Monthly Archives: September 2015

When I cannot see words

30 September 2015

When I cannot see words curling like rings of smoke round me I am in darkness – I am nothing.

Virginia Woolf

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Reidy Hails Metadata, E-book Subscription at BISG

30 September 2015

From Publishers Weekly:

Delivering the keynote address at the BISG annual meeting, Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy emphasized that book publishing has been transformed by the “ staggering amount of information available. There’s more information on publishing than ever before and I love it.”

According to Reidy, readers of literary fiction purchase e-books just as much as readers of commercial fiction, though both remain attached to the physical book. “The book is a permanent keepsake,” she said, “unlike a YouTube video.” Most readers, she said, seem to want e-books to be a “replica of the print book.” Enhanced e-books loaded with videos or other digital gimmicks, have been a failure, although its unclear why. “Is it because of the interruptions to the text or because we, the publishers, have failed to make them good enough?” she said.

Despite predictions that e-books might reach 50% of all book sales, Reidy said e-books sales have slowed and are likely to settle at about “25% to 30%” of total book sales. Although initially e-books helped jump backlist sales, Reidy said, “not anymore,” noting that “the novelty has worn off.” She said now “there are fewer readers” entering in the digital category and said the slowing growth in e-book sales have pushed publishers back to “highlighting books as beautiful physical objects.”

Asked if the higher pricing of e-books, in the wake of publishers’ new agency agreements with Amazon, had also figured in the slowdown of e-book sales, Reidy noted that in the wake of publisher settlements over e-book price-fixing charges in the case with Apple, “I’m not supposed talk about pricing, ” but added that “our data says that our pricing is effective.”

She pointed out that even the sales of books from S&S’s line of hip young YouTube authors, are overwhelmingly in print. Old-line media like major print, radio and TV shows, she said, were still the best way to drive sales of a book. “Even if most of those sales are through online channels.”

. . . .

 [A]ccurate metadata, “makes a huge difference in sales,” she said, highlighting how a simple change in metadata impacted the house’s experience with the novel Galveston, written by Nic Pizzolatto, creator of the hit HBO TV series True Detectives.

Originally published in 2010, the novel got good reviews and won an Edgar award, but sold about 1,000 copies, Reidy said. While there is no connection between the novel and the TV show, S&S saw the rising popularity of the show, and quickly changed the metadata by adding a note to the author bio that Galveston was written by the True Detectives creator. In 2014, Galveston sold more than 37,000 copies, print and e-books combined. “And this was not a tie-in. We did it with metadata,” Reidy said.

Metadata and social media, she said, “can be used to connect books to what’s going on in the world. We’re just learning how to do this. We can bring the backlist directly to readers but we need daily, as well as monthly and yearly planning. Real world feedback can shape our publishing program.” Publishers, she said, can use social media to “establish direct connections and relationships” with communities interested in their authors. “We need to give our authors reason to partner with us,” she said.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to SFR for the tip.

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A noticed new scam

30 September 2015

From Dean Wesley Smith:

But one thing, traditionally published writers need to pay attention to. It is something I noticed on a recent royalty report. There is an interesting new scam publishers are pulling.

On a previous royalty report, the total numbers of books sold were there, including a few thousand copies held as a reserve against returns. (Book had been in print for a decade, but returns were still being held. And the return amount had remained consistent for years.)

On the next royalty statement for the same book, the ISBN had changed, all previous sales had vanished, and all reserves held had vanished as well. A book that had sold over two hundred thousand copies in its life now showed only a few thousand sold.

A couple thousand books held out of my royalty report had just gone “poof.” If I didn’t watch royalty reports, I would have never noticed.

I just laughed and shook my head. I didn’t care since the book I noticed it on was a long distance from earning out because my advance had been so high, but it dawned on me that with all the redoing covers, electronic book editions and such, and all changing ISBNs, the sudden vanishment of reserves against returns that were being held against a certain ISBN would be a very nice way to make money for a traditional publisher.

And 99.9% of all writers and their idiot agents would never notice.

The scams to screw writers that traditional publishers keep coming up with amaze me.

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith

PG says most traditionally-published authors never imagine that their publishers may be playing games with their royalties.

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Amazon Wades Further Into the Complex World of the Gig Economy

30 September 2015

From Wired:

The instant gratification economy is still very much in vogue, and that means the demand for on-demand workers is high. Now, an entrenched tech giant and an early pioneer of the entire concept of “on-demand,” Amazon, is wading further into the gig economy.

