Thursday, 21 August 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

It’s Official: US Regulators Say that Monkey’s Selfie Cannot be Copyrighted

Posted: 21 Aug 2014 03:25 PM PDT

Macaca_nigra_self-portrait_(rotated_and_cropped)The US Copyright Office released the public draft of a new report today on their standards and practices, and buried in the 1,222-page procedural report was the death knell of an amusing but relatively minor copyright issue.

That famous monkey selfie which made the news a few weeks back officially has no copyright. Noting that “The Office will not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants”, the US copyright office ended the most captivating copyright debate of the year not with a bang but with the stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen.

The story of the artistically-inclined macaque first made its way around the web in 2012. According to  David Slater, the British photographer whose camera was “borrowed”, the monkey hijacked the camera while the photographer was on a trip to the Indonesian jungle in 2011, and took tons of pictures, including the selfie.

That mischievous monkey also took this photo. I believe Slater is the one on the left:


Noting that Slater had registered the copyright to the selfie in his own name, experts opined at the time that the photos taken by the monkey were probably in the public domain because the creator was a monkey, and thus technically could not claim a copyright.

That opinion was seconded a few weeks ago when Wikimedia, the non-profit behind Wikipedia, revealed that they had declined to remove a copy of the famous selfie which had been uploaded by a user. The organization had received a DMCA notice and after much internal debate decided not to take it down. In their opinion the image was in the public domain.

And now the matter has been settled by the US copyright office – in the US, at least.  According to The Telegraph, there is a clause in that country’s copyright law where the photographer might be able to claim that he owned the copyright:

In the UK, under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, a photographer can claim rights over an image even if he or she did not press the shutter button if the results are their "intellectual creation" – for example, they came up with the concept of a monkey taking a "selfie".

However, such a case has never been tried in court and the outcome would be uncertain.

This probably won’t help Slater; he has already admitted that the monkey stole the camera without his permission. In short, he didn’t intend to create the circumstances for the monkey to take the photo, so he can’t claim that the monkey was working for him.

Ars Technica

The post It’s Official: US Regulators Say that Monkey’s Selfie Cannot be Copyrighted appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Ad Detector Plugin Will Tell You Whether that Post You’re Reading is Actually an Advert

Posted: 21 Aug 2014 12:37 PM PDT

ad detector 1Whether reader like it or not, money is what truly drives the web. Many sites have turned to advertising to pay the bills, and unfortunately a few have decided to sell their articles and blog posts to advertisers.

That is called native advertising, and I doubt very many readers like the idea that sites as well-respected as Forbes, The Atlantic, and Newsweek are selling their editorial content to advertisers – and then not telling readers.

That is why I am pleased to share a useful plugin that just came across my desk. It’s called Ad Detector, and according to the description it does exactly what the name implies:

AdDetector is a browser plugin that puts a red banner above articles that may appear unbiased but are actually advertisements. Its goal is to improve transparency in media and on the web.

I have installed the plugin, and I have had a chance to see it in action so I can confirm that it works. I’m told it is designed to detect content which is sponsored but not explicitly called out as such.

The plugin is available for Firefox and Chrome. Here’s what it will look like in action:

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While I will not yell about companies making money this way, I also think that they should be more explicit about their actions. This plugin does what they will not.

You can download the plugin from the Chrome Web Store and from the Add-On page on For more details, check out the  Ad Detector website.

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Did Thomson Reuters Really Engage in Piracy Under the Cover of an Opt-Out Clause?

Posted: 21 Aug 2014 10:53 AM PDT

A story crossed my desk this morning that has me wondering whether the third largest publisher in the world has a policy of engaging in piracy.

One Indian tech blog I follow, Medianama, reported this morning on an email they got from Thomson Reuters. According to their post, Thomson Reuters said that it would take their non-response as permission to copy and distribute their articles.

We received an email from Thomson Reuters last evening, informing us that unless we write back to them in 14 days denying them the use of our articles, they will take the lack of refusal, as an indication of consent to use them. What's more, they will presume that we have given them the "right to use, incorporate and distribute the Content in its Services to its subscribers and to permit such subscribers to use and redistribute the Content."

