View 725 Thursday, May 24, 2012
There is more pressure for the government to get involved in the Facebook Fiasco. I am sure that will build. Government would love to get further involved in regulating IPO transactions since regulation means an opportunity for shakedown. Some “investors” are complaining that they were misinformed about Facebook’s expected revenues. It turns out that the worst misinformation still had the price to earnings ratio of more than thirty.
My only comment remains: anyone who bought stock at more than 30 times earnings, and any financial advisor who touted stocks at more than thirty times earnings, probably has other foolish habits. Facebook may be a wonder, but surely it is not going to grow three times as fast as Apple or Google – or if it is, I at least would like to see an argument more powerful than ‘financial analysts advice”. Why is Facebook going to grow faster? And of course it didn’t. I would still predict that Facebook is going to fall well into the twenties, and probably lower.
scribd – problems and solutions
Regarding problems with scribd takedown notices:
The DMCA almost explicity disclaims any "affirmative duty" (as the lawyers say) to police for copyright infringement, so long as one follows the takedown provisions. The law is perhaps a surprisingly reasonable recognition of the fact that "internet scale" operations cannot possibly police all their content, and is a decent rule for ISPs and web hosts and other general-purpose platform providers. It seems scribd is happy hiding behind this barrier, and is legally, if not ethically, clear in doing so.
The DMCA is pretty old-fashioned, in that it doesn’t recognize (1) the possibility of free and very low-friction copies, and (2) the sheer size of the modern Internet. It also makes no distinction for things like scribd that are not really general-purpose hosts and could, quite reasonably, prohibit the same content from re-appearing, or at least make an effort, especially since it was written before lots of modern pattern-recognition techniques came into common use. But the law, in general, can never keep up with innovation, so none of this is much of a surprise.
So if it’s not reasonable for providers to police and barely possible for owners to police, what’s the legal solution? Possibly providers could be required to prevent material explicitly registered with them; that is not an unreasonable thing for large-ish operations to automate, but it would be a burden on startups and smaller outfits.
Anyway, I’m a tech guy, so I think of tech solutions. It woudn’t be too hard to create a tool to scan scribd (and similar) to automate the search for titles you own, and it could probably even generate the takedown notices. It may be fast and easy for people to post copies of your books, but I bet it’s not fast or easy enough to beat such a tool. Get enough authors on board, and it may actually encourage scribd and similar to put their own solution in place, just to save their time.
There’s probably something like this, but my quick searches haven’t turned it up. Perhaps a more determined effort will show some fruit; if so, I’d like to know, just to take a look. (I don’t think anyone’s re-publishing my book. Both too old and a bit too niche to bother, probably. Though you never know.) If not, and you think it would be of use, I’d like to know that too–in that case I’d probably knock something together, just because someone needs to.
J Cameron Cooper
Thank you for the succinct summary. I have a great deal of mail on this, and most of it will go in the mailbag.
Any individual author can send a list of copyright violations as part of a properly executed DMCA takedown notice, and scribd will very likely act on that in a timely manner. The most onerous part of this process is collecting the exact URL of each copyright violation on scribd. That can be quite a lot of work, since not all mentions of an author or of specific titles are in fact acts of piracy. Some are reviews. Some are copies of Amazon “look inside”. Those latter, of course, are certainly copyright violations since Amazon does not obtain permission to allow others to republish their looks inside. Some are incomplete, like the copy of Lucifer’s Hammer that I referred to yesterday. That too is still a copyright violation. And note that once the takedown notice has been honored, there is generally nothing to prevent the same poster from putting the same stuff back up again, and it’s up to the author to find that out and start the process over again. This can get tedious.
In the Lucifer’s Hammer case has that partial (about a third of the book) republishing of Hammer done sales any harm? Probably not. It could even be argued that it might intrigue someone into buying a properly formatted eBook copy. I understand that argument, and I have mixed data on its accuracy. But there is more here than commercial value. Do note that some authors are simply horrified at the notion that someone has the ‘right’ to publish a badly chopped up, horribly formatted, excerpt of the author’s work without regard to the financial consequences.
I like the notion of a software tool that would automatically find copyright violations and generate a DMCA takedown notice. It would certainly annoy scribd, perhaps sufficiently that someone in authority at scribd would actually try to work with authors, agents, and author associations to come up with some meaningful way to let scribd continue to work its business plan without trampling on author rights. As I have said: it is possible that there is no commercial harm and it’s rather likely that there is no great commercial harm from scribd’s activities; but that’s not the point. Authors should have some control over their works. In particular they ought to be able to insist on well formatted pirate copies!
I have this from an author:
The loathsome scribd.com posts XXYYZZ (the single most
valuable thing that I own, not excepting YYXXZZ whose
movie sale made me financially independent) over and over
and over again.
They allow anybody, without identification, to post
anything, but hide behind every clause in the law to make it
hard for writers to get their work taken down when it’s
illegitimately posted. I have to make them take it down
every single damned time.
I got into a nasty Facebook squabble with one of their
toadies a while back (he was promoting "information wants to
be free" and "being stolen from is good for you so STFU and
lie back and enjoy it"), and after several public go-rounds
he sent me a private message to say he had changed his mind,
I was right, but he couldn’t say so in public.
He sounded scared. I have no idea what was going on there; I
It’s time for scribd to have a serious conversation with agents and author associations. This isn’t going away, and their habit of stonewalling isn’t really going to help. And there’s this:
Niven + Pournelle = zipper + heroin
Another problem with scribd is that once copyrighted or trademarked materials are left in the public domain, the property holders’ rights can be lost. For instance, both "zipper" and "heroin" were trademarks, but once they had fallen into general use without the property-holders’ objection, they became generic terms. Try using Kleenex without the capitalization in a general publication and a stern letter will arrive from Kimberly-Clark Worldwide.
In a kind of related matter: Much has been made about Elizabeth Warren’s "plagiarism" of recipes. Under copyright law, recipes and jokes cannot be copyrighted. That’s one reason chefs are so jealous of their recipes.
I hadn’t even thought of that one.
© 2012, jerrypournelle. All rights reserved.