Legal Stuff

Alec Baldwin’s Legal Tussle Over a Painting

14 November 2017

Not explicitly about books, but definitely about artistic honesty.

From The New Yorker:

In 1996, the artist Ross Bleckner painted “Sea and Mirror,” a large canvas dotted with shimmering shapes. Some years later, Baldwin received an invitation to a show of Bleckner’s work; it featured a photograph of “Sea and Mirror.” Baldwin loved the image, and carried the invitation around in his briefcase for years. In 2010, Baldwin bought a painting from Bleckner’s “Time” series from Mary Boone, and he told her that he’d like to buy “Sea and Mirror,” too. Boone e-mailed that she was “thrilled” that Baldwin would have the painting, and they agreed on a price of a hundred and ninety thousand dollars. A few months later, the painting was delivered to Baldwin.

When the picture arrived, it was signed, dated, and, on the back, stamped with “7449,” the inventory number of the 1996 work. But Baldwin thought the colors looked off. Last week, calling from a movie shoot, he said, “They were bright, like M&M’s.” Also, he added, “the brushstrokes were less feathery, and the paint smelled, well, fresh.”

He went on, “When I called up Mary and asked, ‘Why do these paintings look so different?’ she said the owner was a heavy smoker, so Ross had taken the painting off the stretcher and cleaned and repaired it for me, as a courtesy, before delivering it. At first, I was not prepared to tell myself it was a fake. I was inclined to believe them, partly because it was Ross, who I respect and whose work I love.”

Six years later, Baldwin mentioned the matter to some artist friends, who told him that the story sounded fishy, and that no reputable artist or dealer would clean a painting without permission from the owner.

. . . .

The artist admitted that the painting was a copy, and later wrote, in an e-mail to Baldwin, “I’m so sorry about all of this. I feel so bad about this.” Baldwin then called Boone for an explanation. After numerous calls and e-mails, he said, she admitted that she’d sold him a copy. “Mary cried on the phone,” he recalled. “She said, ‘You caught me. I wanted to make you happy.’ ” Boone told him that he could return the painting for a full refund, plus interest.

Baldwin was angry, and he wanted to expose Boone. The six-year statute of limitations precluded him from pressing criminal charges, however, so last year he filed a civil suit in New York State Supreme Court against Boone and her gallery, charging that they had intentionally defrauded him.

. . . .

[In] the course of pretrial discovery, Baldwin’s lawyers turned up what they considered to be incriminating e-mails referring to aging the painting and making sure the paint was dry. Last week, the parties settled.

Link to the rest at The New Yorker

A number of years ago, a lawyer friend of PG’s said, “If it weren’t for human nature, lawyers wouldn’t get any business.”

Taylor Swift is Threatening to Sue a Blog for Calling Her a White Supremacist

9 November 2017

From Newsweek:

Taylor Swift’s lawyers threatened to sue a blog if it didn’t take down an article that refers to the pop superstar as a white supremacist sympathizer.

In a letter dated October 25, William J. Briggs, II, an attorney at Venable LLP, a firm based in Los Angeles, demanded Meghan Herning, editor of PopFront, retract and take down her article titled, “Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor subtly gets the lower case kkk in formation.” Otherwise, Briggs said, “Ms. Swift is prepared to proceed with litigation.”

Herning’s 2,200-word article, posted on September 5, centers around Swift’s support among figures of the alt-right and neo-Nazi groups.

. . . .

Swift’s attorney charges Herning with malice and reckless disregard for the truth, claiming that “even a small amount of research shows that the notion that Ms. Swift either belong to or silently supports such an infamous and reprehensible group is a fabrication.”

The letter ends with a warning for Herning not to publish its contents.

“Any publication, dissemination, or broadcast of any of the letter will constitute a breah of confidence and a violation of the Copyright Act,” it states.

On Monday, the ACLU of Northern California came to Herning’s defense. In a letter addressed to Briggs, the group argues that the article is protected under the First Amendment.

“Criticism is never pleasant, but a celebrity has to shake it off, even if the critique may damager her reputation,” the letter reads.

The ACLU also contends that the copyright claims made in Briggs’ letter are “total nonsense” and malicious.

Link to the rest at Newsweek

The ACLU of Northern California released a statement about this matter. PG particularly liked the following bits:

“Intimidation tactics like these are unacceptable,” said ACLU attorney Matt Cagle. “Not in her wildest dreams can Ms. Swift use copyright law to suppress this exposure of a threat to constitutionally protected speech.”

