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From the New York Post:

Artist Richard Prince has done album covers for Sonic Youth and A Tribe Called Quest; ranks as a darling of influential collectors such as Marc Jacobs, Peter Brant and Charles Saatchi; and until recently was repped by Larry Gagosian’s namesake gallery. He even collaborated with Louis Vuitton on a line of watercolor-print handbags.

But depending on whom you ask, Prince, 68, is either one of the world’s greatest artists or a stone-cold thief.

Making bank through provocation, the New Yorker has worked to create that division — and has the legal issues to prove it. So much so that his pal, “Spring Breakers” filmmaker Harmony Korine, has said, “For Richard, the lawsuits are also the artwork.”

It’s a good thing, since Prince currently finds himself up to his neck in them.

As put by Christopher Davis, one of the lawyers litigating against him, Prince is “a notorious appropriation artist who has made tens of millions of dollars over the course of his career by reproducing, modifying and preparing derivative works of others, typically without permission . . . ”

The current spate of lawsuits — four of them — are all related to 2014’s “New Portraits” show, originally mounted at Gagosian. Works in the exhibition depicted pictures of regular folk and stars — including Kate Moss and Pamela Anderson — plucked via screenshot from Instagram accounts, printed by Prince on canvases and tweaked with written comments from Prince.

For decades, Prince has mostly been able to sidestep other artists who felt wronged by his usage — free-expression laws afford a wide berth for adapting the visual work of others — but that trend may be reversing. In July, United States District Judge Sidney H. Stein shut down a request for dismissal of a suit from professional photographer Donald Graham, whose work was appropriated by Prince in “New Portraits.”

Graham said that he pursued legal recourse for himself and hopes to set a standard that will aid others. “Copyright is a foundation for photographers to make a living,” he told The Post.

Prince’s lawyer, Joshua Schiller, insisted: “We’re saying that it’s fair use.”

. . . .

Lacking traditional art training — the artist once admitted to Artforum, “I had limited technical skills . . . Actually I had no skills” — Prince’s career began after he moved from his childhood hometown of Boston to Manhattan in 1973 and got a job in the library at Time Inc. There, he snipped and archived magazine pages, foreshadowing his later work.

He started getting modest art-world attention in the late 1970s and early ’80s for pieces such as spot-on reproductions of cigarette ads. In 1983, Prince re-photographed a 1975 shot of a naked 10-year-old Brooke Shields and called it “Spiritual America” (the title was copped from an Alfred Stieglitz photo). It was first shown in the front window of a Lower East Side store rented by Prince for this single purpose.

Garry Gross, the shot’s original photographer, won a $2,000 settlement from Prince and an agreement that he would be credited every time the appropriated version was shown at the Whitney — a promise Prince reneged on in ’92. (After Gross pointed it out, Whitney employees credited him.)

In 2014, Prince’s copy of Gross’ photo sold at auction for $3,973,000.

Link to the rest at the New York Post

PG notes that if you enter fair use vs. derivative works or fair use vs. transformative use into your Google search box, you’ll find a great deal of commentary about the the line between the legal and the illegal under copyright law.

However, you will not find a bright line.

During his brief Google-dive into the topic, PG did find a piece written by someone at the University of Minnesota Libraries that PG thought described the issues clearly (and briefly) in terms a non-lawyer might appreciate.

PG also notes that the the University helpfully makes all content in the Copyright Information section of its website available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.

Here’s an excerpt:

Fair use is an important part of copyright law that provides some flexibility for users and new creators. At its core, fair use ensures that there are some kinds of uses that do not require permission or payment. But there are no easy rules for fair use – if you want to take advantage of its flexibility, you have to understand its complexities!

Although there are other exceptions to the far-reaching rights of copyright holders, most of those exceptions only apply in very limited circumstances. Fair use is much more flexible, but also much harder to understand and apply. To understand fair use, you need to be familiar with the four statutory factors, and the idea of “transformativeness”. To think through whether a particular use is a fair use, you have to look at these details and other associated issues as a whole. Even then, fair use is unpredictable enough that the best anyone can do is make a well-informed, reasonable guess.

Link to the rest at University of Minnesota Libraries – Copyright Information

The University also provides an interactive tool to assist in “Thinking Through Fair Use.” The Office for Information Technology Policy of the American Library Association also has an online interactive Fair Use Evaluator.

PG cautions that the use of these tools is not a substitute for consulting a competent attorney for close cases. He’ll also caution that fair use is not the only potential legal question. The proper/improper use of a trademark owned by someone else may come into play and the Right of Publicity may be another issue that comes into play.

PG will also note that executives of large entertainment conglomerates, many of which are located in the Los Angeles area, can be aggressive about enforcing their rights under a variety of theories. Think very, very hard before you include a picture of Mickey Mouse in your book or you will learn far more about copyright and trademark law than you know at present. (Here’s a link if you want a preview)

Bunker Hill

Sep. 20th, 2017 05:00 pm
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Bunker Hill is old town, lost town, shabby town, crook town. Once, very long ago, it was the choice residential district of the city, and there are still standing a few of the jigsaw Gothic mansions with wide porches and walls covered with round-end shingles and full corner bay windows with spindle turrets. They are all rooming houses now, their parquetry floors are scratched and worn through the once glossy finish and the wide sweeping staircases are dark with time and with cheap varnish laid on over generations of dirt. In the tall rooms haggard landladies bicker with shifty tenants. On the wide cool front porches, reaching their cracked shoes into the sun, and staring at nothing, sit the old men with faces like lost battles.

In and around the old houses there are flyblown restaurants and Italian fruit stands and cheap apartment houses and little candy stores where you can buy even nastier things than their candy. And there are ratty hotels where nobody except people named Smith and Jones sign the register and where the night clerk is half watchdog and half pander.