The online retailer has for weeks been quietly operating a new program called Amazon Flex, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal, and has been testing it in its hometown of Seattle. Flex works in much the same way as other popular on-demand companies, including Uber and Postmates, do under the so-called 1099 model: Using an app platform, a network of independent contractors can sign up for flexible delivery shifts. On Amazon Flex, the company has these independent contractors collect packages from warehouses and bring them to customers’ homes in an hour or so.

According to the Journal, the program works hand in hand with Amazon’s Prime Now service, where customers who sign up for the company’s $99-a-year unlimited shipping program can get items delivered to their doorstep for a fee in an as little as an hour. Prime Now is available in 13 cities, and the company will eventually expand Amazon Flex to cover those areas in addition to Seattle, the WSJ reports.

. . . .

With Flex, Amazon has adopted the on-demand worker strategy, and it has the added advantage of a sprawling logistics infrastructure to boot. It’s worth noting that Amazon has operated its Mechanical Turk platform for a while—where workers completed micro-tasks like transcription, data entry, image identification—but now apparently, Amazon thinks on-demand work can transfer well to maximizing the company’s operations in package logistics, too.

Link to the rest at Wired and thanks to Tim for the tip.

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Why crowdfunding is vital to disabled creatives

30 September 2015

From author Lesley Smith via Kickstarter:

Tonight I want to talk to you about disability and what Kickstarter means for people like me.

This isn’t a sob story or emotional B.S., this is me trying to explain what a lifeline crowdfunding is to me personally.

I’m disabled, I make no bones about that. I’m legally blind, I have bipolar disorder (a boon and a bane but I wouldn’t change it), I was born so early and my brain so saturated by oxygen that I have white matter damage and my brain literally spent years rewiring itself, I have physical co-ordination issues and high functioning autism (which is genetic). I have PTSD (don’t ask). I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder. I’m introverted and my autism means I have a schedule which I hate breaking.

I’m also on enough medication to knock over a horse and my life is painfully constricted by timing and the side-effects of my medication which makes me incredibly tired and to sleep for twelve hours (if I can actually get to sleep). My life is about ensuring I take my meds at the right moment and get up early enough that I can miss the fog.

Oh and drink coffee.

I have a guide dog (and unofficial emotional support hound) named Uni who puts up with me. I use a white cane and wear dark glasses to avoid getting migraines (I’m very light sensitive). Despite that I go to Zumba twice a week, I’m active and I have quite the social life and circle of friends, many of whom are also on the spectrum of disability (and most have their own gorgeous canine companions).

. . . .

I was a journalist for a decade before my heath problems got worse. I used to work seventy hours a week, traveling all around the world. I used to be able to earn more than enough to be comfortable, to support myself and then my sight deteriorated to the point where I just couldn’t any more and my mental health took that moment to plummet.

. . . .

Disability means that I’m creative but it also means I’m on limited funds. I don’t quite live hand to mouth but it’s close. If I want something I have a choice of credit or saving for months.

It means fun projects, like publishing books, are completely out of the question. I cannot afford to get my books edited, to pay for covers and proofs, to turn a project from words on a page to a Real Book™. This is why I crowdfund.

The thing is anyone who thinks crowdfunding is easy, well they’ve never done it. Unless you’re doing a massive project with a billion follows you have to earn every pound. £4k might as well be £400,000 and books are, sadly, a niche product and it’s so much hard to fund, let along over-fund. You’re also a one-man band; I’m the PR girl, I do the finances, I liaise with the members of my indie toolbox to ensure the editing is done on time, that the covers are perfect. You get the idea.

. . . .

Normally, if I was neurotypical or not disabled, if I wanted to do something like publish a book, I’d work extra hours, I’d get a second job or start a freelance business. As a disabled author I simply don’t have that option; publishing one book would take me a year if I had to save for it myself and crowdfunding allows me to cut that time in thirds, perhaps even less.

. . . .

Disability restricts me, crowdfunding frees me.

Link to the rest at Kickstarter

Here’s a link to Lesley Smith’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

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The Unfair Truth About How Creative People Really Succeed

30 September 2015

From Medium:

The other week, I was invited to a dinner hosted by a friend. Those attending included people I’ve admired for years. Halfway through the dinner, I silently asked myself, “How did I get here?”