. . . .

“The press should not be bullied by high-paid lawyers or frightened into submission by legal jargon,” said Herning. “These scare tactics may have worked for Taylor in the past, but I am not backing down.”

PG had never heard of PopFront prior to reading the OP and suspects a great many of the visitors to TPV and internet denizens in general had not either.

The attorney’s letter is a classic example of how to transform a complaint from a client from a minor, relatively private matter to a giant public fiasco.

PG has no doubt that Ms. Swift was quite upset when she contacted her attorney and further suspects that Ms. Swift is the source of much profitable legal business for the law firm. However, one of the responsibilities of experienced attorneys is to cool a client down and help the client avoid the consequences of turning a molehill into a mountain.

Counsel could followed his client’s wishes by sending out something that was obviously a boring form letter containing nary a quotable sentence to PopFront. He could have larded the letter with case citations guaranteed put any reasonable reader to sleep.

Instead, in PG’s litigiously humble opinion, the attorney’s letter poured a truckload of fuel onto a tiny little fire that would have otherwise burned itself out in a couple of days.

Here’s the letter from ACLU of Northern California to Swift’s attorney (and a lovely letter it is in PG’s musically humble opinion):

Download (PDF, Unknown)

 

Alex Strada Is Contractually Binding Her Collectors to Support Emerging Female Artists

3 November 2017

From Artsy.net:

New York artist Alex Strada used to not give much thought to artist contracts. She’s hardly alone. Even though large swaths of the art world—from museum exhibitions to art fairs—depend on dense legal agreements, you’re not going to find a legal class on contracts as a required course at Columbia University’s visual arts program, from which Strada received an MFA in 2016.

But what if the invisible legal documents that make the art world go round were not only more conspicuous, but were also a mechanism through which to address the art world’s gender imbalance?

That’s the question Strada is posing through her recently unveiled artist contract, which, among other provisions, requires anyone who purchases one of her works to sell it 10 years later and use the accrued proceeds to buy a piece by an emerging female artist.

“Purchasing [my] work means buying into and supporting that fairly underrepresented demographic within the art market,” said Strada, herself an emerging female artist. The contract’s 10-year resale provision aims to project that support into the future.

. . . .

Strada was inspired by the Siegelaub agreement—a contract drawn up in 1971 by gallerist (and later textile artist) Seth Siegelaub and lawyer Robert Projansky that entitles artists to certain rights over their work after it is sold. For example, by signing the Siegelaub document, collectors agreed to pay artists 15% of the appreciated value of the purchased artwork if they resell it later (what’s called an artist’s resale royalty).

Siegelaub described his original contract, which has never been tested in court, as a “practical real-life, hands-on, easy-to-use, no-bullshit solution to a series of problems concerning artists’ control over their work.” In addition to helping address the economic imbalance between artist and collector, the contract also serves as something a piece of conceptual art itself. Attaching it to a sale makes an artistic statement as the legal document becomes inseparable from the artwork.

. . . .

“I was really excited by the idea that contracts could be a place to infuse my own political beliefs, feminist beliefs, and views of how the art market could potentially work,” Strada said.

Link to the rest at Artsy.net and here’s a link to the contract

PG says this works in the “Contract as Publicity Stunt” category. The chance of PG mentioning Ms. Strada in TPV was non-existent had she not undertaken her contractual innovation.

Is her contract enforceable? Only partially enforceable? Ditto for Mr. Siegelaub’s contract.

PG doesn’t know the answers to those questions. From a quick perusal of Ms. Strada’s contract, PG easily came up with some ways of circumventing the agreement that might work.

PG suspects the contracts would have a very short lifespan should the work ever fall under the jurisdiction of a bankruptcy court. Under Chapter Two of the Uniform Commercial Code, the contracts would seem to work, but whether a security interest in the artwork arises under Chapter Nine is a bit dodgier.

Most wealthy art collectors are likely to have carefully-crafted estate plans to control the disposition of their assets after their deaths and minimize estate and inheritance taxes. PG is uncertain how these artist contracts might affect those plans and what might happen if, for example, the estate plans called for the donation of the artwork to an academic institution or non-profit organization after death. Might a discerning institution reject the gift on advice of counsel?

And what happens when the artist dies? Is the owner of the artwork dealing with Uncle Ned and Aunt Stella in Wichita? Or the artist’s child, Flaming Star, Chairman of the Communist Party USA?