Out of the apartment houses come women who should be young but have faces like stale beer; men with pulled-down hats and quick eyes that look the street over behind the cupped hand that shields the match flame; worn intellectuals with cigarette coughs and no money in the bank; fly cops with granite faces and unwavering eyes; cokies and coke peddlers; people who look like nothing in particular and know it, and once in a while even men that actually go to work. But they come out early, when the wide cracked sidewalks are empty and still have dew on them.

Raymond Chandler

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From The Millions:

Towards the end of each year I do one of those anonymous surveys where I ask the students—high-school sophomores and juniors—how much they read, as a percentage, of each book. I’ve been doing this for the last 10 years or so, and the results are remarkably consistent: most students read most, but rarely all, of each book. About 15 percent read every single word of every single thing, some of it twice. These the kids who would read the contents list of a 7-11 freezer if told, the same students who tend to sit in the front row and take the kind of notes that end up in the Smithsonian. Another 15 percent admit to struggling to even open the books, but would gladly read the 7-11 freezer list because of its novelty value and the refreshing lack of obfuscating adjectives and modifiers. The 70 percent of students in the middle make up the dominant percentage, the ones who often leave little notes, not quite apologia, but regretful explanations about wishing that they had more time to do all the reading because they would have liked to, that they did most of it, that what they read of The Great Gatsby was really good but what with other homework, and athletics, and Uncle Steve’s birthday dinner, and the cousin in Jersey with leukemia, and x not yet having said anything about prom…well, there was a lot to think about.

All this at three separate independent schools in different parts of California. Like I said, remarkably consistent results, and results that translate across gender, race, and socioeconomic status. In terms of the not-highly-rigorous breakdown of those not-highly-rigorous statistics you get about 70 percent of the students reading about 70 percent of the material 70 percent of the time. All of which sounds terrific, except that most of the time, most of the 70 percent, and even some of the 15 percent taking Smithsonian-esque notes, see words rather than read them. For most high-school students, the act of “reading” recalls the soft glow of something done at night, before bed, in jim-jams with a cup of hot cocoa—the equivalent of night-time elevator music. Or, if not that, they’re “reading” on the bus, in the car, while standing outside class two minutes before the bell. And, at best, gaining an understanding of situation and context: who did what or said what to whom and where at what time in what kind of weather. Seeing words but not really reading them, a marriage without contact.

I want them to see reading as something far more intimate, even fractured at times, as something combative, vulgar, assertive—a constant back-and-forth between reading and rereading, moments of stepping outside the text then coming back and battering at it with questions. Something better done in a flak jacket than pajamas. And high school students hate doing it. Who, what, when, and where, of course, are essential. You gotta figure out who’s sleeping with whom before you ask why. There’s a brother involved? What? No. Wait! They’re on a train? If that part’s hazy, the next stop becomes SparkNotes and PinkMonkey, and you might as well hand out the 7-11 freezer list.

Link to the rest at The Millions

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From Ars Technica:

There’s a tattoo as a design, and then there’s that same tattoo after it’s inked on the human body. Tattoo artists often copyright their tattoos. But does that copyright stick once the image is inked on the human body?

So far, no US court has ruled that it does, despite several lawsuits on the topic that have settled out of court or have been dropped. But barring a settlement, we might soon get our first ruling on the topic, and we have video games to thank.

Tattoo artists are suing the makers of the highly popular NBA 2K game series for the allegedly unauthorized use of their tattoos as they appear on popular players like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kenyon Martin, DeAndre Jordan and others. In short, Solid Oak Sketches says that Take-Two Interactive Software is infringing its copyrighted works because the game shows the players with their real-world inked tattoos that Solid Oak Sketches has copyrighted.

In response, Take-Two says (PDF) Solid Oak Sketches is seeking “to hinder the ability to depict people as they appear in real life. Solid Oak is not an aggrieved artist—it is an opportunist.”

. . . .

US copyright law protects “original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression” that “is sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated for a period of more than transitory duration.”

Solid Oak Sketches claims the flesh constitutes the fixed medium.

“The copyrighted tattoo designs are imprinted permanently upon the skin of humans, clearly stable and able to be perceived for much more than a transitory duration,” Solid Oak Sketches argues.

. . . .

Take-Two argues that Solid Oak Sketches posits an absurd argument and claimed as much in a legal filing:

In essence, Solid Oak argues that these public figures must seek its permission every time they appear in public, film, or photographs and that those that create new works depicting the players as they actually appear (with their Tattoos) should be enjoined and pay damages to Solid Oak.

What’s more, even if the tattoos are copyrightable, Take-Two argued that it has a fair-use right to show the players with their tattoos, which are not a prominent feature of the video game.

. . . .

Perhaps the most famous case involved the tattoo inked by Victor Whitmill on Mike Tyson’s face. Whitmill sued Warner Brothers in a bid to block the tattoo from appearing on a character played by Ed Helms in the movie Hangover Part II. Whitmill had sought a court order to prevent the movie from showing in 2011. The film went on as planned, and the parties settled out of court.

Before the case was settled (but during an open-court session), US District Judge Catherine Perry of Missouri said, “Of course tattoos can be copyrighted. I don’t think there is any reasonable dispute about that.”

. . . .

[Copyright scholar David] Nimmer [argued] that if tattoos were subject to copyright, then the rights holder could sue somebody to block it from being removed.

The tattoo qualifies as an original “work of visual art” that may gain “recognized stature,” with the result that a court may enjoin its destruction. See 17 U.S.C. § 106A(a)(3)(B). After a court invokes that provision to bar him from removing his tattoo, Mr. Tyson literally may not show his own face to the world; that is, he will be required to keep Mr. Whitmill’s handiwork spread across his face, regardless of his own desires. Copyright law thereby becomes the instrument to impose, almost literally, a badge of involuntary servitude, akin to the mark with which ranchers brand the cattle they own.
Plenty of ink

Link to the rest at Ars Technica

PG says don’t get a tattoo of Mickey Mouse. Your body will be Exhibit A.

