Monthly Archives: September 2015

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

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

The Secret of Writing An Action Movie in Book Form

29 September 2015

From io9:

Screw movies. A great novel can be just as exciting and thrilling as a big-budget Hollywood tentpole. A novel can contain massive, insane action, that movie-makers could never even afford to bring to life. But how do you create an action movie on the page? We talked to 10 of our favorite authors, and here’s what they told us.

“I grew up in the 80s as big blockbusters started to become a thing, so I do think some of those concepts influence me in terms of how I approach action,” says Tobias Buckell, author of Arctic Rising. “There’s certainly some inner kid that is trying to translate those feelings I got when I saw big, epic action on a screen to a sort of driven narrative when I’m doing big set pieces in books.” At the same time, he notes that he grew up without a television, on a boat with “limited access to power in a sort of watery off-the-grid Kevin Costner Waterworld experience,” and didn’t really discover tentpole movies until he turned nine.

“ All my books start in my head as films or documentaries that I then have to adapt for a novel. If I can’t see it, I can’t write it,” says Karen Traviss, author of Going Grey. “In every scene, I’m walking the point of view character through a three-dimensional landscape and interacting with it through the characters’ eyes, seeing what they see and thinking what they think. Even my scene and chapter transitions are often pretty much the ones I learned making documentaries and features, almost to the point of dissolves and fades.”

Link to the rest at i09 and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

A Facelift for Shakespeare

29 September 2015

From The Wall Street Journal:

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival will announce next week that it has commissioned translations of all 39 of the Bard’s plays into modern English, with the idea of having them ready to perform in three years. Yes, translations—because Shakespeare’s English is so far removed from the English of 2015 that it often interferes with our own comprehension.

Most educated people are uncomfortable admitting that Shakespeare’s language often feels more medicinal than enlightening. We have been told since childhood that Shakespeare’s words are “elevated” and that our job is to reach up to them, or that his language is “poetic,” or that it takes British actors to get his meaning across.

But none of these rationalizations holds up. Much of Shakespeare goes over our heads because, even though we recognize the words, their meaning often has changed significantly over the past four centuries.

In “Hamlet,” when Polonius famously advises Laertes to “neither a borrower nor a lender be,” much of what he says before that point reaches our modern ears in a fragmentary state at best. In the lines, “These few precepts in thy memory / Look thou character,” look means “make sure that,” and character is a verb, meaning “to write.” Polonius is telling Laertes, in short, “Note these things well.”

He goes on to say: “Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment,” which seems to mean that you should let other people criticize you but refrain from judging them—strange advice. But by “take censure” Shakespeare meant “evaluate,” so that Polonius is really saying “assess” other men but don’t jump to conclusions about them.

We can piece these meanings together, of course, by reading the play and consulting stacks of footnotes. But Shakespeare didn’t intend for us to do that. He wrote plays for performance. We’re supposed to be able to hear and understand what’s spoken on the stage, in real time.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

PG hopes they retain really good translators. Poets, too.

More trees!

28 September 2015

An Adobe commercial from 2013 that one commentator has compared to the current state of publishing.

Solving the Amazon Puzzle

28 September 2015

From Bloomberg Business:

Which company is a better investment, Google or Amazon.com? Conventional wisdom suggests Google, which turns huge profits, enjoys better gross margins, and has a far lower price-to-earnings ratio. Yet Amazon’s stock has returned 62.6 percent in the past year, compared with 9.6 percent for Google.

That’s a phenomenon Steve Hanke, an economics professor at Johns Hopkins University, and Ryan Guttridge, a fellow there, have named the “Amazon Puzzle,” and one they say they’ve figured out. The key is hidden in asset turns, or how effective companies are at getting revenue out of their investments. Asset turnover is defined as sales divided by total assets; the higher the number, the better. “Google is just abysmal, and Amazon is really good,” says Guttridge, who once worked for legendary stock picker Bill Miller at Legg Mason in Baltimore.

. . . .

