Web browsing is copyright infringement, publishers argue

6 June 2014

From Ars Technica:

Europeans may browse the Internet without fear of infringing copyrights, as the EU Court of Justice ruled Thursday in a decision that ends a four-year legal battle threatening the open Internet.

. . . .

In this week’s case, the court slapped down the Newspaper Licensing Agency’s (NLA) claim that the technological underpinnings of Web surfing amounted to infringement.

The court ruled that “on-screen copies and the cached copies made by an end-user in the course of viewing a website satisfy the conditions” of infringement exemptions spelled out in the EU Copyright Directive.

. . . .

 “Despite the ruling, one cannot overstate how irrational this case was to begin with. It’s hard to believe the question at stake was whether browsing the Internet is legal or not,” said Jakob Kucharczyk, the Brussels director for the Computer & Communications Industry Association. “Even though the court has provided a clear answer to that question, one must wonder whether our copyright regime is apt for the digital era.”

Link to the rest at Ars Technica and thanks to Chris for the tip.

PG is definitely not an expert on European law, but this seems a strange case to have been brought in the first place.

Web browsers must certainly be the most common type of software in use around the world. Every computer, tablet and smartphone has a browser in it and (PG thinks) every browser does some sort of caching as a means of speeding up the web browsing experience.

The idea that a copyright holder which makes its content available on the internet in a form designed for viewing via a web browser does not consent to the technical means by which that browser operates to present content to the viewer is bizarre.

Look who’s…not here yet

15 May 2014

From TeleRead:

Most of the time, geographic restrictions on book publishing and e-book sales work against people outside the USA who want to get the latest book from the USA that hasn’t been published where they are. But every so often, it goes the other way around.

A book that has picked up a lot of press over the last month or so is a satire by German author Timur Vermes called Look Who’s Back (or, in the original German, Er ist wieder da, literally “He’s back again.”) As you might guess from the cover image, the “who” in question is one Adolf Hitler.

Written in first person from der Führer’s point of view, the novel chronicles the events that follow when Adolf Hitler unexpectedly wakes up in 2011 Germany with no memory of any events that follow his death at the end of World War II. Taken for a method-acting comedian (because, after all, who would expect him to be the real Hitler?), he achieves modern-day Internet celebrity.

. . . .

Part of the book’s satirical point is that, by expressing the same views held by the real historical Hitler, this latter-day Hitler attains popularity because people are willing to listen to what he has to say—just as they were back in the day.

. . . .

Even though it’s got an English translation, the only paper copies are listed as available on the USA’s Amazon come from third-party sellers—obviously, imports—and the e-book version has an availability date listed of December 31, 2035. That has to be a placeholder date; the last time I checked the e-book had a date listed in August of 2015 but they must have changed it. So in actuality there’s nothing to say when the book will be available in the US; maybe the European publisher hasn’t even decided yet.

The book is available in Kindle format in Europe. If you click on the cover of the hardcover to do the look inside the book thing, the preview is of the Kindle version of the English translation, so it definitely exists. It’s just that it’s not licensed for distribution in the USA yet so you can’t actually buy it that way over here.

. . . .

It took me one minute of searching to find a verifiably real downloadable EPUB of the English translation. It didn’t even require BitTorrent. So if I wanted to read the book without paying for it, I could start right now. As we’ve mentioned time and again, windowing only serves to promote piracy. Even the Big Six publishers realized that when they decided to implement agency pricing.

Publishers need to start getting their acts together, and forge partnerships with foreign publishers if they can’t world-publish themselves. The book has already been translated into English, so it’s not as if it would need to go through another edit pass. They just need to get it printed and into the distribution system. And ideally they should figure out how to do that quickly, so they can strike while the iron of publicity is hot. Who’s even going to remember the publicity about this book by the time it finally does come out in the USA?

Link to the rest at TeleRead

Textbook Publisher Backs Down, Won’t Force Students to Return Paper Textbook

12 May 2014

From The Digital Reader:

An email was making the rounds last week from Aspen publishers, a Wolters Kluwer Law imprint.

This publisher sent the email to law professors to tell them about changes that were coming with the new edition of  certain casebooks, including both a new website and the requirement that students return the casebook at the end of the semester (a violation of the First Sale Doctrine).

Naturally this caused a ruckus on this blog as well as among the law professors who received the email,and a couple days later Aspen responded to the protests with a clarification. They insist that their attempt to take rights away from students was merely one of the options a student will have for buying the next edition.

. . . .

Wolters Kluwer is trying to cut into the resale market and deprive students of the rights they have over their property.

I have to agree with Kevin Smith when he criticized Wolters Kluwer:

First, just a reminder that these attempts to undermine the right of first sale are an effort from publishers to gain a sort of “super” property right.  No other property owner expects to be able to sell their product and still be able to prevent the purchaser from making a resale.  To see the absurdity of this, imagine if Ford tried to shut down the market for used cars by including such a restriction in a purchase contract; it would be a quick way to go out of business.  If Aspen really cannot survive in a market where resale is an option — this has been the case in the U.S. for its entire history, as well as in the rest of the world for a long time — it is probably time for them to shut off the lights and go home.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader and thanks to Glinda for the tip.

