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Wednesday News: The FCC invites comments on Net Neutrality, Apple disappoints...

John Oliver’s Net neutrality response swamps FCC – I’m posting this story to serve as a reminder that the public comment period for the FCC’s new Net Neutrality proposal is open until July 15th. It’s also a pretty funny anecdote about how comedian John Oliver directed people to the FCC website for comment, which basically killed the FCC site (too much traffic — the irony is so rich). And if you aren’t up on Net Neutrality, there’s more information at the CNET site.

The FCC’s online public-comment system stumbled under heavy traffic Monday after comedian John Oliver capped a 13-minute segment about Net neutrality — the concept that all Internet content should be delivered without preference or discrimination — with a rallying cry to the Internet’s trolls to visit the FCC’s website and “focus your indiscriminate rage in a useful direction.” –CNET

Apple: There’s more than meets the eye in today’s announcements – In which we are sold the story that the disappointing Apple announcement was more significant than we think. A new programming language (Swift) that’s already making programmers and software developers swoon (allegedly), expanded cloud storage, etc. Still would have been better with new hardware, especially given Apple’s deficiencies relative to more inexpensive, larger screen phones.

As for the rest, in the attached video Yahoo’s Aaron Pressman says much of Apple’s announcement is a down payment on their future. Sure it wasn’t as sexy as an iPhone or iPad launch but Tim Cook and company unveiled the Homekit and Healthkit apps. They will allow third party hardware and software to better integrate with Apple’s ecosystem. –Yahoo

One Direction fanfic author gets book deal – There are really two stories here. First, the sale of a real-person fan fiction story to Simon & Schuster (details below). Then the allegation that the book, After, contains some plagiarized content, most notably from You’ve Got Mail. I’m not sure which story is more interesting, or troubling, but you can read about the plagiarism allegations on Jenny Trout’s site, which is linked to in her Twitter conversation about the situation.

Harry Styles-inspired fanfic After, by 25-year-old One Direction fan Anna Todd, has inked a three-book deal. Simon & Schuster acquired the series with a deal in the “mid-six figures,” according to Publisher’s Weekly. They also grabbed the story’s “world and audio rights,” meaning that spinoffs are possible as well — and movie rights are in the works.  –Entertainment Weekly

Arlington woman seeks millions in royalties from “Fifty Shades of Grey” – And speaking of fan fiction, there’s an interesting twist to the Fifty Shades story, or, more specifically, to the co-op that published the story. Jennifer Pedroza, one of the original owners of the Writer’s Coffee Shop, is suing another owner, Amanda Hayward, alleging that Hayward cheated Pedroza out of royalties when Fifty Shades was acquired by Simon & Schuster. Additionally, Christa Beebe, an employee of Writer’s Coffee House, is suing Hayward, basically for breach of an alleged employment contract. Both Pedroza and Beebe live in Texas, while Hayward is from Australia, where the Writer’s Coffee House is based, although there was apparently no partnership agreement among the women (including a fourth, Lea Dimovski, who joined in 2011), the year they published Fifty Shades.

From the outside, the history and status of Writer’s Coffee Shop has always been a little fuzzy (was it a publisher or was it a place for fan fiction writers to post and exchange their work), and it sounds like things weren’t so clear from within the Shop, either. It’s gonna be interesting.

Writer’s Coffee Shop was launched in 2009 by Pedroza, Hayward and Waxahachie resident Jennifer McGuire as a blog site in 2009. The three women had formed online friendships though a fan fiction website. McGuire did the design on the blog, Pedroza uploaded contributor’s writing and Hayward worked with authors, the suit says. In May 2011, it published Fifty Shades, followed by two sequels of the trilogy in 2011 and 2012.

Pedroza not only handled marketing for the runaway bestseller, she also packed the print-on-demand copies in her home for shipment. Beebe joined in January 2012 to help with marketing and distribution, first as an unpaid volunteer then as a salaried employee, it said. –Forth Worth Star-Telegram

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!

16 Comments

  1. ktgrant
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 05:28:25

    What if S&S doesn’t remove the alleged “plagiarized” content because their editing staff might not know it has copied word for word passages from books or movie or whatnot? I would assume Todd would remove it to cover herself and S&S from being sued, right?

  2. Ros
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 06:08:38

    Maybe I missed something, but the plagiarism didn’t look close enough to me, from what I saw on Jenny Trout’s blog. I’d believe the author had seen You’ve Got Mail (and it seems like she references the film by name later in the story) but it looked like she reworked the conversation in her own words.

    I do think, in general, that if a publisher is picking up fanfic, they need to be extra diligent about checking for potential plagiarism.

  3. Elizabeth Cole
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 08:31:21

    I haven’t seen You’ve Got Mail or read the 1D fanfic, so I can’t judge any plagiarism issues myself. But wouldn’t the assumption be that a major publisher would hand the author’s stuff to an editor for a reworking anyway? That’s a lot of money to just slap a new cover on and print as is.

    But maybe I’m being too generous in assuming the professionalism of Simon.

