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Friday News: What Google’s New “Privacy” Policy Means for You

Friday News: What Google’s New “Privacy” Policy Means for You

Google has changed some of its policies regarding how it is collecting data from users. A couple of good links on the subject include the WSJ write up and the EFF write up at the USA Today.

WSJ:

In sum, Google is tracking every move you make and connecting it together. If you watch a Youtube video, google logs this and then analyzes it against the searches you’ve made and the emails you send. To avoid this, you must be logged out and by default, Google logs you in. To make sure you are logged out, look at the black bar at the top right corner. If it says you are logged out, you should be.

Of course, with these companies, who knows. The FTC head has indicated that they’ll be watching these monoliths like Google and Facebook as it relates to the privacy of user data.

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Maggie Stiefvater may believe that bloggers are non professionals writing non reviews and therefore are not afforded respect by authors, but Reed Business who owns and runs Book Expo America apparently disagrees. It has purchased the Book Blogger Convention and beginning in 2012, the Book Blogger Convention will be part of BEA.

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Speaking of non reviews and bloggers, this one author and publisher are seeking a contractual arrangement with reviewers. Insane Hussein posts a copy of a Book Reviewer contract. Sign it and you give the author/publisher various rights to use the review in whatever way they wish. Not so bad, right? But then there are the terms. The review must be graded on an unbiased 1 to 5 scale. It must answer five questions. It must be 400 words or longer exclusive of the answers to the five questions.

No book is worth that trouble. Not one.

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Julian Sanchez takes a look at the dollar loss claimed by the entertainment industry as a result of piracy. The numbers are so outrageous as to be laughable yet most of Congress (and many in the entertainment industry) take these numbers as truth.

[H]ere’s the upshot: The $200–250 billion number had originated in a 1991 sidebar in Forbes, but it was not a measurement of the cost of “piracy” to the U.S. economy. It was an unsourced estimate of the total size of the global market in counterfeit goods. Beyond the obvious fact that these numbers are decades old, counterfeiting of physical goods imported in bulk and sold by domestic retail distributors is, rather obviously, a totally different phenomenon with different policy implications from the problem of illicit individual consumer downloads of movies, music, and software. The 750,000 jobs number had originated in a 1986 speech (yes, 1986) by the secretary of commerce estimating that counterfeiting could cost the United States “anywhere from 130,000 to 750,000? jobs. Nobody in the Commerce Department was able to identify where those figures had come from.

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Does that mean online piracy is harmless? Of course not. But the harm is a dynamic loss in allocative efficiency, which is much harder to quantify.

Source: How Copyright Industries Con Congress.

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For the UK and UK rights territories (which I think includes Australia and New Zealand), Piatkus is starting up a digital only line to release digital versions of popular books

The first titles will be released on Valentine’s Day, 14th February, with e-books including Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake, 11 Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart, 10 Ways to be Adored When Landing a Lord by Sarah MacLean, and Winning the Wallflower by Eloisa James, as well as paranormal romance novella Eternal Blood by Laura Wright.

Novels will be priced £2.99, with novellas available at a lower price point. The imprint will also publish into omantic suspense, historical romance, paranormal romance and fantasy fiction, and contemporary women’s fiction genres.

Prices look good to me. UK readers?

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Remember how Apple just became the most profitable company in the world and is sitting on about 400 billion cash? Right, well, its devices are made in factories that treat people like animals. See NYTimes.

Employees work excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms. Some say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records, according to company reports and advocacy groups that, within China, are often considered reliable, independent monitors.

More troubling, the groups say, is some suppliers’ disregard for workers’ health. Two years ago, 137 workers at an Apple supplier in eastern China were injured after they were ordered to use a poisonous chemical to clean iPhone screens. Within seven months last year, two explosions at iPad factories, including in Chengdu, killed four people and injured 77. Before those blasts, Apple had been alerted to hazardous conditions inside the Chengdu plant, according to a Chinese group that published that warning.

NYTimes tweeted yesterday asking the question whether consumers would be willing to pay more for a device made in the US under humane conditions. Another person tweeted back and asked if Apple would be willing to have a lower margin than 44% to produce devices under humane conditions.

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There’s an article in Bloomberg’s Business Week that is worth a read because it is gossipy and insider-y about Amazon’s once rosy relationship with publishers and how it all fell apart when Amazon knifed them in the back and started selling digital books at a sub $10 price point. Larry Kirshbaum, the head of Amazon’s NY Publishing arm, once well liked, is now reviled according to Mike Shatzkin. Does Larry mind? I doubt it. I’ve heard that Kirshbaum’s checkbook is virtually bottomless and authors only hesitations might be their doubt that Amazon can get its books into brick and mortar stores. Amazon has signed a deal with Houghton Mifflin to print their books and distribute them but will Barnes & Noble agree to do so? After all, BN responded by pulling all the comics off the shelves when DC Comics made an exclusivity deal with Amazon. It won’t carry the digital versions of any of the Amazon publications. But if Amazon were to sign someone like Janet Evanovich or Steven King or the like, could BN say no?

