Monthly Archives: November 2018

The curious story of the adoption of “patent troll” and “internet trolling”

30 November 2018

From The IPKat:

So how did we get from the mythical troll to its current uses in IP discourse? First consider the “patent troll”. The account given by Roger Kay is that the term arose when a spokesperson for Intel described opposing counsel in a patent infringement case, the late Raymond Niro (see here for a Kat remembranceof Mr. Niro), as a “patent extortionist”. Mr. Niro, hardly a shrinking violet when litigation was involved, filed suit against Intel for defamation. In-house counsel for Intel scrambled to come up with a term that would avoid a claim of defamation. Peter Detkin (then) of Intel suggested “patent troll”. As reported by Roger Kay–

Detkin defined patent troll at the time as “somebody who tries to make a lot of money from a patent that they are not practicing, have no intention of practicing, and in most cases never practiced.” Despite the basic nastiness of the term, the mythical troll can be a cute little gnome, leaving just enough ambiguity while preserving an essential pointedness.

By using the term, Detkin sought to cast in a negative light an entity that merely seeks to enforce the legal rights in the patent for monetary gain, as opposed to the inventor, or patent owner, who has an interest in actually making something under the patent. No matter that legally enforcing a valid patent is not an illicit act. No matter that there is no consensus on the metes and bounds of what entities are included in the term (is a university or a research center in or out?). No matter that there are also exists the term “non-practicing entity”, which presumably embodies the same notion as a “patent troll”. Migrating from literature, music, and art, the troll had made a triumphant entry into the way that the IP profession have described some of its own members.

. . . .

From an historical perspective, the term [internet troll] seems to reach back to the early 1990’s, in the largely benign sense in connection with a user of that time who was thought to be raising or discussing an issue that veteran users believe had been adequately covered. (One wonders to what extent Detlin was familiar with these early uses of the term in connection with the internet.)

From those origins, the terms as widely used on the internet today have morphed (some might say grotesquely so) to include a multitude of less bad or more bad behavior on the internet. A small amount of “trolling” behavior might constitute illicit activity, but in the main the term appears to lie outside of the realm of legal constructs. Moreover, it can be questioned whether internet “trolling” is disreputable conduct or merely the kinds of uses and effects that are part and parcel of the internet.

Link to the rest at The IPKat

Several years ago, PG had the opportunity to work with Ray Niro, mentioned in the OP, on some patent infringement litigation.

Litigators of all stripes tend to be colorful characters, but Ray would certainly be among the leaders in any competition based upon litigation war stories. He seemed to have a story to illuminate any advice he provided to his IP clients.

Like all great travellers

30 November 2018

Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.

~ Benjamin Disraeli

The UK’s 2018 ‘Building Inclusivity’ Conference: A Safe Place for Discussion

30 November 2018

From Publishing Perspectives:

There were several key messages highlighted in the UK’s third conference on Building Inclusivity in Publishing, presented by the London Book Fair and the Publishers Association on London’s South Bank on Tuesday (November 27).

. . . .

  • Inclusion should be a given, not an exception
  • Unpaid internships should disappear completely
  • Publishers should establish “safe places” in which conversations concerning issues like identity can take place
  • Children’s publishers need to recognize how important it is for black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) children to see themselves in books

Self-defined “queer working-class woman” Kerry Hudson—whose memoir Lowborn Growing Up, Getting Away, and Returning to Britain’s Poorest Towns is to be published February 5 by Penguin Random House’s Chatto—noted that strides have been made to improve inclusion.

One example Hudson pointed to is the Good Literary Agency, specifically set up with the purpose of reaching marginalized voices, for example—but she also pointed out that a recent report funded by the the Arts and Humanities Research Council and titled Panic! 2018 Social Cass, Taste and Inequalities in the Creative Industries (PDF), suggested that only 12.6 percent of employees in publishing are of working-class origin.

“Marginalized writers aren’t looking for a scheme or a month of open submissions when for the rest of the year they feel as isolated and overlooked as ever,” Hudson said.

