The Passive Voice A Lawyer's Thoughts on Authors, Self-Pub and Traditional Publishing Sat, 17 Aug 2019 17:20:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Passive Voice 32 32 Generating Music With Artificial Intelligence Sat, 17 Aug 2019 17:20:25 +0000 Since PG’s earlier post on using artificial intelligence to write fiction generated some interesting comments.

From Medium:

I started playing piano when I was five years old. I used to practice for about an hour every day and let me tell you, an hour felt like forever. I didn’t stop thought, and I kept on practicing though, because I really liked music.

Fast forward a few years and I started doing some really advanced stuff. My hands were literally flying all over the keyboard and I could play with my eyes closed. Just kidding. I wasn’t actually that good but I hope that for a second you thought I was a piano prodigy or something.

I loved almost every aspect of playing the piano. The sound of the music, the feel of the keys… everything except for music theory. It’s like if you took an old dude obsessed with rules and you combined him with musical creativity and ingenuity. Musical grammar, rules to follow when analyzing and writing music, key signatures and time signatures. It’s all a bunch of random stuff floating across the page that you need to remember.

. . . .

But wait, a ton of data? Lots of rules and patterns? Sequences and sequences of notes? This sounds like a perfect job for (dramatic piano music) machine learning!

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

. . . .

A super quick overview of Recurrent Neural Nets:

  • Vanilla neural networks are bad at sequential or temporal data, they also need fixed input sizes
  • Recurrent Neural Networks solve this problem by having subsequent iterations transfer data from the last, meaning that information gets passed through the network each run through
  • By taking the output of one forward pass and feeding it into the next, you can generate completely new sequences of data. This is known as sampling.

. . . .

After doing some research and learning more about using Recurrent Neural Networks to generate music, I found that it works pretty well. And it’s actually super sick.

. . . .

But it still doesn’t have that oomph to it if you get what I mean. I don’t think this will be replacing the Mozart on my Spotify playlist any time soon. Although it’s super cool that this piece of music was generated entirely by a neural network, given the context, I think most people would be able to tell that it was either composed by either a machine or by me.

Link to the rest at Medium

The OP includes a recording of the output of Alex’s neural network work, the one that lacked oomph.

Alex eventually located a more advanced version of what he was trying to do called The MAESTRO Dataset and Wave2Midi2Wave.

Here’s an example of what this more sophisticated neural network system did, starting with a piece composed by Domenico Scarlatti. The entire recording below was created and synthesized via computer.

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7 Great Mysteries About Rare Books and Bibliophiles Sat, 17 Aug 2019 16:26:09 +0000 From Crime Reads:

There’s something about a rare or beautiful book that can ignite the darker human passions. Bibliophilia—a love for books as physical objects—might seem a gentle and even noble affliction, but history abounds with tales of obsessive bibliophilic greed, betrayal, theft, blackmail, fraud, assault, and murder. Can mystery fiction be far behind? (Lured by the puns, if nothing else? A Cracking of Spines? Dewey Decimated? The surface has barely been scratched.)

This sampling of well- and lesser-known mysteries about bibliophiles only begins to suggest the range of biblio-crime and biblio-cunning that awaits their readers.

. . . .

John Dunning, Booked to Die (Scribner, 1992)

Denver cop Cliff Janeway moonlights as a savvy collector who knows his way around old bookstores. When a hapless book scout is murdered, Janeway’s rough handling of the suspect earns him a brutality charge, and he quits the force rather than face suspension. Opening his own small shop, he continues to search for the scout’s killer, following a path that leads to more deaths and the mysterious surfacing of rare books the victims once owned. Dunning followed Booked to Die with five more Janeway novels spanning 14 years, making the series a standout for combining high-octane plots and—thanks to Dunning’s own experiences in the trade—a virtual primer in the headaches and pleasures of the rare book business.

. . . .

