Monthly Archives: July 2018

I have always found it interesting

31 July 2018

I have always found it interesting… that there are people who regard copyright infringement as a form of flattery.

Tom Lehrer

Copyright – Ideas vs. Expression

31 July 2018

On occasion, PG receives emails or calls from an author who is complaining that someone else improperly stole their idea for a book or story.

Frequently on those occasions, PG explains a fundamental distinction under US copyright law and the copyright laws of many other countries. Copyright does not protect an idea, only the particular expression of an idea that an author creates.

(With apologies to any who may be offended by PG’s Paleolithic gender expression), the story structure of Boy meets Girl, Boy loses Girl, Boy gets Girl can and has been used over and over by many different authors, screenwriters, etc.

Likewise, the book or movie plot structure for a Quest is also unprotectable by copyright.

What is a Quest plot? As stated in The Write Practice:

The Quest is the plot type most likely to have a group of main characters rather than one protagonist in the main eye of the story. The rest of the party generally takes one of four appearances:

  1. A close friend who is loyal to our hero, but doesn’t have much else going for him or her;
  2. A sidekick who is the polar opposite of the hero mentally, physically, and emotionally;
  3. A generic mass of identity-less bros who don’t get names because they’re not alive long enough to matter; or
  4. A balanced party of brains, heart, and strength who support the hero, or who count the hero as one of their own.

Following is a more detailed explanation of the Idea/Expression dichotomy.

TRIGGER WARNING: Legalese follows! French, too! (scènes à faire!) You will encounter links to statutes and cases! You are not required to click on links or understand everything that appears below! PG has never given a test on anything and is not about to start doing so now!

From Digital Law Online:

Through both court decisions and specific language in the Copyright Act of 1976, the scope of copyright has been limited to particular expression of an idea, not the idea that underlies that expression.

. . . .

The specific provision is in Section 102(b):

   In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work. {FN41: 17 U.S.C. §102(b)}

This provision was described by the drafters:

   Copyright does not preclude others from using the ideas or information revealed by the author’s work. It pertains to the literary, musical, graphic, or artistic form in which the author expressed intellectual concepts. Section 102(b) makes clear that copyright protection does not extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.

   Some concern has been expressed lest copyright in computer programs should extend protection to the methodology or processes adopted by the programmer, rather than merely to the “writing” expressing his ideas. Section 102(b) is intended, among other things, to make clear that the expression adopted by the programmer is the copyrightable element in a computer program, and that the actual processes or methods embodied in the program are not within the scope of the copyright law.

   Section 102(b) in no way enlarges or contracts the scope of copyright protection under the present law. Its purpose is to restate, in the context of the new single Federal system of copyright, that the basic dichotomy between expression and idea remains unchanged.

. . . .

The law at the time of the passage of the Copyright Act of 1976 regarding copyright protection for expression but not for the underlying ideas or any functional aspects of the work, comes primarily from two Supreme Court cases. In 1879, the Supreme Court decided in Baker v. Selden {FN43: 101 U.S. 99 (1879)} that the copyright of a book that described a particular bookkeeping technique did not protect the forms necessary to use the technique.

   There is no doubt that a work on the subject of book‑keeping, though only explanatory of well‑known systems, may be the subject of a copyright; but, then, it is claimed only as a book. Such a book may be explanatory either of old systems, or of an entirely new system; and, considered as a book, as the work of an author, conveying information on the subject of book‑keeping, and containing detailed explanations of the art, it may be a very valuable acquisition to the practical knowledge of the community. But there is a clear distinction between the book, as such, and the art which it is intended to illustrate. The mere statement of the proposition is so evident, that it requires hardly any argument to support it. The same distinction may be predicated of every other art as well as that of book‑keeping. A treatise on the composition and use of medicines, be they old or new; on the construction and use of ploughs, or watches, or churns; or on the mixture and application of colors for painting or dyeing; or on the mode of drawing lines to produce the effect of perspective, would be the subject of copyright; but no one would contend that the copyright of the treatise would give the exclusive right to the art or manufacture described therein. {FN44: 101 U.S. at 101-102}

