Category Archives: copyright

Mars, monsters, black hair and copyright: books read

Leigh Brackett’s THE NEMESIS FROM TERRA reads like a mash-up of Brackett’s Martian adventures with her hardboiled movie scripts (she worked on both The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye). It’s set in an era when a powerful Earth corporation has taken over Mars, press ganging lower-class Martians and Earthers to work in the mines (reminding me of Diana Wynn Jones’ joke about how miners in fantasy novels are always slaves, never actual miners). Tough-as-nails protagonist Rick is on the run from the press gang when a Martian seer tells him he’s destined to rule. To succeed, though, he’s got to defeat the corporation, it’s ruthless leader and deal with their mutual interest in an attractive revolutionary (the Bacall to Rick’s Bogart). Plus, of course, a lost city.

This is a grimmer, tougher yarn than most of Brackett’s Mars stories (people smoke a lot more than they do in her other stories too), but it also fits what Edmond Hamilton (Brackett’s husband) saw as the theme of her work: a man who pursues a great dream only to find it hollow. A good story, in any case.

HAIR STORY: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America by Ayana D. Byrd and Lori L. Tharps does an excellent job tracing the history of African-American hair and hairstyles from Africa (where elaborate hairstyles were as much a status marker as a bespoke suit today) through slavery to post-Civil War segregation. In both freedom and slavery, straight “white” style hair became the marker of a superior person (and also more acceptable to the white world); later in the 20th century, the popularity of the Afro (and later dredlocks) led to debate whether this represented True Blackness, meaningless fashion or was just tacky. There’s a lot more stuff covered in the book; while I know some of these issues exist, the authors did a great job making me understand them.

TwoMorrows Publishing’s MONSTER MASH: The Creepy, Kooky Monster Craze in America, 1957-1972 by Mark Voger looks back to the late 1950s when Universal released its Shock Theater package to TV, containing its classic monster films (and a lot that weren’t so classic), introducing Frankenstein, Dracula and others to a generation of kids who’d never seen them (the last film in the cycle was 1948’s Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein). Kids were blown away (so was I when I encountered the films in syndication a dozen years later), leading to an explosion of marketing (sweat shirts, Aurora models, Count Chocula cereal, board games) and TV spinoffs such as The Munsters (surprisingly Voger never mentions the film version, Munsters Go Home), The Addams Family and Dark Shadows. Voger argues that while the classic horrors and their spinoffs are still around this era of film horror ended in 1972 as The Exorcist took the genre in another direction. A good job.

HOLLYWOOD’S COPYRIGHT WARS: From Edison to the Internet by Peter Decherney, shows how copyright struggles were part of the movie industry from the early days, when it wasn’t clear if copyright applied to photography (if you just photographed real life, what creativity was there to protect?), let alone to films, which were seen as collections of photographs. Following that debate would come battles over pirating other studios’ films (a common problem in the early years), adapting books and plays for the screen, whether TV editing movies violated creator rights (the Monty Python were one of the few who won that fight, when they sued ABC for butchering their skits for a late-night showing), then into the age of the VCR, DVD and Internet (while I’m more familiar with the issues of this period, Decherney still told me a lot I didn’t know). An excellent job.

#SFWApro. Brackett cover art is uncredited; all rights to images remain with current holders.

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Competing with the dead (and other writing links)

I don’t really buy Ernest Hemingway’s statement that success as a writer requires being better than the dead writers who proceed you. Author Fonda Lee has another take: in terms of bookstore shelf space, she and similar rising writers are squeezed out of shelf space by dead guys such as Robert Jordan and JRR Tolkien (the comments on Jim Hines’ post are good too). Which ties into this post too.

Vellum and Vinyl suggests that manic pixie dream girls are fine, the boyfriends are the problem.

Rick Riordan on how Hollywood mishandled the Percy Jackson series.

A solution for getting unstuck: five more (pages/minutes/chapters/whatever)

The Houston Chronicle investigated veteran reporter Mike Ward’s work for possible false quotes. They searched for 275 people quoted in his work and 122 could not be found.

I haven’t seen Alita: Battle Angel, but this review still seems to make good points about writing to set up a franchise vs. writing a movie.

Just how much did the late Stan Lee co-create for Marvel? Spoiler: lots.

Author Amber Royer discusses action scenes and SF worldbuilding

How filmmakers used to fake newsreel footage.