Joanne Dobson, The Maltese Manuscript (Poisoned Pen, 2003)

With their mix of bookish egos and academic infighting, college English departments are fertile territory for bibliomysteries. In this fifth entry in Dobson’s smart and provocative series, English professor Karen Pelletier is preparing for her college’s conference on “the murder mystery from a feminist perspective.” A leading mystery novelist arrives on campus just as several of the college library’s rare book treasures go missing, including its prize manuscript of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, and a suspect is found dead in the library stacks. Far more knowledgeable in such matters than the police, Karen and the visiting writer investigate on their own. The Maltese Manuscript deftly explores the biblio-minutiae that fascinate and vex collectors, in this case pertaining to elusive editions of mystery and detective fiction.

. . . .

Charlie Lovett, The Bookman’s Tale (Viking, 2013)

Peter Byerly is a recently widowed young antiquarian book dealer slowly regaining his pleasure in the hunt for important rare volumes. When he seeks to authenticate what appears to be his “holy grail” find—an Elizabethan volume whose marginalia proves Shakespeare wrote the plays credited to him—he steps straight into danger. Interwoven with Peter’s discoveries are chapters narrating the book’s provenance, tracing its precarious passage through the hands of various owners over the centuries, from its rakish author to avaricious collectors and murderous forgers.

Link to the rest at Crime Reads

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A Writer’s Bare Necessities Sat, 17 Aug 2019 15:00:43 +0000 From The Wall Street Journal:

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) is widely known as a “woman’s writer,” a description that doesn’t do justice to her universal appeal. Celebrated Woolf novels such as “To the Lighthouse” and “Mrs. Dalloway” feature strong women, and Woolf was herself a compelling character in her many essays and reviews, gaining an audience in a literary culture that was strongly dominated by men. Those achievements have made her a seminal figure in feminist thought, but like all successful literature, her work speaks to that broader audience she would famously popularize as the “common reader.”

A good case in point is “A Room of One’s Own,” Woolf’s extended essay, published as a stand-alone book, that grew from her 1928 Cambridge lectures in her native England on women in fiction. Her hosts had assigned her the topic, which was general enough, she noted, to perhaps include a few polite remarks on Fanny Burney, Jane Austen and the Brontës.

But Woolf decided to stir things up by exploring why there were so few good books written by women. She pointed to centuries of sexism that discounted what women had to say, making them unlikely to become authors. Economic power rested largely with men, too, and they also tended to get the best educations, which better allowed them to have the skills, income and space needed to thrive as writers.

More women would achieve literary success, Woolf argued, if they had 500 pounds a year—a nice sum at the time—and “a room with a lock on the door,” the cherished “room of one’s own.”

. . . .

She knew firsthand, of course, the limitations often imposed on women of her time. The daughter of Leslie Stephen, a prominent British critic and historian, Woolf was taught mostly at home, although her brothers and half-brothers got university educations. That slight pretty much forced her to learn what she could from perusing her father’s massive personal library, which might have been a blessing in disguise. Perhaps her exclusion from campus life saved Woolf from the arid abstractions of the academy, pointing her instead toward the vivid particularity that informs prose works like “A Room of One’s Own.”

. . . .

In this way, “A Room of One’s Own” endures as a reminder that writing, for all its elevated aura, is the physical act of a human body—a person who must be sustained by basic necessities. Woolf had little truck with the mystique of the starving artist. “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well,” she puckishly observes. Books, she suggests, aren’t divined from Mount Olympus, “but are the work of suffering human beings, and are attached to grossly material things, like health and money and the houses we live in.” It’s an essential truth, though one not often pressed, one gathers, on aspiring authors in today’s MFA programs.

. . . .

She hints that a good book can create a mental space very much like a physical space—“not made of sentences laid end to end, but of sentences built, if an image helps, into arcades or domes.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Sorry if you encounter a paywall)

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Little, Brown To Release J.D. Salinger E-books Fri, 16 Aug 2019 18:34:15 +0000 From Publishers Weekly:

Little, Brown, in conjunction with the estate of J.D. Salinger, announced plans to release e-book editions of Salinger’s four beloved works of fiction, marking the first time his books have been available in a digital format.

The release of the four books—The Catcher in the Rye, Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey, and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour—An Introduction—in e-book editions (with new cover designs) marks a continuing year-long centennial celebration of Salinger’s acclaimed works of fiction.

. . . .

