Copyright Writing

Painting the Web now DRM free and on the Kindle

I had no idea that my book Painting the Web was going to be one of O’Reilly’s first batch of DRM-free eBooks. I was stunned to see it as one of the first 12 Kindle books O’Reilly has released.

Painting the Web does make a nice ebook. I think the graphics are better in a digital format rather than in print. I’m not quite sure, though, how the graphics will translate to a Kindle. I’ll probably buy a copy for my own Kindle, just to see what the book looks like on the device.

There was a group of us authors who had a discussion in the Kindle forums several months back, about books with figures. My suggestion at the time was that companies who publish books with lots of figures to the Kindle, should also provide a PDF or some other online copy of the book, or at least the figures, so that people have both—the Kindle for the text, and the other format to better see the figures. It sounds like O’Reilly is using this approach with the company’s ebook bundles: pay one price, and get the book in PDF, EPUB, and Kindle-compatible Mobipocket. So now, you can now read Painting the Web in Kindle, Sony’s ebook reader, on your computer, and yes, even on paper.

In addition to being able to read these books in about every environment known to humanity, the digital formats make it simple to add corrections to an existing book and have those corrections reflected immediately in the digital copy. This is the way of the future. I’m not saying paper books are going away, but I know I certainly don’t miss paper with my Kindle.

The DRM-free nature of the books is a gamble. Other publishers have started to put out DRM free books, too, such as some of the Sci-Fi houses like Tor and Baen. My being able to buy food and pay rent next year depends on how well this gamble pays off.

I’m pleased to see Painting the Web on both lists. This is a book I’m very fond of, and I like that it’s taking part in O’Reilly’s new venture. I was surprised, though, as I hadn’t been in any discussion with O’Reilly about the book being included.


Google, YouTube, and the Good and Bad

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I’m not one of those piling on the sack cloth and ashes over today’s ruling directing Google to turn YouTube user records over to Viacom. Was the ruling overreaching? Oh, probably without a doubt, but it also justifies the worries we’ve had about Google’s storage of our user information. In fact, it was Google’s own “assurances” of privacy issued on the company’s own weblog that went into the judge’s decision to release this information.

We’ve been saying just such an event like Viacom suing for the information would happen eventually, except that the entity getting this information could have been much worse. Viacom will learn that I like octopus and squid movies, some music videos, funny cats and other amazing critters, very clever commercials, videos about corporate greed, the environment, and civil rights, and, unfortunately, a video featuring an older woman dying in the waiting room of a hospital while the personnel watched and didn’t care. Have I watched any copyrighted material? It’s all copyrighted, folks, but have I watched any material that infringes on copyright? Doubtful, but even if I had, I am not going to be suddenly sued by Viacom for copyright infringement, as some of the more hysterical are implying.

However, we don’t know how much information Google does have about us. For instance, there is information from searches and other activities that I would prefer to be private. And with Google and Yahoo sharing resources, I can’t guarantee that there is such a thing as a “private search”, even if I used multiple search engines. Google’s complete disregard for our concerns puts us at risk for just such events as this occurring, except now, rather than talking about a hypothetical situation, we have fact staring us in the face: Google’s data privacy provisions are anything but private.

Though I am not necessarily disappointed this event happened, I am disappointed that this lawsuit is allowed to continue. The whole point on DMCA is to prevent just such events like this from happening by providing a safe harbor for ISPs. If the judges are going to ignore the DMCA when the corporations file law suits, than perhaps we should begin to ignore the DMCA notices we receive as individuals. Obviously as a law of the land, DMCA is cherry picked to death.

In the end I find it doubtful that Viacom will find its material is the most popular on YouTube, and its draconian devices will only serve to bring into question how inconsistently the DMCA is being applied. I also doubt that Viacom really is that interested in the data—this is more likely a move to get Google to settle rather than continue the court case.

In the meantime, now is the time to set our sights on Google, not Viacom. Google’s assurance of our data being kept safe has proven to be false. The question is, what will the company do about it? If the company chooses not to act, what will we do about it?


I read the ruling and Google’s attempt to protect the users was lukewarm, at best, as compared to the company’s protecting its own source code. Google provided no viable defense, cited no laws, and even provided an argument that was easily refuted in the company’s own weblog. In addition, it didn’t even attempt to put conditions on what happens to that data, including ensuring that the data is not published in any way. All we can see from this ruling, is a company indifferent to the concerns of its users. Amazing.

