Google Chrome is Bad for Writers & Bloggers

So Google has released a new browser called Chrome. But I’ll never use it. And it’s because Chrome’s EULA wishes to take anything that I type into my browser window (which would include, ahem, this blog entry, any email I access through the Web, and just about anything else involving the Internet) and give it to Google for them to use for any purpose. From the EULA:

11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.

I should note that “Services” is defined as “your use of Google’s products, software, services, and web sites,” but this is, to say the least, disingenuous. Anyone who uses Chrome will technically own the copyright, but who needs copyright when the Chrome user effectively gives up her right to distribute this content in all perpetuity and without royalties? So if Joyce Carol Oates is using Chrome and types an email to someone, she “owns” the copyright. But Google has the right to use anything that Ms. Oates types into Chrome for any purpose. And if someone reveals highly personal information through Chrome — like, say, the details of one’s sex life, an early draft of a novel, or some very embarrassing incident — Google has the right to reprint this anywhere. And not only do they get to reprint this content, but they can likewise generate revenue from it. Revenue that should, by all rights, go to the person who authored the content in the first place.

You have to hand it to Google. They’ve hit upon a way to take what’s out there on the Web, monetize the content for their own purpose while screwing over the person who labored over the words. Will we see new clauses in publishing contracts contain provisos requesting authors not to use Google Chrome as a web browser? After all, if Google can reprint it, this pretty much eliminates intellectual property rights.

Is this Google’s crafty way of getting around all the YouTube lawsuits and angry publishers? After all, if the content was submitted through Google Chrome, well, Google can reuse it. So if Stephenie Meyer slips up again and she was using Chrome, well, she’ll have no grievance against Google when Google “reprints” it for its “Services.”

So use Google Chrome if you’re perfectly happy watching your words taken by Google. Use Google Chrome if you don’t value your work.

[UPDATE: Based on the public outcry, Google has amended Section 11.1 of the EULA to read as follows:

11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.

The offending sentence has been removed. It’s very heartening to see that Google takes these concerns seriously. And because of this, I shall probably take Chrome for a test drive sometime this weekend.]

Racism and Copyright Games: The Fallacious Position of William Sanders

Transcriptease offers a very helpful summation on the racist shenanigans of Helix editor William Sanders. For those who missed out on this piece of news, writer Luke Jackson sent Sanders a story. The story featured Muslim characters. Sanders rejected it, noting in his rejection letter, “You did a good job of explaining the worm-brained mentality of those people.” The email then made the rounds on several science fiction sites. And several Helix contributors asked for their stories to be removed from the Helix archives.

Rather than perform the gentlemanly act and apologize for his mistake, Sanders issued an ultimatum to his contributors. If they wished to remove their stories from the archive and did not express their wish to do so within a month, they would be forced to pay $40 to have it removed later. Soon, Sanders retracted this offer and declared that nobody could have their stories removed at all.

Assuming that there is no written instrument, Sanders is in no position to make such demands of his contributors.

The question that nobody has asked here is whether any of the Helix contributors ever signed a contract or another written instrument upon having their stories appear in Helix. Sanders’s magazine lists all of the contents as falling under the copyright of Helix. This itself is fallacious, because according to Helix‘s website, Helix is published by the Legends Group, which is described as an unincorporated association. Since Helix is based in Maryland, according to the Maryland Business Regulation Code, § 19-201, it can therefore be described as an organization. Therefore, if the copyright notice on the site is valid, should not the copyright read “©2008 The Legends Group” instead? And if The Legends Group has performed due diligence, then surely this would be reflected at the Register of Copyrights, right? After all, § 409 of United States Code, Title 17, states that each application for copyright must contain “(10) in the case of a published work containing material of which copies are required by section 601 to be manufactured in the United States, the names of the persons or organizations who performed the processes specified by subsection (c) of section 601 with.”

But over at the Library of Congress’s public catalog, we discover no such notices for these stories by either Helix, The Legends Group, or William Sanders. Searches for “Legends Group” and “The Legends Group” reveal no registered copyrights. And searches for “Helix” or “Sanders William” do not match up with any of the stories listed on the Helix site.