Reagan Arthur, senior v-p, publisher of Little, Brown. said “This centennial year is an occasion for revisiting J. D. Salinger’s books as well as for approaching them for the first time. So it’s the ideal moment to be publishing his works as e-books.

The release of the e-books will be accompanied by a special focus on libraries and will include a 1,000 e-book giveaway sweepstakes to public libraries in North America organized by OverDrive.

. . . .

Salinger, who died in 2010, rejected digital editions of his work while he was alive. Since his death, Matt Salinger, the author’s son and administrator of the Salinger estate, has continued to carry out his father’s wishes. However, Salinger said the time has come to make sure his father’s books are available to a new generation of readers.

Salinger said “There were few things my father loved more than the full tactile experience of reading a printed book, but he may have loved his readers more—and not just the ‘ideal private reader’ he wrote about, but all his readers. As it became clear to us that increasing numbers of readers today read only e-books, and after I was taken severely (if also humorously) to task by a reader with a disability in Ypsilanti, Michigan, who can’t read except on an electronic device, we decided it was time.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG is 99% certain that the publishing agreements J.D. Salinger signed would not have included ebooks and likely had a reservation of rights clause that provided that all rights not granted to the publisher were reserved to the author.

The publisher paid Salinger’s heirs a tidy sum and they signed either an updated publishing contract or an amendment to the original contracts to permit the publication of ebooks.


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It is sadder to find the past again Fri, 16 Aug 2019 17:03:30 +0000

It is sadder to find the past again and find it inadequate to the present than it is to have it elude you and remain forever a harmonious conception of memory.

~  F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Three Letters from Switzerland Fri, 16 Aug 2019 16:30:23 +0000 From The Paris Review:

Between June 1930 and August 1931, after a series of mental health episodes had whittled away at her career, her marriage, and her overall well-being, Zelda Fitzgerald was a patient at Les Rives de Prangins, a clinic in Nyon, Switzerland, where she wasn’t allowed visitors until her treatment had been established. The experience, as one could imagine, was tremendously isolating: once at the center of a lively and glamorous scene, she now found herself utterly alone with her thoughts. Her husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald, sent short notes and flowers every other day. She wrote long letters in reply, tracing the contours of her mind, expressing both love for and frustration with Scott, and detailing, in luscious, iridescent prose, the nonevents of her days. Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda collects more than three hundred of the couple’s letters to each other. Three of Zelda’s letters from Les Rives de Prangins—carefully transcribed with an eye for accuracy, misspellings and all—appear below.

[Fall 1930]

Dearest, my Darling—

Living is cold and technical without you, a death mask of itself.

At seven o:clock I had a bath but you were not in the next room to make it a baptisme of all I was thinking.

At eight o:clock I went to gymnastics but you were not there to turn moving into a harvesting of breezes.

At nine o:clock I went to the tissage and an old man in a white stock [smock?] chanted incantations but you were not there to make his imploring voice seem religious.

At noon I played bridge and watched Dr. Forels profile dissecting the sky, contre jour—

All afternoon I’ve been writing soggy words in the rain and feeling dank inside, and thinking of you—When a person crosses your high forehead and slides down into the pleasant valleys about your dear mouth its like Hannibal crossing the Alps—I love you, dear. You do not walk like a person plowing a storm but like a person very surprised at their means of locomotion, hardly touching the earth, as if each step were experimental—

And you are a darling and it must be awful to have a person always trying to creep inside you the way I do—

Good-night, my Sweet Love


Link to the rest at The Paris Review

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How does an independent bookstore survive for 90 years? Fri, 16 Aug 2019 15:20:38 +0000 From The Deseret News:

It was 1929 and Gus Weller, a recent German immigrant and the owner of the secondhand shop Salt Lake Bedding, Furniture and Radio on 100 South, found himself in possession of a large collection of books.

“As the story goes, one day, he went to buy some old stuff,” said Tony Weller, Gus Weller’s grandson. “And this house he went to had a phenomenal collection of LDS books. My grandfather was a convert to Mormonism, and he was a very, very dedicated man. He bought those books, and … that collection that convinced him turn his little shop into a bookstore.”

