Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Wednesday Midday Links: More plagiarism at major publishers

Do you ever wonder where the year went? Me too. It’s hard to believe that tomorrow begins the last month of 2011. I would love to post some reader reminiscences about their 2011 year of reading. What they loved. What they hated. How they’ve seen the genre evolve, either for good or ill. If you have something to say, send it to me jane @ dearauthor.com.

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LA Times takes a look at other tablets in the $199 range and unfortunately there isn’t a really good alternative at this point to the Kindle Fire or the Nook Tablet. Either the screens have lower quality or there isn’t as much processing speed. I was sent a Velocity Cruz for review and while the lower resolution screen didn’t perturb me too much, the inability to stream video content did.

Source: LA Times

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O’Reilly urges publishers to sell direct to the public. My biggest problem with publishers right now isn’t their death match moves against Amazon but their unwillingness to step up to the plate and offer a decent alternative. The biggest move to check Amazon, as Charles Stross says (and we have argued), is to remove DRM. While the readers might still buy a Kindle, they can shop around if you make it easy for them to do so.

Source: Radar O’Reilly

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Kevin Bolk redrew the Avengers promotional poster to highlight sexism in the comic culture and, more broadly, the entertainment industry. In the actual promotional poster, everyone of the Avengers faces forward in a powerful stance. Oh, except for the chick who is turned so that her back arches and her bootyliciousness is stuck out for all the wankers to enjoy. The second is obviously turning the poster in its head. Or rear, as the case may be.

Source: Tom DavAvengers Redrawnenport.

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A reader sent me a link to a book being sold on Amazon by Linda McNabb. She is offering her book for $.99 or the DRM Free version for $2.99. What do you think readers?

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Are you noticing incredibly high prices on backlist titles that are suddenly reappearing?  I presume that it is done for two reasons. 1) publishers are attempting to prevent rights reversions by making the books “available” (older contracts, I am told, may not have a specific dollar floor) and 2) using Print on Demand to source the books’ availability.

We actually discussed this on Dear Author in 2007.  How the world changes and doesn’t. In 2007, I referenced Connie Brockway’s inability to write about Lord Strand but now it sounds like that book will be forthcoming via Amazon Montlake in 2012.  But authors like Linda Hilton are getting the shaft because her book is $22 and doesn’t even have a cover and in one case, only has her last name on the graphic image posing as the cover.

I believe that nearly every big publisher has turned to POD for their backlist books.

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Jeremy Dun has become a crusader against plagiarism.  Dun is a well known author of thriller fiction.  He was asked to blurb a book and gave a glowing one.  After the book was published, it quickly became clear that the book was heavily plagiarized.  This has led Dun to seek out other instances of plagiarism and it appears to be reaching into some of the highest echelons of publishing.  The latest alleged perpetrator is Patricia Waddell who has reportedly taken passages directly from Robert Ludlum books.

Just looking for a few minutes, Waddell’s novel appears to be massively plagiarized from The Janson Directive, often with whole sentences verbatim. Look at Chapter 22 of True Deception and then Chapter 6 of The Janson Directive. I somehow doubt these will be the only examples, and wonder if her whole book wasn’t also stitched together, Assassin of Secrets-style.

Dun has also been on St. Martin’s Press about Lenore Hart’s The Raven’s Bride.  Commenter Undine pointed this out in an open thread here in April 2011.  It has been repeatedly brought to St. Martin’s attention earlier this year but apparently have not given any response other than they are looking into it.

Of course, Dun for his efforts is getting the same treatment that Sarah Wendell received when the Smart Bitches exposed Cassie Edwards. Remember when Barbara Samuels called them (and us) without ethics and Jenny Crusie made light of it by accusing the SBs of Cassie Edwards having run over their dog? Good times.

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

84 Comments

  1. jude
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 10:06:33

    I like the option of DRM-free, but it kills me to see it’s triple the price. It’s almost as if the 99 cent price is for a rental.

  2. LG
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 10:36:54

    @jude: I’m with you – I hate how much higher the price is for the DRM-free option. Especially since DRM can be so easily stripped.

    Still, I hate DRM. To date, I have only bought a single DRM-protected e-book, and that was mainly because I was curious to see how easily I could work with Adobe Digital Editions. It’s too bad that, when I’m shopping at, say, ARe, I can’t do some kind of un-shopping cart, in which I put all the books I would have bought if they weren’t DRM-protected.

  3. Lynnd
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 10:38:50

    Charging a higher price for DRM-free books – not as much as the current print title available, but something higher than the DRM version – is fine with me. What I object to is publishers charging me ridiculously high prices for books with DRM. To me DRM restricts my “ownership” of the product and my purchase of a DRM’d product is merely a license to use it (I can’t share it with friends or legally convert the file into a format of my choice). If the book is DRM free, I can (in theory) do all of these things . As such, I should only be paying a license price. The e-version should still be less than the print price because I am not able to sell or donate the book once I have used it and the publisher is not required to incur the printing, processing, distribution, transportation and remainder costs that they would have to incur for the print versiion.

    As for the stupid prices that some publishers are charging for backlist titles (b0th in print and event more outrageiously for the e-version), if I were those authors I’d be screaming mad because, in my opinion, the publishers are sabotaging sales with these practices.

  4. Avery Flynn
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 10:40:32

    So much ugh news here today, so I’m going to focus on the hilarious and give the only-at-the-movies slow clap to Kevin Bolk’s redrawn Avengers promotional poster. As the mother of a nine year old who is just now realizing the inequality of things like this, I salute you Kevin!

  5. Isobel Carr
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 10:41:58

    I just don’t get the whole plagiarism thing. It seems infinitely harder to me to cobble a book together from disparate sources than it does to just write the damn thing. But I’m a writer, so maybe my viewpoint is skewed?

  6. Jackie Barbosa
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 11:14:40

    @Isobel Carr: I have a hard time understanding it, too, but that’s because I take pride in coming up with my own words. That said, my husband pointed out to me the other day that in the music industry, it’s quite common to “sample” other songs to create something new, and the practice is even admired/respected. Of course, musicians who are sampling other songs have to pay royalties to the original copyright holder to do so, which means it’s not plagiarism but rather a paid re-use of the material.

    Still, he said he didn’t see why THE ASSASSIN’S SECRET couldn’t be considered a rather amazing piece of art, a la early songs by Grand Master Flash. Assembling a coherent story/song out of pieces of other stories/songs actually seems like a pretty incredible feat of skill and, yes, creativity. The problem here, as my husband saw it, wasn’t so much that the book was cobbled together from other books as that the author did it without proper permission. And while that’s not the way I’d want to write a book myself (or, necessarily, the kind of book I’d want to read), I DO see my husband’s point and find it interesting.

  7. Amy111
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 11:35:04

    I’m really ticked off about the high backlist prices, especially on the e-versions, as Lynnd says. Most of them are books I already bought once in a paperback version years ago, and now wish to add to my kindle.It really stinks to be charged $11 or $12 bucks for a digital reprint when you know the only expense the publisher incurred was paying some programmer overseas $4 to format the thing.

    I wouldn’t mind publishers being so greedy either if I didn’t know how little the authors actually make on each sale. Pfft.

