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Penguin's insane policy on electronic galleys for authors

[Ed: An anonymous reader from the publishing industry wrote in with the following. I have every reason to believe it's true -Cory]


Update: An agent writes in to say: "Penguin ALSO doesn't want to give agents the hi-res final jacket image without charging. We can often beg/loophole/cajole -- but the official party line is they are supposed to charge $300. (???!) Mind you, this could pretty much ONLY be used to promote the book. We like to put the book jacket on our agency website, in our agency catalogues for foreign book fairs, make postcards, etc... but obviously we can't authorize any other territory to use this image. So essentially they are saying they don't want us to create promo material on the book's behalf, even on our own dime."

There's something going on at Penguin (interesting to see if it changes now that it's Penguin Random House, though all signs point no) that's so stupid and old school and against all authors that I thought I'd share.

In every contract in publishing, there's language (as you know) that gives an author a certain number of copies of the book, on publication. When ebooks came to play, agents began trying to negotiate for an electronic version of the book too, oftentimes successful. What they /can't/ get from Penguin (and a few other publishers, though notably Penguin) is a final PDF or even a final word doc of the book. Agents are told that Penguin puts work into the layout, edit and design and so agents can't just give that work away to foreign countries for them to use in their editions. That work must be paid for. I semi-buy that argument, though it makes me think two things: 1) Shame on them for getting in the way (as they do sometimes) of a foreign deal and 2) Penguin is contractually obligated to create the book anyway, with all of those pieces.

Read the rest

UK Internet censorship plan no less stupid than it was last year

UK Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to make pornography filters standard on British Internet connections. This is a remarkably stupid policy, and despite that, it is a recurring silliness in British (and global) politics. Back in 2012, the House of Lords was considering the same question, and I wrote a long, comprehensive article for the Guardian explaining why this won't work and why it will be worse than doing nothing. Nothing I asserted in that essay has changed in the interim.

Consider a hypothetical internet of a mere 20bn documents that is comprised one half "adult" content, and one half "child-safe" content. A 1% misclassification rate applied to 20bn documents means 200m documents will be misclassified. That's 100m legitimate documents that would be blocked by the government because of human error, and 100m adult documents that the filter does not touch and that any schoolkid can find.

In practice, the misclassification rate is much, much worse. It's hard to get a sense of the total scale of misclassification by censorware because these companies treat their blacklists as trade secrets, so it's impossible to scrutinise their work and discover whether they're exercising due care.

There's no way to stop children viewing porn in Starbucks

Read the rest

Florida bans computers

Florida tried to ban Internet Cafes that were functioning as unlicensed casinos, but may have banned smartphones and computers instead, due to language that defines slot machines as "any machine or device or system or network of devices" that can be used in connection with games of chance. I question the legitimacy of shutting down all Internet Cafes in the first place, but this is clearly an overbroad definition, as has been pointed out in a suit challenging the law, brought by an Internet Cafe owner in Miami -- ironic, as Florida is the state whose law once took over 100 words to precisely define "buttocks."

San Diego jury acquits on anti-bank chalk-art, thumbs nose at City Atty's 13 year jail threat

When Jeff Olson used chalk to draw an octopus whose tentacles were full of money, and to write "No thanks, big banks," and "Shame on Bank of America," on a San Diego sidewalk, Bank of America complained to the Republican City Atty. Jan Goldsmith. Goldsmith threw the book at him, charging him with misdemeanor vandalism and threatening him with 13 years in prison for writing in water-soluble chalk. Goldsmith was not swayed by the mayor's disapproval of this course of action -- Mayor Bob Filner said it was "stupid" and a "waste of money" -- and pressed on.

Yesterday, a jury acquitted Olson on all charges. The #chalkgate tag is full of congratulatory messages and photos of supportive chalking.

San Diego jury finds protester not guilty in chalk-vandalism case

Will.i.am fighting for trademark on "I AM"

Will.i.am is going after Pharrell Williams, claiming that Pharrell's application to register the name of his new company "I am OTHER" infringes on Will.i.am's trademarks which apparently include the words "I AM."

"I am disappointed that Will, a fellow artist, would file a case against me," Pharrell told Rolling Stone. "I am someone who likes to talk things out and, in fact, I attempted to do just that on many occasions. I am surprised in how this is being handled and I am confident that Will's trademark claims will ultimately be found to be as meritless and ridiculous as I do."

"Will.i.am Takes Legal Action Against Pharrell's 'i am OTHER' Brand"

Oklahoma state Rep. Dennis Johnson says "Jew me down" and "apologizes"

Here is Oklahoma state Rep. Dennis Johnson (R-Duncan) using the phrase "Jew me down" when talking about small business owners. Someone pointed it out to him and he quickly "apologized," saying "I apologize to the Jews. They're good small businessmen as well." He's since given a more formal apology. "It just came out of one of the wrinkles of my brain and it was not something that was intentional,” Johnson told The Oklahoman. “I certainly didn't mean to offend anyone and I apologize for the folks I did offend. It is a comment that should never be made. I will never do it again."