“We want an industry where inclusivity is the norm and not the shiniest new project. The aim must be not for superficial changes but actually changing the bones, the very structure of what this industry is. That means moving away from pilots, meetings, and mission statements and looking at how to roll-out, scale up, and truly integrate these principles.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG suggests that traditional publishing is built upon a foundation that is exactly the opposite of inclusive. Publishing drones sift through the never-diminishing slush pile looking for the rarest of manuscripts. They automatically exclude 99%+ of the voices who want to be heard in the broader society.

One might argue that the principal value of traditional publishers for most readers is to create an exclusive collection of books that will appeal to those readers. If a publisher doesn’t exclude manuscripts its readers will, for whatever reason, not enjoy, the costs of publication, overhead, etc., will quickly exceed the publisher’s income and the publisher will disappear.

Self-described “curators of culture” can’t open the gates to just anyone without failing in their curational role, the only value they provide in a world in which self-publishing is becoming more and more widely accepted.

One might also ask if traditional publishers are providing a useful service to marginalized authors by inviting those authors into a business structure in which, “Don’t quit your day job,” is the most common piece of honest advice publishers give to debut authors.

Isn’t Kindle Direct Publishing “actually changing the bones, the very structure of what this industry is” to a far, far greater extent than conferences held on London’s South Bank?

Won’t more marginalized authors succeed in sharing their unique viewpoints with the world by self-publishing? Won’t most marginalized authors find a life as a professional writer easier to attain by selling their work in ebook form on Amazon?


‘Never Home Alone’ Review: The Critters Chez Nous

30 November 2018

From The Wall Street Journal:

When Rob Dunn was a young ecologist he rummaged through rainforests in search of biodiversity. More recently he discovered another type of wilderness: In a study of 1,000 houses in the U.S., Mr. Dunn’s team found 80,000 kinds of bacteria and archaea hidden inside—that’s at least 10 times the number of bird and mammal species observed in all of the Americas. He soon also unearthed in our homes some 40,000 kinds of fungi and hundreds of insects, many yet to be named by entomologists. “I was ecstatic,” Mr. Dunn writes. “Back in the jungle again, albeit the jungle of everyday life.”

In his fascinating new book, “Never Home Alone: From Microbes to Millipedes, Camel Crickets, and Honeybees, the Natural History of Where We Live,” Mr. Dunn brings a scientist’s sensibility to our domestic jungle by exploring the paradox of the modern home: In trying to make it “clean,” we’re forcing the species around us to evolve ever faster—often at our own expense.

Mr. Dunn is a fine writer, wringing poetry out of the microbial explorations of Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, who spent half the 17th century documenting all the tiny living things around him—in his neighbor’s mouth, in the snow, in cheese rinds and in wasps. Leeuwenhoek “was to become an astronaut of the miniature,” Mr. Dunn tells us, “all alone exploring a realm that was more diverse and elaborate than anyone but him seemed to understand.” Mr. Dunn also gracefully explains, without getting bogged down in details, the technology that has allowed scientists during the past decade or so to sequence the DNA of millions of previously unknown microbes, making his book an excellent layperson’s guide to cutting-edge research.

Mr. Dunn’s larger purpose is to explain how the ecology of the home has gone awry. Once upon a time, we lived in leaf huts, with interiors that looked a lot like our outdoor environment. Soon we moved to round houses, then square houses and finally to air-tight apartments in cities. Now we close our windows, use products that claim to kill 99% of germs and have unknowingly domesticated bedbugs—so they adjust their workdays around ours. Our homes no longer resemble the garden outside but have a weird human-centered microbial signature that is also found on the International Space Station, and that’s not a good thing. The problem, according to Mr. Dunn, “is not what is present but instead what is absent. The problem has to do with what happens when we create homes devoid of nearly all biodiversity except that which falls from us and then, for twenty-three hours of the day, we don’t go outside.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal 

Debunking a Plagiarism Removal “Trick”

29 November 2018

From Plagiarism Today:

Recently, YouTube sent me down a rabbit hole of videos purporting to have found a “trick” to remove plagiarism in any document.

