The Society of Dead Authors

23 January 2019

The society of dead authors has this advantage over that of the living: they never flatter us to our faces, nor slander us behind our backs, nor intrude upon our privacy, nor quit their shelves until we take them down.

~ Charles Caleb Colton

Amazon Is Dooming New Yiddish Publications. Can It Be Stopped?

23 January 2019

From Forward:

In 2005, Internet giant Amazon swallowed up yet another smaller fish, the self-publishing company CreateSpace, which made it possible to market titles in dozens of languages. Last year, in a decision that you would be forgiven for missing, Amazon announced that CreateSpace was merging with another division: Kindle Direct Publishing, now known as KDP. One Amazon province cannibalizes another. Nothing new there.

But it turns out that this move might endanger the important and unique realm of new Yiddish prose — a forum particularly important to Hasidim since a book released by CreateSpace can be publicized affordably, and sold on Amazon without the author giving his real name. (In the Hasidic community, anonymity is useful and even necessary online). Hasidic blogger Katle Kanye, one of the Forward 50 and often mentioned in the Yiddish Forward, chose CreateSpace to publish his sharp critique of what he says is the failed Chasidic education system.

Another Hasidic forum for self-expression in Yiddish is the online journal Der Veker, or The Alarm, a publication aimed at Hasidim who want to read about sensitive topics. In other Hasidic publications these topics might be censored or not discussed at all.

. . . .

Moving CreateSpace to KDP has made it impossible to self-publish titles on Amazon in a number of languages that used to be available, including Yiddish and Hebrew. Without CreateSpace, it becomes prohibitive for small periodicals written in minority languages, like Der Veker, to keep publishing.

. . . .

Why did the language selection change when CreateSpace merged with KDP? It’s not clear. Even years ago, when there were several separate divisions of Amazon devoted to self-publishing, each had its list of permissible languages which were technically possible. One should also note that other languages written right-to-left, like Arabic, are still publishing options on KDP. Why Arabic and not Yiddish, Hebrew, or other languages? It seems plausible that larger languages are economically and culturally valued by Amazon, while minority languages are left in the dust.

Reached by the Forverts, an Amazon spokesperson responded: “We are aware that because certain CreateSpace languages are not yet available on KDP, some authors and readers will be unable to publish and read new titles in those languages (all previous titles remain available). We are actively reviewing author and reader feedback to evaluate which features and services we offer in the future, including expanding KDP’s supported languages.”

Link to the rest at Forward

The issue described in the OP was completely absent from PG’s radar prior to his reading the article.

Without knowing details, he wonders if Amazon may have problems finding enough employees who are fluent in some languages to review POD books for errors of various types or for content that violates KDP’s Terms of Service.

PG will be interested to see how this matter plays out.

Copyright After a No-Deal Brexit

22 January 2019

From Plagiarism Today:

In June 2016, just a week after the original Brexit vote, I wrote about what Brexit means for copyright in the country.

However, at that time, there was a great deal of uncertainty about exactly how Brexit would unfold and what legislation might be passed before it came to fruition.

Since then, the UK and EU have more than two years trying to determine their future relationship and copyright has been just one small part of that relationship.

Unfortunately, with the deadline for withdrawal approaching, it’s safe to say that Brexit has not gone entirely as planned.

. . . .

[W]ith the no-deal Brexit looking more and more likely, it’s worth taking a moment to understand how this might impact creators and rightsholders both in the UK and EU.

The answer, as with most things related to a no-deal Brexit, is uncertain. However, there are some things that we can predict and they are things both rightsholders and users alike should be aware of and preparing for.

. . . .

[T]he UK and EU would both be bound by treaties that it signed prior to the UK joining the EU. With copyright, that includes most of the major framekwork treaties including the Berne Convention, which lays out many of the minimums for copyright internationally.

What this means is that there won’t be any broad holes in the UK copyright regime after a no-deal Brexit and that the term and scope of copyright will, for the most part, remain unchanged.

Even the parts of the EU law that are relevant will likely not change quickly or immediately. Under the EU Withdrawal Act of 2018, EU directives and regulations on copyright will be codified into UK law upon exit.

. . . .

None of this is to say that there will be no changes to copyright in the UK.

The reason for this is that, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the UK will go from being a member of the EU to a legal stranger overnight. Elements of the EU copyright that apply to cross-border harmonizations will likely not, at least not initially.

Likewise, treaties that the UK joined through the EU will need to be re-ratified as the UK. This most prominently includes the Marrakesh Treaty, which creates copyright exemptions to enable access to copyright-protected works by those who are visually impaired or otherwise have limited usability with print media.

Link to the rest at Plagiarism Today

My Initial Response Was to Sue

22 January 2019

My initial response was to sue her for defamation of character, but then I realized that I had no character.