English school (briefly) bans triangular desserts, citing food-fight shuriken risks


Castle View School in Canvey Island, Essex, England, briefly banned triangular flapjacks (not pancakes; the English call granola-bar-like food "flapjacks") after a student sustained an injury when another student threw a cornersome flapjack at him. The school authorities required that all flapjacks must be served in rectangular portions, to increase the safety of food-fights.

The ban did not stand very long. Public mockery seems to have killed it.

According to one report, in 2011 British MP and Education Secretary Michael Gove was prevented from taking flapjacks into a cabinet meeting, after officials cited similar safety concerns. That is the only report of that alleged incident, however—although Gove was (and is) the Education Secretary, there does not appear to be any other evidence that he was ever frisked for flapjacks or that even the British government has actually classified them as a security risk.

Triangular Treats Banned Due to Risk of Sharp Corners

(Image: Flapjacks..., a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from ajy's photostream)

Kicked off a United flight for taking pictures of the new first class seats


Matthew, a young man who blogs about air-travel, was thrown off a United jet after a flight attendant chastised him for taking photos of the new first class seats. She apparently thought he was a terrorist. According to Matthew, she lied (and the captain backed her up) and said that he refused to stop taking pictures when asked. The captain apparently threatened to have him taken off the plane by the police. Matthew says he's logged 950,000 miles with United though he's only 26 years old, and that this has made him question his views of the airline.

Captain: Sir, you are not flying on this flight.

Me: Can you tell me why?

Captain: My FA tells me she told you to stop taking pictures and you continued to take pictures.

Me: That's a lie, captain. She told me stop taking pictures and I stopped. I did try to explain to her why I was taking pictures—I am a travel writer [I offered him one of my business cards and he too refused to accept it].

Captain: Look, I don't care. You are not flying on this flight. You can make this easy or make this difficult. We'll call the police if we have to.

Me: Why are you threatening me? Your FA is lying—I did not disobey any crewmember instruction.

Captain: Look, we're already late. I'd advise you to get off this plane now. Make it easy on yourself. Don't make us bring the police in. Goodbye.

Me: Wait. Captain, may I have one of your business cards?

Captain: I don't have any, but United will have no trouble finding me. My name is...[removed].

Thrown Off a United Airlines Flight for Taking Pictures! - Live and Let's Fly (via Hacker News)

Woman flips off judge during absurd hearing

This entire interaction between Penelope Soto, 18, who was arrested on possession of Xanax, and Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat rivals Wapner and Judge Judy in its absurdity. The climax is at 2:18 when Soto flips off the judge. "Did you say fuck me?… 30 days in the county jail!" (via NBC Miami)

Safeway: "Stop photographing our horrible, copyrighted cakes"


CakeWrecks reports that a local Safeway bakery has banned all photography in its bakery department, in a desperate, misguided bid to prevent its horrific creations from appearing on CakeWrecks. Safeway employees are to tell potential photogs that its cakes are copyrighted, and may not be photographed.

Today's post requires a special intro, so here's Dara G. to explain:

"My local [CENSORED*] bakery has this new policy - not strictly enforced, but kinda enforced - NO PHOTOS in the bakery department. None, nada. Per an ex-employee there, upper management is afraid that one of that store's specific cakes will be posted on 'that bad cake site.' Per what they tell you in the store, their cakes are 'all copyright protected.'"

(*Store name omitted. Because I care.)

She goes on to say:

"Apparently this new 'no photos' thing came about after y'all had posted their 'Popcorn' cakes on the site."

Ways To Play It Safe

Faulkner estate claims that quoting his novels in films is both a trademark and copyright infringement

A reader writes, "A character in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris quoted nine words from William Faulkner, with attribution. Faulkner Literary Rights LLC has responded a year later with a lawsuit alleging copyright infringement and attempts to deceive viewers into thinking Requiem for a Nun is a game for the PS3. Or something." The suit's major claims seem to turn on trademark (though there are copyright claims in there, too): the Faulkner estate claims that a movie that quotes Faulkner and has a character who meets various historical people (including Faulkner) "is likely to cause confusion, to cause mistake, and/or to deceive the infringing film's viewers as to a perceived affiliation, connection or association between William Faulkner and his works, on the one hand, and Sony, on the other hand." Cory

EU working group produces the stupidest set of proposed Internet rules in the entire history of the human race


An EU working group that's been charged with coming up with recommendations for a terrorist-free European Internet has been brainstorming the stupidest goddamned ideas you've ever read, which are now widely visible, thanks to a leaked memo. The group, CleanIT, which is composed of cops, governments, and some NGOs from across Europe, has been given €400,000 to make its recommendations, and a document dated August 2012 sets out some of the group's thinking to date. As mentioned, it's pretty amazingly bad. Like, infra-stupid, containing strains of stupidity so low and awful they can't be perceived with unaided human apparatus. Here's Ars Technica's summary of the ideas in the memo:

