Monday, 7 April 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 8 April 2014

Posted: 07 Apr 2014 09:30 PM PDT

tumblr_n2zvlfobQy1tqp7zlo1_400[1]Here’s a short list of 5 stories to read this morning.

  • Amazon's Vision for the Future of Self-Publishing (DBW)
  • The Great E-book Pricing Question (David Gaughran)
  • Hollywood Piles On: MPAA Sues Megupload, Even Though They Already Got The Feds To Kill It (Techdirt)
  • Poetry Audiobooks (School Library Journal)
  • Serious reading takes a hit from online scanning and skimming, researchers say (The Washington Post)

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Apple Files Petition for a Stay in eBook Damages Trial

Posted: 07 Apr 2014 06:43 PM PDT

Apple tossed 163181916_b0f14b7e84[1]up another roadblock today in their ongoing fight over the antitrust lawsuit they lost last summer.

Having lost battles over the consumer lawsuit receiving class action certification and over the testimony of expert witnesses being thrown out, the electronics giant filed a new petition today a stay of all proceedings in the damages phase of the antitrust lawsuit.

Apple is arguing that the damages phase should be delayed because they fully expected to win the appeal they filed in the 9th Circuit. “Over the past nine months, this Court has entered a series of significant rulings in this litigation, all against Apple, and all involving highly contentious, controversial legal issues that Apple is likely to prevail on before the Second Circuit,” Apple's brief opens. “Indeed, should Apple prevail on either its appeal from the underlying merits or its forthcoming [appeal] from class certification, the entire landscape of this litigation will radically change, and the damages phase ordered by this Court will be mooted or require a retrial. Accordingly, the Court should exercise its discretion and stay these proceedings.”

Apple has also asked that if the entire proceeding can’t be delayed, at least the class action notice should not be sent to consumers because it would lead to irrepairable harm to Apple should they win their appeal. “Here, the anticipated harm to Apple is particularly acute, given that plaintiffs seek to notify millions of current or prospective Apple customers that they may have been subjected to a price-fixing scheme that resulted in higher prices for e-books,” the brief states. "Apple's reputation would be damaged by this class notice in a way that cannot be repaired if Apple prevails on appeal.”

On a related note, it’s worth noting that this petition has  many similarities to another appeal Apple filed in January. In that appeal Apple went over Judge Cote’s head and tried to get a 3 judge panel to  block the court-appointed antitrust monitor from performing his duties. In that appeal Apple claimed that the presence of the monitor would cause irreparable harm to Apple’s internal processes. That appeal went over like a lead balloon, and I expect that this petition will meet with equal success.

Given that Judge Cote has consistently ruled against all of Apple’s delaying tactics, it is unlikely that she will rule in their favor in this petition.


image by aditza121

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University of Maryland Now Exploring Open Source Textbook Options

Posted: 07 Apr 2014 04:40 PM PDT

With an annual 1375685165_0026af5223_n[1]growth rate that exceeds housing and healthcare, textbooks are the single fastest growing expense for college students and many universities are looking for a solution.

The University of California and the University of Washington have each started programs to offer their students a catalog of free and freely available open source textbooks, and now the University System of Maryland is following suit.

The university system has launched a pilot program where it is testing the use of open source textbooks. 1,100 students are participating in the pilot, which is spread across a number of universities in Maryland.

Unlike digital textbooks sold by Coursesmart, Inkling, and Amazon, open source textbooks are assembled from materials gathered from various free sources, some public domain and some not. Several non-profit groups like the CK-12 and the 20 Million Minds Foundation are working with educators to develop and distribute open source textbooks, which are usually released under a CC, GPL, or other license which allows for free use, sharing, and distribution.

7635645124_41eb36ddd0[1]11 professors are participating in the university system’s pilot, including ones at the University of Baltimore, Bowie State University, Coppin State University, and the University of Maryland College Park as well as professors at two institutions not in the state university system: Chesapeake College on the Eastern Shore and St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

The pilot is supported by a partnership with Lumen Learning, a Portland-based startup that helps educators find and access open-source content, tests, graphics and other course materials which the educators can use to create textbooks, study materials, and other curricula. According to M.J. Bishop, director of the system’s Center for Innovation and Excellence in Learning and Teaching, Lumen Learning is providing the service for free to the Maryland system and 19 other universities nationwide through grants.