  8. Author on Vacation
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 11:40:30

    @Isobel Carr:

    I just don’t get the whole plagiarism thing. It seems infinitely harder to me to cobble a book together from disparate sources than it does to just write the damn thing. But I’m a writer, so maybe my viewpoint is skewed?

    I agree. It’s just easier to write according to one’s own artistic vision.

  9. Courtney Milan
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 11:49:02

    @Isobel Carr: I am so with you. When I read about the dude who had literally lifted every sentence or so from some book, somewhere, it just made my head hurt. How do you make that coherent?

    I had a friend who, as a teaching assistant, had a student who took one of the online papers and rewrote it entirely with the aid of a thesaurus.

    The first sentence read something like: “This tome is a granular recapitulation of vitality and canon in Charles Dickens’s epoch.” After scratching her head at that complete nonsense, my friend googled “term papers Bleakhouse” and came up with the original, which read something like: “This book is a gritty recounting of life and law in Charles Dickens’s time.”

    It must have taken the offender hours to look up all those words in the thesaurus. It really would have been faster just to write the damned thing himself off of a cliff notes version on the web. But hey, maybe if you don’t have to use your brain, it doesn’t count as work!

    Lesson: you wouldn’t believe the ridiculous lengths that some people will go to to avoid doing work.

    Lesson 2: plagiarists aren’t exactly engaging in rational decision making.

  10. Rebecca (Another One)
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 12:00:56

    To me paying extra for DRM free is like having to pay extra for the store to remove the ink tags from the clothes your buy. Can you imagine “Okay, that’s $100 for the dress and for an extra $5 we’ll remove the ink tag.”

  11. Lisa J
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 12:01:44

    Triple the price for no DRM, no thanks. I can buy and strip it and it won’t cost me a dime extra.

    The high prices for backlist books is crazy. While I would like to get all the backlist Nora Roberts books, I just don’t see it happening at the prices I have seen thrown around, especially if there are no discounts.

  12. Patricia Rice
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 12:24:26

    I fail to understand why publishers would hang on to the rights of a book they obviously don’t intend to sell if they’re listing it at ridiculous prices. This sounds more like maliciousness than an acceptable business practice. Perhaps if one publisher does this frequently enough, authors can join together in a suit and put an end to it. But there are so many problems with this ebook transition that we’re likely to see far worse before it settles out. And chronic plagiarism by self-pubbed authors will probably be next. Who can possibly catch it all?

    And if readers don’t like DRM, they need to start seeking out the author-driven websites that don’t use it, like bookviewcafe.com and awriterswork.com and probably a dozen others. We don’t have Amazon’s marketing force, but we’re trying to get books out there to the international community as well as those who want their books on multiple devices.

  13. Roxie
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 12:37:31

    Shouldn’t the DRM version be more expensive? I thought the cost of DRM was one of the reasons publishers cite for higher prices for ebooks.

    I especially have a problem with the high prices for backlist titles when it’s clear the publisher didn’t even run spell check to look for OCR errors. Some basic proofreading would be nice, too. I have no problem with the publishers wanting to make money, but I have a huge problem paying more money for crap service.

  14. Darlynne
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 12:46:24

    And chronic plagiarism by self-pubbed authors will probably be next. Who can possibly catch it all?

    Not Little Brown, apparently, because they managed to miss their own heavily-plagiarized Assassin of Secrets. I wouldn’t lump all self-pubbed authors in that group.

  15. DS
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 12:52:10

    I was kind of wondering how many casual browsers would really know what DRM is and why it’s a problem, especially on Amazon where a lot of people seemed content with their Kindles.

    The author also does not explain it although she promotes her “cheaper SINGLE COPY version”. The more expensive version has unlimited simultaneous devise usage but the cheaper one doesn’t say that so I suspect that it is limited to one device. Something tells me that this may cause some problems along the way unless she explains it better.

    And OT, those of you who love Ellen Kushner’s Swordspoint (a melodrama of manners) might want to check out the audible version. I saw it last night on Audible.com and downloaded it at once. Ms Kushner is narrating (she used to be a radio presenter) and there is a full cast of voices. It’s part of Neil Gaiman’s audio imprint. I was impressed with what I listened to last night.

  16. joanne
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 13:19:27

    I sooo could have done without the picture of Hulk’s butt.
    BUT – har – I love the rest of the poster. It also reminded me of the god-awful SheHulk comic. Gah.

    Paying more for less? Is taking the DRM out costly? No, not buying into that one at all.

  17. Isobel Carr
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 13:35:00

    I’ve already seen multiple instances of a whole book being lifted, characters renamed, and then the book being sold under a new self-pub title by the plagiarist. I still don’t understand why Publishers and hosts like Amazon aren’t running submissions against something like TURNITIN.

    I admit to being stupefied by St. Martin’s lack of action on THE RAVEN’S BRIDE though. Perhaps if all profits had to be turned over the victim/s publishers would be more responsive?

  18. Anony Mouse
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 13:52:03

    There is a very popular series of books that seem to be a complete rip off of Harry Potter. The author of the books was a BNF in the Harry Potter fandom and was accused of plagiarism there, as well. It seems that publishers don’t care who owns the words, so long as the words make them money.

  19. DS
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 14:26:41

    @joanne:

    Amazon adds the DRM for no additional cost in the book creation process.

    Digital Rights Management….
    You may choose, on a per title basis, to have us apply Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology, which is intended to inhibit unauthorized access to or copying of digital content files for titles. Once your title is published, this setting cannot be changed.

  20. lisabookworm
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 14:54:37

    @Roxie: From what I understand, it does cost extra money to put DRM on books.If publishers removed the DRM, they would have a higher profit margin. But, since a book that doesn’t have DRM is considered to have a higher ‘value’, I imagine that if/when the publishers remove DRM, they will also raise their prices…. Meaning their profit margin will get even larger, while readers will have to shell out more money for each book.

  21. Linda Hilton
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 15:01:20

    Thanks for the heads up on this, Jane.

    @Lynnd: Lynnd — I am screaming mad about this outrageous move to prevent reversion of my copyright. But the only place I can scream is a blog — http://www.LindaHilton.blogspot.com — and fora like this.

    The really effed-up part of it is that NO ONE is going to pay $24.99 or even a discounted $16.49 for a print-on-demand trade paperback of an almost 17-year-old book, when there are used paperback copies available for $4 — BUT, I as the author would be absoeffinglutely delighted to put the book out there as a revised digital version — the original was edited of about 30,000 essential words — for $2.99. Pocket is only doing this, IMHO, to keep me (and maybe other authors) from reissuing our own damn books. The publisher isn’t going to make any significant amount of money off it, readers aren’t going to buy it, and the author gets shafted. This is total dog in a manger bullshit.

    Just so you know, I hate publishers. And I especially hate Simon & Schuster.

  22. Linda Hilton
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 15:04:06

    @Amy111: Amy111 — THANK YOU for recognizing how little the authors make.

  23. Becca
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 15:05:30

    Adobe charges $0.22/book (that’s per copy, not per title) for their DRM, plus the rather high amount publishers have to pay Adobe per year for the right to put on their DRM. By rights, ePub copies of ebooks should be far more expensive than Kindle versions.