The videos, mostly made in 2016 and 2017, claimed that they had found a simple way to fool any plagiarism detection application. Though the videos showed several different techniques, many of which we’ve covered before, one new “trick” kept coming up and over and over again: The space replace.

The idea is fairly straightforward. Using your word processor, you simply replace all of the spaces in the document with a character, usually capital “T” and then make that character white.

The idea is that the document will look fine to a human reader but that an automated plagiarism detection tool will simply see a long string of semi-random, albeit unique, characters.

While all of that is true, there’s one very simple problem with this “trick”: It doesn’t work.

No serious plagiarism detection tool will be fooled by this and no one experienced in plagiarism detection will be deceived. If anything, this “trick” risks making the plagiarism even more obvious.

. . . .

Nearly all of the videos demonstrate the trick in Microsoft Word. Word’s find/replace functionality makes it very easy to find the spaces and change the font of what replaces them.

. . . .

I first copy and paste that text into a document and then export it as a docx.

. . . .

With some effort, I was able to replace all of the spaces with white “Ts” and, almost immediately, a problem emerged. Since the text, in the eyes of the word processor is just a handful of really long words, the document’s formatting gets messed up and the spell checker goes a bit crazy. These would be red flags to anyone reading the document that something is off.

. . . .

It doesn’t help that my document, which is clearly over a hundred words, is listed as having just 16. Also, if you highlight the text, you can see the Ts, if only barely.

. . . .

Nonetheless, we export that document to docx and then run it through PlagScan . . . . This time, PlagScan reports that it is 0% plagiarized. However, even in the document listing, something is clearly wrong.

The document preview clearly shows the Ts in between the words. Things get even worse when you open up the report itself.

. . . .

The reason for this is simple, when plagiarism checkers examine a document, they strip away all formatting. This is what makes it possible for this “trick” to obtain a 100% originality score, but it also means that anyone who looks at the document, or even previews it, in the plagiarism checker will immediately see that it’s been tampered with.

. . . .

To put it bluntly, this trick doesn’t work. If anything, it may make a plagiarism situation far worse. It joins similar tricks such as replacing letters, using macros, using article spinners and so forth as tricks that either don’t work or produce very low-quality writing.

Instructors, administrators, and those who work in the plagiarism field know this and find these kinds of tricks to be of little threat. The danger is to the students.

These videos and tutorials are targeted at students who are, rightly or wrongly, worried about being accused of plagiarism. However, rather than providing education about citation standards and how to properly paraphrase, the videos teach students that they can easily defeat plagiarism detection tools without having to improve their citation skills or even do their own writing.

. . . .

If you see a trick like this and it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Given what’s at stake, especially with the possibility or proving the plagiarism to be malicious, it’s simply not worth the risk.

Link to the rest at Plagiariasm Today

For more information on the detection of plagiarism, here are links to PlagScan, Plagiarism Checker, and Quetext.

PG is definitely not an expert on plagiarism checking, but each of these services looked competent. Some plagiarism checkers even include a semi-automatic citation creation feature to let the potential plagiarisn cite the source and avoid plagiarism.

PG has not heard whether any publishers run manuscripts through any process to detect plagiarism.

Why Amazon Should Buy Barnes & Noble

29 November 2018

From MediaPlay News:

When Amazon launched in 1994, founder Jeff Bezos envisioned his online bookseller competing against local stores and national chains such as Barnes Noble.

And for four years Amazon did just that: Sell books over the Internet more cheaply than anyone else – including Barnes & Noble, which remains one of the last-standing brick-and-mortar book (and packaged media) retailers.

Now Barnes & Noble is in financial trouble. It generated an operating loss of $26.7 million in the most-recent fiscal period. Revenue dipped 2% to $753.2 million.

The Nook segment – B&N’s attempt to compete with Amazon through a branded tablet device and digital (movies, TV shows, music) content – posted a $1.5 million operating loss. Revenue dropped nearly 17% to $21.7 million from $25.9 million last year.

. . . .

Earlier this year [Amazon] became Mercedes-Benz’ largest single customer for the Sprinter van – a fleet order many speculate the company will use for local deliveries.

