve Daines insists he is totally not being racist when he says the reason Montana has a meth problem is that it’s Mexican meth.

North Carolina’s anti-trans bill includes a statement that “would also compel state employees to immediately notify parents in writing if their child displays “gender nonconformity” or expresses a desire to be treated in a way that is incompatible with the gender they were assigned at birth.” That sounds like an excuse to pick on gays or straight cis-kids who don’t conform to gender stereotypes. This is, after all, the state where the anti-trans bathroom bill led to cops hassling cis-women in women’s restrooms because they didn’t look feminine enough.

When Trump solicited campaign donations from his supporters last year, the fine print made the donations monthly.

These days academia is run like a business: less money for employees, lots for top administrators.

One of the Sedition Day traitors later allegedly said he wants to lynch the black cop who shot Ashli Babbitt on 1/6.

A Korean-American Republican insists if she says racist crap about China it’s totally not racist as she’s Asian too. And she’s suing the Texas Tribune for defamation for writing about it.

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Filed under copyright, economics, Politics, Undead sexist cliches

Writing, creativity, copyright: a smorgasbord of links

Turner Classics looks at classic films with problematic parts: Gunga Din, The Children’s Hour, The Searchers and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

Camestros Felapton looks back at a specfic flare-up online known as Racefail.

So perpetual lecher/harasser PePe LePew won’t appear in Space Jam 2. As I was never a fan of his one-note stories, I’m surprised anyone is up in arms about it. Though Laurie Penny says it’s a shame the scene where he gets his butt kicked for how he treats women won’t appear.

Conservatives are citing the Gannett chain dropping Mallard Fillmore by Bruce Tinsley as more cancel culture. As noted at the link, this isn’t new: lots of strips have been dropped by many papers over the years (Doonesbury, for instance). Personally I think the papers could legitimately drop Tinsley’s work for being crap; even allowing for my bias against a strip spouting right-wing cliches, it’s really poor work, visually and humorously.

Just what constitutes general knowledge for a crossword puzzle?

Amazon’s control of ebooks doesn’t work out well for libraries.

Does font influence how readers perceive our words and rate the truth of our arguments?

It seems John LeCarré is another writer who got unacknowledged help from his spouse.

Amazon says it’s no longer carrying books that portray LBGTQ people as mentally ill.

The right wing may complain about cancel culture, but conservative Christianity has been canceling people  and books for decades. As have gun-rights groups.

Doing nothing can benefit your creativity.

A good discussion about copyright on John Scalzi’s blog.

The author’s alliance weighs in on new copyright law proposals.

The long and somewhat unsuccessful struggle to create a pristine, perfect new master copy of Citizen Kane.

“The creator is rewarded for transcending expertise, and going beyond the standard repertoire.” — a look at why that 10,000 hours of practice metric doesn’t work as well for writing and other creative professions as other types of skill.

In the midst of Syria’s civil war, a forbidden library bloomed.

What happens to your brain when you’re invested in a story.

Trump says he’s going to launch his own social network. One blogger laughs.

Trump was right about one thing, without him in office, the news media have hit a slump.  It’s a fair trade-off for him not spouting bullshit, I think.

A judge says the media are biased against Republicans. Lawyers, Guns and Money responds that the “the prestige legacy media — are biased against Republicans, in the same way that climate scientists are biased against climate change denialists, astronomers and geologists are biased against the flourishing Flat Earth movement — this is really a thing by the way — historians are biased against Biblical literalists, economists are biased against the idea that tax cuts pay for themselves.”

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Filed under copyright, Politics, Undead sexist cliches, Writing

Giant-slayers, copyright, libertarians and more: books read

I KILL GIANTS by Joe Kelly and J.M. Ken Nakamura apparently has some cult status, but it didn’t work for me at all. Protagonist Barbara believes she’s defending her small town from giants, which is stressing her to the point nobody can stand to be around her — but is it true? Or is the giant-killing a metaphor for Something Else? Like Kingdom of the Wicked I figured the answer out almost at once, and wasn’t any more interested in the results than with the previous book.