In 1954, the Supreme Court restated the principle that copyright protects expression, but not function. In Mazer v. Stein{FN45: 347 U.S. 201100 USPQ 325 (1954)} the Court addressed the scope of copyright protection for a sculpture that formed the base of a lamp. They found that the artistic aspects of the sculpture were protected by copyright, but not the functional aspects associated with being a lamp base:

   Unlike a patent, a copyright gives no exclusive right to the art disclosed; protection is given only to the expression of the idea – not the idea itself. Thus, in Baker v. Selden, the Court held that a copyrighted book on a peculiar system of bookkeeping was not infringed by a similar book using a similar plan which achieved similar results where the alleged infringer made a different arrangement of the columns and used different headings. The distinction is illustrated in Fred Fisher, Inc. v. Dillingham, when the court speaks of two men, each a perfectionist, independently making maps of the same territory. Though the maps are identical, each may obtain the exclusive right to make copies of his own particular map, and yet neither will infringe the other’s copyright. Likewise a copyrighted directory is not infringed by a similar directory which is the product of independent work. {FN46: 347 U.S. at 217-218100 USPQ at 333 (citations omitted)}

The test of whether something is an unprotectable idea or protectable expression is inherently ad hoc, and bodies of law have been developed through court cases for different types of copyrighted works. But there are a number of themes that run through most idea-expression analyses.

. . . .

When there are only a limited number of ways that a concept or idea can be expressed, there is little difference between the idea and its expression, and it is therefore said that the two have “merged.” When this happens, the limited number of ways of expressing the idea are not entitled to copyright protection because, in essence, that would be protecting the idea, something outside the scope of copyright. The merger doctrine means that even if things are substantially similar, or even identical, there might not be a copyright infringement.

Another factor is whether the expression is something that you would expect to find in a work on a particular topic or expressing a certain concept. For example, scenes of soldiers marching would be common in many war movies. Such common elements are called scènes à faire, or stock incidents. In a copyright case regarding computer displays, the use of overlapping windows was found to be a stock aspect of windowed displays and therefore not protectable by copyright.

Link to the rest at Digital Law Online

Old Photos

31 July 2018

PG located a couple of old (out of copyright) photos of soldiers and did some post-processing of them to enhance their emotional impact (at least for him).


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Helping creators protect their content

31 July 2018

From the YouTube Creator Blog:

We know how frustrating it is when your content is uploaded to other channels without your permission and how time consuming it can be to manually search for these re-uploads. We currently provide a number of ways for copyright owners to protect their work, but we’ve heard from creators that we should do more and we agree.

Today we are excited to announce the new Copyright Match tool, which is designed to find re-uploads of your content on other channels. Here’s how it works: after you upload a video, YouTube will scan other videos uploaded to YouTube to see if any of them are the same or very similar. When there is a match, it will appear in the “matches” tab in the tool and you can decide what to do next.

. . . .

Here’s what you need to know:

  • It’s important that you’re the first person to upload your video to YouTube. The time of upload is how we determine who should be shown matches.
  • This tool is intended to find full re-uploads. If you find a clip of your content that you’d like removed, you can always report it via the copyright webform.
  • Once the tool has found a match, you can choose either to do nothing, to get in touch with the other creator, or request that YouTube remove the video. When you request removal you can do so with or without a 7-day delay to allow the uploader to correct the issue themselves. Takedown requests will be reviewed to make sure they comply with YouTube’s copyright policies.

Link to the rest at YouTube Creator Blog

I Tried All the Scary Stories Apps and Found the Best 7

31 July 2018

From Book Riot:

If you live, eat, and breathe horror like I do, then the thought of carrying scary stories with you everywhere you go probably sounds like a dream (or nightmare) come true. Thankfully, with the advent of smartphones, that nightmare has become a reality. New scary stories apps are popping up all the time. Search the app store for scary stories right now, and you might be overwhelmed with the options.