For years, I heard people talk about their influential friendships and subsequent success, and I would seethe with envy. It seemed unfair. Of course those people were successful. They knew the right people. They were in the right place at the right time. They got lucky.

Years later, I would discover that success is born of luck (I don’t think any honest person can dispute that). But luck, in many ways, can be created — or at very least, improved.

The truth is life is not fair. For creative work to spread, you need more than talent. You have to get exposure to the right networks. And as unfair as that may seem, it’s the way the world has always worked.

The good news, though, is you have more control over this than you realize.

. . . .

In his decades-long study of creativity , Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes what he calls a “systems approach.” Since creative work tends to be subjective, he posits a model that includes three systems. They are:

  • The Domain
  • The Field
  • The Individual

In order for a work to be considered Creative (in the sense that it offers some kind of enduring work the world remembers), it must satisfy all three of these areas. Here’s how it works.

First, an individual must master her craft in a given domain (art, science, mathematics). Then, this person must offer the creative work to a field of influencers in that domain who are trusted experts. Finally, the gatekeepers decide if the work is worth being accepted as authoritative into the domain.

That’s the systems approach to creativity.

And as much as I initially winced at the word “gatekeepers” when considering what makes creative work succeed, once I started reading biographies of famous artists, scientists, and musicians, it made a lot of sense. Talent is only part of the equation. The rest is network.

. . . .

Networks. Partnerships. Creative collaborations. This is where enduring work originates, and, incidentally, is how we get works like The Lord of the Rings and The White Album. Creativity is not a solitary invention but a collaborative creation. And communities create opportunities for creative work to succeed.

But how do you apply this approach if you don’t live some place like Paris, New York, or Rome?

Well, of course, you could move. According to Csikszentmihalyi, it’s better to move somewhere new than it is to will yourself to be more creative. And now, it’s easier than ever to transplant yourself someplace inspiring, even if temporarily. I did this eight years ago, relocating from northern Illinois to Nashville and unknowingly implanted myself into what would become a hub of creativity, technology, and entrepreneurship. I’m glad I did.

But you could also let go of your excuses and realize there’s a network available to you right now, wherever you are. This may come in the form of an online mastermind group or a series of events you attend, maybe even one you organize yourself. The truth is there are connections everywhere and always more resources available to those willing to look.

Link to the rest at Medium and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

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Why this Author Walked Away from a $25,000 Advance to Publish His Novel Independently

29 September 2015

From author Elliott Garber via Write on the River:

I wrote the final words of my first full-length novel just over one year ago, closing my laptop with a dramatic flourish and breathing a deep sigh of relief. It was done. A major life goal complete.

I could already picture hardcover stacks of The Chimera Sequence—a bioterrorism thriller that one reader described as Michael Crichton meets Tom Clancy—lining front tables of Barnes & Noble bookstores around the country. Who knows, maybe my name would even make an appearance among the lower ranks of a coveted New York Times bestseller list?

That was the dream, at least, even though I already had a very realistic understanding of the rapidly evolving publishing industry. Alongside my novel writing, I had spent the previous couple of years reading everything I could find about the publishing process.

I even conducted a little experiment of my own with a short story. Much to my surprise, No Dog Left Behind has already earned me a few thousand dollars in its two years of life on Amazon. That represents a lot more money and readers than I ever would have found through almost any traditional route for a short story.

So I began the post-book writing phase with my eyes wide open, knowing all along that I would be okay doing things on my own if I didn’t find the right traditional publisher to work with through the process.

. . . .

I was fortunate to hear back from about half of these agents within a few days, and almost all of them requested that I send the full manuscript for their review. Woohoo! First hurdle, complete. I attribute this initial success to the fact that I developed a catchy blurb, but probably even more to my own online platform and unique professional background. The agents were intrigued enough to find out if I could actually write.

Within a few days, I received a phone call from one of my top choices. It was actually a voicemail—due to the secure environment of my workplace I’m not able to use a personal cellphone inside. The message was short and sweet: “Loved the book. Give me a call when you can.”

Needless to say, I called the agent right back and received my first offer of representation.

. . . .

The next step was submission of the manuscript to editors at all the big traditional publishers. This was tough for me, as I was really at the complete mercy of my agent’s previous relationships and professional connections. I was expecting to get responses from these editors within a week or two, but instead it stretched into a month, then two months.

I felt as though the whole process had lost momentum. I knew in my head that this was normal—that the traditional publishing process takes time—but in my heart, I still wanted to be one of those lucky few authors who get so much immediate interest that a competitive auction is held within days. Sadly, it was not to be.

