Monthly Archives: August 2017

A Copyright Fable: Debunking The “Seven-Second Rule”

31 August 2017

From Trademark and Copyright Law:

If you are a television news producer or documentary filmmaker, you have almost certainly faced this issue: You are putting together a story about a past event, and you want to make the point that this past event was once the subject of media coverage.  The easiest way to do that is to show some of that media coverage, for example, by including a short clip from the evening news or by panning across a newspaper article headline. Are you allowed to do that? Are you infringing the copyright in that news clip or in that article?

When I was a video editor (and not yet a lawyer), I was regularly told by other non-lawyers that such use was permissible as long as it didn’t violate the “seven-second rule.” This apocryphal safe harbor provided that, if you show a copyrighted work for fewer than seven seconds, then you were protected either by the fair use doctrine or by the equally mythical doctrine of “nobody cares.”  Why do intelligent professionals pass on such fables to each other? Perhaps it is because, when you are knee-deep in raw footage and working on a deadline, you crave certainty.

In fact, such certainty rarely exists in copyright law. There is no “seven-second rule;” there is no “nobody cares” doctrine; and advanced reliance on predictions about fair use (a notoriously uncertain inquiry) is risky at best.

. . . .

The closest thing in actual copyright law to the “seven-second rule” fable is the de minimis defense, which derives from the legal maxim de minimis non curat lex (the law does not concern itself with trifles). In copyright law, the de minimis doctrine is not truly a separate defense but an extension of the elements of copyright infringement: to prove copyright infringement, you must prove copying, which can be done with a showing that the copyrighted work and the allegedly infringing work are “substantially similar.”  Where copying has occurred but it is so trivial that the works cannot really be said to be substantially similar, the copying is considered to be de minimis and therefore non-actionable.

Link to the rest at Trademark and Copyright Law

The OP provides some good examples of why questions like, “Can I include this in my novel?” are not always easy to answer.

If PG were king for a day, he would probably add some safe harbor provisions to copyright law that set clearer boundaries between what uses of others’ original work are and are not permissible.

 

Without tradition

31 August 2017

Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.

Winston Churchill

B&N Education: Sales Way Up; Net Loss Increases

31 August 2017
Comments Off on B&N Education: Sales Way Up; Net Loss Increases

From Shelf Awareness:

Consolidated sales at Barnes & Noble Education in the first quarter ended July 29 rose 48.7%, to $355.7 million, while the consolidated net loss rose to $34.8 million from $27.9 million in the same period last year. The sales jump comes from the inclusion of revenue from MBS Textbook Exchange, which B&N Education bought earlier this year.

Wall Street didn’t like the loss, which was larger than anticipated: yesterday, B&N Education’s stock fell 17.7%, closing at $5.61 a share, in higher than usual volume on a day most stocks rose.

In the quarter, sales at B&N College stores open at least a year fell 2.5%, representing some $5.5 million in revenue. The company attributed the decrease primarily to textbook sales, which were down 8.5%, partially offset by an increase in general merchandise sales of 3.3%, especially by branded apparel and gift sales. General merchandise represented about half of all sales in the quarter for B&N College.

During the quarter, B&N College opened 24 new physical stores, bringing its total to 781.

. . . .

The company predicted that B&N College sales will decline during the fiscal year in the “low- to mid-single digit percentage point range year over year.”

Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness

Defending the Honor of Ebooks (and Innovation)

31 August 2017

From No Shelf Required:

Is the ebook a dead format? How eBooks lost their shine. The Scientific Reason Actual Books Are So Much More Memorable Than Ebooks. US Ebook Sales Decline. These are some of the headlines I’ve seen recently perpetuating the (suddenly popular) notion that ebooks are not ‘in’ anymore. That they have somehow failed us. That nothing compares to the reading of actual physical objects in the world. That the challenges the publishing industry has seen with ebooks (i.e., declining sales) point in the direction of a ‘format’ on the verge of dying.

Such articles aren’t only written by informed bloggers and journalists but also by industry professionals with significant experience in the publishing and library and info rmation science markets, particularly those catering to consumers and public libraries. They exhibit a great deal of knowledge and sensible arguments about the challenges the publishing community (trade, in particular) has had with ebooks, focusing largely on the shortfalls of various business models to deliver revenue as predictable as revenue from print, the technological issues associated with ‘formats’  that haven’t been able to deliver a fully satisfying reading experience, and, not to be overlooked, the fierce competitiveness within the market itself, which has often resulted in ‘the powerful’  thriving even if their offerings were inferior to those by various start-ups (most of which perished in recent years).

In short, technology has not been able to ‘disrupt’ book publishing the way it has disrupted other industries in the not-so-distant past (e.g., music, news), and here we are at a crossroads again, asking some existential questions.