Bishop, who is overseeing the pilot program, believes open-source textbooks will become more common. She also thinks the university system could develop its own library of open source materials, both to make adoption easier and to assure quality.

“Anybody at this point can write a textbook and put it out there for consumption,” she said. “It’s still sort of a crapshoot, frankly, if the textbook you just downloaded is going to have the kind of quality that you want for your course.”

Early reports have generally been positive. Robert Javonillo, a Coppin State professor participating in the pilot, told the Baltimore Sun that his Intro to Biology students were relieved to learn that their assigned course materials would be free. The last time Javonillo taught the course he assigned a textbook which cost $158. He said the open source materials that were used in his textbook have been generally high quality, with the exception of some of the illustrations.

But in spite of the occasional successes, open source textbooks still face challenges and have not bee widely adopted. “I don’t know if it’s transforming higher ed yet,” said Craig R. Vasey, a member of the American Association of University Professors. Vasey uses uses open source materials in his logic class at the University of Mary Washington, but he notes that many do not: “I think the textbook publishing business is still doing very, very well.”

Baltimore Sun

images by wohnai, Saad Faruque

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eBook Creation Startup Moglue Shuts Down, Sells Out

Posted: 07 Apr 2014 11:03 AM PDT

Moglue was img-builder-big[1]one of the hot ebook startups when it debuted in 2012, and the startup got even more attention when it launched its 2.0 platform in September 2013, but popularity doesn’t amount to much when there’s not enough revenue.

Citing the lack of a market for Moglue’s ebook creation service,  Moglue CEO and co-founder TaeWoo Kim shut down the company late last year. The IP has been sold off to two firms, the US-based Auryn and Korean platform Bookjam, and the Moglue service is defunct.

Moglue was launched with the goal of providing a simple easy to use interface for creating rich format ebooks. The service was available for a $99 a year subscription, and it enabled creators with no programming experience to build colorful ebooks using a simple, drag-and-drop interface.

Creators could use MoglueBuilder to make the ebook, and then after double-checking the content in MoglueViewer the ebooks could be uploaded for sale as ebook apps in iTunes or Google Play.


But in spite of the low cost and ease of use, according to TaeWoo Kim there wasn’t much of a market for the service:

After we launched our 2.0, we realized that the market was not big enough. I talked to several competitors in various countries such as the US, Spain, and Israel and all of them have a difficult time. So I thought that I`d better to sell the company and work on other project.

In a way I am both surprised and not surprised.

I’m surprised because the news in September was quite positive. Moglue boasted 50,000 users around the world. They were planning to sign deals with major publishers and were also working on a much cheaper, streamlined mobile version with preloaded templates for casual users.

But I’m also not surprised because this isn’t the first similar service to have trouble. In the two years that Moglue too to develop their platform Vook pivoted to offer a similar service focused on embedding video and audio. About a year later Vook pivoted away from the idea.

While I do know of a couple similar services which still charge for ebook creation, both offer a much more basic service at a much lower cost. eBookBurn can make Kindle and Epub file at a cost of only $19 per title, and Pressbooks can make PDF, Epub, and Kindle (with costs anywhere from free to $300). Neither service is as rich as what Vook or Moglue offered, and that could be the key to their success.

There are far more people interested in making a basic ebook than those who want to create rich ebook like the ones that Moglue enabled, and between the price and the niche focus Moglue may just have done itself in.


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Marvell Showed Off Android TV at CES 2014 (video)

Posted: 07 Apr 2014 08:39 AM PDT

Whenandroid tv marvell 2014 ces details about Android TV leaked this weekend, little was known about Google’s second venture into the living room aside from the name and what it would look like.

The Android TV effort, which had been in the works for quite a while, had been kept a close secret at Google. Or maybe it wasn’t.

A recently uncovered video from CES 2104 in January has revealed that Google’s hardware partners, including Marvell and Hisense, were showing off a Hisense TV that was running the new Android TV.