~ Charles Barkley

Inside a ‘Making a Murderer’ Lawsuit and the Hidden Dangers of TV’s True-Crime Craze

22 January 2019

From The Hollywood Reporter:

Andrew Colborn was leading a quiet life as a police officer in the Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, Sheriff’s Department when his face first flashed across millions of screens around the world. It was December 2015 and the docuseries Making a Murderer had just premiered on Netflix, becoming one of its first genuine unscripted hits.

Making a Murderer helped establish Netflix as a destination for bingeable non-fiction programming, earned its makers Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi four Emmys and turned tens of millions of viewers into avid armchair detectives. The docuseries also turned Colborn’s life upside down, along with those of his wife, Barb, a retired pediatric nurse, and their five grown children, ages 26 to 35.

“Barb and I … have always strived to lead a quiet and private life,” Colborn says. “[Making a Murderer] destroyed that for both of us and for our family. … I live in a state of constant vigilance very similar to combat or constantly being on duty as a law enforcement officer.”

Colborn, 59, has not given an interview since the premiere of Making a Murderer, which examines whether Steven Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey were framed for the 2005 murder of 25-year-old photographer Teresa Halbach. A second season of the show arrived in October, tracking new attorneys’ efforts to secure the release of Avery and Dassey, who remain in prison, and reinvigorating discussions about the case in the press, on social media and on Reddit message boards with subjects like “Colborn Lies! Proof!” In December, Colborn filed a defamation suit against Netflix and the filmmakers, alleging that they omitted and distorted material in an effort to portray him as a corrupt officer who planted evidence to frame an innocent man.

. . . .

Colborn’s is one of several recent lawsuits sparked by such shows — earlier in January, JonBenet Ramsey’s family settled a defamation suit with CBS over 2016’s The Case of: JonBenet Ramsey. The four-hour doc suggested that Ramsey’s brother, Burke, who was 9 when his sister died, fatally hit JonBenet with a flashlight and that her parents covered up the 1996 murder (neither party would discuss the terms of settlement). There have been multiple lawsuits associated with NBCUniversal-owned Oxygen’s battery of true-crime shows, including a case that an Alabama judge allowed to proceed this month over the 2017 miniseries The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway. Holloway vanished in 2005 while on a high school graduation trip to Aruba, and the six-part series includes the discovery of what supposedly were her remains. Holloway’s mother, Beth, sued Oxygen and the show’s producers for intentional infliction of emotional distress — she provided a DNA sample to an investigator for the testing of the bones, unaware that the sample would be part of a television series that followed her ex-husband’s quest to solve Natalee’s disappearance. Beth alleges that the producers knew all along the bones were from animal remains — a pig’s head.

. . . .

“The folks doing these true-crime series need to adhere to the first word: true,” says L. Lin Wood, the Atlanta attorney whose firm represented both the Ramseys and Beth Holloway. “If they want to suggest conclusions or make accusations, then they better damn well be sure they’ve got facts, not exaggerations.”

Colborn, who retired from the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department as a lieutenant in February 2018, answered THR‘s questions about what his life is like now by email. He says Avery sympathizers have confronted him in public, threatened to kidnap and sodomize him and gang rape his wife, and have posted pictures of his children online. Colborn has frozen his credit, after he and two other members of his family suffered identity theft. He has built a safe room in his home where family members can hide, and he and his wife no longer travel or dine out. They have collected 28 CDs worth of recorded telephone threats.

. . . .

Colborn’s lawsuit alleges that the Making a Murderer filmmakers destroyed his reputation and livelihood by heavily editing his testimony in Avery’s trial in order to convince viewers that he planted Halbach’s Toyota RAV4 at Avery’s family’s salvage yard and placed its key in Avery’s bedroom. The suit claims the filmmakers removed Colborn’s answer to one question at trial and inserted his answer to another, giving the opposite impression; that they strategically spliced reaction shots of him appearing nervous and apprehensive; and that they omitted key photographs, including one showing a crack in a bookcase that explained why Colborn did not find the car key on his first search of Avery’s home. The suit seeks damages for “loss of wages and other expenses incurred to protect his family’s safety,” though Wisconsin law prohibits plaintiffs from requesting a specific monetary amount.

The sense of unraveling a dense mystery is what makes true-crime shows like Making a Murderer so addictive for viewers. But the very storytelling techniques that accomplish those aims — identifying new motives and new offenders — can lead to lawsuits. “The film industry is callously using people as pawns to make a point and to garner public interest to sell their product,” says Michael Griesbach, Colborn’s attorney and a former prosecutor who wrote the book Indefensible: The Missing Truth About Steven Avery, Teresa Halbach, and Making a Murderer. “A cottage industry of conspiracy theorists has been spawned that has turned lives upside down. My client is the main target, but there are others, including several members of the public now widely considered murder suspects or accomplices in the framing of an innocent man. Who’s falsely accusing who now?”

. . . .