  24. DS
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 15:06:21

    @lisabookworm: Just to make clear there’s two different DRM conversations. Yes, publishers license/purchase DRM from other companies so there it is an extra cost to the publisher. The DRM from Amazon to Kindle books I was talking about is not an extra charge on the author. Probably something Amazon already owns rights to but I’m not positive on that point

  25. Courtney Milan
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 15:15:17

    Linda,

    I don’t know what your contract says, but it sounds like you haven’t granted them digital rights. If that’s the case, why does their version have any impact on yours? If they don’t have digital rights, you do. Is there some reason you can’t exercise them?

    It might be worth talking to a literary attorney to see if you can put up your own digital version.

  26. Linda Hilton
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 15:21:35

    @Courtney Milan:

    Courtney — My contract requires Pocket to “negotiate” a royalty rate on electronic publishing. They have rights to an e-version, but there’s no royalty rate. So without negotiating with me, they can’t publish an eversion, but neither can I, unless I get all the rights back.

    I wrote them a polite letter in May requesting reversion as per the contract. They replied that they would let me know. Then they informed me they were going to make the books “available” again in trade paperback form. There is no minimum print run required, so POD fulfills the “available” stipulation.

    I still hate them.

  27. Author on Vacation
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 15:35:45

    @Amy111:

    I’m really ticked off about the high backlist prices, especially on the e-versions, as Lynnd says. Most of them are books I already bought once in a paperback version years ago, and now wish to add to my kindle.It really stinks to be charged $11 or $12 bucks for a digital reprint when you know the only expense the publisher incurred was paying some programmer overseas $4 to format the thing.

    I was thrilled when “Dune” was released in electronic format and rushed to bn.com to buy it only to be hurled into sticker shock by the $14.99 + tax price tag. Since I can’t purchase “Dune” for a reasonable price, I had no incentive to purchase the remaining books in the series (priced at $7.99.)

    Recently, Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House” was released for $12.99. I passed again. I truly love this novel, but there is no way I am paying these prices for them.

  28. Danielle D
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 16:25:58

    I really enjoyed Patricia Waddell’s historical, I’m sorry to read this about her.

  29. eggs
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 17:25:43

    Yay! Finally an ebook that’s cheaper in Australia! We can get Dune on the kindle for $12.86! TBH, I’ve read Dune 10 plus times and I’ve enjoyed it every single damn time. SOME reprints are worth the higher price point to me.

  30. Lilian Darcy
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 17:51:27

    Courtney Milan said: Lesson: you wouldn’t believe the ridiculous lengths that some people will go to to avoid doing work.

    Courtney, do you have teenagers?

  31. Angie
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 17:54:32

    She is offering her book for $.99 or the DRM Free version for $2.99. What do you think readers?

    I think she’s delusional. She’s offering, for triple the price, something readers can get for themselves for no extra cost. Stripping the DRM is doable, for every type of DRM there is. Ridiculous “offers” like this are just pushing more and more and more people to fire up Google and figure out how to do it for themselves, for free. From there it’s not much of a step to just saying, “Frack it” and torrenting the book in the first place. After all, if you’re already “stealing” the privilege of having an open copy — worth more than twice the cost of the book itself, according to this author — then how much more of a step is it to steal that last ninety-nine cents by just downloading the book in the first place?

    This isn’t the direction we want customers moving in, or even looking. But authors like this, with paranoid attitudes and extremely limited understanding of how real people think and behave, are stampeding customers in that direction. [sigh]

    Angie

  32. GirlyNerd
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 18:23:26

    I don’t understand how people can defend plagiarism. Cassie Edwards and the like needed to be exposed for the crooks that they are.
    Also, on that last link, @booktrunk seems like a real ass-hat.

  33. Carol
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 18:51:16

    I wonder if Linda’s situation is similiar to Penelope Williamson. I really wanted to get her back list new but the listed price of Keeper of the Dream was 27.00 dollars. I finally found Keeper of the Dream, Wild Yearning and Once in a Blue Moon on Kobo. They discounted 38 percent so they were listed for 14.29 and 16.79. Sometimes Kobo has coupons for an extra 20 percent off, so I would use that to get it down a bit more. Still expensive but since I wanted them, I didn’t mind. Too lazy to go searching at the used bookstore. Too bad they don’t anymore of her backlist.

  34. Mary Anne Graham
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 19:23:40

    Sorry – soapbox time.

    Authors create everything from nothing. An author’s tools are her experiences, emotions, imagination, dreams and nightmares.

    When someone plagirizes he or she steals more than words on a page. A plagiarist steals part of the creator’s soul. How one writer could do that to another is beyond me.

    …….crawling off the soapbox now. Ouch – I think I got a splinter, but I won’t say where.

  35. karlynp
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 19:31:00

    Anyone who really wants to remove a DRM from an eBook can do it in just a couple of minutes, and as long as you don’t distribute the copy righted content I believe it is legal.

    While most people who strip DRMs do it for them self or possibly a friend or two, I do agree that the potential for abuse is real. I recently found this ebook store out of China selling DRM stripped ebooks for a song, so I can certainly see what challenges the industry faces long term. This site can’t be legal, but it works. I tested it and got a selection of ebooks that I previously bought as paperback copies. (Since I had already paid full price for all of the books, I didn’t feel so bad using this service. I wanted the ebook versions!)

    [link removed by Jane. Sorry, we can’t link to illegal stuff (and I don’t know if it is or not, but just by your comment, I’m making that assessment]

  36. Alex
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 19:46:31

    Ugh, I remember that whole thing happening with Cassie Edwards. Every day the SB website had new information. It was unbelievably disgraceful. I will NEVER understand how people can stand up for something so inherently ucky.

    Then again, I don’t get republicans either. Maybe I’m out of touch.

  37. Linda Hilton
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 20:07:15

    @Patricia Rice: I fail to understand why a publisher would want to hang onto rights they can’t exercise either, but Pocket / Simon & Schuster is doing exactly that.

    But there’s also what I consider to be pure malice involved. I’ve put most of the details on my blog and I really don’t expect anyone to read it all, but I have screen captures of listings of these POD editions THAT DON’T HAVE MY NAME CORRECT. Barnes& Noble has removed the two “reviews” I posted when they had my listed as “Anne Hilton” and now they just have “Hilton” but even Simon & Schuster Canada — yes, the publisher’s own site — has it wrong. http://books.simonandschuster.ca/MOONSILVER/Hilton/9781451677638

    The Book Depository on Guernsey still shows “Anne Hilton” as the author — http://www.bookdepository.com/Moonsilver-Anne-Hilton/9781451677638. This information had to have come to them, as it did to B&N, directly from Simon & Schuster.

    Remember, folks, these are not over-priced digital editions put out by a publisher to make money by scanning a previously published print edition. They are Print-on-Demand trade paperbacks. Pocket Books has the digital rights to these books, but they can’t publish without negotiating a royalty rate “in good faith” with me. I can’t e-publish because I don’t have the rights.

    I don’t know if Penelope Williamson tried to get her rights reverted and Dell retaliated with high-priced POD editions; at least some of her backlist titles are available in Kindle versions (I only looked at Amazon; I’m doing this during odd moments between my day job). I looked through several other authors who were publishing with Pocket around the same time I did, and I didn’t see any similar packaging of other authors’ backlists — Sue Rich, Stef Ann Holm, Jane Bonander, Andrea Kane, Jill Barnett, Kimberly Cates.

