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Friday News: Controversial new Spider Woman cover, Canadian copyright’s unintended consequences, Arab Noir fiction, and Gretna Green’s marriage business

Friday News: Controversial new Spider Woman cover, Canadian copyright’s unintended consequences,...

“But while diversity on the page has improved, diversity behind the pens really hasn’t,” said Sneddon. “There still just aren’t enough women breaking into the superhero comics industry, and covers like these help illustrate why – they put up a very big ‘no women welcome’ sign, which puts off not only women readers, but the many women creators working on a great variety of other comics.” –The Guardian

I think this is a really tough situation, because in the US, for example, textbook prices are insane, and many students, especially those at community colleges and state public institutions simply cannot afford to pay the exorbitant prices that are charged, especially for textbooks that become more and more expensive with each new edition, as compared to older editions with many less expensive, used copies available. There needs to be some kind of balance between compensating rights holders and upholding the spirit of fair use for educational purposes, which helps to facilitate new scholarship and research, as well as a strong foundation for educational access and learning.

Roanie Levy, the executive director of Access Copyright, explained that in educational institutions’ interpretation of the law, “it is fair for them to use up to 10% of a work or a chapter of a book. And they believe it is fair to copy a chapter, put it on a course management website, and share it with a class of 10 students or a class of 150 students…. It would be fair to take chapters from multiple publications, journal articles, and 10% of a book, compile it all into a course pack, and use that as the readings for a given class, without paying any of the rights holders.”
. . .
That impact is perhaps most apparent in the revenues lost when educational institutions decided not to renew collective licensing agreements administrated by Access Copyright. Under those agreements, universities pay C$26 per student and colleges pay C$10 per student as a flat fee for the reproduction of copyrighted material, and Access Copyright distributes royalties to the appropriate publishers and creators. According to figures provided by the organization, the drop-off in licensing renewals in 2013 resulted in a C$4.9 million decline in Access Copyright’s payments to publishers and creators last year. They lost another C$13.5 million in 2013 because provincial education ministries also stopped paying licensing fees for the K–12 sector in public schools. –Publishers Weekly

These translated thrillers captivated Egyptian readers in part because they shined a torch on the contested legal system of colonialism. The plots would be familiar to those who watch The Wire—inefficient courts, bumbling officers, the law’s futility in the face of crime. A classic example is Tawfik Al-Hakim’s Diary of a Country Prosecutor, a 1947 novel that’s part biographical, part hard-boiled, with a dash of bitters thrown in. The prosecutor waxes cynical about the legal institutions of British colonialism. In a satirical courthouse scene, Al-Hakim demonstrates the law’s worthlessness in the Nile Delta, where rural Egyptians are “required to submit to a modern legal system imported from abroad.” As in James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity, the law here can be fudged; the real disputes are settled outside of court.

“These novels form a tradition of legal muckraking,” writes Elliott Colla, chair of Georgetown’s Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies and the author of a new thriller, Baghdad Central. “Writing fiction about impolite or contentious social issues became an alternative way of addressing problems normally resolved through legal deliberation and action.” The stories of prosecutors and shamuses portrayed the ambiguity of law and order. All crime novels are political. –The Paris Review

But despite the whittling away of the legal distinction that made Gretna a marriage capital, it retains a romantic allure. “Running away to Gretna Green” remains a commonly used phrase. And couples still come. –BBC News

Thursday News: Facebook’s many experiments, Canada’s new anti-spam law, World Book Night US says goodnight, and two writers debate book categories

Thursday News: Facebook’s many experiments, Canada’s new anti-spam law, World Book...

In fact, Facebook knew most of the users were legitimate. The message was a test designed to help improve Facebook’s antifraud measures. In the end, no users lost access permanently.

The experiment was the work of Facebook’s Data Science team, a group of about three dozen researchers with unique access to one of the world’s richest data troves: the movements, musings and emotions of Facebook’s 1.3 billion users. –Wall Street Journal

Good point. The government says the law applies to anyone who sends spam to someone in Canada, but enforcing that is another matter. The agency will have its hands full just trying to apply the law in the first place, let alone tangling with complicated cross-border issues.

What Canada will do is try and work with other governments to go after the worst of the worst, which is what it does when it comes to telemarketers. In Canada’s own words: “[We will ] share information with the government of a foreign state if the information is relevant to an investigation or proceeding in respect of a contravention of the laws of a foreign state that is substantially similar to the conduct prohibited by this Canadian law.” –Gigaom

The problem in the U.S. was the cost of, production, organization and distribution. “The expenses of running World Book Night U.S., even given the significant financial and time commitment from publishers, writers, booksellers, librarians, printers, distributors, and shippers, are too high to sustain without additional outside funding,” executive director Carl Lennertz wrote in a statement. –Los Angeles Times

This is an experience very familiar to genre readers. However, categories can also ghettoize, as Mishra cautions:

Writers like Gary Shteyngart (Russia), Aleksandar Hemon (Bosnia), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria), Yiyun Li (China), Junot Díaz (the Dominican Republic) and Dinaw Mengestu (Ethiopia) have bypassed the old lines of connection between Europe and America. The ethnic and linguistic communities they belong to are spread across the United States rather than concentrated in the East and the Midwest. They may have grown up speaking Mandarin, Igboand Spanish at home; some of them fled disorderly societies and despotic regimes. But their advantages of class or education — and renewable intimacy with the mother country in the age of the Internet and cheap air travel — clearly mark them out from the huddled immigrant masses of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. –New York Times