. . . .

It was a decision that would change his life, and in time, shape the lives of his family members for the next 90 years and counting. As Weller Book Works celebrates its 90th anniversary — a millennium in bookstore years — on Aug. 17, its owners Tony and Catherine Weller look back on their bookstore’s history, how the store is doing now and their plans for its future.

. . . .

The early years of Gus Weller’s shop, then-called Zion’s Bookstore, were tough. He opened in the year of the Wall Street crash, running a small business through the Depression and doing his best earn enough for his and his wife Margaret’s 11 children. As World War II came to a close and his son Sam returned from overseas service, Gus Weller decided that his son was the help he was looking for, even if initially, Sam Weller had other ideas.

”(Sam) came back from the war and he thought he was going to get into theater. He liked to sing and dance,” his son Tony Weller said. “No one of the family had the money to go to college, but the GI Bill provided my veteran father with the college tuition, but his father had better plans for him than song and dance.”

Sam Weller — who Tony described as “hyperactive (and) charismatic” — was just what the struggling bookstore needed. He expanded the inventory, adding secular fiction and nonfiction books alongside his father’s collection of books about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For his first few years, Sam Weller slept at the store, showering at the local Deseret Gym, all the time working to help his bookshop grow. But for all of his relentless energy, Sam Weller needed organizational help.

Luckily for him, he fell in love with a woman who was an organization pro.

Sam Weller met Lila Nelson at the bookshop through a mutual friend. At the time, Nelson worked as an assistant to then-Deseret News managing editor Theron Liddle, and after Sam and Lila got married, she brought her mathematic, analytical brain to her new husband’s store.

”She really became the kind of organizer in the bookstore,” Tony Weller recalled. “My dad was more that energetic front man. … My mother was quiet, analytical, organized and together.”

Lila Weller, who at 103 still comes into the bookstore on a regular basis, created a system for tracking and cataloguing that became famous among booksellers throughout the West. In those pre-computer days, her system allowed the bookstore to monitor how long new books sat on the shelves and how many copies they sold.

”The brilliance (of her system was) being able to track (the books) in such detail, not just that you sold (a) book,” Catherine Weller said. It’s important for booksellers to know exactly when they ordered a book and exactly when it sold, rather than, as Catherine put it, going “by your memory and saying, ‘Oh, I ordered that sometime this year, so I’ll get a couple more.’”

. . . .

Taking up two full floors plus a balcony, the bookstore housed new books on the main floor and used books downstairs, a mysterious and musty maze of bookshelves punctuated by, oddly, mirrored pillars.

”We moved into an area that had once been a dance hall,” Tony Weller said. “Why would we take (the mirrors) down? They were cool.”

These were busy years for Tony Weller’s parents. In addition to running the bookstore, Sam Weller was the president of the American Booksellers Association, and in 1969, on Lila Weller’s suggestion, changed the store’s name to Sam Weller’s Zion Bookstore. But in 1972, the book store caught fire. It was an event that taught Tony Weller two important things about his father.

”One, that he was a mortal,” Tony Weller said. “Until that time, I thought he was the toughest man I’d ever met who could overcome any problem, but that’s the time I saw him cry first. The other thing was that he was nearly a god.”

”He was going into building while it was burning,” Catherine Weller said. “And he did until the fire department told him it was too dangerous.”

. . . .

The fire nearly destroyed the business, Tony Weller recalled, but his father pushed to rebuild and in time, got the bookshop back on its feet. One of Sam Weller’s many gifts as a business owner was his involvement and leadership in the local community and reading communities, earning the title “The Mayor of Main Street” and forming, along with Lila and other local bookstores, the Intermountain Booksellers Association.

But the next couple of decades became increasingly difficult for a business on Main Street. As Salt Lake’s downtown district went through various transitions, from the Beautification Program in 1974 that cut parking, to the construction of the ZCMI and Crossroads Plaza Malls down the street, many Main Street businesses struggled to stay alive. Sam Weller’s Zion Bookstore, as one of the largest bookstores in the Western United States, continued to attract readers while many other local business folded or moved, but a new threat — and opportunity — was coming, and it had nothing to with parking spots or shopping centers.

