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piracy

Monday News: Facebook screws with its users, the Netherlands tests the resale of digital books, a new documentary on Amazon, and The Princess Bride gets Legoed

Monday News: Facebook screws with its users, the Netherlands tests the...

Facebook Doesn’t Understand The Fuss About Its Emotion Manipulation Study – So Facebook, which appears to have zero respect for its users privacy, has also been intentionally manipulating content by way of “experimentation,” relying on the Terms of Service to compensate for actual informed consent. Worse, two academic researchers from UCSF and Cornell analyzed the data and wrote up the paper for a publication called the PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), an un-refereed journal that is nonetheless associated with the prestigious NAS. So many things wrong with this that it’s almost impossible to count, but there’s now a real concern that this experiment will serve as precedent for others like it – minus the public disclosure after the fact. A.V. Club initially broke the story, but I’ve used the Forbes piece because of all the updated information.

This weekend, the Internet discovered a study published earlier this month in an academic journal that recounted how a Facebook data scientist, along with two university researchers, turned 689,003 users’ New Feeds positive or negative to see if it would elate or depress them. The purpose was to find out if emotions are “contagious” on social networks. (They are, apparently.) The justification for subjecting unsuspecting users to the psychological mind game was that everyone who signs up for Facebook agrees to the site’s “Data Use Policy,” which has a little line about how your information could be used for “research.” –Forbes

The right to resell ebooks — major case looms in the Netherlands – Oh, this is interesting. Tom Kabinet, a retailer selling used digital books, is using a EU Court of Justice ruling from 2012 to justify its actions, while the Dutch Publishers Association (NUV), through its secretary general, Martijn David, is claiming threatening legal action and claiming that the retailer is “aiding piracy.” Although no court ruling on this issue is internationally binding, any legal consideration of this issue will likely affect how other countries approach the issue of reselling digital content.

On Tuesday this week, a local startup called Tom Kabinet opened the virtual doors on its secondhand ebook bookstore. At the moment, it is generally accepted that ebooks cannot be resold, as is the case with music, movies and other digital media.

However, Tom Kabinet is pointing to a 2012 ruling by Europe’s top court, the Court of Justice of the European Union, in the case of UsedSoft v Oracle. That case was about reselling licenses for downloadable software, and the court ruled that – even when the software license explicitly forbids resale – the buyer should have the right to resell that licence, just as they would be allowed to resell a boxed software copy. –Gigaom

‘AMAZON RISING’ PREMIERES JUNE 29 – Advertised as an “insider’s look” at Amazon and Jeff Bezos, the documentary premiered last night. David Faber produced this 60-minute program, and there’s a summary and a link to different national schedules here.

With more than 240 million customers, Faber reports on this powerhouse that has upended publishing, retail, and cloud computing, is poised to disrupt the supermarket industry, and faces increasing scrutiny as it extends its reach ever further into the fabric of American life. –CNBC

Celebrate romance with detailed Lego versions of famous Princess Bride scenes – While I was reading the Facebook story on the A.V. Club website, I came across this gem. While not a complete antidote to the Facebook mess, it’s a happy combination of Legos and Princess Bride. Although not very romantic, the Fire Swamp re-creation might be my favorite. –A.V. Club

Monday News: Brashear reclaims helm at Samhain, a tale of digital publishing, a South African street book reviewer, and Amanda Palmer on voluntary exchange

Monday News: Brashear reclaims helm at Samhain, a tale of digital...

Christina Brashear Returns as Samhain Publisher – This is pretty interesting. Brashear, who went from Publisher to President of Samhain in 2012, is back as Publisher, with a promise to “return” Samhain “to its roots.” Lindsey Faber is not only stepping down as Publisher, but leaving Samhain entirely (there’s something about her serving as a consultant to the company. Hmm.). If you remember, there were recently some apparent issues with contract terms for Samhain authors. Brashear claims the following deals are in process:

17-audiobook deal with feminist icon Susie Bright at Audible
4-audiobook deal with Insatiable
Front-list Samhain titles will now be available on the industry review site NetGalley
A newly revamped and designed website will launch this summer
Samhain will sponsor the Horror Writers of America/Bram Stoker Awards in 2015
The company will embark on aggressive mainstream commercial advertising, starting with the August issue of Cosmopolitan magazine