Charbax caught up with Marvell at CES 2014, and the rep was more than happy to show off the “secret” Android TV project. Apparently it’s already in the hands of device makers, and Hisense has shipped at least one SmartTV that runs Android TV in December.

The video has a lot of detail about Android TV, including the fact that the Hisense TV on display runs Android 4.2.  It’s available in the US now, and it will soon be followed by other devices running Android TV, including several devices which are going to ship in Europe in the Spring.

Android TV is going to be more than just a Fire TV competitor; the Marvell rep mentioned that they are showing off Android TV running on everything from a single core chip (like what’s in the Chromecast), a dual-core chip (like the Roku 3 box), and even a quad-core chip which could be as powerful as the Fire TV.

Google wants Android to power all of the devices in your living room, not just the high end ones like the Fire TV. Given that Google is already seeing a lot of success with ChromeCast, I wouldn’t be surprised if they displaced either Roku or Amazon as the second most common  platform.

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Pocketbook’s Camera-Equipped eReader Tipped for a May Launch, Will Cost 199 Euros

Posted: 07 Apr 2014 07:30 AM PDT

When the2558[1] Pocketbook Ultra leaked in early March I had my doubts as to whether the images were real rather than the product of some designer’s daydream, but now it would seem that I was wrong.

Details are still scarce on the Pocketbook Ultra, but new leaks have confirm that this ebook reader really exists.

Several product listings on German retail websites have turned up online today. They are incomplete, and they still leave many important details unanswered, but it now looks like Pocketbook plans to launch the Ultra by the end of May 2014.

The Pocketbook Ultra has a Carta E-ink screen, making it a rara avis among ebook readers. When it ships it will be only the third device to use that screen, along with the newer Kindle Paperwhite and the recently launched Tolino Vision.

pocketbook ultra

The listings also confirm that the Ultra will have a rear facing camera as well as OCR software, which I expect will be supported by a note-taking app of some kind. The Ultra will be available in Green and have a retail price of 199 euros.

The listings don’t mention the page turn buttons on the rear of the ebook reader, nor do they give the dimensions, weight, or other specs. One listing does indicate that the Ultra will be available by 30 May.

Pocketbook has yet to confirm or deny the Ultra, but at this point I would say that we are looking at their next ebook reader. The Ultra is the most innovative ebook reader design I have seen in several years now, and I can’t wait to learn more about it. Stay tuned for the official announcement.

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North Korea’s Smartphone Revealed as a Chinese Clone

Posted: 07 Apr 2014 06:38 AM PDT

When Arirang-AS120-vs-Uniscope-U1201-image-1North Korea unveiled the Arirang smartphone last August, many experts questioned whether the device was truly a Korean invention or whether it was more like North Korea’s Samjiyon tablet, which turned out to be a clone of a Chinese tablet.

It turns out those doubts were justified, because new information has revealed that the Arirang AS1201 smartphone is in fact either a copy of or simply a rebranded version of the U1201 smartphone from Uniscope.

This smartphone maker is relatively unknown outside of its native China, but apparently it is well-known enough for North Korea to copy its tech. New side by side photos of the  AS1201 and the U1201show a striking similarity between the smartphones. Sure, the home screen is different but the physical details are strikingly similar:

Uniscope-U1201-vs-Arirang-AS1201 Arirang-AS120-vs-Uniscope-U1201-image-2 Arirang-AS120-vs-Uniscope-U1201-image-1

We don’t have complete details on the AS1201, but according to online retailers the U1201 runs Android on a dual-core Snapdragon S4 1.2GHz CPU with 768MB RAM and 4GB storage. It has a 4.3″ screen with a resolution of 960 x 540, 2 cameras (2MP and 8 MP), 3G, and generally specs on the same level as a low priced budget smartphone – in 2013, anyway.

Given that Qualcomm is a US company, it is unlikely that this official North Korean smartphone still has a Snapdragon chip in it (it would be cause for a DOJ investigation). But aside from the change in the home screen (and the probable changes to lock down the Android OS) there’s little to say exactly how the two models differ.

From what I can see, no one has posted an extensive comparison of the devices, just a few photos. That’s probably because the AS1201 is difficult to find even in North Korea, much less out of it.

