10 May 2010

Apres moi

  • Remember the old aphorism "don't judge a book by its cover"? In a shocking, shocking bit of news, The Observer (London) has discovered that whatever one does discern from a book's cover doesn't even cross borders, let alone editions.

    I snorted some coffee as the various designers offered up their rationalizations. There's actually a historical-legal reason for the differences, based on the dark days of the 1909 Copyright Act (for distinguishing the US from everyone else) and the copyright doctrine of translator ownership for the rest. Under the 1909 Act, books needed to be printed in the US, or the copyright would be forfeited (§ 16); a different cover was a helpful tool. And keep in mind that most alternate editions of books in Europe required translation, meaning that there was another copyright added. Conversely, recorded music is almost never "dubbed", and recorded film has been dubbed much less often since sales of copies to individual consumers became a commercial routine.

  • There are lots of stories intertwined around a single theme over the last several days: What is the appropriate means for an individual musician/filmmaker/author/artist to get his/her/their/its work to the listener/reader/viewer... and get paid? Charlie Stross continues his incredibly useful Common Misconceptions About Publishing series with a look at e-books, while some musicians are engaging in capital disintermediation (which sounds like an increasingly good idea in the face of live music ticket surcharges... until one accepts that such surcharges are coming to a webstore near you...). The film industry doesn't have it much better, as it is also in the midst of yet another format transition for consumer copies at the same time as supposedly 3D TVs are on their way to market. Meanwhile, yet another newspaper has discovered that "the arts wallow in unoriginality all the time."
  • Yet more historicolinguistic originalism proclaims that English has become a global language by erasing its roots. Guys, this isn't the first time this has happened: Morse Code and telegraphic English similarly simplified structures and spellings a century and a half ago at the same time as non-English-speaking Europe was busy ensuring that whatever financial benefits it was obtaining from its colonies were not going toward developing coherent domestic economies. Letter- and digraph-frequency tables employed by cryptanalysts distinguished between "telegraphic" and "written" (or sometimes "standard") English, and to a lesser extent German and French. In contemporary terms, I suspect that the hyperpostmodern computerized equivalents have "twitter" settings.

    The author then spends the remaining two-thirds of the article backing away from the implications. That backing away, though, is at least a worthwhile retreat — toward a more-tenable position. Sadly, the path of that retreat was eminently predictable in the 1970s; all you needed to do was read some science fiction from the 1960s. But at least it isn't some flavor of C (which is a virus).

  • There's an informative view of the ownership and control of copyrights, patents, and other intellectual property at the IPKat, divided (like Gaul... or, perhaps, gall) into three parts: 1 2 3. Those of you who have been paying attention over the years should note that there's a conflict of laws issue here for copyright law, thanks to the inept work for hire doctrine in the US: Who owns the copyright in a work created in the UK by a UK citizen, "for" a US employer, when there is no written employment agreement (or the written employment agreement does not clearly place ownership with one party or the other)?
  • Congratulations to General Kagan on her nomination to the Supreme Court. She would not have been my first choice; but she's probably a confirmable choice, and she's certainly not a GWB nominee. Then again, I'm not the President, so who the hell cares who my first choice would have been?