I have written countless articles on NSR explaining the benefits of ebooks to transform the world (the core mission of this portal) and pointing publishers, librarians, and all who work with books in one way or another in the direction of more open-mindedness, sensibility, and courage to step beyond what is familiar, safe, and predictable. I have often argued that the challenges we have been facing were not brought on our industry by external factors but by our own unwillingness to chart new territories and create better conditions for those very users we often point to when justifying declining sales.

In light of this emerging trend to dismiss ebooks as a force to be reckoned with in its own right (and I see it as an undeniable force), the attempt here is to put the spotlight (back) on the true value and potential of ebooks, yet to be discovered and explored by publishers and libraries.

. . . .

The main reason we have been slow to tap into the promise and potential of ebooks to deliver results for publishers and public libraries, I believe, has been our reluctance to take the necessary steps requiring us to transform within. In essence, we have ‘managed’ ebooks far more than we have ‘led’ with them. Managing, whether in private corporations like publishing houses or government institutions like libraries, means we need not make drastic changes to who we are as professionals and what we’ve done for centuries. Leading, on the other hand, requires us to get uncomfortable, take risks, and possibly be blamed for an experiment that fails.

Link to the rest at No Shelf Required

Terry Pratchett’s Unpublished Work Crushed by Steamroller

31 August 2017

From The New York Times:

Terry Pratchett, the well-known British fantasy author, had a wish fulfilled two years after his death: A hard drive containing his unpublished work was destroyed by steamroller.

Mr. Pratchett, a wildly popular fantasy novelist who wrote more than 70 books, including the “Discworld” series, died at 66 in 2015. That year his friend, the writer Neil Gaiman, told The Times of London that Mr. Pratchett had wanted “whatever he was working on at the time of his death to be taken out along with his computers, to be put in the middle of a road and for a steamroller to steamroll over them all.” Mr. Gaiman added at the time that he was glad this hadn’t happened.

Now, though, it has. Mr. Pratchett’s estate manager and close friend, Rob Wilkins, posted a picture of a hard drive and a steamroller on Aug. 25 on an official Twitter account they shared.

Link to the rest at The New York Times (Steamroller photos at the link)

PG will note there are other methods of destroying information on a hard drive, but they don’t result in very interesting photos.

John Smelcer dropped from YA award amid ‘concerns’ over integrity

31 August 2017

From The Guardian:

PEN Center USA has dropped John Smelcer’s novel Stealing Indians from the shortlist for its young adult award, after Smelcer’s integrity was publicly questioned by several writers, including Man Booker prize winner Marlon James.

Smelcer’s Stealing Indians was one of four titles in the running for the award. Telling the story of four Indian teenagers taken from their homes and sent to boarding schools in the 1950s, it was first published in 2016, but featured a quote on the cover from Chinua Achebe. (“A poignant story of colonisation and assimilation, something I know a little bit about. A masterpiece.”) Achebe died in 2013.

. . . .

Smelcer, who describes himself as being of the Native American Ahtna tribe, was awarded the James Jones first novel fellowship in 2004, but it was rescinded in 2015 after a unanimous vote when Kaylie Jones, author and daughter of the eponymous novelist, accused Smelcer of faking a blurb from Norman Mailer on his own website shortly after the author died. Jones said she had been terribly upset by the quote, “which Mailer’s biographer and I knew for a fact was not written by Norman Mailer”. When she researched Smelcer further, she found that “a number of Native American writers and scholars had been decrying his claim to a Native American heritage and his blatant exploitation of his dubious position in the Ahtna tribe”. Jones called “this entire fiasco … a terrible stain on the reputation and integrity” of the prize.

. . . .

The announcement follows detailed investigations by the Stranger and the LA Times into Smelcer’s past and his claims to Native American heritage, and how he has used this disputed heritage to his professional advantage. “John Smelcer has been held in great suspicion and contempt in the Native world for 25 years,” the award-winning Native American writer Sherman Alexie told the Stranger, whose investigation also found that Smelcer’s agent, Johnny Savage, was actually Smelcer himself. The author told the website: “I invented the agent because of Debbie Reese and her rabid followers who for years (20) send me anonymous hate emails and death threats.”

. . . .

“By all applicable laws of the United States (tribal, state, federal), most importantly by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANSCA; 1971, 1987 Amendments), the largest indigenous legislation in American history, I am Alaska Native/Native American,” writes Smelcer, criticising the “wilful ignorance” of the “bullies” who “attack him”.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Twitter will render children illiterate in 20 years

30 August 2017

From The Bookseller:

Novelist Howard Jacobson has said children may be illiterate in 20 years’ time, thanks to the rise of smartphones and social media platforms such as Twitter.