Some years back, undercover TV reporters went to work for Food Lion and filmed staff changing expiration-date labeling. There was a huge hue and cry declaring that the reporters had acted unethically and reporters must never be allowed to expose corporate misdeeds again (okay, not how they phrased it). This discussion of Al Jazeera posing as a gun rights group to expose both Australian politicians and the NRA argues there are times subterfuge is justified. I’m in agreement.

Deadspin argues that Netflix isn’t changing the world of broadcast TV, it’s become interchangeable with it.

A history of Harvey Comics, speculating about its effect on child readers. Below, the map of Harveyland.

A short history of the word retcon.

Positive and negative goals for characters

Oracle claims its Java API is copyrighted, and Google’s been violating copyright. Google says it’s fair use. The tech industry sides with Google.

Copyright issues are among the reason a French court has invalidated Google’s terms of service for Google+.

The U.S., China and intellectual property.

An Irish sandwich chain, Supermac, convinced an EU court to invalidate McDonald’s Big Mac trademark in the European Union.

#SFWApro. Cover by Jack Kirby, all rights to images remain with current holders.

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Assorted writing and reading links

So a writer declared on Twitter that if you’re writing while keeping your day job, you’re doing it wrong. John Scalzi disagrees.

Five red flags to look for in contracts.

A look at law and freelancing. It includes links to a 2018 California court case making it harder to classify employees as contractors and a proposed change to Texas rules that would benefit employers.

Atomic Junkshop on the excitement of reading comics and paperbacks in the 1970s. From the same site, a post of mine about the myth that successful creators are good from the start.

Why Marvel got sexier as the Silver Age moved along. Look at John Romita’s Mary Jane below for an example.

You can’t trademark a generic word like “booking” for a travel site. Unless, a court ruling says, you make it a domain name first.

A Q&A with comics veteran Roy Thomas.

For years, Disney’s comic books didn’t divulge the names of the people who worked on them (the company preferred the illusion that Walt did it all). Here’s the story of how Carl Barks, the creator of Uncle Scrooge, finally got some attention.

Captain America, horror comics host?

Hybrid authors publish traditionally and indie both. Hybrid publishing isn’t the same thing.

Brian Cronin rips into the assumption that white male leads are a natural choice, whereas anything else is suspect.

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

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John Carter of Trademarked Mars

A Princess of Mars, the story that became the movie John Carter, is public domain. Nevertheless, after the 2012 movie flopped, Disney lost the rights to the character. How do you lose rights to public domain works?

Well the Burroughs estate claims the copyright is still good in some countries, which would restrict overseas sales. Plus the estate has trademarked John Carter and Tarzan. That led to a lawsuit Dynamite Comics over its John Carter series, on the grounds their portrayal of the characters hurt the trademark. Dynamite settled, though the premise is dubious: trademark suits hinge on the plaintiff using the trademark to label goods (e.g., Nike and sneakers) which the estate doesn’t appear to be doing. There are other nebulous issues noted at the last link, such as moral rights (if Dynamite’s stories were too sexy, that would hurt Burroughs’ image). One of the comments in this Scalzi post explains a little more about those.

A great many films and books are entering public domain soon (Mickey Mouse. The Great Gatsby). Surprisingly, copyright holders are not fighting for the usual extensions, which may be because pro-public domain forces are better organized (according to Ars Technica at the link) or it may happen a year or two from now. Oh, Motherboard has a list of sites to download the new public domain stuff.

Another copyright issue: the right to resell a digital copy as you would a used paperback or an art print. The law’s lagging behind the tech.

Does Google benefit from allowing digital piracy?

What happens if the U.S. overreaches in the use of lawfare against international IP piracy?

Does copyright law protect dances and other culture created by black teens? Particularly dance?

An orphan work is one that’s under copyright but the rights holder can’t be found; in that case, in some jurisdictions, it’s legitimate to use the work. However doing a diligent search that will protect the user is tricky.

Her Interactive’s Nancy Drew videogame series was a hit for years (my niece played them) but it ground to a stop a few years ago. A minor thread in the skein of woe was having to pay Simon & Schuster royalties to use Nancy (this wasn’t the biggest issue, but it justifies linking in a copyright post).

The copyright and fair use history of the video of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dancing to a Breakfast Club mashup.

Contrary to legend, Paul McCartney did not pay a man’s legal fees in return for the rights to “Ob la di, ob la da

And for visuals, here’s a cover with the now public-domain superhero, The Boy King, art by Alan Mandel.