    I could get very paranoid about this.

  38. Courtney Milan
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 20:24:51

    @karlynp: Anyone who really wants to remove a DRM from an eBook can do it in just a couple of minutes, and as long as you don’t distribute the copy righted content I believe it is legal.

    No, it’s not. It’s a violation of the anticircumvention provisions of the DMCA to strip DRM. (17 USC 1201). Ownership of the underlying content is not a defense.

    In case anyone cares, in any case where anything of mine is DRMed and where I have the ability to grant permission, I grant it.

  39. Jane
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 20:54:55

    @Courtney Milan: Under certain circumstances, such as when there isn’t a hearing impaired copy available, I believe the copyright registrar has made an exception to the DRM rule.

  40. SAO
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 22:06:52

    Since the non-DRM version is for sale, too, the DRM has nothing to do with preventing piracy. Either the non-DRM version is allowing sharing and re-sale, or this is just a pricing option with a lower price for inconvenience and the author could have just as easily stuck in flashing ads saying “contribute to my kids’ college fund, click here to make a donation” in the middle of every chapter.

    Frankly, using DRM to annoy your readers into paying a higher price doesn’t strike me as a good marketing ploy.

  41. Linda Hilton
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 22:08:03

    @Mary Anne Graham: As one who has much experience on a soapbox, let me help you with that splinter. ;-)

    “Writers” who steal are not writers at all; they’re thieves, pure and simple. They deserve neither sympathy nor mercy.

  42. DM
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 22:51:55

    @Linda Hilton

    It sounds like you really need a lawyer. If you can’t afford one, the VLA is a terrific resource. Writers are artists too!

  43. Linda Hilton
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 23:07:24

    @DM: Sadly, Simon & Schuster is not doing anything illegal or outside the bounds of the contract I signed with them.

    1. The contract grants them the digital/electronic rights. In order to exercise those rights, they have to negotiate a royalty rate with me. But they are under no obligation to exercise those rights. If they don’t wanta, they don’t hafta, and I can’t make them.

    2. The rights revert to me after the books are out of print or “unavailable” for a certain period of time, but I have to request the reversion and give them pretty much as long as they want to take to reach a decision on it. All the publisher has to do is make them “available” again to hang onto the rights. They don’t have to print 1,000 copies; all they have to do is make the books “available” in some edition or other, and print on demand meets that criteria.

    I cannot force them to revert the rights. They are not in violation of any of the contract terms. They are under no obligation to revert the rights to me until their possession of the copyright runs out in 28 or 35 years or whatever it is. They are under no obligation under the terms of the contract to issue a digital edition.

    Do I think they’re being pissy and unfair and vindictive? Yes, I do. But do I think they’re in beach of the contract terms? No, I don’t.

  44. Angie
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 23:13:52

    @Linda Hilton: If your contract is for the duration of the copyright, I’m afraid that’s currently your lifetime plus 70 years. :( Unless this is a really old book, like pre-1973 or thereabouts, in which case it might be shorter.

    And I remember reading somewhere that after… I think it’s thirty-five years under contract, something in that range, you’re allowed to request the termination of the contract (there’s a legal procedure for doing that) even if the contract states it’s for life of copyright. That law was passed because so many publishers were doing “life of copyright” contracts and so many writers were signing them, and with copyright terms getting longer and longer, some sort of out was needed. It might be worth looking that up, and making a note on your calendar for however long in the future that might be. :/

    Angie

  45. Linda Hilton
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 23:39:48

    @Angie: No, it’s not like my lifetime plus 70 years or anything like that. It’s the 35 year or whatever thing, since this contract was signed in January 1994. So, hey, I only have maybe 17 years left! ;-)

  46. Angie
    Nov 30, 2011 @ 23:51:22

    @Linda Hilton: Oh, good. [wry smile] Still sucks, though.

    You know, the best revenge in this sort of situation is to write more and better books, and place them with a different publisher, or self-pub them, and make a pile of money while thumbing your nose at S&S.

    Angie

  47. SAO
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 08:04:54

    The reason publishers don’t let your rights revert is that some midlist authors suddenly write a phenomenal bestseller — Dan Brown, for example. Retaining the publishing rights is an option and options are valuable. A publisher who routinely retains rights for authors they have no expectations of, will probably strike it rich every now and then. So, it’s a good business decision — unless they piss off too many authors by doing so.

  48. Author on Vacation
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 08:51:34

    @eggs: Hey, eggs. Glad to hear you paid a little less for “Dune” in Australia. One of my Aussie pals has filled me in on high prices and limited access of books and ebooks in the region. It’s a travesty. Books should be accessible to the entire public.

    And, yes, “Dune” is sublime reading. Love the book. I probably will end up buying it at some point, but I’ll also probably grudge the bookseller and scale back on other purchases until I feel better about it.

  49. Brian
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 09:23:39

    @Author on Vacation: Not only is the Dune ebook crazy priced, it contains tons of typos and some missing paragraphs (or did when it was released, they may have fixed it).

  50. dick
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 10:52:28

    I think plagiarism and the onus it bears has arisen in the last tw0 centuries or so. Prior to that time, most readers were expected to recognize that something was lifted from someone else, and the original authors were thought to be complimented by the new authors’ borrowing it. Even today, if something is very widely known, it’s almost an insult to the reader to cite the source. Some of Jonathan Swift’s most-loved poems, for example, were nearly direct translations from the Latin sources, without a thing about it being mentioned, for it was assumed that most of the readers would recognize the fact. Most of say things in passing that are nearly direct quotes of famous sayings written by someone else without even realizing that we are doing so.

    Plagiarism has become so bound up with property rights that I have ambivalent reactions when I hear that a charge of plagiarism has been laid against an author, for shouldn’t ideas be the property of everyman?

  51. Becca
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 11:07:43

    @dick: Ideas can be, and are, the property of everyman – but the exact words, the specifics of the plot are an author’s work and should be respected.

  52. Linda Hilton
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 11:52:45

    @SAO: I perfectly understand the validity of retention of rights as a “business” decision on the part of Simon & Schuster. But as an author, I also believe that the way the reversion of rights clause was written virtually allows S&S to retain those rights without doing anything. It’s legal, of course, but I don’t have to like it, and I don’t have to like them. They might as well have written the clause to say “We will retain these rights as long as we possibly can and we have no intention of ever reverting them to the author under any circumstances.” My intention, therefore, is to let other authors know what these clauses can mean beneath the surface claim of “reversion of rights.”

    I should point out, too, that the other two publishers from whom I requested the reversion of my rights did not deny that request.

    Furthermore, I don’t even want the print rights back, only the electronic rights. If S&S wants to hang onto the print and film and other rights, I don’t care. If they hope to cash in when I produce a blockbuster, more power to ‘em.

    But this is a readers’ forum much more than a writers’ forum, and I think this kind of behavior on the part of S&S also hurts readers, as has been shown by the comments posted here about the high cost of backlist titles.

  53. Linda Hilton
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 13:34:33

    @dick: If plagiarism and/or copyright infringement were seen more as a labor rights issue, rather than property rights, how would that affect your opinion?