The Uniscope U1201, on the other hand, current costs 638 yuan in China through online store JD. You can purchase it through this link here or visit the Uniscope official website.


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CafePress, Self-Publishing and the DMCA

Posted: 07 Apr 2014 05:27 AM PDT

Sometimes, cafepress-logo-300x191[1]in copyright circles, important cases and rulings have a way of avoiding the limelight. With all of the attention recently paid to the "Innocence of Muslims" ruling, a different lawsuit, possibly of greater importance, has gotten surprisingly little attention.

That lawsuit centers around the popular printing site CafePress and, specifically, whether or not the service qualifies as an online service provider that should receive protection under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

A recent ruling in that case, even if it is just a denial of a summary judgment, should give the entire industry pause to think just how solid its legal protections really are. The same can also be said for any other company that sells products uploaded by users, including self-publishers, many music sites and even some photo sharing sites.

So while this case hasn't been capturing headlines so far, it might be time for it to start. Especially as conversations about the DMCA and reforming it are taking off.

Gardner v. CafePress: The Basics

Steven Gardner is a visual artist who focuses heavily on paintings of wildlife. He recently discovered that some of his works were available on CafePress to purchase on various types of products.

CafePress is a printing site that lets users upload images for the purpose of creating online stores to sell them. It lets users choose what products to sell and, when something is ordered, it prints and ships the product. CafePress then gives the uploader the difference between their price and the price the uploader charged, giving the uploader a chance to profit.

CafePress' products include t-shirts, mugs, towels, cell phone cases, wall art and much more.

Though CafePress does have a means to report copyright infringement, and is known to quickly remove infringing works, Gardner instead filed suit, claiming that CafePress, due to its business model, was at least partially responsible for the infringement.

The DMCA, under its safe harbor provisions, protects web hosts and other online service providers from liability for copyright infringement committed by users on their services. For example, Tumblr is not held liable when a user uploads an infringing image.

However, that protection comes with a series of caveats, the biggest being that the host must work to expeditiously remove the infringing material when notified of infringement. The host must also have a policy to terminate repeat infringers, must not interfere with "standard technical measures" to identify or protect copyrighted works and must not profit directly from the infringement if they have the right and ability to control it.

CafePress recently sought to have the case dismissed on a summary judgment, saying that it qualified for protection under the DMCA. However, the court denied that request, instead saying that there were valid reasons to believe CafePress does not qualify for safe harbor protections and may be liable for these (and potentially countless other) infringements on its service.

The Reasoning Behind the CafePress Ruling

To be 100% clear, this is just a preliminary ruling and is by no means final. The burden of proof at the summary judgment stage is very high and it it is placed on the petitioner, in this case CafePress. To win the case, Gardner will still have to prove definitively that CafePress does not qualify for protection under the DMCA.

Still, the ruling does give a glimpse into the potential arguments and what the court is thinking. On that front, things are not looking good for CafePress in this area.

According to the court, there were several problems with CafePress' argument that it is protected by the DMCA.

  1. Not a "Service Provider": The court hinted that it could not say, at this stage, that CafePress is a "service provider" because it is not a neutral third party between buyers and sellers. Instead, it actively sets price, manufactures works and only pays users a commission of sales.
  2. Metadata Removal: The ruling also stated that CafePress' removal of Metadata after an image is uploaded could be an example of "interfering with 'standard technical measures'" that creators use to identify and protect copyrighted works, possibly opening it up to liability.
  3. Right and Ability to Control: CafePress' terms of service says that works appear in its marketplace "in its sole and absolute discretion", it has the ability to modify designs and chooses which products are sent to Amazon and Ebay through its feeds. As such, the court found that it likely had the right and ability to control the infringement, meaning that its direct profit from the infringement is yet another potential safe harbor issue.

What all of this added up to is that the court denied the motion of summary judgment on the safe harbor issue, saying that there was more than enough reason to think the plaintiff might prevail on these issues to put the matter before oral augments and, possibly, a trial.

However, CafePress did score a win on one key issue, statutory damages. The court did grant their motion for summary judgment there because Gardner did not register the copyright in his works until after the files had been uploaded to CafePress' site. This means that Gardner is ineligible for statutory damages and attorneys fees, instead, he's limited to actual damages, which, according to the ruling, is likely limited to about $6,320, the worth of all of the products sold.