. . . .

”When I was a kid, … I was meeting 20-year-olds or 30-year-olds who were some of the brightest people in their generation,” he recalled. “So this kind of got me into the book business, because … I realized that I needed to stay here if I wanted to work with that caliber of people.”

It helped, too, that Tony Weller’s librarian girlfriend — the woman who became his wife — shared his passion for books and book people, and, like her new mother-in-law, was excited to work in her new husband’s family bookstore. ”When I came in to the bookstore, I came in as a bookseller,” Catherine Weller said.

. . . .

”I think … that people can feel overwhelmed,” Tony Weller said. “They actually like a little bit of help. In a store that’s a little smaller, if you gain the reputation of being smart book pickers by virtue of what you haven’t chosen, people say, ‘It’s a good book or they wouldn’t have chosen it.’”

. . . .

[I]t was the elder Lila Weller who perhaps summed up the Weller family’s dedication to books best. When asked why she still came in to Weller Book Works at age 103, she answered, “Well, I wouldn’t wouldn’t want to (quit). I mean, if somebody said ‘You can never touch another book in your life,’ that would be terrible.”

Link to the rest at The Deseret News

Here’s a link to a story about Lila Weller, including a photo taken of her on her 102nd birthday.

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5 Ways Publishing a Book Can Expedite Your Business Success Fri, 16 Aug 2019 14:40:37 +0000 From Inc.:

What every entrepreneur needs more than anything else, after they have built an innovative new product or service, is visibility, credibility, and trust by customers, potential employees, and future business partners.

In my experience as a business adviser, one of the best ways to get all of these is to publish a book on the technology, the journey, or some relevant lessons learned.

Your book need not be a bestseller, and it probably won’t make you any money directly, but it’s the best business card you could ever imagine.

In addition, the discipline of producing it, like writing a business plan, will help you immensely in understanding the key elements that drive you and your business. Most good business people I know agree, but don’t know where to start.

. . . .

I often hear the excuse that writing a book takes precious time away from building and running your business, which you cannot afford. In fact, it does take time, but in my view brings far more value than many of the things you might otherwise be doing, including expensive advertising, extensive networking, or email blasts.

Key value elements of a good book include the following:

1. Publishing a book defines you as an influencer and authority.

Everyone realizes that writing a book is not easy, so it shows you have made a real commitment, can get things done, and are willing to take a position.

Customers pay extra and inherently gravitate to people they view as leaders, rather than others just pushing advertising and Web content.

I can tell you from my own experience as an adviser to new entrepreneurs that my first book, Do You Have What It Takes to Be an Entrepreneur, did more for my credibility and leads as an adviser than all the marketing and networking I had done previously.

. . . .

3. Having a book gives you instant credibility with clients.

People who hire consultants and coaches look for evidence of external credibility, such as reviews and referrals, to back up their own judgement of your marketing interactions with them.

If you sell to other business organizations, a book is a huge asset in reducing their perceived selection risk.
For high-potential clients, it’s well worth your investment to hand out a personally signed copy of your book in lieu of the standard business card. It makes customers feel special, and gives you the opportunity to highlight your broad experience and credentials.

4. Being an author will attract top-notch talent to your business.

Potential team members and partners who excel are attracted to leaders and influencers.

Successful businesses require the best people to deliver your vision and services one step better than the competition. They see you as a role model for their own career development.
A good example of this impact is Tony Hsieh, who wrote his own book, as well as one about the culture he was building at Zappos. These books became one of his best recruiting tools, and still are a great lead generation source for his businesses.

. . . .

Another good reason for writing your book today, using self-publishing, is that it is consistent with the entrepreneur lifestyle.

No more struggling with big publishers to meet their expectations and long production cycles–you can make your book innovative and get it done on your terms and timeline. That means you can integrate the work with your own business schedule and objectives.

Link to the rest at Inc.

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The First AI Inventor Thu, 15 Aug 2019 19:21:09 +0000 From IPKat:

As has been recently widely reported (BBC, Financial Times and The Times), a number of patent applications have been filed designating a machine learning (ML) algorithm as an inventor. The aim of the applications appears to kickstart a conversation on how patent law could be changed to take account of AI inventorship.