The journalist and 2010 Man Booker prize-winner told The Times that childrens’ capacity to concentrate on books was being adversely affected by social media and smartphones, conceding even his own concentration span had been “shot by this bloody screen”.

As a result, in the space of 20 years he predicted “we will have children who can’t read, who don’t want to read”.

“I can’t read any more as much as I used to. My concentration has been shot by this bloody screen. I can’t do it now — I want space, I want white pages, light behind the page,” he said.

. . . .

Some Twitter users have hit back at Jacobson’s views.

Author Nikesh Shukla said Jacobson’s view was “snobby”, “boring” and “wrong”, while trade marketing manager at Bounce Marketing, Graeme Williams, said on the platform: “Awww. I remember when they said this about texting when I was a young’un. Somewhere someone probably said the same about telegrams.”

Meanwhile, also to the contrary, drawing on its research the National Literacy Trust (NLT) said new technologies can play “a hugely important role” in helping to develop children’s literacy skills.

Its research showed e-books positively impact teenage boys’ reading motivation and skills, when a 2015 project saw the percentage of boys who felt reading was “difficult” cut in half from 28.0% to 15.9%, suggesting confidence in their own reading ability also increased as a result of using technology. Another 2016 research project saw six in 10 (59.7%) early years practitioners say they would like to increase the use of touch screens.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

When I left

30 August 2017

When I left, Merle was wearing a bungalow apron and rolling pie-crust. She came to the door wiping her hands on the apron and kissed me on the mouth and began to cry and ran back into the house, leaving the doorway empty until her mother came into the space with a broad homely smile on her face to watch me drive away.

I had a funny feeling as I saw the house disappear, as though I had written a poem and it was very good and I had lost it and would never remember it again.

Raymond Chandler

A Generic Millenial Ad

30 August 2017

Not exactly about books, but a short writing break.

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Hong Kong, Criminal City That Knows No Night

30 August 2017

From The Literary Hub:

Hong Kong—the “Fragrant Harbor” or the “Barren Rock”? The Cantonese named it the former; the early British colonialists in the mid-19th century the latter. Captured by the Royal Navy after the First Opium War (1839-1842) and politically cauterized from the mainland of China by a most unequal treaty signed in the face of British gunboats. Hong Kong Island was to be England’s in perpetuity, with Kowloon and the New Territories (that are essentially part of the Chinese mainland) leased for 99 years. In 1997 those 99 years came to an end, Britain surrendered the territory in the “Handover,” and Hong Kong reverted to Chinese control becoming a “Special Administrative Region” of the People’s Republic.

One of the most densely populated cities in the world, stunning banks of high rises surround a harbor above which rises the Peak, once home to only the most senior of Colonial officials and now only the wealthiest of tycoons. Across Victoria Harbor, Kowloon is raucous, always busy and thanks to the city’s obsession with neon, never dark as you pass through Tsim Sha Tsui, Yau Ma Tei, Mong Kok and Kowloon’s other districts. Away from the hustle and bustle the islands of Lantau, Lamma and dozens of smaller oases have beaches and coves to explore, while the more sparsely populated New Territories extend to the border with mainland China at Lo Wu.

The quintessential Hong Kong of densely packed streets and the rhythmic cacophony of Cantonese contrasting with verdant islands and unexpected countryside is perhaps best captured in John le Carré’s sole Asian outing, The Honourable Schoolboy (1977). The Hong Kong weather “burns hot and clear and breathless” as Jerry Westerby wanders from the legendary Foreign Correspondents’ Club to his safe house on Cloudview Road in down-at-heel North Point. Le Carré, as ever, hits all the marks—the FCC, the American Club, snobby cocktail parties, the “Peak Mafia” of HSBC bankers, the Governor, senior military commanders, ruddy-faced club stewards and the odd resident OBEs and CBEs of the British community trading on past glories. Then down to noodles in the backstreets of Kennedy Town and compromising indiscretions in the Girly Bars of Wan Chai. The novel still stands as perhaps the most intricate description of post-war colonial Hong Kong in literature.

. . . .

Things get really murky in Hong Kong crime after the Handover in 1997. Christopher West’s 1999 Death of a Red Mandarin sees Inspector Wang of Beijing’s Public Security Bureau despatched south to ascertain just how a senior Communist Party official ended up a handcuffed corpse, floating in Hong Kong harbor. Wang is faced with the most politically sensitive of cases—the official’s body is hauled out of the water on the eve of the Handover. West has also written several other policiers featuring Chinese cop Inspector (Second Class) Bao Zheng, set in Beijing and well worth reading.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

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