Acquiring Barnes & Noble would give Amazon 633 retail/distribution locations – many in prime mall locations.

Link to the rest at MediaPlay News

Or Amazon could purchase the assets of Barnes & Noble that were of potential value to Amazon for even less money in a bankruptcy sale.

I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write

29 November 2018

I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do—the actual act of writing—turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.

~ Anne Lamott

The best ways to use Lightning are not widely employed yet 20 years in

29 November 2018

From The Shatzkin Files:

The 20th anniversary of Lightning Source, the digital service provided by Ingram that supplies both printed-on-demand books and ebook file distribution services for publishers, was recently noted in a tribute piece in Publishers Weekly. The growth of the file repository at Lightning was reported to have reached 15 million titles.

Those represent books that might not have copies for sale in anybody’s inventory but which can be delivered in the next 24-48 hours by Ingram to any bookstore, library, or consumer in the country (and many more around the world).

John Ingram was quoted suggesting that publishers would only get the full benefits that Lightning has to offer them if they have every title they own archived with the service and ready for delivery. The story doesn’t unpack that idea, but it is a very powerful one.

The value that almost all publishers now recognize in Lightning was summed up very well by Steve Zacharius of Kensington Books.

“We use it for short runs to cover books temporarily out of stock or to keep the book available when there’s not enough demand to do a full offset printing. We also, of course, use it for ARCs.” (ARCs are “advance reader copies”, sometimes called “bound galleys”, which are usually pre-publication samples of a printed book.)

But there is another way to use Lightning which only a few publishers have employed so far but which could become one of its most valuable capabilities in these times. Ingram now has what they estimate is “several tens of thousands” of titles within the catalog that sell thousands a year, so they wouldn’t be obvious candidates. But they are set up “Just in Case” (as opposed to for “Just in Time”) and they make use of Lightning in ways most publishers still don’t.

Because, more than ever before the Internet changed communication, our collective attention is briefly grabbed and we see a “spike”. A sudden and unpredicted surge in interest in a topic (which often means a book) is suddenly driven by an event in the news or public sphere. These surges can be extremely brief but the boost in demand they can deliver for any book can also be extremely powerful. And, of course, the body of thought contained in a book could actually further sustain the interest, if the book is available for media exposure and public consumption at the moment of opportunity.

. . . .

Because if there’s a news break on a Monday morning that could promote interest in a book, even a publisher with ample inventory in its own warehouse is unlikely to be able to get copies to Ingram to place on sale any earlier than Wednesday. Those two days could be two major days for sales, perpetuating a chain of interest into the book-buying public.

Turning on Lightning printing for that book could mean thousands of copies in stores and libraries by Wednesday. This is the potential magic of the Lightning-Ingram connection. Ingram is shipping books to just about every bookstore and library that matters just about every single day. The newly hot book could be in all the shipments to stores that want it almost from the moment of the news break by employing Lightning. In our times, delaying the book’s real distribution into the marketplace by even 48 hours could be the difference between a book that catches fire and one that misses its opportunity.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files

PG will note that an agreement between a publisher and Ingram for Lightning service could arguably provide a basis for the publisher to claim none of its books would never go out of print. Under language commonly used in publishing contracts all rights revert to an author if the author’s book goes out of print, but most publishers don’t do much to clarify when a book will go out of print.

For those authors who wish to enter into publishing contracts with traditional publishers, PG suggests that out-of-print provisions be triggered at the author’s election whenever royalties paid to the author for a particular book drop below a specified dollar amount. For example, if the publisher fails to pay the author at least $1,000 in royalties for a book during any royalty reporting period, the author can cause rights to the book to be reverted because the book is selling so few copies, it is effectively out of print.

As far as the OP is concerned, it’s hard to believe that anyone with an internet connection will be interested in waiting two days to go to a bookstore to buy a hardcopy book instead of reviewing all the online information on the topic that would appear much sooner  (which online info could easily include excerpts from the book).

Much of the value of Lightning also assumes that the publisher doesn’t already have an ebook for sale on Amazon.

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