Advocacy

Piracy, Bribery, Profit? Amazon Releases Kindle Into Complex Chinese Book Market

Will the availability of the Kindle be enough to convince Chinese readers to actually pay for the ebooks they download? That’s the hope as Amazon starts selling its Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle HD Fire in a nation of rampant piracy.

Stemming copyright violations would require quite a change in mindset. Consider a 2012 survey of nearly 19,000 Chinese readers, as reported in the People’s Daily Online:

The survey, carried out by the  Chinese Academy of Press and Publication, also showed that 40.1 percent of respondents who have read e-books before would be willing to pay for the books, down 1.7 percent year on year.

So, six out of 10 ebook readers in China would not even be theoretically willing to spend money on the titles they download.

Amazon is hoping to discourage piracy by keeping prices low, selling most ebooks at the equivalent of $1.63. But it will also have to convince consumers to choose the Kindle over cheaper Chinese e-readers, as Bloomberg reports:

Amazon, a brand known for bargains in most of the places it operates, finds itself in a more premium position with its Kindle products in China. The Paperwhite costs 849 yuan. E-Commerce China Dangdang, one of Amazon’s Chinese competitors, began selling its own e-reader there a year ago. The price: 599 yuan.

Amazon’s move comes on the heels of a scandal highlighting China’s pervasive problems with copyright, the arrest of Lou Li, the founder of that country’s largest online literature site, Qidian. Press accounts differ as to the nature of his alleged misdeeds–reports have him arrested for either selling copyrighted material that belonged to Qidian’s parent company or accepting bribes in a copyright negotiation.

Read More…

Posted in Advocacy, Authorship, Copyright, E-Books, General, Royalties

Remember the Orphans? Battle Lines Being Drawn in HathiTrust Appeal

Organizations were lining up to file briefs in the HathiTrust appeal this week. Before we get to that, however, let’s take a moment to recap for those of you who may be foggy on the details of this mass book digitization lawsuit.

In the fall of 2011, authors’ groups from Australia, Canada, Norway, Sweden, UK and US (ourselves and the Authors League Fund) and eleven individual authors sued digital book repository HathiTrust and five universities over their storage and use of millions of books. The basic facts are pretty clear. Everyone agrees that some of the universities authorized Google to digitize copyright-protected books by the million (we say seven million, but we think that’s conservative). Those books comprised nearly the entire stacks of some university libraries, and included in print and out of print books by authors from all over the world in dozens of languages.

Google employees and contractors produced complete digital replicas of each library book and converted those page scans into machine-readable digital text. Google then gave the libraries the resulting ebooks — a readable page-by-page image file accompanied by an embedded, searchable digital text file for each of the seven million books. For its trouble, the libraries agreed that Google could keep its own copy of the ebooks it created. (Google’s actions are the subject of a separate, ongoing, seemingly unending, class-action lawsuit, Authors Guild v. Google, which we and representative plaintiffs brought in 2005.) Neither Google nor the libraries sought or obtained authors’ or publishers’ permission to convert their books into machine-readable form for ingestion by Google and the university library data centers.

Read More…

Posted in Advocacy, Authorship, Copyright, E-Books, General

Counting the Cost (to Authors) of S&S/B&N Rift

As the dispute over terms between Simon & Schuster and Barnes & Noble drags on, an experience related by bestselling novelist William Kent Krueger reminds us it’s authors who are paying the price. On his blog, Kent’s Rants, Krueger explains how he learned about the conflict:

I’ve been setting up my tour for Tamarack County, which comes out on August 20.  I’d arranged two events at Barnes and Noble stores in the Twin Cities, two stores that have been strong supporters of my work from the beginning and that sell enormous quantities of my work.  Then I got the word from New York: No visits to B&N.

Read More…

Posted in Advocacy, Authorship, General

Odds of Passing a National Press Shield Law? A Respectable 17%, Says GovTrack.

By highlighting journalists’ need to protect confidential sources and other information, the Justice Department’s recent seizing of AP phone records without notice may finally lead to passage of a federal press shield law. The Authors Guild, which has long backed the enactment of such a law, is part of a coalition of media organizations calling on Congress to use this as an opportunity to strengthen the First Amendment protection of press freedom. It’s going to be an uphill battle, says legislation monitor GovTrack.us.