The first sale doctrine, codified at 17 U.S.C. § 109, allows any person who purchases a copy of a copyrighted work from the copyright holder or from someone else who has acquired the copy from the copyright holder to sell or otherwise dispose of that copy, notwithstanding the interests of the copyright owner. 

When Lyrics Get Posted Online, Who Gets Paid?

11 May 2014

From National Public Radio:

Any time a song is popular, you’ll find people debating it. And at some point during that debate, someone is going to Google the lyrics.

There are roughly 5 million searches for lyrics per day on Google, according to LyricFind. Those searches often lead to websites that post lyrics to lots of songs — and, in many cases, sites that post ads alongside those lyrics.

David Lowery, frontman and songwriter for Cracker and Camper van Beethoven, is waging war on the sites he believes make money off song lyrics but don’t pay the songwriter. Once he took a closer look at where his music was making money on the Internet, he realized: There were more people searching to find lyrics to his songs than searching to illegally download mp3s of his music. And he wasn’t making money off those searches. Last November, after months of exhaustive and systematic Googling, he released something called The Undesirable Lyric Website List.

The National Music Publishers Association seized upon this list, and announced that it would be sending take-down notices to every single name. At the top of that list was the very popular Rap Genius.

. . . .

 Just this week, Rap Genius announced that, despite its opinion that the site falls under the criteria for fair use, it’s going to pay songwriters for posting their lyrics. It’s just easier than fighting with music publishers, who’ve been very successful at going after other lyric sites in the past few years.

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

Self-Publishing #Fails

6 May 2014

From Joel Friedlander:

As an author said to me last night, “This self-publishing is a lot of work, it’s hard.”

Hey, at least she has good advice and people to call on. It’s the other people I worry about, the ones who don’t know when they are poised to step right in something unpleasant, something that might require some real effort to get rid of.

Yes, it’s the Self-Publishing #Fails.

. . . .

1. Formatting for beginners.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been handed 2 books by their authors that really made my heart sink. Why? In each case the author was a professional, highly educated, well-informed and determined to create a book worthy of commercial publication.

Problem? They had each found a “semi-pro” book formatter to create their nonfiction book interiors. How do I know they were “semi-pro”? Immediately I saw things like blank right-hand pages, running heads on blank pages, an entire book typeset with hyphenation set to “off,” inappropriate visual spacing, all the usual suspects.

. . . .

3. Is That Cover Yours or Mine?

An author in the popular paranormal romance genre was just getting started in her career. She studied all the blogs that other writers in her peer group wrote, and learned how to put together a book for print on demand publishing.

She wanted a distinctive cover treatment, especially because she was launching a series, with the intent to publish a whole line of books with the same characters appearing in different settings and combinations.

So the whole representation of the story on the front cover of the first books was of a lot of concern.

She found an artist who specialized in illustrations for book covers, and the two had a great working relationship.

Together, they came up with a beautiful cover, attractive typography, and a custom illustration that truly represented the whole work.

Everyone was happy.

But then a funny thing happened. The book, and it’s sequel, started to get really popular, selling tens of thousands of copies.

When the author got back in touch with the illustrator for a new cover for the next book, she also got a shock.

The illustrator let the author know that she now owed more money for the first illustrations, and that the new illustrations were going to cost a lot more, like triple the original cost.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

Publisher at War With

5 May 2014

From Publishing Perspectives:

As Hector Tobar of The Los Angeles Times put it, “Readers of the world, unite! To fight over Karl Marx’s copyright.”

The issue is this: A small independent British publisher (one with historic ties to the “radical British left,” is in the midst of a struggle with a multilingual website, the Marxists Internet Archive at What’s at stake? The right to use the 50-volume “Marx Engels Collected Works.”

The London-based publisher, Lawrence & Wishart, has requested that remove the copyrighted material from its website. But, the Marxists at have responded “with a flurry of angry anticapitalist rhetoric.”

. . . .

Lawrence & Wishart, who were once the publishing house of the Communist Party of Great Britain (speaking of ironic), says on its website that the company has been “subject to a campaign of online abuse…survives on a shoestring…[and]…makes no profit other than those required to pay a small wage to its overstretched staff.” The statement goes on to add that revenue from the “Collected Works,” which the company first published in 1975, goes to “numerous radical publishing projects.”

The Times cited blogger Scott McLemee, who wrote that was asked to remove the material from its website by April 30th (just before International Worker’s Day).

. . . .

“If Lawrence & Wishart still considers itself a socialist institution, its treatment of the archive is un-comradely at best, and arguably much worse; while if the press is now purely a capitalist enterprise, its behavior is merely stupid,” McLemee wrote on the Crooked Timber blog.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Music attorney navigates a music business stung by technology

17 April 2014

From The Hollywood Reporter:

With almost a half-century under his belt since starting in private practice, music and entertainment attorney Lee Phillips has seen it all, but even he is amazed at the transformation in the record industry over the past decade and a half.

. . . .