  54. Jane
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 13:39:36

    @Linda Hilton: But they aren’t. That proposition would be like saying but what if traffic violations were considered a felony assault instead of a traffic misdemeanor?

    The copyright and the rights imbued by copyright are a statutory construct, one that Congress can change, and stems from a Constitutional grant that charges Congress to pursue laws that are in the advancemment of “useful arts” and science:

    The Congress shall have Power … To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

  55. Linda Hilton
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 13:47:32

    @Jane: My sincere apologies for posing a “what if” question.

  56. Jane
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 13:52:25

    @Linda Hilton: I am not objecting to hypotheticals. They serve a useful purpose. However, your hypothetical would requre a complete change in the existing law and goes far beyond the constitutional grant (although the law probably already does and I think some scholars would argue the actual force of this grant because of its placement in the constitution) thus the basis of the hypothesis is too easily removed rendering the hypothetical useless.

  57. Linda Hilton
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 14:08:28

    @Jane: Again, my apologies, but my question had nothing to with the law at all, but rather if and/or how dick, as an individual who apparently doesn’t much care for the concept of “property rights,” would change his opinion of plagiarism/copyright infringement if that concept were seen, not legally but morally and ethically, as a matter of labor rights rather than “property” rights.

    The Constitution does not make reference to “writings and discoveries” as specifically and explicitly “property,” only that they belong to their creators. Imbuing these things as “intellectual property” sort of reifies them, I think, as transferrable, portable entities separate and distinct from their creators.

    The “what if,” then, suggests that it might be possible to conceive of Writings and Inventions less as pieces of “property” and more as “labor” that is far less separable and distinct from the creator.

    If a book or poem or song becomes a semi- or quasi-tangible piece of property, the creator is paid for the product and then loses, morally and ethically as well as legally, all ownership. And I would venture to say that that is a traditional capitalist point of view.

    But if we look at creative works as the product of the artist’s labor — which admittedly moves into a more, dare I say it, Marxist analysis — would dick have a different opinion of whether or not authors and other artists have any rights at all?

    I’m not arguing copyright law here; for one thing, I’m not a lawyer and don’t pretend to be one. dick wrote that he thought “ideas” should belong to everyone rather than be protected by rights more associated with “private property.” That’s the way most of us commonly think of “copyright,” as attached to intellectual “property.” I just wondered if he’d have a different opinion if copyright were seen as a labor right — the right to the product of one’s labor — rather than a property right.

  58. Jane
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 14:58:03

    @Linda Hilton just for the record, you know that there is a difference (a big one) between property rights and intellectual property rights in that the latter isn’t really a property right at all?

    Edit: intellectual property not the same as real property but has been deemed similar to personal property.

  59. Linda Hilton
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 15:14:20

    @Jane: Yes, I understand that. That was my point — that the common concept is of “intellectual property rights” as more akin to “tangible personal property rights” than to anything else.

    (balance of tl/dr discussion aborted)

  60. Jane
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 15:17:55

    @Linda Hilton: The problem with the use of the word property as it relates to copyright vis a vis real property or personal property is that there is no exclusive occupation of intellectual property and that lack of exclusivity of use is the barrier.

    Obviously, plagiarism doesn’t relate to ideas but the copying of words and the copying of the execution of ideas in a certain fashion.

    But going back to your issue of labor rights. What rights are workers entitled? In other words, what rights are you due to work that you produce from your labor that you believe should be transferred to copyright?

  61. Isobel Carr
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 16:18:02

    Well, there’s the right to be paid for one’s labor/creation. We certainly have laws pertaining to that, and I think this is what Linda is getting at. Most people expect to be paid for their work, artists are no different, but it is much easier to disenfranchise them from the fruits of their labor/product than it is to force a restaurant to feed you for free to or make a dealership give you a car.

  62. Linda Hilton
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 16:27:44

    @Jane: forgive me, but I think you’ve missed my point entirely.

    I am not arguing for or against anything to do with copyright law.

    I merely posed the question — addressed to dick in particular because he raised the issue — whether or not a moral defense of common ownership of intellectual property, which he seems to be advocating, would change if the concept of intellectual “property” were divorced from the notion of transferable, quasi-tangible personal property (“what’s yours is mine and what’s mine is yours, depending on whose hands are on it at any given time”) and re-integrated with the identity of the artist/inventor/creator.

    As your comments have clearly illustrated, the concept of “intellectual property” is inseparably linked in most minds with “tangible personal property.” In other words, the physical book is as much as, if not more than, the embodiment of ownership than is the legal right to produce copies of the original (i.e. “copyright”). Many people believe (even if mistakenly) “I own the physical copy of the book [even if it’s only an e-book] and therefore I have a right to do whatever I want with it, including make free copies for my friends.” They equate physical ownership of ONE copy with moral ownership of the right to copy.

    Certainly the long-standing discussion over Harlequin’s definitions of rights and ownership and obligations as set forth in their contracts plays up this point, and it’s further tangled when the whole issue of “BUT AT LEAST YOU GOT PUBLISHED!” is brought in. The rights of the authors as the Creators of their Works disappear when the carrot of A Contract is dangled in front of them.

    Again, I’m not even hinting that any of this is illegal, because it’s not. And I’m not even going to get into a discussion of what *I* personally want, because that’s totally not relevant.

    But we have an established cultural concept of “intellectual property” as a Thing separate and distinct from its creator and the effort and time that went into its creation. All I posed was the question to dick — would he see copyright infringement and/or plagiarism differently if copyright were seen more as an issue of labor rights in terms of valuing and honoring the labor that goes into the creative process than property rights as in the ownership of a tangible Thing.

    You seem to have taken that off onto an entirely different tangent, Jane, involved in a hypothetical rewriting of copyright law as contrasted to labor law. I suggested no such thing. What I DID suggest, was a reconceptualization of what “copyright” might mean if we saw it in terms of the creator’s labor rather just as an end product to be made available in the marketplace.

    It’s one thing to have commodified the books — make sure the word length is between 65,500 and 68,200 and no more than 12 chapters or fewer than 10; double break between any POV shift, and no more than two POV shifts per chapter; all backstory exposed before end of Ch. 3; blah, blah, blah. (Disclaimer: the preceding was hypothetical.) Harlequin of course has brought this commodification to an art form in and of itself. And they tried to do it with the insistence on and ownership of pseudonyms, which many of the readers of this forum are probably too young to remember.

    But now the very Constitutionally-enshrined right that protects the creative efforts of the writers is in the process of evolving into an evil regulation that is depriving some of what they see as THEIR right to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labors, almost without even acknowledging that there was any labor involved.

    To take it one step both forward and back — a truly postmodern feat if there ever was one — certain personal property rights probably are and should be sacrosanct in any advanced civilized society. If I save up my babysitting money to buy a bicycle, you shouldn’t have the right to come into my garage and take it. This is not the same as my not having the right to give it to you, because the act of giving is still an exercise of my rights to my personal property.

    But intellectual property ISN’T the same as tangible personal property, and maybe some aspects of copyright law do need to be re-examined and even re-conceptualized in the age of kindles and nooks and clouds and whatever else comes after.