. . . .

Despite all the media attention, details about how the AI inventor actually invents are sparse. The reportedly inventive algorithm is covered by its own patent (US 2015/0379394) and was itself invented by Dr Stephen Thaler. A look at Dr Thaler’s company website (Imagination Engines) reveals that Dr Thaler purports to have invented neural networks that manifest “near-death experiences”. The networks also exhibit “a stream of consciousness” and “contemplate, invent, and discover”. The inventive AI is based on Dr Thaler’s “master equation that quantitatively predicts the rhythm of idea generation”.

Despite the potentially revolutionary nature of his inventions, Dr Thaler has not published examples in which his “Creative Machines” are tested according to the standards tests for AI algorithms (e.g. as would be demanded for a publication at a major ML conference, such as NeurIPS, ICML or ICLR). If Dr Thaler has “derived a master equation that quantitatively predicts the rhythm of idea generation”, it would be normal to expect evidence of these quantitative predictions.

. . . .

Another intriguing (and unanswered) question is how the algorithm articulates its invention. The patent application claims seem to have been drafted by a patent attorney. The University of Surrey press release indicates that Dr Thaler is working with an international team of patent attorneys from Williams Powell, Flashpoint IP, Dennemeyer and Fuchs IP. In what form was the “invention” output from the algorithm handed to the patent attorneys? Was it in the form of words, pictures, a time series? How did the algorithm communicate the invention? Does it talk? The patent applications and press releases are unclear on these points. Patent offices and patent laws do not require human inventors to explain how they arrived at an invention. It is therefore unclear whether the patent offices will want to see evidence of how the algorithm actually invents.

. . . .

If, for the sake of argument, we assume that Dr Thaler’s algorithm is capable of performing a creative inventive act, does it therefore make sense to name the algorithm as an inventor? This question was considered from the US perspective over on IPwatchdog.

The team behind the applications, who include Professor in Law at the University of Surrey, Ryan Abbott, argue that it should be permitted to name machines as inventors. The team argue that the algorithm was responsible for the inventive concept behind the patent applications, and that the algorithm would meet the criteria for inventorship if it was a natural person. The team also argue that allowing machines to be named as inventors would stimulate innovation into inventive machines. Therefore, acknowledging machines as inventors would help protect the moral rights of human inventors.

. . . .

Thus, whilst Dr Thaler insists that he is prohibited from listing himself as an inventor of the applications “because he has not contributed to the conception of the instant invention”, Dr Thaler maintains that he should have a right to the algorithm’s inventions. If another party were to use the algorithm to invent another invention, Dr Thaler and the team at the University of Surrey maintain that this invention would belong to Dr Thaler. But how does Dr Thaler derive this right from the algorithm inventor?

. . . .

It appears to this Kat that Dr Thaler’s insistence that he should be the owner of the algorithm’s inventions undermines his argument that the algorithm is the inventor. By insisting that he is the owner of the algorithm’s inventions, he is accepting that he has some rights to the invention which presumably derive from the fact that he invented the algorithm.

Link to the rest at IPKat

PG says the intersection between artificial intelligence and patent law is one that certain types of people could argue about ad infinitum. In the United States, Congress will probably settle the question from a legal standpoint several years following the issuance of conflicting court rulings on the subject.

As far as authors of books are concerned, it is a more interesting question about whether a random sentence generator of significant power could create a literary work that would qualify for copyright protection somewhere in the world.

PG used TextFixer to create the following literary work:

The growing course names into the far-flung birthday. What if the abnormal rub ate the command?

Is the depend direction better than the net? Did the valid passion really include the dirt?

The crushing desk can’t comb the ability. The energetic landscape can’t hand the error.

What if the clumsy transportation ate the impress? It was then the parsimonious girl met the shallow gas.

© PG’s Computer, Ralph, writing as Lucille Caramba, 2019

PG thinks there may be potential for a romance series based upon parsimonious girls meeting shallow gas provided that “women” is substituted for “girls.”