If the Helix contributors simply sent in their stories into Sanders and he agreed to publish them, and there was no contract, then this means that they retain the unregistered copyrights for their stories, and Sanders is in violation. If Sanders did not have a written instrument in place specifying that there was a transfer of copyright to Helix, then the copyright belongs to the author. Which would mean that the author controls whether or not the story appears on the website. To cite the specific code section under §204 of Title 17:

(a) A transfer of copyright ownership, other than by operation of law, is not valid unless an instrument of conveyance, or a note or memorandum of the transfer, is in writing and signed by the owner of the rights conveyed or such owner’s duly authorized agent.

Of course, to uphold Sanders’s numerous copyright violations, the stories would need to be registered. If the writers who wish to have their stories removed from Helix were to register their stories with the Copyright Office, then Sanders be in clear violation of copyright and damages could be pursued.

Either way, Sanders does not come out of this looking well at all. The best thing for him to do is to remove any stories that authors wish for him to remove. And if Sanders cannot perform this basic courtesy, then the writers have the obligation to register their stories with the Copyright Office and take up the dispute in court to collect the dutiful damages that come from being associated with a racist editor.

What the AP Owes Its Sources

If the Associated Press wishes to charge bloggers for the number of words they can quote from their articles, then the time has come for the AP to pay for quotes it uses in articles. What follows is a partial list of outstanding amounts that the AP owes under its current model (at the current rates) to figures it has talked with in articles published during the past two hours.

White House Press Secretary Dana Perino: 42 words ($17.50)

President George W. Bush: 8 words ($12.50)

83-year-old flood survivor Lois Russell: 32 words ($17.50)

Garner resident Helen Jennings: 13 words ($12.50)

Mayor Roger Ochs: 19 words ($12.50)

Flood survivor Steve Poggemiller: 11 words ($12.50)

Mike Allred of the Centers for Disease Control and Provention: 11 words ($12.50)

Flood survivor Amy Wyss: 34 words ($17.50)

Barack Obama: 229 words ($50.00)

McCain national security director Randy Scheunemann: 22 words ($12.50)

Former CIA director James Woolsey: 27 words ($17.50)

Richard Clarke: 37 words ($17.50)

Sen. John Kerry: 6 words ($12.50)

George Takei: 16 words ($12.50) (To add insult to injury, the AP quoted Takei quoting from Star Trek. Paramount Legal: The AP is trying to collect on your intellectual property!)

It isn’t necessary to go further. The upshot is that the AP owes some serious dinero to these distinguished American figures. $237.50 is the total here, and I’ve only gone through about a quarter of the articles that have been posted in the past two hours. So let’s quadruple that, shall we? $1,000 in a mere two hours! That’s $500/hour X 24!

So it seems to me that the real cheap bastards here are the Associated Press! $12,000 per day! To hell with fair use. In the interests of intellectual property, the time has come for these interview subjects to generate invoices and bill these inveterate gougers at the AP for all they are worth!

Fuck You, Associated Press

The Associated Press have now devised a new set of rules for what it considers to be fair use. If you are a blogger quoting more than four words from one of the AP’s articles, the AP now expects you to pay a license.

This is, as anyone with a basic grasp of copyright knows, absolute bullshit. It is an arrogant tactic from a news organization that truly believes that bloggers are ignoramuses.

So that I might make a specific point about why I believe this concept to be profoundly ignorant of existing copyright law, I hereby announce that the following post is not being prepared for commercial purposes. I do not intend to profit from this post. I merely wish to educate both the public and the AP about the fair use provision of the Copyright Act (that’s 17 U.S.C. § 107 for those playing at home):

A defiant Barack Obama said Tuesday he would take no lectures from a girl whose lemonade stand was robbed of $17.50. Serenaded by a gay men’s chorus, showered with rose petals and toasted with champagne, Obama, who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the event, said he made the decision Monday and stressed it was his alone.