PG is not familiar with the decision-making process of art collectors when considering the acquisition of a work. He suspects more potential purchasers are aware of Ms. Strada and Mr. Siegelaub because of their contracts, so that might be a plus for the artists.

However, unless completely infatuated with the artist and excited about maintaining a continuing and binding legal relationship with that artist, probably for the remainder of somebody’s life or longer, some collectors might look for somewhere else to spend their money or make an offer to acquire the work contingent upon the absence of any innovative contracts.

It’s Time to Bust the Online Trusts

1 November 2017

From The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page:

This week some of America’s most beloved internet companies will follow the footsteps of Big Tobacco and Wall Street in a dreaded rite of passage: the Capitol Hill perp walk. The top lawyers for Google, Facebook and Twitter will try their best to explain to the Senate Intelligence Committee how misinformation spread through their platforms in the months leading up to the 2016 election.

They are also likely to argue that the best response to their platforms’ negligence is not government regulation. If Google and Facebook are lucky, the result will be the passage of the bipartisan Honest Ads Act, which would merely require buyers of online political advertisements to reveal their identities. This is a necessary move to increase transparency, but it is not sufficient to protect the electorate from manipulation.

Focusing on the narrow question of online advertising will only distract lawmakers from the true problem: In the absence of rigorous antitrust enforcement, the consumer internet has become too concentrated in a few dominant companies, creating easy targets for bad actors.

There is a reason Congress did not have to investigate foreign meddling after the 2008 or 2012 elections. Back then the internet was still a diverse, decentralized network. Anyone could create a website or blog to satisfy the demand for popular or niche content. This older form of online community building has largely been supplanted by tools provided by the dominant players. Facebook Groups allows people to create communities without requiring much technical skill. It does, however, require a Facebook account, meaning participants have no choice but to share their identity and their data. Today, many internet services are inaccessible unless you have joined Facebook’s “community” of two billion users.

Google used to be the engine that drove the open web. In a 2004 interview, co-founder Larry Page denounced powerful intermediaries on the internet, saying that “we want you to come to Google and quickly find what you want. Then we’re happy to send you to the other sites. In fact, that’s the point. The portal strategy tries to own all of the information.”

Over time, Google’s philosophy shifted in the opposite direction, making the internet less open and pluralistic than even a few years ago. Now people are nudged to stay on Google.com. The company has committed to presenting a single “answer” to every inquiry, even ones that are subjective opinions based on sparse Google-owned content, like “best pediatrician NYC.” The result has been a decline of traffic to swaths of the web.

. . . .

Of every new dollar spent in online advertising last year, Google and Facebook captured 99 cents. Yet neither company has ever faced serious antitrust scrutiny in the U.S.

. . . .

The economics have also changed for internet startups hoping to reinvent the web. Early-stage capital has dried up, dropping more than 40% since 2015, as investors have become pessimistic that any new Googles and Facebooks will ever be capable of disrupting the deeply entrenched incumbents.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

PG will remind all that he doesn’t necessarily agree with everything he posts on TPV.

The author of the OP is vice president of public policy at Yelp, which undoubtedly views Facebook and Google as competitors.

PG thinks monopolies are a bad idea. He has also observed that government actions to resolve business problems have done more harm than good on many occasions.

Particularly when dealing with “misinformation” spreading, either through Facebook/Google or through the internet generally or through major television networks or major newspapers, PG is particularly wary of government action.

Misinformation has also been known to spread through statements and advertisements originating with politicians and major political parties.

While he’s not an expert on antitrust law, PG notes that five of the six largest publishers in the US have recently violated US antitrust laws. In concert with Apple, major publishers broke those laws by conspiring to fix prices in a manner which has been illegal in the US for over 100 years.

Big Publishing continues behavior that is similar to the behavior of other shared monopolies. For example, 99% of the publishing contracts authors sign with large publishers include exactly the same royalty rates for sales of books and licensing of ebooks. A tacit agreement exists that no major will offer to pay an author royalties of more than 25% of net income generated from the publisher’s ebook licenses through Amazon, Kobo, etc.

In this case, the violation of antitrust laws was far clearer than anything Facebook and Google have been accused of (to the best of PG’s knowledge).

However, the most significant financial punishment imposed on the Price-fix Six has been from the ebook market. Lower priced ebooks from indie authors and small publishers have taken over the ebook markets at the expense of those from major publishers.

In this case, Amazon has been a neutral market-maker, opening its digital doors to one and all, large and small, on an equal basis.

