Friday, 27 December 2013

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

New Ruling Finds Sherlock Holmes to be in the Public Domain in the US

Posted: 27 Dec 2013 12:33 PM PST

A 10-month-old 6426695329_438be6530c[1]legal battle came to a quiet conclusion this week.

Chief District Court Judge Rubén Castillo issued a summary judgment on Monday that found that many of the familiar elements of the Holmes canon are no longer covered by United States copyright law and have long since fallen into the public domain.

The ruling this week comes as a result of a lawsuit filed in February 2013 by a Holmes enthusiast. Finding the publication of his latest anthology of Holmes stories blocked by the Conan Doyle estate, noted Sherlockian scholar, Baker Street Irregular, and prominent attorney Leslie Klinger filed suit in the federal district court of Illinois to settle once and for all whether the character Sherlock Holmes was under copyright or in the public domain.

The Conan Doyle estate had been shaking down new book, TV, and movie productions for some years now with requests for license fees. They had collected fees from everyone from WB, which produced the Robert Downey Jr Holmes movies, to Paramount, which paid for a couple episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation back in the 1990s.

Even Mr Klinger had reportedly paid license fees for his previous Holmes works, including The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, The Sherlock Holmes Reference Library and The Grand Game: A Celebration of Sherlockian Scholarship, but when he found himself in conflict over  the upcoming publication of In the Company of Sherlock Holmes he took to the courthouse rather than the boardroom. That anthology was going to be published by Pegasus Books and included Holmes stories by numerous well-known mystery/sci-fi/fantasy authors.


It’s not clear why exactly Mr Klinger was unable to come to terms with the Conan Doyle estate this time around, but given the outcome I am willing to be in the dark on this issue. Common sense rarely makes an appearance in the US courts, and I am much too pleased to make its acquaintance to wonder at what I don’t know.

This ruling is a stake through the heart of a questionable legal theory which claimed that the characters of Holmes and Watson were still under copyright simply because they appeared in stories that were under copyright.

And just to be clear, the ruling is specifically limited to elements found in the 50 Holmes works written by Arthur Conan Doyle and published before 1 January 1923, and include the address 221B Baker Street, the characters Holmes, Watson, and Professor Moriarty, and other elements of the Holmes universe, but does not include any detail found exclusively in the last collection of stories which was published after 1923 in the US.

Now the Conan Doyle estate will have to limit itself to only collecting fees based on the trademarks they possess as well as copyrighted elements found in the one remaining Conan Doyle book, The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, which contains the few Sherlock Holmes stories that are under copyright in the US – 10 stories, in fact. This includes such details as the fact that Watson played rugby for Blackheath.

On a related note, the estate won’t have any luck trying to collect similar fees in other countries; Conan Doyle died well over 70 years ago so his works are out of copyright every where but the US.

P.S. Those who are interested can find a copy of the summary judgement at this link.

More Reading

image by ell brown

The post New Ruling Finds Sherlock Holmes to be in the Public Domain in the US appeared first on The Digital Reader.

AndrOpen Office Suite App Brings eBook Creation to Android

Posted: 27 Dec 2013 09:56 AM PST

I have andropenlong been pining for a full office suite on Android and my pleas have been answered by AndrOpen, an Android port of Apache Open Office.

This is a new version of Open Office which was initially released in Google Play in March 2013, and it brings not just the usual spreadsheet, Word editor, presentation creator, etc, but the entire kit and kabooble.

AndrOpen includes (almost) every part of  the desktop version of Apache Open Office, including more features than you’ll find on most Android office suites. While apps like Kingsoft or Softmaker can support a couple file formats and most of the basic features for each of the core functions, AndrOpen supports pretty much every office format you can think of and (based on my perusal of the menus) includes every trick you would expect to find in an office suite on a PC.

Unfortunately, it also includes the same interface as found on the rest of Apache Open Office. This can present a problem on a 7″ screen:


I’ve been playing around with the app for a day or so and it could really use some work. It’s not all that stable yet, and compared to most Android apps it is also rather slow to load. TBF, that comes as no surprise; this is not your average mobile app (I wouldn’t even have considered trying this on anything lighter than a quad-core CPU).

And the interface is atrocious. This app still has the exact same interface, layout, and menu structure as on the Linux version of Apache Open Office, and while you can use it with a touchscreen I am not sure that you’re going to like the experience.