  4. lawless
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 11:37:54

    Re that last item, I expect the lawyers to do well out of it. Publishing without some organizational structure that protects personal assets (like an LLC, for example) is insane, but I expect no one had the foresight to plan for success or treat this as a business. If it’s not some statutory entity requiring organizational documents and public filing, it’s a general partnership, which means everyone’s personal assets are on the line. But that’s under US law. Arguably Australian law (which might not be that different) applies. Good luck with the choice of law rules — something a competent agreement would address.

  5. reader
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 11:42:32

    Posts about plagiarism these days make me laugh. You know why? Because the issue keeps cropping up and people give a flying fuck about it for all of five minutes. Then the plagiarist and his/her enablers go on cheerfully reaping the benefits of their non-labor.

    Why plagiarism is even noticed or commented upon anymore is beyond me. People have standards when it’s convenient for them. Which kind of goes against the whole point of having standards–but “standards” is the ongoing label.

    It’s a tidal wave of lip service and zero consequences for the folks who keep hopping blithely over the lines.

    I can either laugh or cry. So… Yeah.

  6. Isobel Carr
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 12:20:00

    So, when one is publishing real person fan-fic (and it’s been openly acknowledged as such and widely available with the original name/s), how does one deal with the standard fiction disclaimer that any resemblance to an actual persons is purely coincidental? Are they just vaguely hoping Styles won’t sue or is there some defense I’m missing or not understanding?

  7. Ros
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 12:47:06

    @Isobel Carr: Judging by the tiny amount of it I could bear to read, the resemblance to Styles is more or less limited to the shared name. But, I agree, it seems like the potential to be sued is huge.

  8. MaryK
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 13:08:27

    I hope somebody does sue over real person fan-fic. I find it very distasteful.

  9. lawless
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 13:31:46

    @isobel carr @ros: The standard fiction disclaimer is itself a fiction. What it really means is “this is all made up.” (For one thing, if that were literally true, no one could write historical fiction about real people and name them.) This fictitiveness negates important elements of every plausible legal claim I can think of: invasion of privacy (fiction can’t invade privacy), defamation (fiction can’t damage reputation), and interference with the right of publicity (once again, fiction).

    The AU (alternate universe) aspect of this reinforces this — the characters are not pop stars and groupies but college students. The more OOC (out of character) the so-called Styles character is, the less he’s like actual Styles and the more he’s inspired by Styles. And then there’s that pesky First Amendment right to freedom of expression.

    As a practical matter, a suit would cause a fan backlash (after all, it’s primarily fans who read and create 1D real person fic), it costs at least $50,000 to litigate a case to conclusion in the US, and at the end of the day, what are the damages (this probably only enhances the group’s revenue-earning ability) and could any damages be collected?

    Bottom line: With names changed, there’s no legal exposure here.

  10. Jenns
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 14:03:51

    I can’t imagine that publishing fan fic, specifically real person fan fic, isn’t rife with the potential for lawsuits. Anyway, something about it doesn’t seem kosher to me.

  11. Moriah Jovan
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 17:59:59

    @MaryK:

    I hope somebody does sue over real person fan-fic. I find it very distasteful.

    Well, what I find ironic is that Scarlett Johansson is suing an author likeness referenced in a novel. I thought it was ridiculous. Now I’m thinking, maybe not so much.

  12. Robin/Janet
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 18:06:53

    Re the question of litigation, there is the recent case of Scarlett Johansson suing over a French novel that features a character who bears a striking resemblance to Johansson and therefore has particular life struggles. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebritynews/10830209/Scarlett-Johansson-sues-author-of-novel-that-stole-her-image.html Of course she’s not suing in the U.S., but when you’re dealing with celebrities, I think the usual wisdom around who does and doesn’t sue kind of goes out the window, especially when you set the cost of litigation against potential publicity and celebrity relevance. And some celebrities are just more protective of their image and perceived IP rights than others (JK Rowling, anyone?).

    Thus far Gallery has been pretty careful about not referring to the story as One Direction fan fic, even though the hero and his friends are bear the same names as the group and everyone else and their brother has recognized it as RP fan fic (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/24/technology/web-fiction-serialized-and-social.html?_r=0)

    @lawless: From what I can tell, there are two organizations at issue, Writer’s Coffee Shop, which filed income tax returns in 2011 for a partnership, naming Pedroza as a general partner. Then there’s TWCS, an Australian business that Hayward allegedly created in 2011 for the Random House deal (for “tax purposes,” she claimed), under which Pedroza signed a “service agreement” and received a one-time payment of $100K for the book deal. The suit was filed in district court in Fort Worth, and a judge has already granted a TRO against Hayward collecting or spending any additional royalties from the 50 books. The next hearing is set for June 12, where the judge will determine whether to grant a TRO requiring Random House to submit additional royalties to the court until adjudication is complete.

  13. Shiloh Walker
    Jun 05, 2014 @ 08:23:00

    @reader:

    Why plagiarism is even noticed or commented upon anymore is beyond me. People have standards when it’s convenient for them. Which kind of goes against the whole point of having standards–but “standards” is the ongoing label.