Here’s the important part of the email:

We would ask, therefore, that you respond either to the address or e-mail address given below within 14 days of the date at the head of this letter only if you wish to refuse your consent. Otherwise, Thomson Reuters will presume that your consent has been given for the purposes set out in this letter. Performance by Thomson Reuters under this letter will constitute adequate consideration for the purposes of this letter.

Clearly that is piracy; even a non-lawyer such as myself knows that simply assuming agreement is not always valid. Yes, there is a proverb which can be summed up as “he who says nothing, agrees”, but I wish you luck in arguing that in court.

This story crossed my desk earlier today, and I was all set to follow Techdirt and rip Thomson Reuters a new one, but as I got to writing the first draft of this post I started to question whether it is as serious as it sounds. I went looking for related incidents, but could not find any. Sure, I’ve seen the original email, but that is but a single email.

As I got to writing the post I asked myself if this was the policy of the $5.5 billion a year conglomerate, one division, or perhaps a single office?

I don’t mean to doubt Medianama, but if this were a widespread policy don’t you think it would have made a huge public spectacle?

And if this is not a widespread policy then it is fair to jump up and down, and scream and shout for what could be the actions of a handful of people?

I don’t know. To be honest I would have held this story if Techdirt hadn’t already posted it, and then posted it after I got my questions answered.

But since it is already out there, let me ask you: Have you heard of Thomson Reuters pulling this before? What about other companies?

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Apple Pokes at Amazon over Misquoting Orwell

Posted: 21 Aug 2014 09:41 AM PDT

Never one to pass up an opportunity to make pr hay at the expense of their competition, Apple started a new promotion yesterday in the iBookstore which featured George Orwell. Re/code noticed the change, and they posted a screenshot:


DBW did a little digging and showed that Orwell was the only non-contemporary author to be featured, making it clear that he was singled out for a special reason.

As you probably recall (and as many of us are trying to ignore), a few weeks ago Amazon was taken to task for misquoting Orwell in their open letter to readers and authors.

In talking about the then new paperback books, Orwell said that they were a great value for readers and that if publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them“. Many people criticized Amazon for taking an ironic statement literally, and using it to suggest that Orwell was advocating collusion.

The funny thing is, he might actually have been arguing for collusion. While I can see how that sentence may have been meant ironically, when you read the entire statement it becomes less clear.

A few days ago Hugh Howey posted the original statement that Amazon quoted, and it’s clear that he thinks cheap paperback books are bad for the publishing industry – an argument quite similar to the arguments made by the Agency publishers about cheap ebooks (and we know how that ended up).

I’ve posted the complete statement below. As I read it again today I think Orwell was being ironic when he called cheap paperbacks a good value – a detail which some missed when this story broke a few weeks ago.

I don’t think he liked them, but I am going to post the entire statement and let you make up your mind. (To be perfectly honest, parsing this statement requires literary analysis, so there are actually several right answers.)

The Penguin books are splendid value for sixpence, so splendid that if the other publishers had any sense they would combine against them and suppress them. It is, of course, a great mistake to imagine that cheap books are good for the book trade. Actually it is just the other way about. If you have, for instance, five shillings to spend and the normal price of a hook is half-a-crown, you are quite likely to spend your whole five shillings on two books. But if books are sixpence each you are not going to buy ten of them. because you don't want as many as ten: your saturation point will have been reached long before that.

 Probably you will buy three sixpenny books and spend the rest of your five shillings on seats at the "movies." Hence the cheaper books become, the less money is spent on books. This is an advantage from the reader's point of view and doesn`t hurt trade as a whole, but for the publisher, the compositor, the author, and the bookseller it is a disaster ….

 If the other publishers follow suit, the result may be a flock of cheap reprints that will cripple the lending libraries (the novelist's foster-mother) and check the output of new novels. This would be a fine thing for literature, but it would be at very bad thing for trade, and when you have to choose between art and money – well, finish it for yourself.