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From PC Magazine:

Amazon wants to push Alexa-powered devices into as many areas of our lives as possible. That’s why we have multiple Echo-branded devices to suit different areas of the home, why Alexa is on smartphones, is being integrated into wireless earphones, and why there’s an Alexa Voice Service Device SDK for easy integration with other commercial products.

But Amazon wants Alexa to be available everywhere, at all times, and without the need to even take a device out of a pocket to use it. To achieve that, Amazon is apparently working on perfecting Alexa smart glasses.

According to the Financial Times and The Verge, Amazon is hard at work on a pair of glasses.

. . . .

Forget about a built-in display or a camera, Alexa smart glasses will be extremely simple. They are thought to be as close to a standard pair of glasses as you can get while still integrating Alexa functionality and the necessary power for the voice assistant to function. A lack of camera or display not only cuts costs, but bypasses any privacy concerns.

Hearing what Alexa says is expected to be done through bone conduction, meaning people will be seen talking to themselves in the street and receiving responses no one else can hear. I think we’re all used to seeing that already thanks to hands-free gadgets.

Link to the rest at PC Magazine

PG expects the world to look like a better place when one is wearing Amazon glasses.

He can hardly wait for vision-based Amazon orders. Forget the Dash button, just look at a box of laundry detergent and the UPS driver will drop it on your porch the next day. Look at a diamond ring . . . .

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From Rebecca Tushnet’s 43(B)log:

Dankovich v. Keller, 2017 WL 4081852, No. 16-13395 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 15, 2017)

Interesting dispute: the pro se litigant didn’t like the editing of his essay, including the clickbaity headline added by the editors, and sued for various fraud/false advertising claims. The magistrate judge recommended denial of leave to amend/dismissal of various claims, and the district judge agreed.

Dankovich wrote an essay about his experience as a young prisoner in solitary confinement.  He sent a draft to defendant Eli Hager, an editor at defendant The Marshall Project, a non-profit news organization that focuses on the criminal justice system. He called the essay The Riving, which dealt with “how quickly solitary confinement can institutionalize and mess with the mind of an adolescent.” Hager requested a few alterations and stated “[j]ust like last time, my higher-up editor will have the final say, so I don’t want to make any promises. But I definitely CAN promise that if you keep working on these pieces and future submissions, you will definitely be published here.” He responded, and then Hager sent him “the latest” version and said that it had moved to the top of the queue for publication. The Marshall Project, in collaboration with defendant VICE, published the essay under the title I’m Losing My Mind after Refusing to Plead Insanity for Murdering My Mom. Dankovich also alleged other changes to the text of his essay, including that he pleaded no contest to the murder of his mother when he pleaded guilty, and that “around”—not “on” — his eleventh birthday he was taken to the hospital for physical abuse by his mother.  (The plea information was apparently later corrected.)  Dankovich objected to the published version but Hager told him that VICE Media wrote the headlines and wouldn’t be changing this one.

. . . .

The statement, “My editor just informed me that she liked your piece (‘The Riving’) so much that she’s moving it to the top of our production queue,” wasn’t a statement that the piece would be published as submitted, nor was the statement that “[a]ll of the different parts are still yours, but they’ve shifted around a lot of lines to make things pack more of a punch” false in context, which included Hager’s statements that he wanted Dankovich to see the edits “since it’s your piece” but that “this kind of editing happens with all of our pieces.” The statement “[a]ll of the different parts are still yours” was thus, in context, not a representation about the published version would be “all his.”  Dankovich’s subjective interpretation was wrong, but that didn’t make out a fraud claim.

. . . .

Initially, Dankovich only pled §43(a)(1)(A) claims, but wanted to argue false advertising: “Defendants continue to advertise a completely false statement which Plaintiff has never written or uttered with Plaintiff’s name online, advertisement which furthers The Marshall Project’s business and political goals.”  The initial complaint argued that the headline was falsely attributed to him.  Considered as false advertising, this fell short: there were no facts alleging that any false statements were made in “commercial advertising or promotion.”

Link to the rest at Rebecca Tushnet’s 43(B)log

The name of the blog where the OP appeared refers to 15 U.S.C. 1125 (Section 43 of The Lanham Act), which prohibits False Designations of Origin, False Descriptions, and Dilution.

To give you a flavor of The Lanham Act, here’s how it starts:

(1) Any person who, on or in connection with any goods or services, or any container for goods, uses in commerce any word, term, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof, or any false designation of origin, false or misleading description of fact, or false or misleading representation of fact, which—

(A) is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive as to the affiliation, connection, or association of such person with another person, or as to the origin, sponsorship, or approval of his or her goods, services, or commercial activities by another person, or

(B) in commercial advertising or promotion, misrepresents the nature, characteristics, qualities, or geographic origin of his or her or another person’s goods, services, or commercial activities,

Since PG is certain this little taste will give rise to an uncontrollable craving for more Lanham Act, here’s a link to the entire masterpiece. If that’s not enough, Ms. Tushnet’s blog has more and there’s Lanham Act: Litigator’s Casebook (the ebook is free).

Of course, everyone knows The Lanham Act was named for Representative Fritz G. Lanham of Texas.

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From DNA Info:

We’ve got bad news for anyone who assumed the wildly popular “Stranger Things” pop-up bar would get an extended run.

Netflix won’t let the Logan Square venue at 2367 N. Milwaukee Ave. stay open past the six-week mark.

The streaming/production company’s legal team sent an adorably nerdy — yet firm — letter to the folks behind the pop-up on Aug. 23, insisting the bar close by the originally scheduled end date, Oct. 1.

“Look, I don’t want you to think I’m a total wastoid, and I love how much you guys love the show. (Just wait until you see Season 2!) But unless I’m living in the Upside Down, I don’t think we did a deal with you for this pop-up,” the letter reads.