Despite his criticism, on May 5, while campaigning in North Carolina, McCain said he was willing to consider the same proposal.

It didn’t seem unusual to see the AP go beyond what’s legally permissible. The decision required a court’s approval because Barack Obama wants to raise your income taxes.

“If we’re banning things such as long-tailed plant-eating dinosaurs, and two carnivorous ones do not have any imminent concern that Kandahar is about to fall to the Taliban, we want to fight until the death,” said a spokesperson for the Associated Press, who, if they truly have their legal knickers in a bunch, may wish to count the precise percentage of material that is being used for this post.

Let us consider instead how these phrases tell a rather goofy story that harms nobody and that does not smear the Associated Press in the slightest. Let us consider how by linking, this blog generates interest in these particular articles. Roughly around 100 words have been used from Associated Press articles. Therefore, if I write a 1,000 word post, I should be on solid ground, with a mere 10% of this post referring to previous material. I have no real desire to say anything here in 600 words that I could just as easily say in 300 words. So to ensure that I am on legally airtight ground, I will simply type the sentence “My cocker spaniel had a hernia” fifty times. This is a phrase of my own invention. But I encourage everyone to use it. I promise you that I will not sue you if you do.

My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia. My cocker spaniel had a hernia.

Now where were we?

Let us also consider whether any of the particular phrases in the AP’s articles are particularly unique and whether they be given this sense of propriety.

The phrase “It didn’t seem unusual to see,” culled from an AP article, was used by Ted Perry on Page 175 of his book, My Reel Story. Should Ted Perry send me a cease-and-desist letter because I have used the phrase in an entirely different context? No. In fact, I did not know who Ted Perry was before looking up the phrase. If the AP wishes to send me a bill for the use of this phrase, should not Ted Perry in turn send the AP a bill for using his phrase? No.

The draconian conditions being asked for here are simply not within the reasonable scope of how human beings transmit language to each other. By this measure, should the television networks fine anybody who uses more than four words of a sitcom catchphrase? Should the advertising agencies do the same thing for their slogans? These other companies understand that conveying a reasonable portion of a storyline or a slogan is what causes the information to be transmitted.

Under these oppressive and undemocratic circumstances, it is important to point out that “fuck you” and “Associated Press” go together like a tasty peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