    Ultimately, I suspect dick is more willing to defend his own personal property rights at the expense of someone else’s, and far less willing to defend someone else’s at the expense of his own.

    But that’s just me.

  63. Linda Hilton
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 16:29:58

    @Isobel Carr: yes.

  64. Jane
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 17:28:52

    @Isobel Carr There is no right to be paid for one’s labor and creation. Where is the law for that? There are federal minimum wage laws that apply if you are employed by a company with over a certain number of employees. But there is no absolute right to be paid for one’s labor and creation.

  65. Jane
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 17:34:38

    @Linda Hilton There is so much in this comment that is legally inaccurate but I know arguing the point with you is meaningless because the law doesn’t define rights for you so I’ll just generally say, for any one who is reading, that a physical copy of the book is actually personal property. What copyright protects isn’t the physical reproduction but really the specific iteration of ideas that a writer puts out in a permanent form.

    I don’t think that I went on a tangent at all. I tried to point out that comparing labor rights to intellectually property rights wasn’t a useful hypothetical.

    Intellectual property rights are not constitutionally enshrined. Congress is granted the right to create laws, but they don’t have to and those laws can be anything. The rights authors have (and even the enforcement of those laws and what is defined as piracy) stem from a congressional statutory enactment. Those specific rights do not arise from the constitution, not like the rights embodied in the bill of rights etc. etc. In other words, what congress gives, congress can take away. Those rights are much different that “constitutionally enshrined.”

    So I return to the issue of law when we talk about copyright because it is a statutorily created right. copyright is not an inherent right.

  66. Linda Hilton
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 17:45:55

    @Jane: And Jane, I’m leaving this conversation because I was NEVER talking about copyright law, and anything else seems to be a forbidden foreign language here.

    I was talking about the social and cultural construction of the concept of “property rights” — either intellectual or personal, it makes no difference — as completely separate from ANY legalities, whether constitutional, international conventional, statutory or what have you. Statutes are one thing; socially and culturally constructed concepts are another. Sometimes they overlap, but not always.

    Similarly, I was NEVER talking about applying current labor laws to writing, or anything even remotely in those lines.

    But again, tl/dr. Bye.

  67. Linda Hilton
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 17:48:34

    @Alex: I do, and I’m not. You’re better off.

  68. Jane
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 17:49:12

    @Linda Hilton: Wait, because I disagree with you it is forbidden? Come on, please. Forbidden would be if I deleted your comment.

    My mind thinks in terms of laws and so disagree with you, strongly even.

  69. Ridley
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 18:14:53

    Someone once said “hypothetical situations are lying to your brain.”

    It’s good advice.

  70. kinsey
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 19:24:32

    Speaking of hypotheticals, I wonder if Samuels’ and Crusie’s attitudes would be different if an unknown or first time author plagiarized THEM.

  71. Author on Vacation
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 21:21:34

    @Brian:

    Thanks for the heads up about the Dune ebook, Brian. I may wait a while longer than I thought.

    @ dick:

    Plagiarism has become so bound up with property rights that I have ambivalent reactions when I hear that a charge of plagiarism has been laid against an author, for shouldn’t ideas be the property of everyman?

    Ideas are the property of everyone. However, the interpretation of ideas via the creative process belongs exclusively to the creative mind/s processing said interpretation.

    If I scribbled down “Annabel Lee” and published it as my original work, that isn’t creative interpretation of the idea/theme (romanticising the death of a beautiful young woman and her husband’s grief.) That doesn’t mean I can’t write my own poem, or a short story, or a novel or a play based on the exact same idea.

  72. eggs
    Dec 02, 2011 @ 03:40:27

    I guess I don’t really understand what’s wrong with Linda Hilton’s situation with Pocket. They offered her a contract, giving them the right to sell her books as they saw fit for X number of years in return for a sum of money. She accepted their offer and, presumably, their money. Now, more than a decade later, she has decided she doesn’t like this deal any more and thinks, as a result, the contract should be voided and the right to sell these books returned to her. Pocket doesn’t want to do this and has taken steps to prevent it happening, as is their right per the contract Hilton signed with them. And this is supposed to make Pocket somehow morally reprehensible? I cannot for the life of me fathom why.

    If I was Pocket, there’s no way in hell I would return rights to an author in this situation. Why should they? It’s like Hilton built a spec house in 1992, sold it to Pocket in 1993, then demanding they give it back to her for free in 2011 because they’ve let it fall derelict. Am I missing something here?

  73. Junne
    Dec 02, 2011 @ 06:54:27

    I don’t get why you attacked Ms Hilton all of a sudden, she was just making an innocent remark, there was no need to point out her obvious ( to you) ignorance of copyright or whatever laws.
    Sorry for my broken english :s

  74. Jane
    Dec 02, 2011 @ 07:17:32

    @eggs For me, it’s Pocket’s half assed way that they are not letting it “fall derelict” by republishing it without a cover, without her full name and at prices no one really wants to buy.

  75. Jane
    Dec 02, 2011 @ 07:23:02

    @Junne I’m sorry that you saw it as an attack. I saw it as an incorrect understanding of a legal issue that is at the core of the debate over ownership of the basis of what this blog revolves around: books.

  76. Linda Hilton
    Dec 02, 2011 @ 07:52:26

    @eggs: What you’re missing eggs is just about everything.

    The contract I signed included a clause that said if the book is out of print and no longer available for X number of years — 3 actually, just 3 — I can ask to have the rights reverted to me. That is in the contract I signed. The contract gives me the right to request the reversion of my rights. Duh.

    One of the books has been out of print since 1995. The other has been out of print since 1996 except for a $1 discount store printing in 2004, which still leaves it out of print for 6 years at the time I requested the reversion of my rights.

    Contracts for my other books with other publishers include similar clauses and I was able to get those rights back without any difficulty. Authors do this frequently, because after all, when we sign a contract — well, except maybe with Harlequin — we do not just sign away any and all rights in perpetuity to the publisher. If that were the case, duh, there would be no need for contracts and terms. They’d hand us the money and we’d give them the books and say, “Here, it’s yours, have at it.”

    In the case of Pocket, instead of having a specific performance that they had to meet, such as a printing of 5,000 mass market copies, to maintain their “ownership” of my rights, the language of the clause merely stated that they had to make the books “available.” So to do this, they’ve listed the two books at outrageous prices and offered them for sale. I can’t say “no one” is going to buy the books at those prices, but I doubt there will be very many takers, and I doubt any of the books have actually been printed. I strongly suspect these are print-on-demand editions, which cost Pocket nothing in terms of prior investment. They only have to print when someone actually buys one.

    There’s no way I will earn any royalties on these books, because no one is going to buy them at these prices. So this action does not benefit me. Nor, obviously, does it benefit Pocket because they aren’t going to make any money either. So it’s a Mexican standoff on that.

    But another part of the contract refers to electronic rights. Pocket acquired the electronic rights in a contract dated January 1994, but they have never paid for them. They didn’t know what those electronic rights might develop into or how electronic editions would be priced, so there is no royalty rate listed for those rights, but rather a clause stating that any such rate will be negotiated at that time with the author, and both parties will negotiate “in good faith.”