“You’re obviously creative types, so I’m sure you can appreciate that it’s important to us to have a say in how our fans encounter the worlds we build.”

The letter goes on, saying, “We’re not going to go full Dr. Brenner on you, but we ask that you please (1) not extend the pop-up beyond its 6 week run ending in September, and (2) reach out to us for permission if you plan to do something like this again.”

. . . .

“If Netflix were OK with us running The Upside Down project through the season two premiere & the Halloween weekend we would most definitely have continued this incredible party a little bit longer!” manager Jared Saul wrote in an email. (The season two premiere is scheduled for Oct. 27.)

Link to the rest at DNA Info and thanks to Pete for the tip.


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From No Shelf Required:

An essential aspect of early education, formal and informal and in every human culture, is coaching the very young to communicate articulately. Through explicit means, such as the preschool teacher’s
reminder to “Use your words [rather than slap the kid who just hurt your feelings]” to the implicit demand that responding when asked a question is required, we work at sharing, preserving, and refining language to serve our purposes as a social fabric.

With Samuel Johnson’s 308th birthday noted by Google and other less pervasive sources today, it’s a good time to consider how audiobooks and listening to language both maintain and expand each generation’s capacity to understand, speak, and choose the most appropriate words each individual can to keep that social fabric strong and dynamic.

. . . .

Listening to rich language, crafted by authors who make their characters both credible and relatable, and performed by narrators who understand both the rhythms of the writer and the needs of the audience, serves as a direct route to vocabulary building, flexibility in personal expression, and empathy development. Audiobooks ensure language as a lived experience, without regard to whatever verbal poverty or carelessness a child’s home might afford. For many, listening to audiobooks may be one of the few occasions when spoken language is both directed at them and demands no immediate action, simply inviting the warm bath of soaking in words, phrases, meaningful intonations that range across a wide spectrum of emotions and intentions, and opportunities to be held rapt.

Link to the rest at No Shelf Required

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From The Digital Reader:

If you waterboard a Book People you might be able to get them to discuss what might happen _if_ Barnes & Noble goes bankrupt: it will be bad for old guard publishers.

What you won’t hear them say is that the current trend toward digital is going to make B&N obsolete as a bookseller (instead, they’ll assume  static system), or that the current mismanagement renders any discussion of B&N’s future moot.

The Book People at Publishers Weekly, for example, continue to ignore the writing on the wall, instead reporting:

During its annual meeting held Tuesday morning at its flagship store in New York City, Barnes & Noble chairman Len Riggio supported its new CEO, Demos Parneros who was named to his current role in April.

During the meeting, Riggio called Parneros “the perfect fit” to help the company grow its top line and improve profits. Observing that Parneros “has brought lots of energy to the company,” Riggio said he is looking forward to watching the executive over the next few years, noting that Parneros shares his vision and will revive B&N “store by store.”

The thing about Parneros is that in his first quarter at the head of B&N, revenues fell by 6.6%. That is not entirely his fault, but his plans for turning around Barnes & Noble amounted to six paragraphs of buzzword bingo. This does not inspire confidence in the man, and that should make you wonder why Riggio is so certain about Parneros ability to help B&N rise from the ashes.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

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From Fast Company:

In 2015, The New York Times caused quite a stir by publishing “The 36 Questions That Lead To Love,” based on work by the psychologist Arthur Aron. The main idea was that people would have to be incredibly vulnerable to ask and answer such questions—and doing so could quickly build intimacy.

“The most interesting thing from the research,” said Kevin Cornish, the director of Fall in Love VR, “is this premise that the thing that creates human bonds is not the words we say to each other, but the act of conversation.”

In Cornish’s new virtual reality project, released today for the Oculus Rift, users confront the question of whether it’s possible to experience intimacy with an avatar by sitting across from one of five photo-realistic actors and, one by one, asking many of Aron’s questions off prompt cards. Out loud.

The speaking-out-loud bit is key, as the potential love interests, looking adorable, yet vulnerable, respond only when the specific questions are asked. Ask or say anything else and they just sit there looking expectant.

That’s because Fall in Love VR, from Tool of North America, uses natural language processing –becoming among the first to utilize the technology in an interactive VR project–to make users feel like they’re truly having an intimate conversation. Cornish said he got the idea when working on a VR film with Taylor Swift. “There was one moment where [Swift] looks into the camera,” he recalls, “and it feels like she’s looking at you and talking to you. There’s a connection that you can get in VR and not any other medium.”

Added Cornish, “The idea is taking all the advancement in natural language processing and pairing that with an intimate conversational experience to give a sense of what it’s going to be like when we’re having conversations in virtual reality. It’s like that moment in [the film] Her, when there’s that question of how many people are you talking to, and how scalable is it [to have an AI say the words and have them repeated again and again to other users]….I only have to have that conversation once. It’s kind of like the VR equivalent of what CC meant for email.”

In short, the idea behind Fall in Love VR was to give users a conversational experience where the joy comes from the simple act of having the conversation.

. . . .

Although that gives the initial impression that this will be a two-way conversation, it really isn’t. The entire experience is built around you asking the avatar questions, and them answering. In the early stages of production, Cornish explained, the idea had been that the avatars would ask you questions as well, but that was quickly rejected because in testing, Tool found it put people on the spot, which left them feeling uncomfortable. The decision was made to limit the functionality to asking questions of the avatars and having them respond. So those interactions have to be as realistic as possible.

. . . .

“So much of a personality is based on a face,” he said, “It’s that idea of pairing natural-language and machine learning with the personality and the warmth and eye contact that come with having a photo-realistic human face.”

. . . .

Cornish is also fond of one bit of feedback he’s heard on multiple occasions: “We hear, ‘my wife would be jealous of this,’ or ‘my boyfriend would be jealous.’ It’s such an interesting thing in making a film that that’s the reaction….It really comes from the eye contact and the naturalness of” the interaction.