As a group, readers are voting in favor of ebooks not published by major publishers. To the best of PG’s knowledge, no government action is responsible for this consumer behavior. In fact, a very large corporation, Amazon, provided an ebook marketplace in competition with another very large corporation, Apple.

While Amazon has been very helpful in accelerating the adoption of ebooks, if Amazon hadn’t existed, PG believes one or more other market-makers would have done the same thing.

The technology for creating, selling and consuming ebooks is inherently superior to the established structure for doing the same thing with printed books. It’s an open platform that supports a far wider range of authors and satisfies a much larger population of readers at a much lower price than the paper alternatives. Bits are inherently more efficient than atoms for the distribution of information.

End of rant. PG will restrain himself for the rest of the day.

Do You Know Where Your Domain Names Are?

31 October 2017

From CommLawBlog:

Failure to renew a domain name can cause your website to go down. The need to renew your domain names seems obvious and simple enough, but numerous companies and individuals have gotten famous for forgetting and letting domain names lapse, including Microsoft, Jeb Bush, the Dallas Cowboys, and,  recently, Sorenson Communications.

Last year, Sorenson Communications let a domain name lapse. It was SORENSON.COM which it used for providing access to its Video Relay Service (which Sorenson operated under the brand name “SVRS”). The domain name expired, the website was inaccessible, and Sorenson’s customers could not receive or place video relay service, 911, and other calls during the outage. Sorenson’s SVRS customers lost their telecommunications relay services, which left individuals with hearing and speech disabilities without the ability to communicate using a phone to call. Although Sorenson notified the FCC the morning the outage began, the domain name was not renewed – nor the website available — for another two days. Although the SVRS services were restored, the FCC was not amused by what it called at “preventable, internal operational failure.”

In the FCC’s September Order, Sorenson agreed to “reimburse the TRS Fund the sum of $2,700,000, and pay a settlement to the United States Treasury in the amount of $252,000.”

. . . .

Accordingly, set your domain names to Auto Renewal. Whether you have registered your domain names for one year or ten years, you will probably forget when they expire (and inevitably the email reminder will be sent to your spam file). Auto-renewal service is found under various names for different domain name registrars, but it operates in the same manner and allows you to post a credit card on file and automatically renew your company’s domain name(s) in case someone on staff forgets, avoiding unintended expiration. Even if you don’t actually want to renew the domain name, the cost of renewing the name – even to “park” it for the short term – pales in comparison to the expense of getting it back.

Link to the rest at CommLawBlog

PG will add that if the credit card on file with whatever company is responsible for auto-renewing your domain name expires or if the old credit card is retired for any reason (it’s reported as lost or stolen, for example) and you receive a credit card from the same issuer with a different number, you’ll need to update the credit card information that is used to auto-renew your domain name.

As a specific example, Costco has long offered a Costco co-branded credit card to its customers. Among other things, the credit card could also serve as a Costco membership card which must be displayed when a member enters a Costco store. At checkout, the membership card must again be presented and scanned, so, although it is not required, it is convenient for the customer to use the same card for the purpose of both providing a customer number for checking out and paying for their purchase.

A year or so ago, Costco terminated its relationship with its co-branded card issuer, American Express, and, with customer consent, transferred all their customers to a new Costco branded Visa card. The Amex accounts were cancelled with no option (that PG could find) for continuing to use a newly-issued Amex card with the same number.

If a Costco customer had used the Amex credit card for auto-renewal of domain names and neglected to replace that card number with a new one, auto-renewal would have failed.

PG will note that some domain registrars are not noted for high levels of customer service so you can’t count on receiving a message when your domain registration is about to expire.

Apple eBooks Antitrust Settlement

18 October 2017

PG received the following this morning. He suspects he’s not the only one:

Your Credit from the Apple eBooks Antitrust Settlement is ready to use

You now have a credit of $4.00 in your Amazon account. Apple Inc. (Apple) funded this credit to settle antitrust lawsuits brought by State Attorneys General and Class Plaintiffs about the price of electronic books (eBooks). This new credit is in addition to any previous credit you received from the settlement.

. . . .

In order to spend your credit, please visit the Kindle bookstore or Amazon.com. Your credit is valid for six months and will expire on April 20, 2018, by order of the Court. If you have not used it, we will remind you of your credit before it expires.

If you have any questions about your credit, please visit http://www.amazon.com/applebooksettlement or contact Amazon customer service.