* "Knowingly providing hyperlinks on websites to terrorist content must be defined by law as illegal just like the terrorist content itself"
* "Governments must disseminate lists of illegal, terrorist websites"
* "The Council Regulation (EC) No 881/2002 of 27 May 2002 (art 1.2) should be explained that providing Internet services is included in providing economics instruments to Al Qaeda (and other terrorist persons and organisations designated by the EU) and therefore an illegal act"
* "On Voice over IP services it must be possible to flag users for terrorist activity."
* "Internet companies must allow only real, common names."
* "Social media companies must allow only real pictures of users."
* "At the European level a browser or operating system based reporting button must be developed."
* "Governments will start drafting legislation that will make offering... a system [to monitor Internet activity] to Internet users obligatory for browser or operating systems...as a condition of selling their products in this country or the European Union."

Ars Technica's Cyrus Farivar tracked down a CleanIT spokesman on his home planet. But Klaasen is the Dutch national coordinator for counterterrorism and security programme manager of the office of the Dutch national coordinator for counterterrorism and security*, and he is really upset that we can read this stupid, stupid document full of recommendations that would be illegal in European law. He also can't believe that European Digital Rights, the NGO that published the leaked stupid, stupid document, didn't honor the confidentiality notice on the stupid, stupid cover-page.

* Update Cyrus sez, "Klaasen has corrected his title calling himself now the 'programme manager of the office of the Dutch national coordinator for counterterrorism and security'. Here's his LinkedIn page. He's referred to as the 'project manager,' which as far as I can tell, makes him in charge of the whole thing."

"I do fully understand that the publishing of the document led to misunderstandings," he told Ars. "If we publish like this, it will scare people—that’s the reason that we didn’t publish it. It’s food for thought. We do realize these are very rough ideas."

..."You can compare [this situation] to taking pictures of what someone buys for dinner with how a dinner tastes—you don’t have the complete picture," he added.

..."We really didn’t expect that people would publish a document that clearly says ‘not for publication’—that really surprised us," he said. "I don’t know if it’s naive. Why can’t I trust people?" [Ed: Oh, diddums]

Proposed EU plan to stop terrorist sites even more ridiculous than it sounds

(Image: Clown, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from manc's photostream)

France's Hadopi finally punishes someone for infringement -- a guy whom everyone agrees isn't an infringer

The French Hadopi agency has prosecuted its first user under the country's insane anti-piracy laws, which provide for disconnection of whole families from the Internet if someone using their connection is accused of multiple acts of file-sharing. The first person to be convicted is a 40-year-old man whose ex-wife admitted to downloading some songs on his connection. The law ascribes blame for infringement to the person with the Internet account, not the person who infringes, so he is paying the €150 fine. He will not have his Internet connection taken away. Cory

UK high court experiences flash of sanity, decriminalizes sarcastic aviation tweeting

In a rare and welcome moment of sanity, the UK High Court has ruled that guy who made a snarky tweet about bombing an airport is not a criminal. The judge's written opinion is not kind to the cops and prosecutors who spent years chasing Paul Chambers, the tweeter in question, pointing out that no one at any point believed that Chambers was serious, that no one was credibly alarmed, and that they were all, basically, total idiots. Wired UK's Mark Brown has more.

"Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed," his infamous tweet read. "You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I am blowing the airport sky high!"

A week later, he was arrested by anti-terror police for making a bomb threat. In May 2010, the Doncaster magistrates court found him guilty "of sending, by means of a public electronic communications network, a message of a menacing character." He was fined and lost his job.

After a lengthy appeal process, Chambers has finally been acquitted. In the judgement document, the high court said, "the appeal against conviction will be allowed on the basis that this tweet did not constitute or include a message of a menacing character; we cannot usefully take this aspect of the appeal further."

UK High Court overturns conviction for Twitter joke

London Olympic committee says you're only allowed to link to their site if you have nice things to say

James Losey from New America Foundation sez,

The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal, who has estimated how long it would take to read every privacy policy you encounter highlights an interesting bit from the "Linking Policy" in the Terms of Use for the London 2012 website:

"a. Links to the Site. You may create your own link to the Site, provided that your link is in a text-only format. You may not use any link to the Site as a method of creating an unauthorised association between an organisation, business, goods or services and London 2012, and agree that no such link shall portray us or any other official London 2012 organisations (or our or their activities, products or services) in a false, misleading, derogatory or otherwise objectionable manner."

Hey, LOCOG! I think you're a bunch of greedy, immoral corporatist swine who've sold out London to a bunch of multinationals and betrayed the spirit of athleticism and international cooperation. You're a disgrace. And I'm linking to you. In a most derogatory manner.

What are you going to do about it?

(Thanks, James!)