#SFWApro.

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Creation and copyright: a few links

Who owns the copyright to the smiley face icon? According to the article, Harvey Ball, who created it, did not copyright it, but others did.

It’s tougher to protect characters than stories. A look at how copyrighting and trademarking characters works. Brian Cronin looks at how this relates to Marvel’s use of Fu Manchu.

Passive Voice looks at orphan works: the copyright holder can’t be found, so nobody can secure the rights to republish them.

Can you copyright a quilt?

#SFWApro. Cover by Dave Gibbons, all rights remain with current holder.

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Copyright, trademark and writing links

A writer says that Amazon can outsource sales of your book to a third-party seller, which means no Prime shipping and possibly a higher price. Another writer looks at the drawbacks of embedding Amazon links in your blog posts.

Some freelance markets are outsourcing their payroll to companies that offer to advance writers their pay early, in return for a slice.

Writer David Mack talks about balancing realism and spectacle in his magic system (something I discussed here).

Harlan Ellison reminds us that we’re entitled to get paid, and not in exposure.

If the content of a website is illegal, is it covered by copyright? In one Israeli case involving porn piracy, the court said yes, but as the content was illegal, the plaintiff got no damages.

The Wickeds mystery-writing group discuss characters surprising them.

If you’re in a legal matter involving your online comments or posts, taking them down prematurely could get you in trouble.

Will a new law make it easier or harder for musicians to get compensation from streaming-music services?

The alt.right turned Pepe the Frog into a mascot. The creator is using copyright to fight back.

Publishers often don’t fact-check books (gotta say, McFarland does well on that).

Do you ever feel that writing fun, fluffy fiction is a waste of time in this era? It isn’t. Reading it is good too (“I don’t want these books dismissed as silly and trivial, when for many readers they are profoundly emotionally restorative.”)

Roger Ebert: ” “When I think about the kinds of movies that make me cry, that make tears come to my eyes, I usually don’t think about sad films. Sad films, I sort of just look at it. It’s movies that are about selflessness, that are about sacrifice, about humans that believe in the good of the human race that sometimes move me.” Courtesy of Fred Clark.

And here’s a Jim Aparo cover showing us the power of fiction creators to alter lives. Er, something like that.

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

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Peter Pan, Roy Lichtenstein, Samuel Clemens and copyright: links

The stage play Peter Pan has something unique about it: a copyright that never ends.

Judge Richard Posner presided over several noteworthy copyright cases.

Samuel Clemens, advocate for copyright rights.

What can you do if your books are pirated and sold as ibooks? Not much.

A woman criticizes her homebuilder in a blog post. Someone copies and pastes the material, then demands the original post be taken down for violating copyright.

Before the Internet, before DVD and VHS, there was still film piracy.

Roy Lichtenstein became a pop art star by turning images like Irv Novick’s panel above into (supposed) high art that “he” created. How did the original artists feel about this?

A possible breakthrough in a longstanding digital-music rights dispute.

On the merits of registering copyright.

Potential problems with Europe’s new copyright laws.

Speaking of new laws, the CLASSICS Act gives artists who recorded before 1972 a share of digital royalties. Some like the idea, some hate it.

Drawbacks to the right of publicity as currently conceived.

The creator of a Forest of Light exhibit tried and failed to derail an imitator with a trademark claim.

A music professor posted some public domain Beethoven recordings to YouTube. Google’s infringement-spotter insisted they were copyright protected and demanded he take them down.

#SFWApro. Image by Irv Novick, all rights remain with current holder.

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I haven’t done a writing links post in a while so let’s get those bookmarked pages going!

A Dungeons and Dragons designer says the monstrous mind-flayers see themselves as tragic figures because they once ruled a slave empire and they can’t get it back. At the link, a good argument why we shouldn’t think of them as tragic or sympathetic (my own thoughts on how villains see themselves are here).

An author who writes a “Cocky Brothers” series trademarked the word “cocky” and won’t allow other authors to use it in titles. When the issue went to court, she lost. More here.

A T-shirt maker trademarked the 150-year-old Plimsoll line for use on T-shirts. When they threatened to sue another company for using the mark, company B agreed.

Women’s health expert Dr. Drai filed to trademark that name. Dr. Dre sued to stop the mark. What happened next will shock you! (Or maybe not).

