29 October 2008

Sausage Time

Some of these sausages are a bit overcured, but that's teh internets for you. And it's also the result of being sick for a week and expending what energy I had on other things (like the dishes).

But, before jumping into the miscellany, I'm not ignoring the "settlement" between the Author's [sic] Guild and Google; I'm merely saving it for a screed all of its own. To say the least, I'm am extremely displeased with the proposed settlement, both procedurally and substantively.

  • Judy Rein, BookninjaWe'll start off with some politics — and remember that scary costumes are dictated by the calendar. Back in July, I bitched about the legal profession's unwillingness to consider legal ethics discipline over misconduct at the DOJ by lawyers. Apparently, I'm not the only one disgusted by the problem, although that article attributes it more (if somewhat sub rosa) to partisanship than to the underlying inconsistency of the profession's purported "self-regulation."
  • The relationship among politics, the arts, and "privileged" people is nowhere more apparent than in libel tourism. Even in England, not everyone thinks libel tourism is good. The ultimate issue is how one balances "reputation" against "free speech." In an ideal world, nobody would spew forth venom that he/she knows, or should know, is untrue. That's never going to happen; for one thing, Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh would have duct tape over their mouths. Permanently. Perhaps more important, the meaning of "untrue" is increasingly unclear. This is one of the few areas in which minimal government regulation of a true "market" for speech is the best solution: The appropriate response to "bad" speech is more speech, not less. Of course, I also recognize that there will be market failures... and that a libel cause of action — appropriately restrained, and rigidly minimized — is an appropriate means to deal with those market failures. Libel tourism, however, isn't a market; it is the Soviet-style communism of speech.
  • International issues in expression and the arts abound, even if the blinkered American media and monolinguistic American public does its best to pretend that the arts are English-only — especially in literature. It's not just limited to literature, though; there are substantial linguistic and cultural barriers in "serious" music, let alone "pop." All of which leads to this misguided, but immensely amusing, alternate-history Nobel Prize in Literature, which is nearly as misguided as the real thing.
  • The Nobel Prize for Literature is as much about money as it is about anything else. No, make that more about money, given increasing (and justified) concern about "skips" (the effect of books not being selected by chain bookstores). The problem isn't just in literature; there is a parallel concern with direct-to-video and film distribution that gets buried under the numbers of the latest worthless blockbuster films, and the less said about music and software distribution — and its relationship to largely illusory IP piracy "losses", while not discounting the depressing effect on compensation for the people who actually create the stuff — the better. If you need yet more proof that publishers don't understand how their own products get produced, consider this laughable, ignorant proclamation that "XML is the future" ... since XML is merely a descendant of the markup language (SGML) they've been using for electronic typesetting for a couple of decades.
  • All of which leads into the dark side of patronage, which is merely the other end of the pendulum swing from overcopyright. One window into the potential problem — if an overgilt, beyond-rococo window of less-than-clear glass — is built from the conflict between private art and museums. Gutenberg made this problem virtually disappear for literature, and his technological descendants have done much the same in music. Film is somewhere in-between, particularly in its relationship to theater and opera. Three-dimensional works of art, such as sculpture and certain technical aspects of painting, remain squarely in the field of view of that window.