BLACK HAMMER: Streets of Spiral by Jeff Lemire and various artists is an anthology that shows the limits of the Black Hammer mythos: the core story of the series is fine but as pastiches of various heroic templates, characters such as Abe Slam, Golden Gail and Barb Alien aren’t distinctive enough in a conventional adventure. Readable, but no more than that.

THEFT: A History of Music by Keith Aoki, James Boyle and Jennifer Jenkins is the product of Duke University’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain, looking at the history of copyright in music the way their earlier Bound by Law looked at fair use. This looks at musical notation, classical composers engaging in sampling (the assumption was that you could borrow but you had to do something new with it). and the impact of tech — does listening to a phonograph record or a player piano constitute a performance? Quite informative about our view of music, originality and copyright law, including such oddities as John Fogerty getting sued for ripping himself off (his former record label unsuccessfully sued on the grounds Old Man Down the Road was too close to Fogerty’s CCR work). If you’re interested you can download Theft for free, legally.

In Edward Eager’s final book, five kids experience SEVEN DAY MAGIC when they discover their newest acquisition from the local library is a magic book that both grants wishes and becomes whatever book its wielder most desires (Eager more or less acknowledges a debt to the similarly mutating magic ring in E. Nesbit’s Magic Castle). This leads them into the early days of Oz, the sequel to Half Magic (now I know why one scene I remembered so clearly wasn’t in the original book) and join their granny in her rip-roaring youth. The ending is unintentionally sad — the kids’ confidence they’ll have another magic adventure (and all previous kids got two) means we’d have had a sequel if Eager hadn’t died a couple of years later.

A LIBERTARIAN WALKS INTO A BEAR: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (And Some Bears)by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling recounts how some rag-tag libertarians acted out one of the movement’s fantasies: move to a small state (or in this case a New Hampshire town) in large enough numbers to set policy, then strip away government services and let the free market take over. Countless liberal blog posts have predicted this would work out very badly, and it seems they were right: as town services dwindled away, no dynamic John Galts jumped up with a more efficient free-market solution. Roads deteriorated. Bears, already a problem in New Hampshire, swarmed in. Things got messy. Much as I take a certain schadenfreude in watching libertarian fantasies crash, the author does a good job not simply snarking at them. The cast of residents, libertarian and otherwise, a quirky, individualistic lot and Hongoltz-Hetling conveys a lot of affection for them and sympathy for their problems. He’s also clear about the state’s role — when similar bear problems hit a larger, more influential city, there was a lot more support.

SHADOW — GO MAD is, like The Shadow Strikes, a 1960s Shadow spy thriller by Dennis Lynds, but a stronger one. A series of crimes and other puzzling activities (Green Berets surrendering to the North Vietnamese for no reason) draws the Shadow’s attention. It turns out the SPECTRE-style crime ring CYPHER is using the crime wave as the equivalent of a PowerPoint presentation showcasing it’s latest service, access to mind-control tech which they’ll sell to the highest bidder (they considered leasing, but decided the contracts would become too complicated). Not up to the best of Walter Gibson, but entertaining.

#SFWApro. Cover by N.M. Bodecker, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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Publishers allegedly behaving badly

First, Disney. According to Cory Doctorow,  Disney acquired publishing rights to a number of Alan Dean Foster’s novels when they acquired Lucasfilm and Fox. They have not paid Foster any royalties since they became the publisher, nor provided him with royalty statements. The reason? They acquired publication rights when they bought the other companies’ assets, but not their debts — so basically they’re not legally obligated to pay him. They’re also refusing to negotiate or discuss things unless Foster signs a non-disclosure agreement first. Which sounds like a ginormous red flag — NDAs are often used as part of a settlement agreement, but not as a precondition for negotiating.

SFWA is on this, understandably. If Disney can get away with this there’s nothing to stop other corporations that buy up publishers from doing the same. Or one publisher under an umbrella corporation could sell the rights to another publishing company in the same organization. Keep in mind, they’re not washing their hands of what Lucasfilm owed Foster: Disney is selling copies of the books he wrote so there’s no excuse I can imagine that makes it legal.

From Disney’s perspective I would guess this looks like a no-lose move. If they win, or if Foster just gives up, they keep the royalties. There’s no court ruling to stop them from trying again. If the case goes to court and runs another five years, it will be a great deal of sweat and effort for Foster but none at all for Disney executives; they’ve got lawyers for that. And if they lose, well, it’s unlikely whatever court costs and damages they pay will hurt their bottom line much. Disney’s FY 2018 report says they spent $38 million settling litigation; another million wouldn’t be much of a problem.