I disagree, though, with those who say that the source code Google was protecting was unimportant. This is not the Flash source used for the videos; this was Google’s own technology the company has implemented in order to look for copyright infringing material when first posted. This, in addition, to portions of its own search code. This is not “trivial” code, and that Google sought to protect it should not be dismissed out of hand.

What peeves me is that Google fought harder to protect it, than us.

second update

Interesting take from danbri on Google’s work with social graphs and now much more far reaching something such as a YouTube username and/or IP address can be. Dan provides a listing of information about him that can be derived just from his supposedly pseudo anonymous YouTube login.


A quiet take on the AP

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Some people are still “waiting” on the AP to deliver a definitive guide to what can or cannot be copied of the AP material without risk of a DMCA notice. We really don’t need to wait, nor do we need anything from the AP. We have copyright laws in this country, and they include the concept of “fair use”, which we can continue to use as guide for our own writing.

People do need to look at how they quote and use other’s work. If you feel that your use is justified and covered under Fair Use provisions, than full speed ahead and damn the consequences. You may be served a DMCA; you may not. Receiving one is not a judgment, and you won’t be pulled into jail. In fact, you don’t even have to respond by pulling the material if you really feel you’re on the side of the law.

I wouldn’t necessarily expect that you would get legal help, though. This environment tends to favor the noisy and the known. If you’re neither, chances are you’ll be on your own if you get a DMCA. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feel free to quote others, or to use AP material. It just means that you have to accept the consequences of your actions when you publish online, and use other’s material.

As for the AP’s DMCA notices being supposedly based on title and lede/lead, alone, whereby the lede is the first few sentences of the story, I think we were misdirected into focusing on the content of each individual quote, rather than the context of all the quotes, combined.

AP licenses entire stories, but it also licenses a feed of AP news items reflecting just the title and lede of the story. You can see an example of licensed material at the Huffington Post. Notice that the copyrighted material in this context is not limited to an individual story, but to the grouping of titles and ledes for several different stories.

People have been making an assumption that the AP is upset that people are quoting one title, and one lede. We’ve ignored the hints given in relation to Drudge Retort that it was a pattern of posting, of quoting multiple titles and multiple ledes over time that ultimately resulted in the AP issuing the DMCA.

If we consider that the ledes are only 30 or 50 words, it seems unreasonable for the AP to resort to the DMCA. However, if something like the Drudge Retort duplicates 3, or 5, or more of these syndicated story titles and ledes, what the site is doing is actually “copying” what amounts to 10, 30, 30% or more of the AP copyrighted material— not a few words of an individual story, as first discussed.

If the AP charges a site like the Huffington Post to publish this syndicated set of titles/ledes at the site, and something like the Drudge Retort is duplicating a significant number from this set, using virtually the same titles and lede wording, without adding additional commentary, the Drudge Retort could very well be violating the AP’s copyright, and doing so in such a way as to cause financial harm to the AP.

The issue really is, and the AP stressed this, copy and paste publication. If you copy and past the title and the lede, add no commentary, you’re not adding value to what you’re publishing. You’re just duplicating the content. There’s nothing wrong with pulling out an individual quote from a story you like and publishing it by itself. However, if your publication falls into a pattern that is very similar or even equivalent to an individual or group’s copyrighted publication of the same, don’t expect to get all huffy because you only publish a few words from each story.

We shouldn’t extrapolate from the AP to something like delicious or the Planets (RDF, Drupal, Intertwingly, and others), because they’re not the same. I don’t know of anyone that licenses their syndication feed and would feel financial harm if this syndicated feed was republished with a group of others. The purpose of the Planets is to give exposure to individual publications/people who do not get exposure from being part of a major news source, like the AP. However, taking our syndicated feed and republishing it in its entirety at another site, which then runs ads that benefit the second site is a different story. In fact, if we decry the existence of “splogs” we should find ourselves on the side of the AP, if we’re being intellectually honest.

Now, some would say that the AP really will go after us if we only publish one title and one lede. Please forgive if I doubt any such thing would happen. Commonsense would dictate this, if nothing else. And commonsense is what we should be using when it comes to copyright and fair use.

I’m really not defending the AP so much as I am disappointed at how quickly people are willing to pile-on when the right stereotypes are triggered. We see the AP, big company, the Drudge Retort, small publication, and we become effectively blind—to both reason and fairness. More disturbingly, we become ripe for manipulation from those who care little for the consequences of the event, as long as the attention keeps flowing. The AP can protect itself, but the same cannot be said of every target of the pile-on effect.