    In other words, Pocket can’t put out a digital edition, and that’s where the potential money is. If they did have the rights, all they’d have to do is OCR the book — they still have the ability to print paper copies so scanning one is no big deal, or they could just buy a used copy and scan it — and start selling. This is what Harlequin is doing with all of their backlist, and it costs them virtually nothing but the books are being purchased.

    Pocket can’t do that with these two books because in order to do that, they’d have to negotiate a royalty rate with me. They have not offered to do so. And rather than do so — which could actually net them some money — they are doing something that accomplishes nothing for either of us.

    Readers can still obtain mass market copies of both titles from resellers on the internet. I just bought one of the 2004 editions of Touchstone — erroneously identified as a “first edition” which is is not. There doesn’t seem to be a huge demand for either of them, which is one of the reasons I can’t imagine even a dollar discount store wanted 27,780 copies of Touchstone. But they did, and that’s fine. So if readers want these books, they can find them. I won’t get anything for them, and neither will Pocket.

    As for hanging onto the rights being a “good” business decision, I don’t think it was in this case. Yes, it’s in the contract and I signed the contract knowing that the publisher had a vested interest in those rights. Years and years ago, publishers like Leisure and Zebra, both of whom I’ve published with, had 16 and 13 and 10 year reversion clauses, giving them plenty of time to see if an author was going to make it big and then go elsewhere. (Betina Krahn, for example, started at Zebra, then went to Avon, but Zebra reissued some of her earlier titles, with new covers and new titles, because they had the right to do that.) Pocket only had 3 years. But right now, 18 years after the sale, the important part of the sale isn’t the book rights — it’s those electronic rights. Rather than negotiate with me, they’re preventing themselves from exercising the rights they already have.

    It’s not like the sale of a house at all. That’s a transfer of property, and once they’ve bought it they have the right to do with it what they want, even if they let it fall to pieces.

    The sale of rights, with a reversion clause, is very different, because this sale includes provisions for my regaining “ownership,” and it does not give the purchaser the right to do “anything at all” they want with their purchase.

    I have no idea why Pocket has put $20 and $24 price tags on these POD reissues. Maybe that’s how much it costs to print one; I don’t know. But I can’t imagine very many people will buy them, even at $13 and $16 discounted prices. Hell, if I were a reader, I wouldn’t pay that much for an author I really liked and certainly not for a virtual unknown!

    My point was to inform other authors of what was happening to me so that maybe, if they want to go the traditional publishing route, they can avoid something like this. I’m not saying what Pocket did was illegal, because it’s not. And I’m not “demanding” that they give the rights back to me, because I don’t have the right to demand anything. But I do have the right to request it, and I resent this animosity toward me for doing nothing more than exercising MY right to request something.

    Pocket didn’t purchase a tangible piece of property — they purchased a right, and that purchase had conditions attached to it. Had they made an outright purchase of the actual copyrights to the book(s), which has been done many times in the past and is likewise perfectly legal and is much more like the sale of the house than a publishing contract is, then I would have no rights of reversion. But they didn’t. They purchased certain rights on certain terms, and they could not exercise those rights on which there were no terms for compensating me.

    So, how wise a business decision is it now, almost 20 years later, to hang onto rights they can’t exercise?

    They obviously don’t think the books are going to sell in either traditional mass market or trade printings, or they’d have gone ahead and done that. They didn’t. They’re relying on outrageously overpriced POD versions, and they’ve done such a shitty job of “promoting” that they don’t even have the author’s name correct and on many listings they have no cover art, which is really dumb because they’re using the same cover art from the originals. (No sense spending money on new cover art for books that won’t sell anyway.) If they’re intending to cash in on some sudden burst of popularity for this author who’s been out of the picture for 15 years, that’s a pretty stupid way to go about it.

    The operative word in the contract is “available.” All Pocket has to do is make the books “available,” in any format to which they have the legal right to produce them. POD is a legal right that they have, and that’s what they’re exercising. They won’t make much money off it, and I won’t make any, but it’s legal.

    If I knew then what I know now — and if my agent hadn’t been out of the country for a month right when the contract was being delivered — I might never have signed it with that ambiguous language. But I didn’t know, she was, and I did sign it. That’s a done deal.

    What I’m saying is that Pocket’s actions on this deal make no “good business” sense either for them or for me. I wanted the rights back because I wanted to issue an expanded digital edition, which Pocket can’t do. Now neither of us will. I don’t think that’s a good business decision at all. Because if I do write other books and I do go on to become a bestseller — oh, in my dreams, and yes, I’m being monumentally sarcastic — Pocket can cash in with new print editions of these books, but they can’t go digital. And as the shift, based on current statistics, is toward, not away from, digital publishing, they’re hurting themselves.

    I can’t change the contract, and I’m not threatening to break it. That would be stupid on my part. But I have the right to tell the tale of that contract and perhaps alert other authors so they don’t get into a similar situation.

    I’m not worried about having the publishing industry pissed off at me for my very public condemnation of them. They’ve been pissed off at me for a long time, and it hasn’t made a whole lot of difference to either of us.

    But if Pocket isn’t doing this out of good business sense, then why do it? Out of stupidity? No, I don’t think they’re stupid. But I do think there’s some lingering malice and vindictiveness, and I don’t think that has any place in business decisions.

  77. Linda Hilton
    Dec 02, 2011 @ 08:11:08

    @Jane: It was not an “incorrect understanding” at all. I simply wasn’t even discussing or referencing “copyright law,” and I saw no reason to continue a discussion in which i was being accused of “legal inaccuracies” when I hadn’t stated any legalities and was, in fact, clearly stating that I wasn’t discussing them.

    It’s like posing a question to someone, “Who do you think would have been a better designated hitter, Willie Mays or Ernie Banks?” and then have someone else come in and say that’s not a legitimate comparison and can’t be made because the National League doesn’t have designated hitters.

    I know enough about copyright law to have a reasonable discussion about it, but I’m not a lawyer — I’m a sociologist. I was trying to put the concept of copyright into a different sociological context completely separate from any statutory definitions, and I addressed my comment to dick. That discussion became impossible, Jane, when you insisted that it was about the law. I was the one making the comments and I was not making them about the law, so I bowed out.

    I’m doing so again.

    @Junne — Thank you. I did feel attacked.

  78. Jane
    Dec 02, 2011 @ 08:19:05

    @Linda Hilton Good lord, disagreeing with someone is attacking them? As I’ve explained before, to me a copyright discussion begins and starts with the law because there is no moral component here as there is in the UK where there are moral rights than run with the copyright. Obviously, you have some other ideas about what the copyright discussion can include. I don’t agree with those and use the comments to point out the disagreement. I assume you weren’t attacking dick when you were questioning his position?

  79. Linda Hilton
    Dec 02, 2011 @ 09:11:07

    @Jane: Jane, it’s not disagreeing with someone to tell them basically they don’t know what they’re talking about, when they insist they’re not talking about what you’re accusing them of.

    And I didn’t question dick’s position. I asked him if he would have a different perspective if there were a different context for his perspective. In fact, I thought he raised a very legitimate point, one I had never considered before, and I was actually exploring a whole new way of looking at copyright. Maybe his position would change and maybe it wouldn’t, but I thought I’d ask and see where it led.

    You acted as if that kind of discussion wasn’t allowed, or if it was, it was only so you could shoot holes in it — and in me.