But the insinuations made in true-crime shows have consequences far more grave than making subjects look dumb, and the genre’s boom has inevitably led to more litigation, say experts. “You’re not doing shows about kittens, you’re doing shows about crimes,” says attorney Lincoln Bandlow, who clears A&E’s investigative series Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath. “So you’re going to see an uptick in defamation claims. We’re fortunate that in this country we have a strong level of protection to make these kinds of shows.” In the case of a police officer like Colborn, whom courts typically view as a public figure, the bar is high, Bandlow says. “Our law says certain public people have to put up with not nice things being said about them,” he says. “It’s going to take a pretty egregious case [for a police officer to win a defamation suit].” Even when a plaintiff does have a strong argument, these types of cases rarely make it to trial, as media companies are inclined to settle before entering the intrusive discovery phase.

Link to the rest at The Hollywood Reporter

Autoplaying Video

22 January 2019

Yesterday, PG embedded a video in one of his posts that included an autoplay feature he couldn’t figure out how to turn off. Individual visitors to TPV could mute the video, but everybody heard at least some of the video’s soundtrack.

PG apologized in advance for the autoplay. Some visitors to TPV were not happy with the video.

PG has moved the video to a place among the older posts on TPV, so the post doesn’t appear on the first page of the blog. For PG, that silenced the video when he pulls up thepassivevoice.com.

Here’s a link to the post for any who wish to see what’s been going on.

PG is unlikely to include any autoplay videos in future posts.

Spotify Is Testing Artist Blocking

22 January 2019

From PC Magazine:

Spotify aims to be the only music service you need for $10 a month by offering millions of songs with no adverts and unlimited skips. But one thing you can’t do right now is stop artists you never want to hear from popping up in a playlist or radio stream. That’s finally set to change, though, and your headphones will be free of their noise.

As Thurrott reports, the ability to block an artist is one of the most highly requested features on Spotify. There’s multiple reasons for wanting to do so, from simply not liking that artist’s music, to discovering they are not the type of personyou want to support in any way.

. . . .

The blocking feature will be introduced in an app update, with the result being an almost total block of any artist you wish. Their music will no longer appear in your personal library, but also in playlists, automatically curated playlists, charts, and any radio channels.

. . . .

For now, the blocking feature is limited to a select few on the Spotify beta program, with Thurrott confirming its presence on the iOS beta. To enable the block, simply navigate to an artist’s page, access the “…” menu, and select “Don’t play this artist.”

Link to the rest at PC Magazine

At the moment, PG is unaware of how an individual reader might be able to create such a blocking system for particular authors on Amazon.

When he thought about whether/how a blocking system might work on Amazon, censorship immediately came to mind. Apparently, Spotify doesn’t think blocking an artist’s performances just because of the identity of the artist is a bad idea. The OP doesn’t describe a system of censorship that Spotify is imposing on everybody (although it undoubtedly refuses to accept at least some racist, grossly misogynist, etc., performances as part of its content policy).

Of course, individual listeners/readers make choices to exclude a singer/song/book/author/category of books, etc., all the time as a matter of personal preference. Concerns about censorship only arise when a government or other monopolist or dominant entity makes a decision that access to the writings or speech of some persons or concerning a category of ideas will be banned from any sort of public exposure or availability.

So, would there be any sort of problem if Amazon permitted an individual reader to affirmatively preclude any mention of an author or an author’s works from that reader’s Amazon experience?

What if Amazon permitted an individual reader to upload a list of authors to be removed from the reader’s view? What if an organization or interest group provided a list of authors they found offensive that members of the organization could simply copy and upload to Amazon for blocking purposes?

If The Anti-Defamation League created and distributed a list of banned authors that adherents could use to block exposure to antisemitic authors on Amazon, would that be a problem? The ACLU? NAACP? The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee? The Republican or Democratic Party? Hillary Clinton? Donald Trump?

Or is PG making a mountain out of a molehill?

Amazon Is Just Getting Started

22 January 2019

From Seeking Alpha:

While analysts and Wall Street have been focused on Amazon’s (AMZN) decelerating revenues, a juggernaut has been emerging, hidden within the financial reports Amazon produces each quarter. That hidden juggernaut has been unassumingly known as “Other” in Amazon’s financial reports.

. . . .

Amazon’s “Other” segment, hidden deep within their financials and only explained by a footnote written in subscript font, has been growing at an unbelievable pace as of late.

. . . .

For those who’ve followed and invested in Alphabet’s Google, the concept is already understood. In the same way that companies pay Alphabet to place a link to their website in Google search results, companies will pay Amazon to have their products listed as a “sponsored product” high up in the search results when a user enters a term like “headphones” or “gaming consoles”.

. . . .

“…the world’s biggest ad agencies are racing to become specialists in how Amazon wants to do business, which is unlike anything they’ve seen before,” wrote Lara O’Reilly and Laura Stevens of the Wall Street Journal.

Without the controversies that plague YouTube advertising, Facebook (FB) advertising, or Google advertising, Amazon looks poised to compete for the position as the largest digital advertiser by revenue on earth.

Link to the rest at Seeking Alpha

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