    It’s commented on because it matters.

    Many people in romance land are very vocal about their disgust with plagiarism. That disgust has been enough to have plagiarized titles removed from Amazon ( Shey Stahl is the first to come to mind).

    They invest their time and bits and pieces of their lives because they do care, not to mention opening themselves up to hostility for speaking up about it and we continue to do it because it does matter. Will it stop those who will plagiarize or who have already done so? Who knows…the responses when they are discovered follow a certain pattern, but if the work gets pulled? That’s an end result that matters.

    A lot of plagiarists deny it-we know that. Some pull their books- or their books get pulled despite their denials – and they tuck tail and we don’t know what happens.

    On rare occasion (one that I know of) a genuine apology is made and the person attempts to learn from their mistakes… in that case ever single thing that was said, all the frustration, the aggravation became worth it, at least for me, although I wasn’t one of her victims. The thing is… she got it. She knew she messed up, she owned up to her mistakes, she made a real apology – all of that is huge.

    But more importantly, it’s also about educating and making people aware of the value of creativity. There are always going to be people who just don’t give a damn. But if everybody in general stops speaking because it’s like…hey, nothing changes, why bother…well, yeah, that’s what will happen.

    Nothing will change, except for the worse. Nobody will get educated, it will become more and more accepted that this is the normal, that creativity isn’t valued and it’s perfectly A-OK to keep it up.

    And it’s not.

    That’s why a lot of us continue to talk about it.

    People get upset enough to contact Amazon, to blog about it- as DA does, as Sarah on SB does, as numerous other bloggers does. Authors will discuss it on twitter, their own blogs, etc. And we all does this knowing that we will are very likely get attacked for speaking out, especially when the plagiarists have a large fan base. I say this from experience, because yeah, every time I blog about it, I’m *mean*…among other things. My inbox doesn’t stay empty much the days after I post about this kind of thing and that’s fine. I’ll deal. Because, IMO, silence isn’t the answer, either. I can’t change what they do, but I can speak my mind and if that has a ripple effect that helps get those books down? It’s worth it. If it educates even one person, it’s worth it.

    But we can’t stop plagiarists themselves. We can’t forcibly make publishers stop accepting materials from plagiarists, although we can continue to speak up about it, because when it’s made clear that the readers won’t accept it, maybe they’ll take a harder look at what they are buying.

    When the plagiarism is large enough and widespread enough, the outcry that comes from the community – the readers – and that has the most significant effect. Sales are affected-very often pulled from distributors all from reader outcry, the reputation is affected and all of that makes a difference.

    Plus, from a personal standpoint, it just plain pisses me off. It doesn’t matter if it’s being my work being stolen again, or somebody else’s.

  14. Susanna Kearsley
    Jun 05, 2014 @ 09:38:54

    @lawless:

    Well, not exactly.

    There’s a good summary of “The Legal Consequences of Using Real People in Fiction” here: http://www.copylaw.org/p/libel-in-fiction.html

    The tl;dr of that being: “If you were to say that fiction, which describes a world that doesn’t actually exist, was incapable of defaming a real person, it would be logical, but wrong.”

    And, “Despite the breathing space the First Amendment affords writers, not all libel-in-fiction lawsuits are resolved in favor of the author or their publisher partner.”

    There’s another good article on the First Amendment and Libel in Fiction here: http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/libel-in-fiction, which sums up: “Libel-in-fiction plaintiffs face some tough hurdles to clear in advancing their claims. They must establish that the works of fiction were “of and concerning” or about them. Sometimes meeting this requirement can be tough, particularly when there are significant differences between a plaintiff and a character in an expressive work.”

    I’m guessing, given the fact the Harry Styles character in After–an acknowledged One Direction fanfic–is actually called Harry Styles, he wouldn’t find it so “tough” meeting the requirement of proof, even with a later name change in the S&S version.

    Personally, I’d love to see him sue. But I suspect he won’t, for the fan-related reasons you outline.

    So once again, as with 50 Shades, it looks as though the content of the P2P work is going to make it impossible for us to have what I feel is the more relevant and interesting discussion, about the ethics of P2P in the first place.

    Too bad.

  15. Susanna Kearsley
    Jun 05, 2014 @ 10:33:31

    @lawless:

    Also, the reason writers can “write historical fiction about real people and name them” is because in most jurisdictions you cannot libel or defame the dead.

    Good summary of that point here: http://www.rightsofwriters.com/2011/01/can-you-be-sued-for-libeling-dead-john.html

    Even so, my own publishers tailor the disclaimer for my books (which tend to feature actual historical people as characters) to read: “The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously.”

    It will be interesting (to me, at least) to see what the disclaimer reads in “After”, when it’s published :-)

  16. Jane Davitt
    Jun 06, 2014 @ 17:59:15

    @Shiloh Walker: Sadly, Shey Stahl is back up at Amazon and blithely selling away with negative comments being attacked by her misguided fans.

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