Link to the rest at Fast Company

PG is certainly not the only one who immediately started thinking about all the things that could go wrong with this.

Perhaps it’s a good writing prompt.

Where Crime Fiction Meets the Talmud

Sep. 19th, 2017 04:00 pm
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From Electric Lit:

Tod Goldberg, the writer — the one who told me in my first quarter of his MFA program to stop being intimidated by everyone because, “we’re all just people who sit around in our underwear, late at night, typing” — is introspective and deeply concerned with the welfare of people. Goldberg writes his observant vulnerability into the heart of his stories — even the ones involving killers.

Goldberg’s newest book, Gangster Nation (Counterpoint), is the sequel to his award-winning 2014 novel, GangsterlandThe series is going to be produced for TV by the team behind Peaky Blinders. The premise of the books is that Sal Cupertine, Chicago mafia hit man, makes a mistake: he shoots undercover FBI agents in a deal gone bad. He’s subsequently hidden in a temple in Las Vegas, given a new face, and a new identity: Rabbi David Cohen. Since he’s not Jewish — and has to become so, at least ostensibly— quickly, Rabbi David Cohen pulls from the Jewish texts he binge reads and rounds them out with Bruce Springsteen lyrics. Gangster Nation picks up two years after Gangsterland: Sal’s new face is failing him, and he is growing desperate to reunite with his wife and son.

. . . .

HSP: A lot of angst in Gangster Nation comes from The Family’s middle management. The idea that working for someone else, doing the drudgery that it takes to keep things moving is soul-crushing. In the case of this novel, it pushes some of the lesser-knowns to make bold, even sloppy, moves toward greatness. Have you had any of those moments in your professional life? Did any of your previous jobs push you toward what you ultimately wanted to do, simply because they were so banal?

TG: I worked for a while in the infomercial business. This was right after I graduated from college and was trying to become a writer, so the mid-1990s. It was a terrible job. I was an account executive for a bunch of products with really dubious names and claims. There was one whose whole concept was that you could do exercises for your face that would essentially make you look decades younger, thus eliminating the need for plastic surgery, and yet it was, ironically, lauded by plastic surgeons. You can make yourself look like a cat for pennies on the dollar compared to plastic surgery! That wasn’t the call to action, but in my mind it was. Anyway, working in the infomercial business, even for just a year, I saw and experienced some deeply weird stuff. There was one time we got a call about a boatload of those rice pillows that had been infested with vermin, which then led to a discussion about how one burns vermin infested rice pillows on a boat in a port. We had an exercise device we sold that had some tension spring that was shooting out of it and breaking windows and hitting animals and children and such, which prompted a massive recall and a lot of panicked phone calls that inexplicably landed on my desk.

. . . .

I tell you this all as a long way of saying that even then, at the bottom rung of an organization the seemed at best morally toxic by definition (separating people from their money in hopes that their cheeks won’t sag is a grift, folks, no matter if it’s on your TV or someone comes to town with a magic tonic) and actually abetting criminal activity at its worst, I only really figured out something was amiss when I came to work and the bagels and snacks had been removed from the kitchen. There was a meeting that day and our boss announced that in order to cuts costs because of the projectile tension screw problem, there would no longer be free snacks…and that there might be a few layoffs. I can’t say I made any bold moves toward greatness at that moment, but I did come home and tell my then-girlfriend-now-wife that if I had to work at that place any longer, I might jump out a window and that I really wanted to try to make a go at this writing thing full time, but not, categorically, in the infomercial business.

Link to the rest at Electric Lit

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From ITWorld Canada:

Audible is launching its first Canadian dedicated service, marking the first time the Amazon subsidiary is launching a bilingual website.

Audible.ca is live as of today, Sept. 13, offering 300,000 audiobooks and other audio content, including 100 new titles from Canadian authors in English and French. What differentiates it from its U.S. counterpart, audible.com, is that now Audible is specifically curated for English speaking and French speaking Canadians.

“A tremendous amount of writers and authors come out of Canada, and we want to recognize Canada as a unique destination with multiple cultures,” said Chris Cooper, head of international at Audible, over the phone with IT World Canada. “We want to really service Canadians with an authentic Canadian approach.”

In order to do that, Audible has specifically curated both the English and French versions of the site so that users won’t just see a translated version of the same page. This is the first time curation by language is being offered in a market, and the company has earmarked $12 million CAD over the next three years to invest in Canadian writers and voices.

“You can go back and forth with ease and just recognize the other cultures. We want to be part of the social fabric and be respectful; be a respectful visitor and resident and realize that there are cultural differences,” said Cooper.

. . . .

The launch of a dedicated Canadian service comes at just the right time, as last week Toronto-based Kobo launched its own audiobook service that will feature audiobooks from a range of publishers that Kobo already works with on the e-books front. Similarly, Kobo members can buy audiobooks individually or by subscribing to a monthly service for one download per month.

. . . .

Kobo CEO Michael Tamblyn, in an email to IT World Canada said Audible isn’t really new competition since it’s been around since the 1990s. Besides, Kobo has already grappled with the competition posed by Amazon.

“Kindle was the only game in town for eBooks when we started, and yet we grew to be the dominant player in Canada by focusing on Canadian authors and publisher partnerships, and ultimately, Canadian readers,” he said. “We believe there is a huge playing field here for audiobooks.”

Link to the rest at ITWorld Canada and thanks to Tudor for the tip.

In case Canadian visitors to TPV didn’t catch it in the OP, Audible understands you’re not the part of the United States that is located somewhere north of Montana. Audible understands that some of you like to speak English and others prefer French.

Audible is also sensitive to the hockey and non-hockey elements of Canadian culture and knows Molson is not the Canadian Budweiser.