So, horror fiends, I have done the dirty work for you and screened a bunch of scary stories apps so I could bring you the best.

. . . .

2. Cliffhanger

I like apps like Cliffhanger because these are text message-based stories that include a Choose Your Own Adventure element to them. I’m never exactly sure how much of an effect my choices have in games like these (that would involve playing them over again and I just don’t have the patience for that at the moment when I have 5,000 other scary stories apps to get through). But at the very least, the illusion of choice makes me feel more invested in the story and more involved in the scary stuff happening on my screen. And the more you feel like you’re a part of the story, the scarier that story feels.

3. CreepyPasta

If you’re into scary stories and you haven’t discovered the world of Creepy Pasta yet, then I don’t know where you’ve been but it’s time to get on board. Creepy Pasta has permeated every part of internet culture. My husband thinks it’s a little weird that I listen to Creepy Pasta stories at night to fall asleep, but it’s a thing and it’s called “Sleepy Pasta,” so I’m not the only one who’s into it. There are podcasts, YouTube channels, and of course wiki pages dedicated to Creepy Pasta stories, so it should come as no surprise that there is a Creepy Pasta app too. This app is very well organized and easy to navigate. I love how you can save stories to your favorites and mark them as read. Maybe one day I’ll make it through all of them?

Link to the rest at Book Riot

5 Old School Social Media Tactics That Are No Longer Effective (And What To Do Instead)

30 July 2018

From Buffer Social:

5. Asking people to share your content

You’ve worked hard to create an awesome piece of content—and naturally, you want as many people to see it as possible. So, along with sharing the link on social media, you ask your contacts to post it on their own networks.

The problem? This request puts your connections in a really awkward spot. Saying no feels pretty uncomfortable (after all, you’re asking for a share, not a kidney), but they might want to for any number of reasons: the content doesn’t work with their brand, audience, or social strategy; they don’t agree with everything it says; or they simply resent being asked.

In the end, this strategy might help you get more views on, say, a blog post or Slideshare—but your professional relationships will take a hit. (Want to brush up on social media etiquette? Check out the 29 most common rules and which ones you should actually follow.)

What to do instead:

You want people to link to your content because, well, they want to. With that in mind, focus on making it as shareable as possible.

recent analysis of 65,000 articles found that a piece’s virality comes down to two main factors: arousal and dominance. In plain English, arousal means “riled up.” Both anger and excitement are high-arousal emotions. Dominance, on the other hand, is the feeling of being in control. When you’re inspired or joyful, you’re experiencing high dominance; when you’re scared, you’re experiencing low dominance.

Articles that perform the best on social use a high-arousal, high-dominance combo. What would that look like? Well, a photo of Vin Diesel with his daughter racked up 8.1 million interactions (making it the fifth most popular Facebook post of 2015), thanks to the strong, positive emotions it generated. But strong, negative emotions can be powerful too—take the Dove “Choose Beautiful” campaign, which put a spotlight on low self-esteem.

Link to the rest at Buffer Social

One thinks about modern academics

30 July 2018
Comments Off on One thinks about modern academics

One thinks about modern academics, especially philosophers and sociologists. Their language is often voiceless and without power because it is so utterly cut off from experience and things. There is no sense of words carrying experiences, only of reflecting relationships between other words or between “concepts.” There is no sense of an actual self seeing a thing or having an experience… Sociology—by its very nature?—seems to be an enterprise whose practitioners cut themselves off from experience and things and deal entirely with categories about categories. As a result sociologists, more even than writers in other disciplines, often write language which has utterly died.

Peter Elbow

Most academic books aren’t written to be read—they’re written to be “broken.”

