15 August 2011

It's Monday Already?

  • One of the tradeoffs adopted in the Copyright Act of 1976 was the "termination rights" in § 203. I don't expect anyone to try to untangle that badly drafted section, which is probably the most convoluted and least clear in the entire Act (except, that is, for its counterpart for older works, § 304(c)) — and that's up against some pretty stiff competition, such as § 512. In any event, It's That Time Now... and the record companies are complaining. Schade.

    The way this is supposed to work — and I emphasize supposed to for reasons that will become increasingly unclear — is that the natural-person author, or certain designated blood relatives, files a conforming notice with both the publisher and the Copyright Office within a certain window that extends into the different specified window for termination of any transfer of a copyright interest. (We'll leave aside that the correct term is "revocation," not "termination"; if it was mere "termination," it would not have the desired effect on unexercised rights that had been transferred, and would not cut off rights to make further subsidiary rights licenses outside the US so long as those licenses were accounted to the copyright owner.) For musical compositions and recordings, this requires a multistep inquiry to determine who the "author" is... because under the US Copyright Act, authorship resides in the party who "fixes" a work, not necessarily in the performer of a musical composition. And if the party who "fixes" a work is not a natural person, but is instead a worker for hire, the termination provisions do not apply. Unless, that is, the "fixer" is an employee of the natural-person "real" author. In the instance of musical recordings, that means that it matters whom the sound engineer and producer were formally working for when they fixed the performance; and that is the primary argument of the recording companies. Of course, that argument has not been all that successful in publishing, but then printed works are already copyrightably fixed at the time of submission to the publisher...

    Stay tuned for another battle between millionaires and billionaires that will trickle down to the rest of us. After all, the only true trickle-down effect in economics is that post-lawsuit!

  • The UK liability for a wrongfully negative book review appears to be about £65,000. Plus attorneys' fees. But don't be quite so quick: The actual foundation for the award was that the reviewer was reckless with a statement of fact. Absent that recklessness, the judge would never have tacked on the £15,000 assessed as part of the damages for being "malicious" (in the English sense of "mean and spiteful," not the artificial US sense of "reckless disregard for the truth concerning a public figure"). Thus, my advice to book reviewers — even those whose reviews will appear somehow in the UK — is not to tone down the negative comments; it is to check your factual statements, which you should have been doing anyway. If you don't think you were interviewed by the author, but have a bad memory, you're much better off saying "I don't recall any such interview, let alone what might have been said" than flatly claiming that the interview never took place. Then, trash the bad book as you will...
  • I have long held (long for me, that is, meaning "since the mid-1970s") that preferences for different computer operating systems and environments are essentially religious in character. If you don't believe me, try looking at the actual code for passwd in Unix System V and determining exactly how much confidence one should have in its robustness... In any event, here's an amusing look at the slashdot commentariat as a pack of seventeenth-century counterreformationists that conveniently ignores the dynastic tendencies of seventeenth-century catholicism as dominating even internally consistent theological considerations (if, that is, "internally consistent theological considerations" isn't an oxymoron on the order of "civil war"). But the pointer moves...
  • Speaking of seventeenth-century attitudes, and religious arguments, and theocracy — not to mention dynasticism — I offer you "Snow Whiiiiiiite and the Seven Dweebs":

    Republican candidates at 11 Aug 'debate' (rescaled slightly to make a point)

    In the interest of greater geographical diversity, the Heffalump campaign has since replaced one theocratic protestant with another; apparently, two candidates from Minnesota was one too many, and Texas wasn't adequately represented. Intellectually, they're all dwarves, though... and in the most insulting possible meaning of that word. So far as I can tell, ethically they're not any taller.

  • If you, like Rick Blaine, claim that your citizenship is "drunkard," you'll be amused by the AmeriKat's consideration of two rum results in the world of branding for, well, rum. N.B. This does relate to the brands under which authors license their works, and under which publishers sell copies of them. It's not just about unacknowledged ghostwriters, either, although that's certainly the obvious instance; it's also about dubious "collaborations" (J___ P____, anyone?) and publisher-forced adoption of pseudonyms by previously published authors.