Which is the thing about America today: if you’re rich and you don’t want to follow the law, the system can’t do much to stop or deter you. Disney Co. is very rich. Small wonder that aggressively as they protect their intellectual property, they keep getting accused of ignoring it when it’s inconvenient.

Then there are the allegations against Audible, Amazon’s audiobook company (I should add that I believe both sets of allegations). As detailed at File 770, writers receive only 40 percent of the sale price even though they pay for recording their books, which isn’t cheap. Now it turns out that Audible has launched an exchange program where you can trade in one audiobook for another, even if you liked the recording and listened all the way through (there’s a “return” button at the end). You can make the exchange up to a year after purchase. Audible then reduces the authors’ sales: you sell 10 books, three readers return them, you get payment for seven. It’s not obvious on the sales reports (my publisher McFarland’s sales reports make returns crystal clear). Nor did writers learn about this deal or get an option to opt out — oh, and even when Amazon changes the rules, writers can’t pull their books for seven years after they launch.

I presume this works out well for Audible: they make money off reader memberships and I’m sure turning themselves into a de facto library makes membership that much more attractive. Not at all well for writers.

#SFWApro. All rights to cover image remain with current holder.

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Filed under copyright, Writing

They are the Napoleon of the Public Domain, Watson!

All but the last 10 or so Sherlock Holmes stories are now out of copyright, so everything up to that point is public domain .. but not in the eyes of the Conan Doyle Estate. Several years ago they fought public domain on the grounds that the characters weren’t completely fleshed out and developed until the very end of the canon. Ergo, all post-Doyle portrayals of Holmes depend on every single story, so if some of them are still in copyright, all of them are. Even one as early as The Final Problem, illustrated below by Sidney Paget.

They lost on appeal. Judge Richard Posner argued that if the early and later Holmes and Watson are distinct from each other (due to the way the final stories fleshed out the characters) then there’s no issue with riffing on the Holmes of the earlier stories. If they’re not distinct, the later stories don’t add anything. QED.

But copyright holders are often a determined bunch. The estate is now suing Netflix for Enola Holmes and also author Nancy Springer for the books the film was based on. The argument is that Holmes in the film is in touch with his emotions in a way he wasn’t in the earlier tales, and also “he began to respect women.”

I strongly disagree about women. Holmes was always respectful towards them: he might not want one in his life besides Mrs. Hudson (fan canon about Irene Adler aside), but when his clients come to him, he’s courteous, respectful and protective of their interests. I don’t recall him ever condescending to them or not taking their concerns seriously. British writer Kit Whitfield once described him as an older brother for hire, taking care of things a young woman’s brother or father would normally handle for her.

That said, I have no idea how this will play out; I’m guessing Netflix wins, but I wouldn’t put money on it. Time will tell (I just came up with that phrase. I anticipate it going viral). And check out the Passive Voice copyright blog for some technical legal points such as the choice of venue (“PG doesn’t know how busy these New Mexico judges are, but expects none of them wished for a complex copyright lawsuit involving parties from all over the place to land on her/his docket.”)

#SFWApro.

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Filed under copyright, Movies, Sherlock Holmes

King Kong copyright and other writing-related links

Once upon a time, Universal sued Nintendo, claiming Donkey Kong violated Universal’s King Kong copyright. As discussed at the link, the rights turned out much more complicated.

Oh, and Nintendo bought the rights to the Hornio Brothers parody of Super Mario Brothers so that they could bury it for all time.

Copyright and blog posts.

TV’s The Good Fight made a specific reference to Alan Dershowitz and his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein. Dershowitz says it’s defamatory. This is nowhere as new an issue as the article makes it sound, though.

Back in the late 1940s, the Justice Department banned movies studios from owning theaters because of the monopoly power it gave them (indie films could be squeezed out in favor of their own product). A judge has thrown those rules out. There’s much discussion at the link whether this is a sensible move — a 10-screen multiplex needs so much product, it can’t just get by on the parent studio’s output — or whether the studios will game the system (I’m guessing b).