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File this under “Skeptical” file, but Anobii is saying that DRM should be eliminated. The reason that this might be important is that Anobii is “backed by big publishers.

In a speech this afternoon at the Digital Book World Conference in New York, Berlucchi argued that digital rights management technology, or DRM as it is known, prevents more readers from buying e-books and may actually encourage piracy of copyrighted material.

Industry observer Mike Shatzkin, who is also chairman of the Digital Book World Conference called the argument “significant” because Anobii is partially owned by the UK arms of three major publishing companies, HarperCollins, Penguin and Random House.

As I’ve said before, elimination of DRM would actually help to loosen Amazon’s grip on digital book sales because you could shop anywhere and use a Kindle.

Unsubstantiated Cease and Desist Letters Under Scrutiny

Unsubstantiated Cease and Desist Letters Under Scrutiny

lolbunny - I iz planning revenge!
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For a blogger, even one with a law degree, a letter with legal threats makes you sweat, particularly the first one. I received my first perceived legal threat from an author over a satirical blog piece I did. The email demanded an apology and retraction, the first steps to a defamation suit. I took the complaint seriously and reviewed all my statements, the original blog post, and contacted a lawyer friend for her opinion. I then responded, forcefully, rebutting the claims and citing the law, and requesting the person to refrain from future contact unless through legal representation.

Since that time, I’ve had numerous legal threats lobbed Dear Authors way and I’ve taken them all seriously which is the way everyone should take a legal threat. Bloggers, however, are not without their resources. For example, there is the anti-SLAPP statutes being enacted around the country. A couple of weeks ago, a federal district judge in Northern California has provided bloggers one more shield.

If you are a regular reader of the blog, you’ll know that Victoria Laurie, an author, took the time to target a blogger who took portions of Laurie’s own blog posts and reprinted them on her site. Laurie recruited a friend of hers who is a lawyer to send the blogger what is commonly known as a “Cease and Desist” letter. A C&D is essentially a legal threat telling the recipient to take certain action or else. The “or else” is some type of legal action.   Laurie herself declared “I absolutely PROMISE you that if you continue in this vein I absolutely will pursue you to the full extent of both my pocketbook and the law.” (from Laurie’s deleted blog).

My feeling, as I blogged about, was that the lawyer, in sending this cease and desist letter, was engaging in actions that weren’t entirely in keeping with her state’s ethical rules. I spoke to Robin about it on the telephone, ranting over what I perceived to be the utter misuse of Cease and Desist letters and that the legal profession wasn’t living up to its own ethical prohibitions by not curtailing these more. There’s always an internal conflict between zealous representation and ethical representation.

The Lenz v. Universal Studios case, though, could help the legal profession police itself. Stephanie Lenz uploaded a video of her toddler dancing to Prince song “Let’s Go Crazy.” Universal Studios sent a C&D to YouTube demanding that the video be taken down for copyright infringement. After all, as the copyright holder, Universal Studios has the right over derivative works including performances. Lenz was infuriated, contacted a lawyer, and wrote to YouTube demanding the video be put back up because she had not violated any copyrights. The EFF got involved and sued Universal Studios for misrepresentation under 17 U.S.C. Sec. 512(f) of the DMCA.

According to Judge Fogel, the Digital Millenium Copyright Act requires the copyright holder (such as Universal Studios or an author like Victoria Laurie) to have “a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law, and therefore “the owner must evaluate whether the material makes fair use of the copyright.”

Universal argued that requiring the copyright owner to assess whether the use of the copyrighted material constitutes fair use would reduce the rapidity in which copyrighted materials could be taken down and be difficult to determine whether the material actually does constitute fair use.

The court rejected Universal’s arguments finding that the DMCA requires an initial assessment and that rapidity would not be harmed. “The purpose of Section 512(f) is to prevent the abuse of takedown notices. If copyright owners are immune from liability by virtue of ownership alone, then to a large extent Section 512(f) is superfluous.” Further, as Lenz argued, there is damage down to the public when non infringing or fair use of copyrighted material is wrongfully taken down.

Damages in a misrepresentation action could include attorneys’ fees as well as other items. “Lenz did incur actual damages in reviewing counter-notice procedures, seeking the assistance of an attorney, and responding to the takedown notice.”

Turning to our example case of Laurie v. ChariDee, Laurie had a duty to assess whether ChariDee’s use of Laurie’s copyrighted blog writings constituted fair use. In considering Fair Use, we need to weigh four factors:

  • the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  • the nature of the copyrighted work;
  • the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  • the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work

ChariDee used two paragraphs of material from a 20+ paragraph blog post. The blog post does not limit the potential market for Laurie’s own words. She is free to sell her rants, if she could find a market, to someone else. The purpose of ChariDee’s use of Laurie’s words was to commentary and not of a commercial nature. The copyrighted work was full of opinions and did not have much creative value.

The point of the ruling (and this post) is to point out that for those people who think about sending C&D letters based on the DMCA should engage in a good faith assessment of whether the use is fair because at least in some jurisdictions a baseless C&D letter will be grounds for its own suit.