The U.S. Copyright Office

  • Paramount Pictures Corporation holds co-copyright on David Foster Wallace’s “Host.”
  • Nicholson Baker’s first two records, registered in 1981, were for two stories: “Snorkeling” and “K.590.” Both stories have not been collected. But the former appeared in The Little, v. 13, no. 1 and 2, p. 74-81. The latter appeared in the December 7, 1981 issue of The New Yorker.
  • George Romero has been busier than you think. Romero is understandably meticulous about copyright — perhaps because Night of the Living Dead was, quite famously, issued without a copyright and entered into the public domain. I’m extremely curious about what 1994’s Jacaranda Joe might have been. There is no reference in the IMDB. This was a 23 page script — presumably for a half hour anthology series. Actor Andy Ussach even has a picture of him and Romero “during the Jacaranda Joe filming.” So if something was shot, was it simply not completed?
  • Did Good Man Park author a book on psychological self-defense? This might explain his exclamation marks!
  • Will Stanley Kubrick’s Lunatic at Large be turned into something? The entry reads: “Statements re transfer space, address & corres.” More info on this lost treatment here.
  • Is it the same Tao Lin who wrote Overconfidence and Asset Prices?
  • A screenplay written by Pablo Guirado Garcia called I Pass Like the Night: Serial Fucker based on the Jonathan Ames book?
  • I’m curious about Neal Pollack’s play, Chicago on the Rocks. Was it performed?
  • I have typed in about twenty-two women into this search engine, but I have unearthed nothing lost or unknown. I find the gender disparity troublesome.
  • I could be here all night. Really, I could. There are mysterious works here that were never published or saw the light of day. Some of the copyright documents have mysterious exhibits attached, and I imagine that this is not necessarily the diligence of a cutthroat attorney hoping to protect his client’s interests, but that some of these writers offering eccentric riders to their manuscripts for those who take the trouble to go down to Washington to examine these documents in person. A bonus for anyone wishing to go the extra mile — a consolation prize for the truly obsessed.
  • There must be other copyright obsessives out there right now. Perhaps their partners are now in bed and they find the same solace I do typing in search terms into the WebVoyage interface. They may have the same admiration for the neat organization, the helpful annotations throughout the database (“Notes: play”), the specific dates, the letter code which precedes each copyright number (TX for text, V for recorded document, PAu for dramatic work and music; or choreography), and, like me, they may be pondering why the recorded documents have two sets of numerals (VxxxxDxxx).
  • Then again, if you work at the Copyright Office, the taxonomic structure with which I am now finding some strange appeal would likely become insufferable. The same way that a file clerk mindlessly puts away files and, in the worst of cases, doesn’t even have the benefit of music. I suddenly have great sympathy for the folks who work at the Copyright Office, particularly those who must ensure that the records are put away accurately. And yet it is the top-tier executives who we pay more money.
  • Did the clerks have any say in the way this system was set up? Or were they at the mercy of middle managers who insisted that V had to represent “recorded document?”
  • Furthermore, how much time was devoted to typing in all of this data into a computer? Is it really worth the $45 registration fee for all that pain? Or are the top men at the Copyright Office getting a good chunk of that cheddar? Perhaps the clerk spent three minutes typing all of the necessary data into the Copyright Office computer. That means that the clerk should rightly be earning $900/hour. But such an hourly rate is inconceivable. So where does this extra money go?
  • I think I will copyright a few things this year myself.

Ahoy, Maties! The German Street Economy is a Tad Too Vigilant!

Variety: “Germany’s upper house of parliament on Friday approved a controversial copyright law, which makes it all but illegal for individuals to make copies of films and music, even for their own use. The Bundesrat pushed aside criticism from consumer protection groups and passed the law, which makes it illegal for anyone to store DVDs and CDs without permission. The law also covers digital copies from IPTV and TV broadcasts. “

SFWA Enacts McCarthyism Revival

Cory Doctorow: “SFWA’s copyright campaigns have been increasingly troublesome. In recent years, they’ve created a snitch line where they encourage sf lovers to fink on each other for copying books, created a loyalty oath for members in the guise of a ‘code of conduct’ in which we are supposed to pledge to ‘not plagiarize, pirate, or otherwise infringe intellectual property rights (copyright, patent, and trademark) or encourage others to do so.’ What business SFWA has in telling its members how to think about, say, pharmaceutical patents, database copyrights, or trademark reform is beyond me. In 2005, SFWA sent out a push-poll to its members trying to scare members off of giving permission to Amazon to make the full text of their books searchable online.”

Without Written Permission

Techcrunch’s Duncan Riley unearths this YouTube morsel (the irony here being that uploading such a clip to YouTube also requires written permission from the NFL). The NFL is now stating that one cannot discuss a football game without written permission. It was bad enough that we couldn’t videotape football games without written permission — although, to my knowledge, there have been no smoke-filled speakeasies involving clandestine game watching and secret passwords, perhaps because the participants have remained circumspect about such iniquitious dens. Now the NFL hopes to legislate conversation around the water cooler. (Whether they actually pursue lawsuits for this sort of thing requires additional research.) Beyond the fact that this violates the spirit of fair use (much less fails to account for the realities of spontaneous conversation), it nevertheless demonstrates the arrogant and anti-First Amendment attitudes taken by some organizations, in which a reasonable protection of trademarks and copyrighted material is undermined by the natural human dissemination of names and content.

Here are some questions: Does the NFL want their teams talked about? Do they want to control the precise circumstances in which a person wears an Oakland Raiders jacket? Will they likewise curtail journalists and bloggers from writing about football players because they don’t have written permission? (And, if so, will they require tight journalistic credentials with set terms for how one writes about sports?)