The Gray Market: Why We Shouldn’t Punish Small Museums for Deaccessioning

18 October 2017

From Artnet News:

On Tuesday, a pair of influential institutional groups chastised Massachusetts’s Berkshire Museum over its plans to auction 40 of the roughly 2,400 works in its permanent collection to replenish its endowment and fund an architectural expansion. And the righteous indignation on display once again resurrected one of my favorite double standards in the nonprofit space.

To review, the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) contend that their member institutions should only deaccession—see: release and resell—artworks in their holdings for the express purpose of either acquiring new works or, in the AAM’s case, caring for existing works. Flip pieces for any other reason—no matter how dire the financial circumstances—and affiliated museums are almost certain to face sanctions, most often in the form of being temporarily blacklisted from receiving artwork loans from members in good standing.

In a joint statement, the AAM and AAMD argued that the Berkshire’s decision to consign works by the likes of Albert Bierstadt, Alexander Calder, and Norman Rockwell to Sotheby’s “sends a message to existing and prospective donors that museums can raise funds by selling parts of their collection, thereby discouraging not only financial supporters, who may feel that their support isn’t needed, but also donors of artworks and artifacts, who may fear that their cherished objects could be sold at any time to the highest bidder to make up for a museum’s budget shortfalls.”

It’s an ideologically pure, dependably crowd-pleasing position to take. Its naiveté also makes me want to start throwing large objects long distances out high windows.

. . . .

[T]here are many collectors who gift works to museums because they genuinely want those works to benefit the masses. I applaud these people until my hands are numb from the striking, and always will. In their case, the AAM and AAMD’s stance is defensible.

However, there are also many collectors who gift works to museums in large part TO TRANSFORM THEM INTO disposable financial assets. Remember, in the US, single collectors can donate artworks to institutions for tax deductions equal to said works’ appraisable value. So if a massive write-off would be useful in your accountant’s eyes, what better way to “earn” it than to flip a piece or two to an eager museum with the help of a willing appraiser or a few outsize auction results?

In fact, for a recent example, we need to look no further than one of the week’s other big stories: a Canadian government review board’s decision to deny “culturally significant” status to a would-be gift of over 2,000 Annie Leibovitz photographs to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia—likely because, per a source for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the panel saw the donation as a huge “tax grab.”

Link to the rest at Artnet News

PG isn’t going to turn TPV into a visual arts law blog, but his examination of the Visual Artists Rights Act in a post yesterday took him down a deaccessioning hole.

Just when PG is convinced his legal career has shown him all the major variations of the disputes of humankind, an unfamiliar disagreement shows up on his screen.

The next time Mrs. PG decrees that PG’s lair is too cluttered and some of his junk will have to go, he’ll schedule a Garage Deaccessioning to attract higher class collectors.

Adding clickbait title isn’t false advertising or fraud on author

20 September 2017

From Rebecca Tushnet’s 43(B)log:

Dankovich v. Keller, 2017 WL 4081852, No. 16-13395 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 15, 2017)

Interesting dispute: the pro se litigant didn’t like the editing of his essay, including the clickbaity headline added by the editors, and sued for various fraud/false advertising claims. The magistrate judge recommended denial of leave to amend/dismissal of various claims, and the district judge agreed.

Dankovich wrote an essay about his experience as a young prisoner in solitary confinement.  He sent a draft to defendant Eli Hager, an editor at defendant The Marshall Project, a non-profit news organization that focuses on the criminal justice system. He called the essay The Riving, which dealt with “how quickly solitary confinement can institutionalize and mess with the mind of an adolescent.” Hager requested a few alterations and stated “[j]ust like last time, my higher-up editor will have the final say, so I don’t want to make any promises. But I definitely CAN promise that if you keep working on these pieces and future submissions, you will definitely be published here.” He responded, and then Hager sent him “the latest” version and said that it had moved to the top of the queue for publication. The Marshall Project, in collaboration with defendant VICE, published the essay under the title I’m Losing My Mind after Refusing to Plead Insanity for Murdering My Mom. Dankovich also alleged other changes to the text of his essay, including that he pleaded no contest to the murder of his mother when he pleaded guilty, and that “around”—not “on” — his eleventh birthday he was taken to the hospital for physical abuse by his mother.  (The plea information was apparently later corrected.)  Dankovich objected to the published version but Hager told him that VICE Media wrote the headlines and wouldn’t be changing this one.

. . . .