Guttridge and Hanke credit Amazon’s cash flow–focused CEO, Jeff Bezos. Bezos has a salary of just $81,840 a year, though he gets a further $1.6 million to cover his personal security. Beyond that, he receives nothing atop the return on the 18 percent of Amazon that he owns. It’s the same stock shareholders own. He makes money only if the stock goes up and must keep shareholders happy or be held accountable.

Link to the rest at Bloomberg Business

Ever dreamed of spending the night in a bookstore? Junkudo offering the chance to do just that!

28 September 2015

From RocketNews24:

A little over a year ago, someone in Japan tweeted that they would “love to live in Junkudo”, one of the country’s largest book store chains. Little did they know that someone at that very company would not only see the tweet, but decide to make that pipe dream a reality, inviting a small band of book lovers in Tokyo to spend the night in the giant bookstore with sleeping bags, giving them entirely free rein to pick up any book or magazine they pleased.

This year, the company is bringing the “Try Living in Junkudo” project to an even bigger three-story shop in Osaka—and on Halloween, no less!

By applying via their website, you could be one of the 10 lucky people (five pairs) to spend the night inside the Sennichimae Junkudo store in Osaka. From 10:00pm on 31 October until 8:30am on 1 November, you’ll be able to cram in as much reading of the store’s 3,000 square meters (32,000 square feet) of books as you can—the only things that are off limits being the books and magazines that are sealed in plastic.

. . . .

It will cost absolutely nothing to spend the night, but you will be expected to buy at least three books or magazines. Also this is considered a “monitor tour” which is a Japanese term that means you get a heck of a deal, but only in exchange for evaluating the hotel, restaurant, or in this case bookstore you’re visiting by filling out a questionnaire afterwards. Still, that’s a small price to pay to have an entire bookstore at your disposal!

Link to the rest at RocketNews24

From Books to Ebooks and Back: The Future of Literary Consumption Is Unwritten

28 September 2015

From Flavorwire:

News from the Association of American Publishers that digital sales have dropped by ten percent in the first five months of 2015 has prompted big publishing to build and expand warehouse space for print books. But it isn’t just the precipitous decline in sales that is driving publishing back to the arms of print. Increasingly, readers — including young readers — prefer a mix of digital and print books, with a tendency to favor the latter.

It remains to be seen whether the renegotiation of contracts with Amazon, who has cornered around 65 percent of the ebook market, was what led to the decline. Publishers fought and won the ability to raise ebook prices, sometimes charging as much for digital copies as hardcover print versions.

On the other hand, we won’t likely know until next year whether publishing has achieved a healthier balance between print and digital, one that leads perhaps to improved overall sales.

Either way, the resurgence of print was never a given — few announced its impending arrival. Quite the contrary, a surfeit of doomsayers saw in the arrival of ebooks and ebook readers — the sales of which dropped by eight million last year — the end of print or at least the demise of given literary forms, like the novel.

“This is the question,” novelist Will Self wrote in the Guardian last year, “if you accept that by then the vast majority of text will be read in digital form on devices linked to the web, do you also believe that those readers will voluntarily choose to disable that connectivity? If your answer to this is no, then the death of the novel is sealed out of your own mouth.”

. . . .

“There is nothing capable of destroying literary needs,” Neuman said last weekend at the Brooklyn Book Festival. “When I need to have a slow, joyful experience, I prefer a printed book. When I’m just reading the text partially to search for things, I use ebooks.”

He added: “I don’t see why we should choose. We will have both forever. This old device called the printed book has lasted a few crises already.”

. . . .

“When you read a printed book, it’s easier to stay on the same page for a long period of time. When you read a digital book, you want to move from page to page. And with poetry you need to see the form — you need to see more than you can see on digital pages.”

. . . .

“We believe more than ever that the phone will be the primary reading device globally over the next decade,” Oyster wrote in a statement on its website. “Looking forward, we feel this is best seized by taking on new opportunities to fully realize our vision for ebooks.”

. . . .

“Devices are not dangerous for literature,” Krasznahorkai said. “People can be dangerous for literature. People, for example, who do not read.”

Link to the rest at Flavorwire

« Previous PageNext Page »