Camestros Felapton discusses the importance (or non-) of reading the science fiction canon). Which relates to George R.R. Martin and his Hugo speech.

Disney is releasing Mulan (the live-action version) on its streaming service for $30 a pop (which is probably cheaper than a theater if, say, you’re a family of four). As two of the stars have supported China’s current oppression in Hong Kong, there’s a push for a boycott. More here.

Not as productive as you should be? Ask yourself these questions.

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An anthology blows up and other links about books, movies, recipes and reporting

So my friend John Hartness of Falstaff Books posted this week on Facebook about some problems with the anthology Flashing Swords #6 (following up on a series of anthologies published around 50 years ago). It seems the publisher was blindsided by editor Robert M. Price and didn’t realize Price hadn’t signed or sent the authors contracts for the stories included therein, and had credited himself as copyright holder (the publisher admits that was a screw-up on their part). The authors were also upset with Price’s foreword, which veers into undead sexist cliches about how women need to stop crying rape, feminists hate het sex, and participation-trophy cliches (he is hardly the first anthologist to do stuff like this). The publisher, to their credit, says they’re killing the book and paying the writers a kill fee, which is precisely the way to handle a mess like this.

Due to the Trump Virus, it looks like the gap between theatrical release and streaming will narrow a lot.

DAW head Betsy Wolheim thinks Patrick Rothfuss hasn’t written anything on the third Kingkiller Chronicles book. This has led to much speculation by my writing friends why she didn’t keep her opinions in house: is he seriously missing deadlines? How close is he really to getting finished? Does it hurt specfic in general if people assume “maybe it’s better if I wait until all the books are out” and don’t buy into series early. One person linked to an article from a few years ago in which Penguin took very late authors to court.

Fifteen years ago, cable was home entertainment’s big dog. Now cable falters as streaming rises.

“This was a time of “Mean Streets” and “The Poseidon Adventure.” “American Graffiti” and “Last Tango in Paris.” “Airport” sequels and “Aguirre, the Wrath of God.” Edgy political thrillers, socially aware satires and mainstream melodramas managed to coexist with B-movies, porn and Warholian provocations. Regardless of their artistic aspirations, most were enormously entertaining.” — Ann Hornaday on why seventies film rocked. It’s an interesting take but as someone generally skeptical about How We Have Fallen Since Decade X, I’m not sure I agree (it rapidly turns into a standard grumble about all those CGI superhero movies taking up the multiplex).

Who exactly gets credit as a recipe creator?

Who should get immortalized in bird names?

An author pushed his book higher on the bestseller list by buying copies himself.

Years ago, critic Leonard Maltin discussed the problem of rating and reviewing a movie when the original version has been re-edited and is no longer available. A few years ago on Inverse, an article discussed the problem of finding the original Han Shot First Star Wars.

I wrote a while back about how bad management had killed reporting at Deadspin. Most of the staff who quit are back with a new project.

And here’s a Virgil Finlay cover to close with.

#SFWApro. All rights to cover remain with current holder.

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Filed under copyright, Movies, Reading, Writing

Orphan works and other copyright links

Orphan works are potentially covered by copyright but with no obvious rights holder. As a result, even if you want to publish/show/play them, you’ve no way to request permission but doing so without permission risks copyright infringement. Back in 2005, Duke University’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain discussed the problems this creates for preserving films: thousands of yards of film are decaying but who’s going to spend money preserving something you have no right to show?

Over in the European Union, you can get past this by making a diligent search for the copyright holder. Unfortunately the law is unclear on when you’ve been diligent enough, and even meeting the minimum standard can be difficult.

All but the last 10 Sherlock Holmes stories are public domain. However the Doyle estate argues Netflix’s new Enola Holmes series about Holmes’ brilliant sister infringes on the final 10 by showing Holmes as a complex emotional human being instead of just a thinking machine.

Some companies have tried using trademark as a way to control material that’s now out of copyright. One Supreme Court decision from 2003 says that’s not going to fly.

Self-published authors and fanfic-turned-pro authors are increasingly using copyright law against their competition in dubious ways.

For an unrelated illustration, here’s TYG comparing the size of the onion we got last week to Trixie’s head.