Still, the moment seems right. Amid the uproar over the DOJ’s actions, President Obama has asked New York Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to revive shield law legislation that was shelved in 2009. Last week Schumer said he would reintroduce the bill,  The Free Flow of Information Act, and Texas Republican Rep. Ted Poe introduced shield law legislation in the House. Here’s the text of the bill from THOMAS (Library of Congress) and an analysis of the bill’s sections by the Newspaper Guild.*

Read More…

Posted in Advocacy

Who is the Baddest of them All? Ukraine, says U.S. Gov

The U.S. government is calling out Ukraine for its shoddy enforcement of intellectual property rights laws, putting the Eastern European nation literally in a class by itself among trading partners who fail to protect copyright holders.

A new report from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative designates Ukraine a Priority Foreign Country (PFC), a benign-sounding label reserved for the worst intellectual property rights offenders. It’s been more than seven years since a U.S. trading partner had PFC status.  That country? Ukraine, a PFC from 2001 to 2005, when it improved its practices enough to (temporarily) lose the designation.

Read More…

Posted in Advocacy, Copyright

Appellate Court in Google Lawsuit: Is Class Certification Review Premature?

An aspect of our class-action copyright infringement action over Google’s scanning of millions of library books was before a federal appellate court today. Before we get to that, let’s review where we are.

Last May, Judge Chin made a key ruling, certifying a class of U.S. authors with registered copyrights in the books scanned by Google. In July, attorneys for authors and for Google filed cross-motions for summary judgment (essentially, judgment following discovery and depositions based on undisputed facts) with Judge Chin. The outcome of those motions will almost certainly turn on whether Judge Chin deems Google’s book digitization project to be a fair use.

Read More…

Posted in Advocacy, Authorship, Copyright

Does Influential Report Get Copyright’s Goals Right?

Does copyright exist to encourage creative expression, full stop, or does it also seek to motivate the commercialization of creative works?

On Thursday, the National Research Council of the national science, engineering and medical academies* issued a 102-page report calling for research to provide empirical data that better inform copyright policy decisions in the digital age. The National Research Council is influential in Washington; its report, Copyright in the Digital Era: Building Evidence for Policy, is likely to be widely cited. Terry Hart of Copyhype, however, says that the NRC report mishandles a fundamental issue — the purpose of copyright – and cites a 2012 Supreme Court decision to back him up.

The NRC report’s characterization of the tone of the copyright debate (“strident”) is indisputable, so is its statement that the debate is “between those who believe the digital revolution is progressively undermining the copyright protection essential to encourage the funding, creation, and distribution of new works and those who believe that enhancements to copyright, are inhibiting technological innovation and free expression.”

The NRC then makes the case for more data:

Read More…

Posted in Advocacy, Authorship, Copyright

Pirate Party Wins First Direct National Elections, in Iceland

Update: Pirate Bay’s moved yet again! TorrentFreak reports today that when Swedish prosecutors moved to seize Pirate Bay’s Swedish (.SE) and Icelandic (.IS) domains, Pirate Bay swiftly migrated its virtual home to Sint Maarten, proprietor of the .SX top-level domain. Sint Maarten, a constituent country of the Netherlands, comprises the southern half of the Caribbean island Saint Martin.

———————

The Pirate Party, an Internet libertarian group, has been on the political map for a while, particularly in Europe. It has gained seats in state legislatures (in Germany) and, through a coalition, a senate seat in a national legislature (in the Czech Republic). It now claims its first national, directly elected representative, in the Icelandic parliament.

It’s been an especially big month for the piracy minded in Iceland. Last week, Iceland became the virtual home of file-sharing promoter Pirate Bay. Pirate Bay, no longer welcome in its home country of Sweden, had briefly moved its site from a Swedish domain (.SE) to Greenland-based domain (.GL). Greenland’s domain name host, however, quickly booted Pirate Bay, so it moved again, to Iceland (.IS). It seems to have found a more hospitable home there, at least for the moment. TorrentFreak reported last week that Iceland’s top-level domain name registrar had no plans to kick out Pirate Bay.