[syndicated profile] thepassivevoice_feed

Posted by PG

From Buffer:

Engagement on Facebook Pages has fallen by 70 percent since the start of 2017, according to BuzzSumo who analyzed over 880 million Facebook posts by brands and publishers.

. . . .

But we feel there are ways we can combat this organic reach decline on Facebook and we’d love to share some strategies with you.

In this post, we’ll share 14 straightforward ways to increase your Facebook Page engagement — many of which are proven and have worked for us.

. . . .

Here are the 14 tactics you can try today to increase your Facebook Page engagement:

  1. Post less
  2. Post when your fans are online
  3. Create specifically for Facebook
  4. Try videos
  5. Go live
  6. Share curated content
  7. Ask for opinions
  8. Boost your top posts
  9. Recycle your top posts
  10. Watch other Facebook Pages
  11. Experiment with new content
  12. Reply comments
  13. Host giveaways (occasionally)
  14. Create a linked Facebook Group

Let’s dive in!

1. Post less

Posting less grew our reach and engagement by three times.

. . . .

focus on quality instead of quantity.

We were able to share the best content every day when we post only once or twice a day. When we were posting four to five times a day, we struggled to consistently find so much great content to share.

If you are a solo social media manager or a small business owner who handles your own social media, you might have experienced this before. Finding great content takes time, and you don’t always have the time to do that.

. . . .

5. Go live

Facebook has also been pushing their Live videos a lot in this past year.

They tweaked their algorithm to rank live videos higher when they are live than when they are no longer live. Facebook reported that “People spend more than 3x more time watching a Facebook Live video on average compared to a video that’s no longer live” and “people comment more than 10 times more on Facebook Live videos than on regular videos”.

Link to the rest at Buffer

[syndicated profile] thepassivevoice_feed

Posted by PG

From Upworthy:

Cecilia Bembibre and Matija Strlič remember how it smells to enter the library of Dean and Chapter.

The library is nestled above the main floor of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, tucked away behind the southwest tower. Coming through the long stone corridors of the cathedral, a visitor is met with a tall wooden door, usually kept closed. The outside world might be full of the smell of fumes from central London’s busy roads or the incense that wafts through the church, but once you open that door, a different smell envelops you. It’s woody, musty, and a little bit familiar.

“It is a combination of paper, leather, wood … and time,” said the pair.

. . . .

Bembibre and Strlič are scientists from the University College London’s Institute for Sustainable Heritage. Many people might find the aroma of an old, yellowing book nostalgic, but for Bembibre and Strlič, it can be so much more.

For them, what we smell is just as much a part of our heritage as what we see or hear — and they’re on a mission to preserve it.

. . . .

For their latest work, the pair used both high-tech chemistry and an old-fashioned human nose to document the smell of books.

Volunteers were asked to describe either the aroma of the cathedral library (woody, smoky, vanilla) or antique books (chocolate, burnt, mothballs). Bembibre and Strlič then combined these descriptors with analyses of the faint, airborne scent-laden chemicals (known as VOCs) that the items or locations were giving off.

The pair then synthesized these findings into the Historic Book Odour Wheel, which pairs the chemical signatures and human descriptors together. Using it, you can see that a book with a rich caramel smell might be impregnated with the chemical furfural or one with an old-clothing funk might be giving off the chemical hexanal.

. . . .

“Our knowledge of the past is odourless,” the authors write in their paper. But our lives aren’t.

Link to the rest at Upworthy

PG prefers the aroma of cinnamon rolls in the oven.

[syndicated profile] thepassivevoice_feed

Posted by PG

From The Digital Reader:

I have been writing about industry trends in bits and pieces in each news story, but it has been a long while since I last pulled everything together, took a step back, and told you what I see.

I can sum it up in a single sentence: The major publishers are dead because they bet against digital, which is the future.

The thing about the major publishers is that they thought they could make the market go where they wanted.

They didn’t want ebooks to cannibalize print sales, so they conspired with Apple in early 2010 to bring about the Agency model. Then they doubled down on their bet with Agency 2.0, and hedged that bet by sabotaging subscription ebook services like Scribd and Oyster by saddling them with nonviable business models.

It is now 2017, and book publishing is in the later stages of a transition to digital.

. . . .

The major publishers bet against digital, and they continue to do so, and it is going to kill them in the long run. In fact, we can see them die bit by bit. First they dropped mid-list authors, then they started dropping best-selling authors.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

PG thinks the illegal collusion between the big publishers to force Amazon to set higher prices for ebooks was an important milestone on their path to suicide. They got together in various New York restaurants to engage in face-to-face groupthink.

Here’s a summary from Wikipedia:

The Publisher Defendants sold over 48% of all e-books in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2010. The Publisher Defendants along with Random House Publishing are the six largest publishers in the United States (collectively the Publishers) and are often referred to as the “Big Six” in the publishing industry. In 2009 Amazon.com Inc. had nearly 90% of the e-books industry. Amazon charged $9.99 for certain new releases and bestselling e-books which helped make it the market leader in the sale of e-books and e-readers with its Kindle.

Amazon’s price point caused discontent among the Publishers. The Publishers believed that the low price point was a problem for their sales of more profitable hardcover books. Approximately every three months, the CEOs of the Big Six would meet in private dining rooms in New York restaurants “without counsel or assistant present, in order to discuss the common challenges they faced, including most prominently Amazon’s pricing policies.” The Publishers used several different strategies to fight against Amazon’s pricing point, including selling e-books for the same price as their printed version through a continued wholesale model and “windowing” new releases. Windowing is a tactic that would delay the release of books to their e-book form for a certain window of time.

. . . .