The statement, “My editor just informed me that she liked your piece (‘The Riving’) so much that she’s moving it to the top of our production queue,” wasn’t a statement that the piece would be published as submitted, nor was the statement that “[a]ll of the different parts are still yours, but they’ve shifted around a lot of lines to make things pack more of a punch” false in context, which included Hager’s statements that he wanted Dankovich to see the edits “since it’s your piece” but that “this kind of editing happens with all of our pieces.” The statement “[a]ll of the different parts are still yours” was thus, in context, not a representation about the published version would be “all his.”  Dankovich’s subjective interpretation was wrong, but that didn’t make out a fraud claim.

. . . .

Initially, Dankovich only pled §43(a)(1)(A) claims, but wanted to argue false advertising: “Defendants continue to advertise a completely false statement which Plaintiff has never written or uttered with Plaintiff’s name online, advertisement which furthers The Marshall Project’s business and political goals.”  The initial complaint argued that the headline was falsely attributed to him.  Considered as false advertising, this fell short: there were no facts alleging that any false statements were made in “commercial advertising or promotion.”

Link to the rest at Rebecca Tushnet’s 43(B)log

The name of the blog where the OP appeared refers to 15 U.S.C. 1125 (Section 43 of The Lanham Act), which prohibits False Designations of Origin, False Descriptions, and Dilution.

To give you a flavor of The Lanham Act, here’s how it starts:

(1) Any person who, on or in connection with any goods or services, or any container for goods, uses in commerce any word, term, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof, or any false designation of origin, false or misleading description of fact, or false or misleading representation of fact, which—

(A) is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive as to the affiliation, connection, or association of such person with another person, or as to the origin, sponsorship, or approval of his or her goods, services, or commercial activities by another person, or

(B) in commercial advertising or promotion, misrepresents the nature, characteristics, qualities, or geographic origin of his or her or another person’s goods, services, or commercial activities,

Since PG is certain this little taste will give rise to an uncontrollable craving for more Lanham Act, here’s a link to the entire masterpiece. If that’s not enough, Ms. Tushnet’s blog has more and there’s Lanham Act: Litigator’s Casebook (the ebook is free).

Of course, everyone knows The Lanham Act was named for Representative Fritz G. Lanham of Texas.

Steinbeck’s Heir Wins Lawsuit

8 September 2017

From The New York Times:

A bitter family feud over John Steinbeck’s estate escalated this week, when a Los Angeles jury awarded the novelist’s stepdaughter, Waverly Scott Kaffaga, $13.15 million in damages in an intellectual property dispute. The defendant plans to appeal.

Ms. Kaffaga filed the suit against the author’s son, Thomas Steinbeck, and his wife, Gail Knight Steinbeck, in 2014. She was seeking to recover what she claimed were lost profits from film adaptations of “The Grapes of Wrath” and “East of Eden,” as well as punitive damages. She argued that she had inherited rights to the author’s estate from her mother, and that the couple had interfered in studio plans to develop films and had hurt the estate financially. She sued the couple and their company, the Palladin Group.

The large sum awarded by the jury is the latest twist in a dispute that has dragged on since the author’s death in 1968, when he left most of his estate to his third wife, Elaine Steinbeck, directing that profits from his work go to her. He left his two sons, Thomas and John Steinbeck IV, from a previous marriage $50,000 each. (John IV died in 1991, and Thomas died in August 2016.)

In the years since, different family factions have taken their grievances to court, and hardly a decade has passed without a major legal scuffle.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

Amazon targets authors and marketers for alleged abuse of Kindle Direct Publishing system

7 September 2017

From Geekwire

Amazon has filed arbitration demands against several book authors, publishers and marketers, alleging that they abused the Kindle Direct Publishing system to artificially inflate their profits and sales rankings.

The five arbitration demands, filed Wednesday with the American Arbitration Association, make a variety of allegations, including fraudulent customer reviews, the creation of fake user accounts and other schemes to increase rankings and royalties on the company’s self-publishing platform for e-books.

One of the demands, for example, alleges that a man from the Philippines offered a service to authors to boost the number of pages read in their books using hundreds of fake Amazon customer accounts, in exchange for a 40 percent cut of their profits. Amazon pays authors who participate in the Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library program using a formula based on pages read.

“While the vast majority of authors and publishers using Kindle Direct Publishing are genuinely working in good faith to publish and promote their books, a small minority engage in fraud to gain an unfair competitive advantage,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement. “Today’s news reflects yet another step in our ongoing efforts to protect readers and authors from individuals who violate our terms of service and manipulate programs readers and authors rely on.”

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

PG notes that most arbitration proceedings are not made public (it’s an advantage for some litigants). Amazon made a decision to publicize/leak these to send a message.

 

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