How copyright law currently blocks publication of unpublished works by great writers. Given how often I run into flawed arguments why copyright is bad, I had the novel experience of seeing the other extreme — lots of people in comments arguing copyright ought to be forever.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch hates agents. Jim Hines makes the case she’s wrong about them.

This Michelle Wolf skit is hysterical, but I can’t see it as a satire of “strong female characters.” It seems more like a take on the movie version of the career-obsessed women in so many rom-coms (she’s so busy she forgot to fall in love and she’ll die stressed out and alone!).

India loves Archie Comics.

Samantha Field’s response to Avengers: Infinity War: If you kill the one you love for power, you don’t love them.

Sorry, meat eaters enjoying tofu is not cultural appropriation.

#SFWApro

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Createspace hackers, copyright and other writing links

Hackers are now targeting author accounts on Createspace.

Atomic Junk Shop on the way current fiction treats smart people.

How to keep writing when life is hard on you.

Camestros Felapton on quoting people who don’t want to be quoted. I’m solidly on the side of “you say it, it’s quotable” unless “off the record” is attached. But having had one couple that spoke in a public meeting threaten to sue me if I quoted them (I quoted them. They didn’t sue), I’m not surprised this is an issue.

Fred Clark of Slacktivist has been critiquing the Left Behind series of Christian apocalyptic novels (taking place, if you can’t tell, after the Rapture has swept up millions of people) for several years. In this post he looks at how slapdash and illogical the author’s world-building is.

Maggie Maxwell on balancing minority villains with positive portrayals. I’ll make the added observation that if every nonwhite in your book is bad (like the entire population of Little Tokyo, USA in the movie of that name), throwing in one good Japanese-American isn’t balanced.

A recent piece on Clinton voters (the mirror image of those Meet Trump Voters pieces) got lots of flak, after which the author declared it was satire. If that’s the case (I’ve seen other writers pull It’s Humor when it obviously isn’t), as noted at the link, it’s a very poor satire.

The implications of a copyright ruling in a case involving Redbox.

Remember the copyright case over a monkey taking a selfie with a photographer’s camera? An appellate court has ruled that US copyright law gives zero rights to animals.

Olivia deHaviland sued over the TV movie Feud on the grounds her portrayal in the film wasn’t accurate. The judge’s ruling: deHaviland’s “right of publicity” (to control how her likeness and name are used or marketed) doesn’t give someone the right to censor inaccurate portrayals.

Walmart had streaming before Netflix. How come the Vudu service never exploded the same way?

A new bill would get creators paid when streaming services play their music … or would it?

The Mary Sue argues Lara Croft has never been just eye candy for guys.

Several women say Native American author Sherman Alexie harassed them. Other writers say Alexie wielded his status in the white publishing world as a club against the competition.

You want wild ideas? How about plans for a Godzilla vs. Batman movie back when the Adam West show was on the air.

Thanos creator Jim Starlin on his love-hate relationship with Marvel.

 

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How not to write women

A couple of years back I linked to Kate Elliott’s post about omniscient breasts — writing from a woman’s POV but still using the male gaze. For example, the woman is constantly aware of her awesome breasts and how good they look, as if she were a man checking herself out. Well here’s some really bad omniscient breasts. More notable because the dude (unidentified) claimed his book proved men could write women well. Protagonist refers to herself having “a nice set of curves if I do say so myself,” and  “pants so impossibly tight that if I had had a credit card in my back pocket you could read the expiration date.” (I’ll link again to Foz Meadows’ discussion of writing hot women).

Another female author discusses a male author (unnamed) who insists his book has been rejected because of the feminazi conspiracy in publishing.

Molly Ringwald looks back at the sexism of John Hughes films.

In defending the hiring of now-fired Kevin Williamson, the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg said he wanted Williamson as “an excellent reporter who covers parts of the country, and aspects of American life, that we don’t yet cover comprehensively.” Take it from a local city government reporter, Mr. Goldberg, covering “parts of the country” means writing about things like new developments, local elections, school events. It does not mean writing conservative articles about the evils of abortion or the horrors of black inner-city areas. Those parts of the country may agree with Williamson, but by no definition is he covering them.

Copyright kept a film about Martin Luther King from using his speeches.

“historical accuracy” is not a good reason for writing about rape. Unless you’re also writing about cholera, dysentery and the like.

Amazon may be stripping rankings from erotic books to avoid legal issues.

 

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