Category Archives: Fair Use

The Kindle, Copyright, and Neil Gaiman

Amazon has announced the release of the second version of the Kindle. Not available for sale yet, it promises to have some pretty nifty upgrades. It is thinner, lighter, has longer battery life, holds more types of files, etc. And, for those of us serving people with disabilities, one very promising update has been offered to the Kindle. It now comes with a developing text-to-speech function. This means that you can plug in headphones and listen to the book.

Don’t get any grand illusions that using this function will give you the true experience of an audio book. An audio book is professionally recorded, using a human voice, and plenty of post-production work to make it perfect. Hearing audio produced by text-to-speech software has no pre- or post-production; it reads the words straight off the page, in a monotoned electronic voice. It’s not something most people would choose to listen to. Its true value exists for those in the disabled community who for whatever reason cannot read traditional printed text. For these people, text-to-speech is a God send. Text-to-speech allows them equal access to materials we certainly take for granted, like web pages, books, newspapers, blogs, etc.

But of course, any time something like this is introduced, author groups and publishers, ala the RIAA, have to scream copyright infringement. This time, it’s the Authors Guild, who has informed its member literary agents that the Kindle 2’s text-to-speech is a violation of copyright because using such a thing makes it a derivative work and therefore illegal to use.

“They don’t have the right to read a book out loud,” said Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild. “That’s an audio right, which is derivative under copyright law.”

Mr. Aiken is misguided. The purchase of a book gives me the right to do what I want with it, including reading it aloud, or having someone read it aloud for me. I can use it to prop up the leg of a coffee table if I want, too. That could, on the fringe, be called a “derivative work” as well. But no, the book is mine, I can read it out loud, I can even record it onto tape and play it in my car if I want. I can read it out loud to my kids, or read a passage or two of interest to a friend or colleague. I can even type a paragraph or two of a book right into my own blog, which is considered fair use by all copyright standards. The text-to-audio feature of the Kindle 2 is no different than using the buttons on the Kindle to enlarge the text, in my opinion.

And I’m not alone. Neil Gaiman’s blog entry for yesterday gives his short version of the argument he had with his own literary agent over this issue, along with his assertion that text-to-audio software is no different a use than reading a book out loud with your own voice. Neil Gaiman is one of those artists who “get it,” and has for a long time. Kindle’s new and wonderful feature is not in any way a threat to publishers and artists. Believe me, no person wants to listen to software text-to-speech conversion unless they need to. It’s not something anyone would pay money to buy. And besides that, the person with the Kindle presumable already purchased the book, or it wouldn’t be on the Kindle in the first place.

California Charging for Laws

Todd had the story in the podcast last week about California charging citizens to download or get paper copies of laws. One patriotic guy was distributing them online for free. This guy is a hero and will have to go court to be vindicated in some people’s eyes but not mine. Just because some government says something is illegal like this guy giving away information on laws & state codes does not make it wrong. You would think the courts will rule in his favor but I would not bet on it. You see the court’s judges are part of the same government that is responsible for this stuff. This is the most egregious abuse of authority (ask yourself where authority comes from & you will be close to freeing your mind) I have seen in a while. The state is using copyright to keep their little monopoly going. They say they are “doing it to raise money for the people of California”. The “people” are the ones paying! They pay if they break a law or a commit a code violation. But they have to pay first to see if they are about to do something wrong. Ignorance of the law is supposedly no excuse for breaking it. But to charge people just to see the laws is criminal. California has a huge economy so their “public servants” cannot keep their hands off all that money. His website is here.

Copyright Owners Must Consider ‘Fair Use’

Have you shot any video of your kids lately and had some music on? Did you know that if you posted that video to YouTube that companies like Universal would often have that video removed for copyright violation.

A Judge ruled today in the nations first such ruling that copyright owners must consider “Fair Use” of their works before sending takedown notices to online video-sharing sites.

This is a huge win everyone. The doctrine of the DMCA already permits limited use of copyright materials without the owners permission especially when it is associated with positive and negative reviews.

This ruling is a big win, and one that we should all applaud because to many times artist and companies are able to invoke so called copyright violation to squelch any type of public discourse. This hopefully will allow more babies to be recorded acting out or dancing to the music. [Wired]


Does anyone truly own an Apple Product?

Let me share my feelings on Apple products. I don’t like them period. It is not because they suck or are not easy to use. Clearly they are user friendly and from what I hear do not suck. That is why they are so popular. But the company is so controlling about what you can do with their products. And make no mistake it is their product even after you put down your hard earned money for it. Sure you can use it when you want, take it where you want, even sell it when you get ready to do so. But try to alter it or use it in a way Apple does not care for, then you have trouble. And they can even disable your device in cases like the iphone. Try to move your itunes library to another computer or media device not made by Apple and you will see who really owns “your” stuff. I tried to get my wife’s songs from her itunes library into mp3 format so I could place them on a new Creative Mp3 player. Well if I wanted to burn cds of all the songs and go on a digital adventure that would last hours I would have went ahead. But I just gave up. I understand why they create a walled garden. It is to keep people using their devices the way Apple deems appropriate. But it also keeps people like me who like a little flexibility in their tech devices from buying Apple products. I know Steve Jobs will make it without my few dollars though:) .