Says Brashear, “As part of this reorganization, Samhain will be returning to its roots of finding and publishing best-selling romance writers. The careers of New York Times best-selling authors like Maya Banks and Lorelei James started at Samhain nearly a decade ago. Now that I’m back at the helm, I’ll continue to nurture and support our current authors while looking to find that next generation of best-selling writers to take their work to the next level and continue to do what Samhain does best.” –PR Web

I Was a Digital Best Seller! – Tony Horwitz chronicles his foray into digital publishing. These stories tend to trigger all sorts of defensive rebuttals from self and digital publishing gurus and other advocates, but I think they serve as a very real, and very true reminder that a) the market is heavily impacted with self-published and digitally published authors, b) authors are doing more and more marketing of their own books, and if they serve as publisher as well as author, they’re likely doing most to all of it, and c) the term “bestseller” doesn’t necessarily translate to tens or hundreds of thousands of copies. Also, note the unsavory reference to “gaming the system” via friends and family reviews. *sigh*

Eager to know how many copies this represented, I asked Byliner for sales figures. It took them a while to respond — because, I imagined, they needed the time to tally the dizzying numbers pouring in from Amazon, iTunes and other retailers. In fact, the total was such that Byliner could offer only a “guesstimate.” In its first month “Boom” had sold “somewhere between 700 and 800 copies,” the email read, adding, “these things can take time to build, and this is the kind of story with a potentially very long tail.”

It was also the kind of story that could bankrupt a writer. I’d now devoted five months to writing and peddling “Boom” and wasn’t even halfway to earning out my $2,000 advance (less than the overrun on my travel). The cruelest joke, though, was that 700 to 800 copies made “Boom” a top-rated seller. What did that mean for all the titles lower down the list? Were they selling at all? –New York Times

The Unlikely Story of The Pavement Bookworm – Tebogo Malope, a South Africa cinematographer, recently filmed an interview with Philani, a 24-year old homeless man from Johannesburg who raises money through his love of books and his own literary literacy. The poignancy of this story hits on multiple levels, from its own social justice foundations to the personal inspiration Philani represents in a country (and within a continent) where basic literacy is still such a concern.

Philani is a bookworm who has chosen to review and sell books rather than resort to begging. He shows up on different streets of Johannesburg with a pile of books, and on request he will review the books, the authors, the publishers.

“He has read all the books in his collection and is always seeking for more to read,” says Tebogo. “He then sells some of his books as a way to raise money for himself and some of his homeless friends. I’m appealing to anyone that can contribute somehow into his life.

“He’s a great role model on the power of reading and can be an amazing ambassador for our young people.” –South Africa People

Amanda Palmer on the Art of Asking and the Shared Dignity of Giving and Receiving – In the wake of Tesla’s announcement that it was basically dumping its patents and throwing in with open source technology, I was thinking about the unremitting cries of piracy in the reading communities, and the equally persistent claims that readers somehow have a responsibility to make sure authors have food to put on the table, take care of their children, dogs, etc., etc. Which got me thinking about this interesting TED talk from musician Amanda Palmer, who, among other things, left her own music label and crowd sourced her next album. While her technique is pretty extreme, I think her philosophy is both sound and inspiring.

Palmer talks extensively about the concept of fair exchange between artists and their fans, and she does it in a way that emphasizes the difference between entitlement (on either side) and voluntary exchange. By focusing on the second, she reinforces what many have asserted about all the anti-piracy measures and talk, namely that it often gets in the way of what is a more “natural” circumstance — specifically that people *want* to pay for creative products, and when given the opportunity outside an environment of suspicion, demand, and control, that they will do so generously and voluntarily.

“I don’t see these things as risks — I see them as trust. … But the perfect tools can’t help us if we can’t face each other, and give and receive fearlessly — but, more importantly, to ask without shame. … When we really see each other, we want to help each other. I think people have been obsessed with the wrong question, which is, ‘How do we make people pay for music?’ What if we started asking, ‘How do we let people pay for music?’ –Brain Pickings