The rejections slowly began trickling in. “Sorry, loved the story, but just don’t see where it would fit in today’s market.” Huh?

“If I had gotten this book last year we totally would have gone for it, but the virus threat has been done too often already.” Not what I wanted to hear.

. . . .

We finally got some bites after moving on to the next tier of editors just outside the “Big 5” publishing houses. At this point, I was already disappointed in myself, the book, and the process, but I wasn’t ready to close the door on a traditional option yet.

After several weeks of negotiating, my agent was able to present two final offers. Two books for $25,000—take it or leave it. This works out to $12.5k for each book, of course, and those payments would be split and stretched out over about three years. The contracts were pretty much boilerplate for a new midlister like me, with no special provisions that would make them more author-friendly in today’s rapidly changing publishing environment.

The publishers could not guarantee anything in the way of initial print run numbers or marketing budget, and my first book would not be released until sometime in 2016. Not exactly a proposal to get very excited about.

. . . .

Based on everything I had learned, I knew that this level of advance did not represent a very significant investment on the part of the publishers. I was confident that I could do almost everything they could with the book, on a tighter schedule and with more long-term potential for success.

It was one of the hardest decisions of my life, but I decided to walk away from these $25,000 offers and continue with the back-up plan to publish my thriller independently.

Fast forward six months, and here I am! The Chimera Sequence has been on the market for almost a month already, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised to have some affirmation of my choice. No New York Times bestseller lists yet, but I’ve already sold a few thousand copies of the book. More importantly, I’m steadily gaining readers and fans who are asking about my next book.

Link to the rest at Write on the River

Here’s a link to Elliott Garber’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

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There is more than one way

29 September 2015

There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running around with lit matches.

Ray Bradbury

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Did PETA Name the Right Macaque in Its ‘Monkey Selfie’ Lawsuit?

29 September 2015

From Motherboard:

a1

Copyright claimed by David Slater and Naruto

On Tuesday, September 22, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filed a lawsuit on behalf of a male Sulawesi crested macaque named Naruto, arguing that the monkey owns a copyright in the famous “monkey selfies.”

The lawsuit is against wildlife photographer David Slater, whose camera was used in the creation of the monkey selfies, and publisher Blurb Inc., which published a book of his photography.

In response to the unusual lawsuit, we asked a number of questions. One issue that was not, in the view of some readers, adequately addressed: How did PETA know the monkey in the photo was Naruto, or even that it was a male?

. . . .

Some coverage of the monkey selfie controversy last year identified the macaque as female. The photographer David Slater identifies the monkey as female in his book,Wildlife Personalities. PETA’s own president, Ingrid Newkirk, identified the monkey as female in a 2014 essay arguing that the monkey should own copyright in the photos.

Male Sulawesi crested macaques (also known as Celebes crested macaques and black macaques) are about twice the size of female macaques. They also have “enlarged canine teeth compared to females.” The monkey in the famous “selfie” photo does not have enlarged canine teeth compared to juvenile monkeys.

. . . .

Photographer David Slater told us in an email, “All you need to know is PETA have no proof they are talking about the same monkey. They hope you will buy into their stunt because an expert is willing to say her monkey is the one in my photos without proof. Engelhardt is bringing the Macaca Nigra Project into disrepute.” He added, in reference to the photos being posted on Wikipedia as being under the public domain, “And, WHY aren’t PETA suing Wikimedia for loss of royalties? Important question!”

. . . .

When we asked PETA’s general counsel, Jeffrey Kerr, whether Naruto knew about the lawsuit, he responded, “Um, the… fact here is that Naruto is unable to come into court himself and so we are standing as Next Friend. Your question is silly, frankly.”

We also asked if Naruto knew whether the selfies existed. “I have the same response,” he replied.

We then asked whether a monkey could intentionally create a copyrighted work if he didn’t know the work existed. Kerr answered in the affirmative, later clarifying that “He was aware of the cause and effect relationship between pushing the shutter, his reflection in the camera,” but also insisted that we not report he said that the monkey knows his own selfies exist on the internet.

. . . .

For a deeper dive into the legal logic behind this lawsuit, the full interview with Kerr follows.

***

How was the monkey identified?

Naruto is known to the people who work in Sulawesi for the protection of the macaques [the Macaca Nigra Project]. They have known Naruto since his birth in November 2008, and when the story originally broke long ago, they were very much aware of, and recognized Naruto in the photographs.