Compare this to the potential $150,000 per infringement that would have been (theoretically) possible under statutory damages and it's easy to see why this is a major victory for CafePress.

The DMCA and Self Publishing/Image Sharing

But while the statutory damages issue mains CafePress will likely emerge unscathed in this case, either by forcing a small settlement or making the suit financially impractical to pursue, the DMCA issues linger for CafePress and, considering another lawsuit has already been filed, CafePress should not celebrate its victory yet.

The court compared CafePress to Amazon and Ebay, two other marketplace sites that had previously been ruled to be protected by the DMCA (Note: the previously ruling dealt with Amazon Marketplace, not Amazon's self-publishing platform). The previous rulings found that Amazon and Ebay were merely facilitators of the selling of goods, not direct sellers. However, since CafePress is involved in the manufacturing, marketing, pricing, etc. of its products, that it likely was a "direct seller" and their role went beyond being a "service provider".

However, it's easy to see how these arguments could also apply to other types of businesses. For example, self publishing sites like Lulu, CreateSpace, etc. After all, they are responsible for manufacturing works, they set prices and they pay their uploaders royalties, all the same as CafePress.

But an even larger potential issue is the metadata one. I've talked before how many image sharing site strip out EXIF metadata from photos. This ruling hints that, if such metadata is considered have been "developed pursuant to a broad consensus of copyright owners and service providers," stripping it out, even through an automated means, could cause a service provider to lose DMCA safe harbor protection. This could impact a slew of sites, like Flickr and even Facebook, as they will have to adjust their practices to remain protected.

In short, the findings of this court have the potential to shake up a lot of industries and this case is definitely one that should be watched more closely by anyone interested in copyright matters.

Bottom Line

In general, with the DMCA, the less involved a site or service provider is, the better off it is. CafePress, unfortunately for it, is very involved in the process. Not only taking a direct role in pricing and selecting content to promote, but actually manufacturing the works it sells.

Without Ebay, sellers would have to go to a flea market, without CafePress, its users would have nothing to sell.

All of the problems the court found with CafePress' arguments make it seem unlikely that they will be able to convince this judge that they qualify for safe harbor protection. If that's true, other companies that operate in a similar matter should be equally worried.

While this case will likely not be a long-term issue for CafePress due to the statutory damages issue, losing safe harbor protections means that other copyright holders, ones who did timely register their works, will be lining up to file suit and, given the nature of statutory damages, millions could easily be on the line.

The time for companies likes CafePress to rethink their copyright policies is now. This ruling, if upheld, could throw a major obstacle in the path of self-publishers, photo sharing sites and even companies like CDBaby, which manufactures CDs for musicians.

While things are far from certain right now as this is just a ruling denying a summary judgment, the indications are clear. If one waits for a more substantial ruling, it might be too late to take any needed action.

In the end, it's hard to say what the impact of this will be. But given that many rightsholders have long complained about finding their work on sites like CafePress, a more cautious and aware self-publishing industry could benefit everyone, including the creators who do self-publish and have less competition from infringing works.

reposted from Plagiarism Today under a CC license

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How Would You Die in Game of Thrones?

Posted: 07 Apr 2014 04:46 AM PDT

Here’s308341396473525269_14_Vulture_GoT_likegate_rev2 something fun to keep you busy while waiting for the next episode of Game of Thrones.

Whether it’s being flayed alive by the Boltons, strangled with your own small intestines, or stabled in the back by your own men, there are many interesting ways to die in Game of Thrones.

How do you think you’ll die? Vulture has posted a random death generator on their Facebook page to help you find out. It includes many of the less gruesome causes of death from the novels, but after playing with it for a few minutes I think it’s missing a number of the more inventive deaths mentioned in the 5th book. (It’s also missing a couple obvious ones like betrayed by Littlefinger, turned into a wight, or experimented upon by Qyburn.)

Here’s one example:

vulture random death generator

I won’t spoil it for you, but the 5th book spends a fair amount of time following the Boltons. They don’t eat their victims (well, at least  not recently) but they do have some inventive ways to kill people which take a long time.



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