This is usable, yes, but I have repeatedly been stumped by menus hanging half of the screen.

AndrOpen also appears to be missing support for extensions. This limits what it can do, but more importantly it blocks you from using the app to make Epub ebooks. There are several Open Office extensions that can make Epub files from documents, but I have not been able to find a way to install them.

That unfortunately limits me to only making PDFs, which I feel is a poor substitute.

AndrOpen has been publicly available for at least 9 months, and it has received several major updates and quite a few bug fixes.There’s also evidence of several interface tweaks in the form of an onscreen menu key and a slideout menu on the right which offers arrow keys and other basic functions like cut and paste buttons.

But in spite of the improvements I think this app needs more work before it’s worth using. That’s why I plan to wait until it is re-released with a new interface before adding it to my standard collection of apps. By that point it should be more stable, have far fewer bugs, and work better on a touchscreen.

You can find the app in Google Play.


The post AndrOpen Office Suite App Brings eBook Creation to Android appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Amazon’s Subscription eBook Service Now Offers 475 Thousand Titles, Supports Over 450 Thousand Users

Posted: 27 Dec 2013 07:02 AM PST

Amazon isn’tkindle owner's lending library usually one to give us all the details when they toot their own horn, but sometimes we can piece together disparate reports and discover details that Amazon hasn’t shared.

Take the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, for example. This free book service lets Kindle-owning Amazon Prime members borrow one free ebook each month, but how many are making use of it?

Amazon has only disclosed that this 2 year old service now has a catalog of 475,000 titles, but they have yet to tell us how many of their customers are making use of it. But if we look elsewhere for the data we can get a good idea of the minimum number of users.

Earlier this week Amazon released their annual back-patting press release. There weren’t any details on the number of Kindle tablets or ebook readers sold, nor did Amazon say anything about how many ebooks they sold. Amazon did tell release details about the additional 200,000 exclusive titles in the Kindle Store, and that only 150 indie authors sold more than 100,000 copies of their ebooks via KDP (100k is not a huge number for an author with a decent sized backlist).

And most importantly for this post, Amazon told us that the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library stocked “more than 475,000″ titles. That is up considerably from the “over 250,000″ titles which Amazon claimed last year. Yes, the catalog nearly doubled in size, though it’s not clear where the titles came from.

kindle owner's lending library

If I had to guess I would say that some of the titles are from indie authors who signed up with KDP Select. Some were interested in the promotional value, but others were interested in pursuing the 70% payment option for the Kindle Stores in India, Brazil, Japan, and Mexico. In order to get the higher payment option in those specific markets, Amazon requires that a title also be in KDP Select (the feeder program for Kindle Owner’s Lending Library). Any title in that program must be exclusive to the Kindle Store.

I’m not so sure that those markets are important enough to attract 200,000 new exclusive titles, not when most of western Europe (as well as NZ and AUS) is included in the 70% option with no exclusivity requirement, but I could be wrong.

So now that we know that KOLL has a catalog of “more than 475,000″ titles, would anyone care to guess how many of Amazon’s customers are actively using it?

My guess is that there’s at least a million readers participating every month, but all I can say for certain is that there are at least 447,000 active users.

I got that number by looking at Amazon’s publicly disclosed funding for KDP Select. KDP Select has been averaging about 400 thousand to 500 thousand loans each month for all of 2013 (aside from January, which hit 760,000 loans). In November the created a pool of $1.1 million to pay to participating authors, and averaged $2.46 per loan with about 447,154 loans made.

Credit goes to Morris Rosenthal of Foner Books for tracking the payment and funding every month.

This of course doesn’t present a complete picture of how many readers participate in Kindle Owner’s Lending Library; it is almost certainly low (I think it misses about half). But it does give us a minimum threshold for participants. It also tells us that KOLL is almost certainly one of the top 3 ebook subscription services.

The only one that I think could have more customers is Scribd, which launched their service in early October, taking it international on day one. But since neither Amazon nor Scribd has shared any hard data your guess is as good as mine which is more successful.

Would anyone care to make a guess?

The post Amazon’s Subscription eBook Service Now Offers 475 Thousand Titles, Supports Over 450 Thousand Users appeared first on The Digital Reader.

No comments:

Post a Comment