. . . .

Note: Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17(c)(2) says:

A minor or an incompetent person who does not have a duly appointed representative may sue by a next friend or by a guardian ad litem. The court must appoint a guardian ad litem—or issue another appropriate order—to protect a minor or incompetent person who is unrepresented in an action.

PETA is using this rule to represent the monkey in a federal district court.

. . . .

So, my understanding is that the Copyright Office has refused to register the photo, or one of the photos…

My understanding is that they’ve never been asked to register a copy of the photograph. I believe they’ve never refused. And the Compendium is the Copyright Office’s opinion on the state of law but is not authoritative. They’re not the legislative body, they are not a court. And we respectfully disagree with their view on that.

. . . .

How does an animal have standing in federal court on a copyright issue?

Well that’s what we’re arguing. It’s clear that the Copyright Act provides protection for authors of original works and it’s clear by Mr. Slater’s own admission that Naruto is the author of this work. And so we are representing Naruto as his Next Friend because he, like, other parties, can’t come to court on their own. But that is the issue that we believe Naruto should be given copyright protection in this photo in this case.

. . . .

So with all of these hypothetical animals, obviously Naruto is an interesting case because there aren’t many of these… But there are a few instances (where, for instance, elephants create paintings) in which animals have created art and that art is under Compendium rules, not considered copyrightable under US law. What are you basically proposing is that these animals be given copyrights in their work, and whatever organization rushes into the gap first gets to administer those copyrights.

Well, there’s several problems with your questions. First this case is only about Naruto and these monkey selfie photographs. I don’t know the facts and circumstances in which those other works were created, and I don’t know of any actual legal cases that have come down on that. And I’ve already covered that we respectfully disagree with the US Copyright Office’s opinion in their Compendium. But the facts are indisputable that Naruto took these photographs as his free autonomous intentional act that resulted in the original works fixed in a tangible medium. And that’s what the Copyright Act provides protection for. And so he should get that protection and the corresponding benefit for him and his habitat and their population because of the danger they face they need all the help they can get.

Does Naruto know about this lawsuit?

[pause]

Um, the… fact here is that Naruto is unable to come into court himself and so we are standing as Next Friend. Your question is silly, frankly. The issue is as I’ve stated it.

Does Naruto know about his selfies?

[pause]

I have the same response.

Naruto certainly knew at the time that he was engaged in intentional conduct that is obvious from Mr. Slater’s own description of the situation. And Naruto clearly engaged in the purposeful intentional conduct that resulted in the creation of the selfies.

Link to the rest at Motherboard

Regarding PG’s use of the photo, he recognizes the copyright claims of both David Slater and Naruto. He believes his use of this photo, regardless of the creator, falls under Fair Use, an exception to the general rule that the author has exclusive rights to control the publication of his/her/its works.

PG won’t go through an analysis, but here’s the text of 17 U.S. Code § 107 – Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use:

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

PG will note that photos are an interesting fair use case under Factor (3) above because, unlike quoting from a written work, using a small portion of a photograph is usually not feasible. Displaying a slice of 10% of the macaque photo would not constitute a meaningful visual that illustrates the copyright issue in question.

Those interested in more information may find Fair Use in the Visual Arts, created by the Center for Media and Social Impact, of interest. A couple of excerpts follow:

The right to make fair use of copyrighted materials is a key tool for the visual arts community, although its members may not always choose to take advantage of it. They may still seek copyright permissions, for instance, to maintain relationships, to reward someone deemed deserving, or to obtain access to material needed for their purposes. But, in certain other cases, including those described in the Code, they may choose instead to employ fair use of copyrighted material in order to accomplish their professional goals.

Many members of the visual arts community employ fair use in their professional practices and many do so regularly. For instance, scholars and their editors employ fair use in the context of analytic writing (for example, in using reproductions of copyrighted artworks and quotations). Teachers rely on it—along with other copyright exceptions—to show images of works being discussed during class sessions, and, even more heavily, to provide relevant images for student use outside class. In the museum context, fair use may be employed in exhibitions and publications, and in a range of digital and educational projects. Artists may employ fair use to build on preexisting works, engage with contemporary culture, or provide artistic, political, or social commentary. And the entire visual arts community benefits from fair use when it enables enhanced access to archival materials. These are only some of the most common ways in which fair use is central to visual arts practice.