    You see “copyright” from one perspective and one perspective only, a legal one. I happen to see it from that perspective too, but ALSO from another perspective, a sociological one, and dick’s comment opened up what I thought was a legitimate avenue for discussion whether I agreed with him or not. You butted in — after all, it’s your forum so you can do that — and insisted I didn’t know anything about copyright law. Well, duh, I wasn’t discussing copyright law! I was trying to explore a sociological discussion of the whole concept of “ownership” of an intangible.

    Apparently that’s not allowed, because all you did was criticize me for not sticking to the letter of “the law.” That’s why I brought up the baseball analogy. I know full well there are no designated hitters in the National League and i also know both Mays and Banks retired before the concept of the designated hitter was introduced in the American League. But it’s the CONCEPT I was trying to explore, and apparently you don’t deal in concepts but only in the letter of the law. Fine. You’re allowed to do that.

    I was around in RWA when the whole issue of Harlequin and “moral rights” came up, and I watched as author after author after author completely misunderstood the whole concept. They had a very narrow mindset of what ‘moral rights’ were and couldn’t wrap their heads around any other.

    But I guess you just can’t drop it, and you’re going to insist that ANY discussion of ANY topic involving the word “copyright” can only be framed by legal terms and statutes. I wanted to take the discussion outside that frame and see if there were concepts at odds with the legal ones.

    It’s like the difference between plagiarism and copyright infringement. Sometimes — in some cases — they’re the same thing. Sometimes they’re not. And yet most people, when discussing the concept, will use the term plagiarism even when the operative phrase should be copyright infringement. That’s because there is a cultural and social definition of plagiarism that automatically encompasses copyright infringement even when the legal definition doesn’t. And vice versa.

    When I posed the concept of copyright as an extension of labor “rights,” I wasn’t talking about minimum wage and OSHA and mandatory overtime or anything of the sort. That’s your concept of “labor” and it’s a very narrow and statutorily defined one. It’s not incorrect or inaccurate, but it’s not the same as my definition of “labor.” I wasn’t talking about and never referenced minimum wage or workers’ rights or on the job safety. Nothing even remotely like that crossed my mind.

    But I was thinking in terms of a worker’s individual right to the fruits of her or his individual labor as the owner of the means of production, not the production of widgets or blungers or even paperback books. But the production of a creative work that only he or she can produce.

    I guess that whole concept went over a lot of heads here, and for that I’m really sorry. I won’t bother you again with my comments, and if you wish to further this discussion, you’ll have to bring it over to my blog or put it in email.

  80. Courtney Milan
    Dec 02, 2011 @ 09:11:34

    Linda: I think what you’re saying is that you wish the US had some conception of author’s rights or moral rights, which cannot be contracted around.

    We don’t. We only have copy rights: the right to tell others whether they can and can’t make a copy. And once you’ve told them they can, you can’t later object to a use that is crazy.

    If you were in the right country in Europe, you would absolutely have a legal claim if they put your book out there in a crappy format that you didn’t agree to, and didn’t even put the right name on it. You’d be able to claim that they were tromping on rights of attribution, which we basically don’t recognize here, or moral rights, or some other conception of author’s rights that exists separate of the right to control the distribution and licensing of the work itself.

    We’re in the US, and you don’t, and I think that’s Jane’s point.

    But basically, I read you as saying that you wished we did things differently here.

  81. Linda Hilton
    Dec 02, 2011 @ 10:09:18

    @Courtney Milan: No, Courtney, that’s not it at all. Not. Even. Close.

  82. Moriah Jovan
    Dec 02, 2011 @ 11:52:02

    I think Linda’s talking about work product, e.g., medical records (which discuss a patient’s health but is not the patient’s property because it is the doctor who generated the record) or inventions created outside the scope of the scientist’s employment that he is NOT contractually obligated to hand over to his employer.

  83. Robin/Janet
    Dec 02, 2011 @ 17:10:33

    First, I think selling the DRM-free version of a book for a higher price is kind of backwards logic.

    As for this ridiculously priced backlist titles, oooh they frustrate me. I came across a Julie Anne Long title from a few years ago for like $23.00, and when I asked Long about it on Twitter she said she didn’t know what was up. I tweeted Warner Forever, who said they were going to follow up on the question, but I don’t think I ever got an answer from them. Again, if we’re looking at the big picture of actually selling books, seems like backwards logic. And very, very reader unfriendly.

    re. the labor and property rights issue, I read Linda Hilton’s question to dick as a philosophical one — namely, what if the philosophical model for IP was one of labor rather than physical property? But I also think Jane and Linda Hilton disagree in their posts; however, I think what Jane is focusing on is different than what Hilton is focusing on, thus the misunderstanding. I read it as Hilton saying: I’m asking a philosophical question, and Jane saying: Yes, but one of your premises is legally incorrect. There’s a good chance I’m wrong about that, but that’s how I read it.

    Part of the problem, I think, is that IP law is an artificial construct, and it doesn’t have a clear referent in other areas of law. It’s not akin to real property law, because when you steal real property, you deprive the property owner of the right to use that property, and that doesn’t happen with the violation of copyright. And it’s not akin to labor law, because we’re not granting IP rights based on the exercise of personal labor. Still, both are philosophically implicated in IP law, which I think can make the issues even more confusing to discuss.

    However, I’m not sure the philosophical questions can be divorced from IP law, per se, in part because those philosophical concepts are enmeshed in the evolution of IP law (one of the first things we discussed in my IP class was how Lockean labor theory helped shape the law). It’s definitely tough for me to think about these philosophical questions outside of IP law, because thinking about rights connected to ideas or works of art is, at some point, a discussion of legal protections, since we have so thoroughly codified so-called natural rights in our constitutional structure, which in turn has shaped our society and our philosophical perception of those rights.

    And now I’ve confused myself, lol.

    @Courtney Milan: I once had a student who handed in a paper that was one of the samples distributed to students taking the state college writing test. I happened to be a reader for the test that year and vaguely remembered the paper when I read it. When I found the original and confronted the student with it, he seemed genuinely surprised. I surmised that he probably purchased the plagiarized paper, which added another dimension of irony to the situation. I actually kind of felt sorry for the kid (he was an English language learner and struggling in more ways than just that), although not enough to give him a pass.

    @Isobel Carr: Apparently the Turnitin folks are trying to develop a similar service for fiction, but it’s a particularly daunting and slow process.

  84. Liz
    Dec 05, 2011 @ 13:27:10

    @Isobel Carr: I think the main reason that Amazon doesn’t use something like Turnitin is because most people don’t seem to have a problem with plagiarism. Because the only thing stolen were words and thoughts, it isn’t important, which is insanely wrong, but is unfortunately the way a lot of people think.

    Plagiarism only seems to be important to authors, readers, and school systems. Why is it that if you copy someone’s paper word for word and hand it in to a professor, it is something that you can get kicked out of school over, but when you copy bits and pieces of other people’s novels to use in your own, there aren’t all that many consequences? It appears that Cassie Edwards hasn’t published anything since 2009, but I have a feeling that has more to do with the stroke she suffered that year than anything having to do with the accusations of plagiarism brought against her by the Smart Bitches.

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