Amazon sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission complaining about the simultaneous nature of the demands for agency model agreements from the Publishers who had signed with Apple. By March, Amazon had completed agency agreements with four of the five publishers. During the negotiations over the agreements, the publishers would talk with each other and share information about what Amazon would concede with each. Apple was closely following all of this progress and Cue was in contact with the publishers. Following Amazon’s move to agency amounted to “an average per unit e-book retail price increase of 14.2% for their new releases, 42.7% for their NYT Bestsellers, and 18.6% across all of the Publisher Defendants’ e-books.”[2] The Publishers also raised the price of some of their New Release hardcover books so as to move the e-book versions into a correspondingly higher price tier. Amazon saw Random House (who for the moment had not joined Apple) e-book sales having an increase of 41%. Two studies showed that the Publishers who moved to agency model sold over 10% fewer units at major retailers. In contrast, other publishers’ sales increased 5.4% in the same period. In January 2011 Random House also moved to the agency model and raised the prices of its e-books, and then experienced a decline in its e-book sales. This allowed Random House to join the iBookstore.

. . . .

Beginning on December 8, 2009, Apple’s senior VP of Internet Software and Services, Eddy Cue, contacted the Publishers to set up meetings for the following week. During the meetings Cue suggested that Apple would sell the majority of e-books between $9.99 and $14.99, with new releases being $12.99 to $14.99. Apple also adopted the agency model which it used in its App Store for distribution of e-books. This let Publishers control the price of the e-books with Apple receiving a 30% commission. Apple also set up price tiers for different books. Apple also included a MFN clause in their contract with the Publishers which allowed for Apple to sell e-book at its competitors’ lowest price.

. . . .

On the day of the launch, Jobs was asked by a reporter why people would pay $14.99 for a book in the iBookstore when they could purchase it for $9.99 from Amazon. In response Jobs stated that “The price will be the same… Publishers are actually withholding their books from Amazon because they are not happy.”[2] By stating this, Jobs acknowledged his understanding that the Publishers would raise e-book prices and that Apple would not have to face any competition from Amazon on price.

This collusion between the top executives of five out of the (then) six major US publishers to destroy Amazon’s pricing model for ebooks helped accelerate the development of anti-Amazon/anti-ebooks groupthink throughout Big Publishing.

Later, when the Justice Department charged these publishers with illegal anti-competitive behavior and publicly humiliated their management by requiring an admission of guilt and forcing monetary settlements, the anti-Amazon/anti-ebook sentiment blossomed into something of an industry-wide psychosis.

Publishing couldn’t live without Amazon and hated the company even more for their dependence upon it.

When Borders, the second largest bookstore chain in the US, went bankrupt in 2011, that shocking event should have set alarm bells ringing in CEO offices of every publisher.

The second-largest bricks-and-mortar customer for every major US publisher had just imploded. Perhaps it was time for some new thinking? Would the future be a lot different than the past? What a silly thought.

Borders would have been happy to sell its assets to virtually any willing purchaser, but smart money was not interested. Neither was dumb money and about 650 retail bookstores in the US just disappeared.

At the time of the Borders bankruptcy, reporters and business writers (often relying on traditional publishing sources) concluded that Borders had made a big mistake by working with Amazon to sell ebooks. On the other hand, Barnes & Noble was brilliant because it had spent lots of money to build up its Nook business as a viable competitor to Amazon’s Kindle.

Amazon Derangement Syndrome was running rampant through the publishing business and that, combined with widespread ignorance of technology among management, blinded them to a simple fact that was evident to anyone with an ounce of internet savvy: Amazon was much, much better at selling books (and a lot of other things) online than Barnes & Noble and the gap between the two organizations was growing at a rapid pace.

The traditional book industry and its convoy of pet pundits have not gotten any part of selling online right for well over ten years and show no indication that anything is going to change in the next ten years (to be clear, PG is not predicting that Big Publishing has ten more years ahead of it).

Barnes & Noble is running on fumes. Whether it continues to sink into the sunset or suddenly implodes won’t impact the overall trajectory of the retail book business. It’s dying. At this point, even if Barnes & Noble were able to hire talented management, PG thinks it’s too late for that to make a difference.

When Barnes & Noble is gone, what’s left for legacy publishing? A bunch of mom and pop bookstores. There may be some fancier moms and pops in Manhattan and Washington DC, but they’re all small businesses with tiny profit margins.

PG ran out of time before he could bloviate about traditionally-published authors heading for the exits and hedge funds taking over management of the gazillion legacy publishing contracts which represent the only value of Big Publishing.

I called him

Sep. 18th, 2017 05:51 pm
[syndicated profile] thepassivevoice_feed

Posted by PG


I called him from a phone booth. The voice that answered was fat. It wheezed softly, like the voice of a man who had just won a pie-eating contest.

Raymond Chandler

[syndicated profile] thepassivevoice_feed

Posted by PG

From TorrentFreak:

Every day millions of people enjoy fan-made subtitles. They help foreigners understand English-speaking entertainment and provide the deaf with a way to comprehend audio.

Quite often these subtitles are used in combination with pirated files. This is a thorn in the side to copyright holder groups, who see this as a threat to their business.

In Sweden, Undertexter was one of the leading subtitle resources for roughly a decade. The site allowed users to submit their own translated subtitles for movies and TV shows, which were then made available to the public.

In the summer of 2013, this reign came to an end after the site was pulled offline. Following pressure from Hollywood-based movie companies, police raided the site and seized its servers.

The raid and subsequent criminal investigation came as a surprise to the site’s founder, Eugen Archy, who didn’t think he or the site’s users were offering an illegal service.

“The people who work on the site don’t consider their own interpretation of dialog to be something illegal, especially when we’re handing out these interpretations for free,” he said at the time.

. . . .

The Attunda District Court sentenced the now 32-year-old operator to probation. In addition, he has to pay 217,000 Swedish Kroner ($27,000).

. . . .

During the trial, the defense had argued that the fan-made subtitles are not infringing since movies are made up of video and sound, with subtitles being an extra. However, the court disagreed with this line of reasoning, the verdict shows.