He is certain that all parsimonious women must be attractive and somewhere, there is an ideal, heavily-muscled, flowing-haired model who was born to be the illustrative representation of shallow gas.

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When Good Sites Go Bad: the Growing Risk of Website Accessibility Litigation Thu, 15 Aug 2019 15:00:01 +0000 From The National Law Review:

For a growing number of companies, websites are not only a valuable asset, but also a potential liability risk. In recent years, the number of website accessibility lawsuits has significantly increased, where plaintiffs with disabilities allege that they could not access websites because they were incompatible with assistive technologies, like screen readers for the visually impaired.

If you have never asked yourself whether your website is “accessible,” or think that this issue doesn’t apply to your company, read on to learn why website accessibility litigation is on the rise, what actions lawmakers and the courts are taking to try to stem the tide, how to manage litigation risk, what steps you can take to bring your company’s website into compliance, and how to handle customer feedback on issues of accessibility.

. . . .

In recent years, there has been a nationwide explosion of website accessibility lawsuits as both individual lawsuits and class actions. Plaintiffs have brought these claims in federal court under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and, in some cases, under similar state and local laws as well. In 2018, the number of federally-filed website accessibility cases skyrocketed to 2,285, up from 815 in the year prior. In the first half of 2019, these cases have increased 51.7% over the prior year’s comparable six-month period, with total filings for 2019 on pace to break last year’s record by reaching over 3,200.

. . . .

The ADA was enacted in 1990 to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities in locations generally open to the public (known as public accommodations). The ADA specified the duties of businesses and property owners to make their locations accessible for people with disabilities, but it was enacted before conducting business transactions over the internet became commonplace. With the rapid growth of internet use, lawsuits emerged arguing that websites were places of public accommodation under the meaning of the ADA.

These claims have presented serious questions about whether, when, and how website owners must comply with the ADA. There is no legislation that directly sets out the technical requirements for website accessibility. And while the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has stated that “the ADA applies to public accommodations’ websites,” it has not clarified exactly what standards websites must meet to comply with the law. In the absence of clear guidance, courts considering the question have frequently looked to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines(WCAG), first developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in 1999, but most recently updated in 2018.

. . . .

Knowing your level of exposure is an important first step. Individual risk is currently based on three factors:

  • Location: Brick and mortar locations, the delivery of products, or the performance of services in New York or Florida heighten a company’s exposure.
  • Industry: The present trend shows that retail, food service, hospitality, banking, entertainment industries, and educational institutions are especially at risk.
  • Current website structure: Sites with e-commerce functions or purchased from third-party developers not currently in compliance with WCAG standards are popular targets.

Unfortunately, it is often difficult to predict the cost and complexity of bringing a website into WCAG compliance based simply on viewing it. An audit of the source code is often required. That said, you can start with a review of your site and develop plans and processes for accessibility. The first steps can include:

  • Assess current compliance: Use free online tools like wave and chrome vox and/or enlist a third-party audit to help you understand your current level of accessibility.
  • Plan for future compliance: Create an overall plan for achieving accessibility on a timeline that makes business sense.
  • Take immediate action: Adopt first-step improvements that can be implemented immediately, and create a process for considering accessibility before all future implementations.

Link to the rest at The National Law Review

In general, this type of litigation is handled by attorneys on a contingency-fee basis, which means that an assessment of how large the defendant is and whether he/she/it has liability insurance to satisfy a claim are important preliminary steps counsel is likely to take.

This means that AT&T is more likely to be sued than Janet Johnson, aspiring romance author with a website, is.

PG ran the free online tool mentioned above, WAVE, on TPV, and the program reported over 100 items PG should fix so TPV is accessible. One example is that the photo of the old book at the top left of each page of TPV has no ALT tag that would tell visually-impaired visitors to the blog using a screen reader what the content of the photo is.

The other free online tool mentioned in the OP, ChromeVox, is a Chrome screen reader plugin. Once installed and activated, you can hear what a vision-impaired visitor to your website will encounter.

The OP has provided PG with added impetus to bring the WordPress Theme for TPV up to date. He ran a Google search for ada compliant WordPress themes and found an extensive list.

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