“There are always changes in the record industry,” he continues. “Piracy has been around since the cassette, but when labels didn’t embrace digital right away, it was too late. I was there at the beginning, representing Real Audio, who hired me to acquire content from the labels, and the negotiations dragged on for almost a year. But music has always been important and will continue to be.”

As for record labels, Phillips isn’t anywhere near as sanguine. “Suddenly, the bonanza of selling 3 million to 5 million copies of an album is gone. As a result, companies have cut their overheads and are trying to find out what their place is.”

Phillips claims his practice is flourishing despite the labels’ difficulties, because, among other things,  well-known artists are choosing not to sign with record companies, but set up their own deals to release new product. “The labels will pay anything to keep prestige acts,” he says, pointing to his recent handling of negotiations on behalf of Barbra Streisand to re-sign with Columbia Records. “But there are only a handful of artists in that category. In signing new acts, it’s not only about talent, but what kind of following you bring to the table. That’s why labels have started signing these 360 deals. Since they’re not making money from albums sales, they want a piece of touring, publishing, merchandising and endorsements.”

. . . .

Perhaps the next challenge to the music industry is the concept of “termination,” which involves the reversion of copyrights, meaning, for example, publishing rights for compositions written in 1958 are now coming up for renewal, giving writers yet another chance to regain their songs.

“Every two weeks, I’m terminating more copyrights,” says Phillips, who also points to “work for hire,” where record companies claim ownership of masters, as another possible area for litigation, depending on “which artist dares to step forward.”

Link to the rest at The Hollywood Reporter and thanks to Lily for the tip.

In Google Books appeal, Authors Guild decries Google’s impact on Amazon sales

12 April 2014

From TeleRead:

The Authors Guild is appealing Google’s November fair use win in its Google Book scanning case. The Guild says that Google is “yanking readers out of online bookstores” and stifling online bookstore competition with its digitized books.

“Google emptied the shelves of libraries and delivered truckloads of printed books to scanning centers, where the books were converted into digital format,” the Guild’s lawyers said.

They wrote that the library project was designed to lure potential book purchasers away from online retailers like and drive them to Google.

Wait, what?

. . . .

Second, this is the same Authors Guild that blamed lax antitrust enforcement for Amazon’s domination of the online book sales market, called Amazon “anticompetitive,” and insisted that the DoJ antitrust suit against the publishers was only going to help Amazon.

Now they’re suddenly all concerned over Google’s impact on Amazon’s wellbeing? Seriously?

Link to the rest at TeleRead

Improvements To UK Copyright Law

4 April 2014
Comments Off

From author and TPV regular Russell Phillips:

I was pleased to discover recently that, from the 1st of June, format-shifting will be legal in the UK. The change has generally been reported in terms of music – it’s now legal to rip a CD so that you can listen to it on your MP3 player. People have been doing this for as long as MP3 players have been available, of course. Before the advent of MP3 players, it was common practice to copy CDs and albums onto tape to listen to them on personal stereos or in the car. What is more relevant to this blog, however, is that the changes also apply to ebooks.

. . . .

Under the present law, all these cases, as well as converting an ebook from one format to another, are illegal in the UK. The law is set to change on the 1st of June, at which time converting an ebook from one format to another (from ePub to Mobi, for example, to read it on a Kindle) will become legal.

. . . .

Not surprisingly, the new law will only allow copies to be made for personal use. It won’t be legal to make copies for friends and family. There is another important caveat: all of the above applies to ebooks that don’t have DRM, but many do. The UK Intellectual Property Office website states that, where DRM is used to prevent copying, the copyright owner “may have the right to take action against a person who gets round” the DRM.

Link to the rest at Russell Phillips

UK Government publishes its copyright exceptions

28 March 2014

From The Bookseller:

The government has published a series of changes to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, including giving people the right to use a work for parody, pastiche and caricature, and the right to copy work for text and data analysis for non-commercial research.

. . . .

They follow the Hargreaves Review of 2010, which was set up to look at “barriers to growth” within the intellectual property system, and will affect how consumers “can use content like books, music, films and photographs” and “will also introduce greater freedoms in copyright law to allow third parties to use copyright works for a variety of economically and/or socially valuable purposes without the need to seek permission from copyright owners”.

. . . .

The Intellectual Property Office said: “The changes make small but important reforms to UK copyright law and aim to end the current situation where minor and reasonable acts of copying which benefit consumers, society and the economy are unlawful.”

. . . .

However Sam Edenborough, president of the Association of Authors Agents, said the group was “particularly concerned with the new exception created for parody, pastiche and caricature”.

He said: “Our view is that an exception for pastiche is a very broad gap through which one could sail a large boat. Parody is relatively easy to define but pastiche is very hard to define – musical pastiche is different to literary pastiche and so on. It always involves copying or mimicry. In theory someone could take large chunks of several works, stitch them together and claim the result is pastiche. It is unlikely to happen with any regularity but we feel this new exception is a further chipping away of an author’s rights.

“This isn’t the end of the world but it’s another blow to authors’ ability to earn a living from their writing.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

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