Link to the rest at TorrentFreak

PG notes that criminal penalties are available for copyright infringement in the United States if the copyright holder can persuade the government to pursue such cases.

The statutes are 17 U.S.C. 506(a) And 18 U.S.C. 2319.

17 U.S.C. 506(a)

(a) Criminal Infringement. 

(1)In general.—Any person who willfully infringes a copyright shall be punished as provided under section 2319 of title 18, if the infringement was committed—

(A) for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain;
(B) by the reproduction or distribution, including by electronic means, during any 180–day period, of 1 or more copies or phonorecords of 1 or more copyrighted works, which have a total retail value of more than $1,000; or
(C) by the distribution of a work being prepared for commercial distribution, by making it available on a computer network accessible to members of the public, if such person knew or should have known that the work was intended for commercial distribution.
(2) Evidence.— For purposes of this subsection, evidence of reproduction or distribution of a copyrighted work, by itself, shall not be sufficient to establish willful infringement of a copyright.
(3) Definition.—In this subsection, the term “work being prepared for commercial distribution” means—

(A) computer program, a musical work, a motion picture or other audiovisual work, or a sound recording, if, at the time of unauthorized distribution—

(i) the copyright owner has a reasonable expectation of commercial distribution; and
(ii) the copies or phonorecords of the work have not been commercially distributed; or

(B) a motion picture, if, at the time of unauthorized distribution, the motion picture—

(i) has been made available for viewing in a motion picture exhibition facility; and
(ii) has not been made available in copies for sale to the general public in the United States in a format intended to permit viewing outside a motion picture exhibition facility.

(b)Forfeiture, Destruction, and Restitution.—

Forfeiture, destruction, and restitution relating to this section shall be subject to section 2323 of title 18, to the extent provided in that section, in addition to any other similar remedies provided by law.

(c)Fraudulent Copyright Notice.—

Any person who, with fraudulent intent, places on any article a notice of copyright or words of the same purport that such person knows to be false, or who, with fraudulent intent, publicly distributes or imports for public distribution any article bearing such notice or words that such person knows to be false, shall be fined not more than $2,500.

(d)Fraudulent Removal of Copyright Notice.—

Any person who, with fraudulent intent, removes or alters any notice of copyright appearing on a copy of a copyrighted work shall be fined not more than $2,500.

(e)False Representation.—

Any person who knowingly makes a false representation of a material fact in the application for copyright registration provided for by section 409, or in any written statement filed in connection with the application, shall be fined not more than $2,500.

(f)Rights of Attribution and Integrity.—

Nothing in this section applies to infringement of the rights conferred by section 106A(a).
And what’s a crime without a punishment?

18 U.S. Code § 2319 – Criminal infringement of a copyright

(a) Any person who violates section 506(a) (relating to criminal offenses) of title 17 shall be punished as provided in subsections (b), (c), and (d) and such penalties shall be in addition to any other provisions of title 17 or any other law.

(b) Any person who commits an offense under section 506(a)(1)(A) of title 17

(1) shall be imprisoned not more than 5 years, or fined in the amount set forth in this title, or both, if the offense consists of the reproduction or distribution, including by electronic means, during any 180-day period, of at least 10 copies or phonorecords, of 1 or more copyrighted works, which have a total retail value of more than $2,500;
(2) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, or fined in the amount set forth in this title, or both, if the offense is a felony and is a second or subsequent offense under subsection (a); and
(3) shall be imprisoned not more than 1 year, or fined in the amount set forth in this title, or both, in any other case.

(c) Any person who commits an offense under section 506(a)(1)(B) of title 17

(1) shall be imprisoned not more than 3 years, or fined in the amount set forth in this title, or both, if the offense consists of the reproduction or distribution of 10 or more copies or phonorecords of 1 or more copyrighted works, which have a total retail value of $2,500 or more;
(2) shall be imprisoned not more than 6 years, or fined in the amount set forth in this title, or both, if the offense is a felony and is a second or subsequent offense under subsection (a); and
(3) shall be imprisoned not more than 1 year, or fined in the amount set forth in this title, or both, if the offense consists of the reproduction or distribution of 1 or more copies or phonorecords of 1 or more copyrighted works, which have a total retail value of more than $1,000.
(d) Any person who commits an offense under section 506(a)(1)(C) of title 17
(1) shall be imprisoned not more than 3 years, fined under this title, or both;
(2) shall be imprisoned not more than 5 years, fined under this title, or both, if the offense was committed for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain;
(3) shall be imprisoned not more than 6 years, fined under this title, or both, if the offense is a felony and is a second or subsequent offense under subsection (a); and
 (4) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined under this title, or both, if the offense is a felony and is a second or subsequent offense under paragraph (2).
(1) During preparation of the presentence report pursuant to Rule 32(c) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, victims of the offense shall be permitted to submit, and the probation officer shall receive, a victim impact statement that identifies the victim of the offense and the extent and scope of the injury and loss suffered by the victim, including the estimated economic impact of the offense on that victim.

(2)Persons permitted to submit victim impact statements shall include—

(A) producers and sellers of legitimate works affected by conduct involved in the offense;
(B) holders of intellectual property rights in such works; and
(C) the legal representatives of such producers, sellers, and holders.

(f) As used in this section—

(1) the terms “phonorecord” and “copies” have, respectively, the meanings set forth in section 101 (relating to definitions) of title 17;
(2) the terms “reproduction” and “distribution” refer to the exclusive rights of a copyright owner under clauses (1) and (3) respectively of section 106 (relating to exclusive rights in copyrighted works), as limited by sections 107 through 122, of title 17;
(3) the term “financial gain” has the meaning given the term in section 101 of title 17; and
(4) the term “work being prepared for commercial distribution” has the meaning given the term in section 506(a) of title 17.



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