What does the Pirate Party’s parliamentary victory mean? Leo Mirani at Quartz, a business news site, thinks it means the Pirate Party will need to grow up:

…the Pirate Party will need to refine its ideology and find a balance between the ideal vision of online freedom it espouses and the unsavoury activities and people it can easily find itself associated with. That is a tricky line to walk, especially since it can’t pick its supporters and members.

We’ll see.

Posted in Advocacy, Copyright

Are Copyright Laws “Still Working in the Digital Age”? House Judiciary Chair Pledges Comprehensive Review

Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chair of the House Judiciary Committee, announced last Wednesday that the committee “will hold a comprehensive series of hearings on U.S. copyright law in the months ahead. The goal of these hearings will be to determine whether the laws are still working in the digital age.”

Goodlatte made his remarks at the World Intellectual Property Day celebration at the Library of Congress, and invited interested parties to submit their views to the Judiciary Committee. His full statement is here.

Goodlatte noted that Maria Pallante, Register of Copyrights, had called for such a comprehensive review leading to “the next great copyright act” in testimony on March 20th. In her prepared statement, Pallante said that “authors do not have effective protections, good faith businesses do not have clear roadmaps, courts do not have sufficient direction, and consumers and other private citizens are increasingly frustrated.”

In her March 20th testimony, Pallante made clear her view that “the issues of authors are intertwined with the interests of the public.” Authors, Pallante said,

are not a counterweight to the public interest but instead are at the very center of the equation. In the words of the Supreme Court, “[t]he immediate effect of our copyright law is to secure a fair return for an ‘author’s’ creative labor. But the ultimate aim is, by this incentive, to stimulate artistic creativity for the general public good.” Congress has a duty to keep authors in its mind’s eye, including songwriters, book authors, filmmakers, photographers, and visual artists. A law that does not provide for authors would be illogical — hardly a copyright law at all.

Pallante pointed out, however, that the last major overhaul of U.S. copyright law, the 1976 Copyright Act, took two decades to negotiate. We expect to be hearing much more about this in the months ahead.

Posted in Advocacy, Authorship, Copyright

Fair Use Ruling: Artist Sufficiently Transformed 25 of 30 Photos

On Thursday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a trial court’s decision, ruling that an artist’s uses of 25 copyrighted photographs were sufficiently transformative to be protected by copyright’s fair use defense. The court was uncertain, however, whether the artist’s uses of five other photographs should be considered adequately transformative to trigger the defense. The court’s opinion, Cariou v. Prince, is available here.

The artist, Richard Prince, had copied the work of photographer Patrick Cariou, who had taken the photographs over a six-year period in Jamaica. Cariou had  published the collection in a book, “Yes Rasta,” in 2000.

Prince used 30 photos from Cariou’s book in creating “Canal Zone,” a series of large-scale works exhibited at galleries in St. Barth’s and New York City in 2007 and 2008. Prince’s modifications to the black-and-white photos varied, but included enlarging the images, adding acrylic paint, pasting on new elements, tinting them, and using them in collages. According to the court, some of Prince’s works exhibited at the galleries almost entirely obscure Cariou’s original photographs. In others, Cariou’s original images are still readily apparent.

The court found that 25 of Prince’s works “manifest an entirely different aesthetic from Cariou’s photographs”:

Where Cariou’s serene and deliberately composed portraits and landscape photographs depict the natural beauty of Rastafarians and their surrounding environs, Prince’s crude and jarring works, on the other hand, are hectic and provocative. Cariou’s black-and-white photographs were printed in a 9 1/2″ x 12″ book. Prince has created collages on canvas that incorporate color, feature distorted human and other forms and settings, and measure between ten and nearly a hundred times the size of the photographs.

The court cautioned, however, that not all “cosmetic changes to the photographs would necessarily constitute fair use. A secondary work may modify the original without being transformative.” As an example, the court cited its 1998 ruling that a book providing synopses of Seinfeld television episodes infringed the original shows’ copyrights, since the book simply repackaged the episodes’ content in a new form.

The appellate court was uncertain whether Prince’s modifications were merely cosmetic for five of the thirty works.  The court remanded the case to the trial court to determine whether those “relatively minimal alterations” were sufficiently transformative to be deemed fair uses of Cariou’s photographs.

Posted in Advocacy, Copyright