Sunday, February 17, 2013

As some of the readers of this group blog may know, this author (Rowena Cherry) takes a very serious interest in copyright, and the erosion of copyright protections for creators that are offered by current law.

Frankly, I am disturbed by the reported/published opinions of judges and of legal scholars, of educators and other members of the intelligentsia who ought to understand what the law is with regard to the rights of authors, musicians, photographers and other creators to be paid whenever their work is enjoyed by a new user or monetized for profit by a third party.

Sometimes, good-hearted people use sloppy language. I hope that this was the case in a legal blog that came to my notice yesterday.

A big question about the future of the book publishing business: who sets the price of eBooks?

The author of the article for Lexology was written by one Mr. Fisher. As an author, I believe that there are a few misstatements of fact, that do authors and creators a disservice.

For instance, there is this statement, which refers to music and publishing.
 "There are significant differences in the two businesses, even though they both obviously involve sale of copyrighted content."

I find this wording problematic. The copyrighted content is not sold ever. In the case of paper books, the paper is sold and First Sale Doctrine obtains. In the case of e-books, the right to read the content is licensed.

The lawyer continues
"Book publishers have always set the suggested list price of printed books. Bookstores were free to sell the books to customers like us at any price"

To which, I respond....
Please note that Copyright law gives the copyright owner the right to set the price of the work.
The lawyer and customer continues the tired argument, much loved by freetards: 
"In other words, many publishers wanted to price their eBooks at prices very similar to their print books, even though with eBooks there is no need to buy paper and pay binderies, no warehousing, no trucks to transport boxes of books, and no returns (the expensive system through which book publishers accept unlimited return for full monetary credit of unsold physical books from bookstores)."

In my view, the public (and scholars) widely over-rate the value of that part of the business. The greatest costs in producing novels are the hours and years spent writing the work, the hours and hours spend editing and copy-editing and proof-reading the works, in paying editors, secretaries, artists, authors .... myriad overheads that apply to e-books just as much as to print.

Regarding "and no returns" in my opinion, he over simplifies.
Amazon accepts returns of e-books for up to 2 weeks, I have heard. Authors are hurt just as much by e-book returns as by physical book returns, if not more because of the possibility that during that 2 period, unlimited perfect copies could have been made of the work.

Persons who opine on the book industry should also be aware of the practice of "stripping" in which bricks and mortar stores such as would return only the cover of the unsold books (to save postage) for a refund or credit, and would sell the "pulp" to the paper recycling plant. The paper book was destroyed, and the authors got no royalties.
 The lawyer concludes: "Moreover the effect of piracy and swapping of files is not the same in the two copyright industries. The digital revolution will disrupt and restructure the book publishing industry even further – including what publishers charge for books and how much we pay for them.  That’s for certain".
 I disagree. From what I can see, the effect of piracy is devastating for both music and literature. In my opinion, everyone should check out for insights into what has happened to musicians and what is happening to authors.

Another good resource for standard excuses for piracy and common sense replies is

One of my good friends recently found an illegal copy of a book that is sold only and exclusively on Amazon being offered on a WORDPRESS site. This is an example of an offering (not hers):

If you would like download "XXXredactedXXX  by ReactedFirstname RedactedLastname (2 Feb 2012), you are in the right place. On the website we have this file in doc, pdf and epub.
  (The url will not work, because I have messed with it.)

Clicking a bitly shortened url (also messed with) brings this popup
Complete an Offer to Continue Your Download!
_Please complete an offer below to unlock this page!_

*You could win the new iPad2!*
*Watch the Funniest Videos Online!*
*Choose Correctly & Win an AUDI Sports Car!*
*Fill up at Sainsburys Petrol Stations on us!*
*Chance to take a £1,000 Shopping Spree!*
*WIN the New iPhone 5!*

It appears to this author that APPLE, Sainsburys, and AUDI are making it profitable for a pirate to infringe the copyright of an author. WORDPRESS is making it profitable. I assume that an online payment processor is facilitating payments to everyone involved except for the person who spent years writing the book.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry

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