30 July 2018

From Slate:

In January, Karin Wulf, a history professor at William and Mary, wrote an installment for her blog, Vast Early America, that promised to teach “How to Gut a (Scholarly) Book in 5 Almost-easy Steps.” The blog post, which described a process for getting the gist of a book without having to read it cover to cover, tossed a lifeline to doctoral students everywhere struggling with the overwhelming impossibility of keeping pace with their weekly reading requirements. “I don’t always read this way,” Wulf cautioned. “For work that’s in my research area, and when I’m reading for the joy of reading history (which I try to do regularly), I read more deeply and thoroughly. But thinking historiographically, getting a sense of how evidence and argument are related within a book (or essay), and how those relate to other scholarship, I find pretty well served by this approach.”

I knew well the process of what I call “book breaking,” having recently completed a Ph.D.
in history at York University in Toronto. Wulf’s excellent advice is indispensable to anyone embarking on doctoral studies. But the blog post also resonated with my misgivings about academia’s messy relationship with books, with how its books are written, published, and consumed.

I have an unusual relationship with the academy. After a career of some 30 years as a journalist and author, I returned, at the age of 51, to higher education to secure a history Ph.D. I was never sure of exactly what I would do with one, if I survived the process, but it was a now-or-never challenge that I thought I should accept. One of the hopes the academy had for me was that I could bridge the worlds of academic history and “public” history; I had published a number of history books with leading trade imprints (Doubleday, Penguin, Bloomsbury), and I had a book on Christopher Columbus and John Cabot, The Race to the New World, in edit at Palgrave Macmillan in New York as I began my course work in the autumn of 2010. I knew academic writing was different than trade writing, but I was unprepared for the way reading—and consequently writing—was treated in the context of academia.

Every week for two semesters, I would attend a seminar in each of my three coursework fields—Canadian, American, and indigenous history—to discuss the week’s readings. A professor would guide debate and mark our performance over the span of about three hours. A week’s readings were a mix of books and journal articles that were drawn from a larger course reading list, or syllabus. A typical week would add up to about three books per course (the rule of thumb seemed to be that four journal articles were the equivalent of one book). That meant reading nine books a week. The entire syllabus of one course might contain about 100 books. You then faced the hurdle of the comprehensive exams, or “comps.” At York, I was expected to know the entire syllabi of two courses, which I demonstrated in two four-hour written exams and an oral examination by a panel of professors. Then came the dissertation.

Three weeks into my coursework, I nearly quit, overwhelmed by the weekly reading requirements. My first week included Bruce Trigger’s The Children of Aataentsic, a 600-plus-page doorstopper of a history of the Huron-Wendat people, and there were about eight other books besides to digest. I learned quickly that reading in a doctoral program was not like reading at home. You had to “gut” a book, as professor Wulf describes—absorb its essential contents so that you could discuss the author’s ideas and evidence intelligently in that week’s seminar. Even for comps, with months of preparation, there was no way to read the entire syllabi of two courses. Foremost, you read the book’s introduction and conclusion, and the introduction and conclusion of individual chapters, and looked at sources and notes. If desperate, you got by with a scholarly book review—whatever it took to gather enough knowledge to discuss the work in a seminar or a comps exam.

. . . .

 There is an insidious feedback loop where academic writing is concerned. Academic works in the humanities are written by authors who survived their doctoral studies by book breaking. When successful doctoral candidates then publish, they’re inclined to write in a way that makes book breaking possible, especially if they hope to see that book on a course reading list. After all, it’s not just students who need to be able to get the gist of a new book quickly—professors must do so as well. When the target audience has no time, need, or inclination to read books in their entirety, then books at a basic level are written not to be read in a conventional sense. It’s a short bus ride from that reality to academic books that are not particularly readable. By “not particularly readable” I do not mean that ideas are not presented clearly, or that the prose is necessarily stilted or burdened by jargon. What I mean is that the books are written without regard to elements and narrative techniques that are fundamental to nonfiction in a trade setting—that academic writing is often hostile to storytelling as a way of conveying important truths.

. . . .

 The consequences of academic books being fundamentally written not to be read in full, even by an academic audience, are troubling not only for academia but for society as a whole. Society suffers when the ideas of academics are trapped inside the feedback loop of academia; academia suffers because society considers its output irrelevant.

Link to the rest at Slate

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