The story Todd did on the last podcast about some people’s iphones getting disabled because they had an unauthorized application loaded on it really got to me. Either the phone is yours or it is not. The fact that a small percentage of people may get over in some way by not giving Apple more money does not justify keeping every single user from using their property how they want. When you by a new Dodge truck you have the ability to get accessories after the fact that were made by companies other than Dodge. When you buy a house from a builder he does not lock you out of your home when you don’t let him build on a new deck that your brother will do for free. I understand this is comparing apples to oranges but the principle holds true. Just because Apple can lock you out because it is a digital product does not make it right to do so. Wikipedia defines ownership as “the state or fact of exclusive rights and control over property”. If Apple controls your iphone or ipod after you bought it do you really own it?

Google’s Trying to Help with NetNeutrality

“We’re trying to develop tools, software tools…that allow people to detect what’s happening with their broadband connections, so they can let [ISPs] know that they’re not happy with what they’re getting — that they think certain services are being tampered with,”

This came from Google senior policy director Richard Whitt the other day. Google seems to have taken a firm stance on what ISP’s are proposing to monitor. And why wouldn’t they? In the end, Google would be the one that takes the hit.

People “Google” over any other search site. If you use Firefox, Opera or Safari, you have the Google search right at the top. For IE users, it’s just a “Change Default” away. If you run a website with Google Adsense, chances are you are using the Google search engine to bring in a little revenue.

If ISP’s start looking at what you do online, then people will stop searching for stuff. Other search sites might pop up to counter the ISP trafficking – masking information so it looks like your searching for flowers when it’s really the Hulk movie. Google will loose it’s 60-70 percent stature in all internet searches.

Now we all know that you should not download software, music or movies. It gets drilled in our heads on a daily basis. While Google is not trying to promote this, they know that if people need something and don’t know where to get it, they will search first. Even if you do know where it is, you still will search for it.

“Feeling Lucky” is Googles’ way of getting you to go through their webpage. According to, there are an average 91,201,253 visits per day. If people stop searching on a popular topic, imagine how that number would drop. If they feel they cannot safely go to the site, they will stop going to the site.

I am not saying this is what drives Google to help with Net Neutrality. However, if I was in the search engine market, I would definitely have a project team watching over these items. Any type of policing like this can really hurt on those who’s life is online.

I don’t torrent nor go to content that could raise a red flag for ISPs. Therefore I would continue to use Google on a constant basis. Even in writing this article I searched on Google about 10 to 12 times. It’s really just a way of life on the internet for me. Before Google (and this dates myself), I was Metacrawling and Dog Piling.

So this brings up the question: Would your internet usage drop if you knew people were watching where you were going?

Mighty Mouse sues… Well, Mighty Mouse.

The Company Man & Machine has filed a lawsuit over the “Mighty Mouse” name with Apple and CBS. The Maryland based company put out a water-resistant optical mouse in called Mighty Mouse. Their claim is that Apple put out their Mighty Mouse over a year later.
Now we all know Mighty Mouse as a Superhero mouse that comes to save the day. The Mighty Mouse Trademark is owned by CBS – aka Viacom. However, CBS owns Mighty Mouse under the cartoon character – not as a wireless mouse (or as the Patent and Trademark Office states, “G & S: Computer cursor control devices, namely, computer mice.”).
M&M first registered the Trademark on 3/16/2004. CBS registered it as a wireless mouse for Apple on 8/02/2005. The case is Man & Machine Inc. v. Apple Inc., 8:08-cv-01311, U.S. District Court, District of Maryland (Greenbelt).

Of Copyrights and Fair Use

J.K. Rowling, author of the arguably iconic Harry Potter series of books, has recently been in the news for suing Steve Vander Ark, the author of the online Harry Potter Lexicon guidebook, for infringement. The Lexicon was a labor of love for Vander Ark, who is a zealous fan of the Harry Potter books. He produced and maintains the Lexicon as a free resource for Harry Potter readers everywhere. He also made zero, zip, zilch dollars on this labor of love.

Rowling believed his work was infringement, so sued Vander Ark. Who can blame Vander Ark for feeling like he’s been slapped in the face by someone he’d held in high regard.

As the lawsuit progresses (it is still undecided as of this writing), several authors have come forward to add their opposing literary two cents to what is going on. What makes this remarkable is that two of these authors are extremely popular, well-known icons themselves. The first was Neil Gaiman, author of a truckload of graphic novels and the two standout literary works, American Gods and The Anansi Boys. The other is Orson Scott Card, whose work Ender’s Game won Hugo and Nebula awards in 2006.

Both of these authors would know something about infringement. Both take the attitude that to be emulated is flattery; to build on an idea, image, or reference is something to be proud of, not something to be squashed like vermin. In addition, Card makes a point of connecting the dots between some of the action and characters in his most famous work to that of Harry Potter. It is possible, and likely, that Rowling herself “borrowed” ideas, actions, and characters from other work that she’d read.

What both writers are pointing out, however, is that derivative works, websites by fans, and items like the Harry Potter Lexicon, do nothing but increase your visibility and brand. There is no downside to that kind of viral marketing. The fact is, the publication of Vander Ark’s reference guide could only increase Rowling’s popularity and the connected interest in her work. I would do a lot of things for that kind of publicity surrounding a book I’d written. The more the merrier. It all translates into increased book sales and increased interest in the author. How can that be a bad thing?