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Assorted writing and media-related links

Even if Marvel wanted to stop cops wearing Punisher insignia, there’s not much they can do.

How a l0w-budget indie horror film became the hit of the summer.

Foz Meadows recounts some really unpleasant interactions with the Red Sofa literary agency.

Publishers filed suit to stop Internet Archive lending out unlimited copies of digital books. The Archive stopped, while spouting bullshit about how this is an attack on the very concept of library lending (nope. Libraries actually pay for digital books).

Vice calls out an author for arguing pirating creative works is cool. Don Henley, meanwhile, has asked Congress to do more to fight digital piracy.

Wonder where President Tiny-Brain got the idea that old man police knocked down in Baltimore was a false-flag operator? From One America Network, which makes Fox News look like Walter Cronkite.

When blogs became a thing, a lot of right-wingers prophesied the end of the “lamestream media.” They’re still prophesying it.

Spotify now rules the podcasting world.

John Scalzi signed a record-breaking multimillion-dollar publishing deal with Tor a few years back. Here he reviews the first five years.

If you need sound effects, the BBC has your back.

Scalzi, again, this time on creatives who aren’t talking about politics.

 

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Filed under copyright, Miscellanea, Writing

Black comedy and the Trump Virus

A number of political bloggers have described our current situation — idiot authoritarian putting his useless son-in-law in charge of a medical crisis — is a banana-republic kind of thing. Me, I’ve come to see it as a kind of black comedy about the British aristocracy at its worst. Only very black, and not very funny.

In this view of things, Trump is a duke from some hideously inbred line of aristocrats. He’s stupid and feckless, but with his distinguished pedigree and his vicious willingness to lash out at anyone who questions him, lots of people are perfectly willing to treat him as if he were worthy of respect. Jared is the equivalent of an airheaded fop, the kind of nitwit who populates so many P.G. Wodehouse stories. Except Wodehouse’s protagonists are invariably decent; in a pandemic they might have no idea what to do, but if it were pointed out, they’d do the right thing. Kushner not so much. Whoever’s behind seizing state Trump Virus supplies, for instance, they’re not doing the right thing.

And this article about Trump’s endorsement of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment has Trump, Giulani and an economic adviser admitting they don’t know nothin’ ’bout medicine, but they did stay in a Holiday Inn last night — well about that level of rationality.

And we have the Republicans horrified, like countless earlier generations of aristocrats, that doing anything to help the peasantry will give them ideas they have rights. That they can get better treatment! They might realize Medicare for all is affordable! BBut I’m sure right wingers will be happier with new proposals such as “pitching a payroll-tax cut, a capital-gains tax cut, creating 50-year Treasury bonds to lock in low interest rates, and a waiver that would clear businesses of liability from employees who contract the coronavirus on the job.” Yes, the poor and small business owners suffering from the Trump Virus will certainly be able to survive on their 50-year-treasury bonds!

But looking at the effects on the ground, it’s not funny. It’s true all governments struggle with the unexpected, but Trump’s White House has been exceptionally bad. “It took 70 days from that initial notification for Trump to treat the coronavirus not as a distant threat or harmless flu strain well under control, but as a lethal force that had outflanked America’s defenses and was poised to kill tens of thousands of citizens. That more-than-two-month stretch now stands as critical time that was squandered.” Doctors are going above and beyond — why isn’t Trump? Okay, the question’s rhetorical, it’s because he cares far more about avoiding any blame than actually solving the crisis. See, easy?

And does Trump’s support for using a malarial drug to treat the Trump Virus have anything to do with the manufacturer paying for access to him? (or, as noted in that hydroxychloroquine article, that he and a lot of people in his orbit have investments that would benefit). I’ve heard similar points made about our government scooping up N95 masks — privatized contractors will get to distribute them and profit thereby. More on the science here.

In other Trump Virus news:

Sean Hannity now insists he took the virus seriously from day one. He lies. And lies some more.

With Diamond, the only remaining comics distributor, shutting down for now, comics companies are searching for solutions.

Andrew Lloyd Webber is streaming his musical on YouTube for free.

More on the Internet Archive undermining copyright during the crisis. And the incredibly intrusive proctoring/data gathering checking on college students taking tests online.

 

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