The post Apple Pokes at Amazon over Misquoting Orwell appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Amazon Now Sells Paper Books in Brazil

Posted: 21 Aug 2014 07:25 AM PDT

JeffIllustration_PT_BR_Menor_500X310_V6._V344057650_[1]Following close to 2 years after opening a local Kindle Store, Amazon has finally cleared the last regulatory hurdle to also sell paper books in South America’s largest country.

With titles ranging from best sellers to backlist, the retail giant is now offering a catalog of 150,000 print books from 2,100 publishers on

They’re promising free delivery for orders over 69 reais, and next day delivery in select parts of Sao Paulo for orders placed before 11 am. Amazon is also promoting their book sales with a option called Read While We Ship ( Leia Enquanto Enviamos). This feature, which has been available on for some time, enables buyers of print books to read the Kindle version while they are waiting for the paper book to arrive. More than 13,000 books are currently available for this feature, and Amazon hopes to add more.

Amazon has been interested in Brazil since at least 2011, and they were reportedly going to launch their operations in Brazil in 2012 with a focus on media (DVDs, CDs, books, ebooks), but in spite of the numerous rumors that never happened. Amazon launched the Kindle Store in Brazil in December 2012, yes, but it is 20 months later and they are still only selling paper books and ebooks.

Declining to respond to rumors, Amazon has not offered an explanation for the delay.



The post Amazon Now Sells Paper Books in Brazil appeared first on The Digital Reader.

HarperCollins Launches Their Third eBook Bundle Program

Posted: 21 Aug 2014 05:10 AM PDT

5636c1f020cc223fbc7ba2b3a013df7d2138ebf7[1]Following only weeks after the launch of print+ebook bundle pilot programs with BitLit and Bookshout, HarperCollins debuted a new bundle this week.

The trade publisher has signed up with Humble Bundle to offer the Bookperk ebook bundle. Unlike the print+ebook bundles, the Bookperk bundle is a time-limited offer, but on the upside the bundle does include up to 10 titles published by HarperCollins at a ridiculously low price.

For the next two weeks HC and Humble Bundle are offering readers the chance to pay what they want for American Gods by Neil Gaiman, The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold, Twinmaker by Sean Williams, Busting Vegas by Ben Mezrich, and Map of Bones by James Rollins.

Readers who pay more than the average price will also get 4 bonus titles, including: Angel's Ink by Jocelynn Drake, The Wasteland Saga by Nick Cole, By the Blood of Heroes by Joseph Nassise, and The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho.

And like other Humble ebook Bundles,  customers who pay $10 or more will receive all of the above, as well as a bonus: a pair of titles by Kim Harrison: the novel Dead Witch Walking and Trouble on Reserve a novella.

In case you were worried, I bought the bundle and can confirm that the ebooks are available as DRM-free PDF, Kindle, and Epub. Given HarperCollins has supported their other bundle projects with their own DRMed ebookstore, I for one was concerned that they might have done the same here.  Luckily they did not; the ebooks in this bundle are DRM-free.

This Humble Bundle supports First Book, which provides new books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children in need, the SFWA Emergency Medical Fund, and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Humble Bundle

The post HarperCollins Launches Their Third eBook Bundle Program appeared first on The Digital Reader.

The Morning Coffee – 21 August 2014

Posted: 21 Aug 2014 02:51 AM PDT

The reading list is quite short this morning. Don’t eat the yellow snow.

  • Report: 25% of Tablets Shipped to Asia Can Make Phone Calls (TNW)
  • Against Editors (Gawker)
  • Amazon's fan-fiction portal Kindle Worlds is a bust for fans, and for writers too (The Passive Voice)
  • Tell it like it is, critics – however painful (Telegraph)
  • To Self-Publish and Perish: Buried Under 3.4 Million E-Books (claudenougat)

The post The Morning Coffee – 21 August 2014 appeared first on The Digital Reader.

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