. . . .

Analytic Writing

Analytic writing focuses attention on artists, artworks, and movements; it includes analyses of art within larger cultural, political, and theoretical contexts. Such writing routinely includes reproductions, in full or in part, of relevant artworks in all media, texts, historical images, digital phenomena, and other visual culture. This material—much of it copyrighted—may be drawn from a variety of sources, including the collections of libraries and archives  (generally referred to here as “memory institutions”), notes and photographs taken by the writer, and documentary reproductions created or published by others; some works start out in analog formats and others are born digital. Sometimes the visual or textual works reproduced in connection with analytic writing are the specific subjects of analysis. Sometimes they are used to illustrate larger points about artistic trends and tendencies, or to document a particular point or conclusion. Such writing is published both within traditional academic venues and in ever-expanding venues beyond them. It may be published in a variety of formats, including print and electronic books and journals, exhibition catalogues, collection catalogues, blog and social media posts, and contributions to collaborative digital projects, such as wikis (which projects often reside in institutional repositories), or it may be delivered at academic meetings or on similar occasions. The effectiveness of analytic writing about art is improved by the reproduction of the materials that it references. In many instances, particularly for works of visual art, writers may conclude that reproduction of an entire work may be the most appropriate way to make their points.

PRINCIPLE: In their analytic writing about art, scholars and other writers (and, by extension, their publishers) may invoke fair use to quote, excerpt, or reproduce copyrighted works, subject to certain limitations:

LIMITATIONS

  • The writer’s use of the work, whether in part or in whole, should be justified by the analytic objective, and the user should be prepared to articulate that justification.
  • The writer’s analytic objective should predominate over that of merely representing the work or works used.
  • The amount and kind of material used and (where images are concerned) the size and resolution of the published reproduction should not exceed that appropriate to the analytic objective.
  • Justifications for use and the amount used should be considered especially carefully in connection with digital-format reproductions of born-digital works, where there is a heightened risk that reproductions may function as substitutes for the originals.
  • Reproductions of works should represent the original works as accurately as can be achieved under the circumstances.
  • The writing should provide attribution of the original work as is customary in the field, to the extent possible.

Link to the rest at Fair Use for the Visual Arts

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Does Banned Books Week Really Matter Anymore?

29 September 2015

From Publishing Perspectives:

September 27th through October 3rd is officially Banned Book Week.

And with that, the American Library Association has released its list of the most banned books of 2014:

  1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”
  2. Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
    Reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint. Additional reasons: “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions”

. . . .

“The ALA promotes the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinions even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those viewpoints to all who wish to read them.

“A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. As such, they are a threat to freedom of speech and choice.”

. . . .

But at Slate, Ruth Graham argues that “Banned Books Week is a Crock.”

Why? “No one bans books anymore. We won!”

Looking at the recent case of a Jackie Sims, the mother of a 15 year old son in Knoxville, Tennessee who objected to the assignment of Rebecca Skloot’s critically acclaimed The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks because she thought the book was “pornographic,” and wanted it “taken out of the hands of all the students in the district,” Graham writes that:

” … the brouhaha got a boost from the approach of Banned Books Week, an annual event promoted with much fanfare by the American Library Association and other organizations. This year’s event began Sunday and runs through the end of the week, with parties and “read-outs” all over the country. It’s a cause that’s easy to support; Banned Books Week is well-intentioned, and it’s unquestionably run by the good guys. In the battle between a prudish mom and freedom, it’s not hard to pick sides. But in feeding off of conflicts like Sims vs. the school board, Banned Books Week also traffics in fear-mongering over censorship, when in fact the truth is much sunnier: There is basically no such thing as a “banned book” in the United States in 2015.

“The statistics certainly sound alarming. Since Banned Books Week was instituted in 1982, the event’s website informs us, 11,300 books have been challenged. In 2014 alone, 311 books were banned or challenged in schools and libraries in the United States, with many more cases unreported. It would be easy to assume that the literal banning of books is still a routine occurrence in the United States.

“But take a closer look, and there’s much less for freedom-loving readers to be concerned with. The modifier ‘banned or challenged’ contains a lot of wiggle room, for one. A ‘challenge,’ in the ALA’s definition, is a ‘formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.’ By that definition, Sims’ one-woman freak-out in Tennessee qualifies as a ‘challenge,’ despite the fact that it posed no real threat to Skloot’s book, let alone the ‘freedom to read.’”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

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