Specifically, Neil Gaiman's old space on the SFRT; I gots the distinct feeling I'm getting some of the details wrong on this, and would appreciate any corrections.
What I'm getting the details wrong on, is a collection of short stories featuring characters and situations from Neil's Sandman series that
AOL Time Warner put out. . . about a decade ago, at this point. Several of the contributors were regulars on GEnie, and when the contracts for the stories arrived at their doorsteps. . . hoo boy.
I think the publisher was claiming the stories were work-for-hire:
When a writer works under a work-for-hire agreement, he or she gets paid a fee but has no ownership or control over the writing.
There are several provisos regarding work for hire. The two most important are:
- THE COPYRIGHT LAW REQUIRES A WRITTEN CONTRACT that specifically states that the work is a "work-for-hire." If that phrase is omitted in a written contract, the copyright to any work, regardless of the type, belongs to the writer.
- ONLY CERTAIN TYPES OF WRITING BY FREELANCERS AND INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS MAY BE WORKS FOR HIRE. Examples include writing that contributes to a larger work, such as a computer manual or a section of a textbook. If the work is not one of the types specified in the Copyright Act, then it is not a work for hire, no matter what the written contract says.
Works created by full-time staff writers are also works-for-hire. In these cases, the employer owns and controls the copyright.
See the actual text about work-for-hire writing in the Copyright Act Work-For-Hire sections.
(From the National Writer's Union.)
Which possibly means nothing to you. Short version: the publisher was claiming complete and total ownership of the story, meaning the author would have to politely ask if they could include their own work in a later collection of their fiction. There was also some bit about copyright in any and all formats currently in existence and any which might one day be invented, so even though eBooks didn't exist back then, the publisher could'a gone ahead and "reprinted" the story/collection in that format without having to bother even notifying the author that they were doing so.
It waren't pretty. Think a few people pulled their stories from the book, actually.
I know, I know, why am I bringing up old stuff? Well, was reminded of that reading (the registration-required) NYT article, The Pornography Industry vs. Digital Pirates:
THOUSANDS of Web sites are putting Playboy magazine's pictures on the Internet - free. And Randy Nicolau, the president of Playboy.com, is loving it. "It's direct marketing at its finest," he said.
Let the music industry sue those who share files, and let Hollywood push for tough laws and regulations to curb movie copying. Playboy, like many companies that provide access to virtual flesh and naughtiness, is turning online freeloaders into subscribers by giving away pictures to other sites that, in turn, drive visitors right back to Playboy.com.
When Mr. Nicolau is asked whether he thinks that the entertainment industry is making a mistake by taking a different approach, he replies: "I haven't spent much time thinking about it. It's like asking Henry Ford, 'What were the buggy-whip guys doing wrong?' ''
Ok, the copyright issues were my second concern, actually. Namely, are these really "Playboy magazine's pictures" we're talking about. Might could check their site to see if they require work-for-hire contracts on photos, but isn't that an old joke? I'm only reading it for the articles, that sort of thing?
There's really three entities (um, odd word choice there, I need more coffee) here, Playboy, the photographer and the model. Even if the unauthorized reproductions are driving people to Playboy's site, that's still leaving the latter two out in the cold. I think. As is usually the case, I really have no idea what the fuck I'm talking about, and am making it up as I go along and trying desperately to sound convincing.
A few merchants in the industry who have tried the kind of aggressive methods used by mainstream entertainment companies say they have not received much in return for their efforts. One company that tried to track down copyright infringers and demand that Internet service providers shut down their sites used BayTSP, an Internet monitoring service that also serves the music and movie industries. "It was costing us a lot of money and was producing absolutely zero results," said Humphry Knipe, who manages the business operations of Suze Randall, a photographer in the field who has her own Web site.
Mr. Knipe, who is married to Ms. Randall, said many Web sites were taken down as a result of more specific legal threats by subpoena to Internet service providers. But even then, "it was extremely doubtful that any of this activity had any effect at all in the real world of improving our sales by restricting piracy," he said.
Link to Suze.net added. Nice design, but the "GirlGirl Hardcore" image predictably has two femme-looking blondes. . . and then I realize I'm critiquing an erotica site at 8:15 on a Sunday morning, and shut the hell up.
So, anyway, yeah, quote from the husband/manager for a photographer, but basically the article (from the Business section) concentrates on the concerns of publishers/distributors.
And that's how I spent my summer vacation.
The other concern mentioned in passing above is their word choice, stuff like "virtual flesh and naughtiness," and "red-light districts," and "peddlers."
Blah. Can't even work up the enthusiasm to discuss that.
Bonus round: The Sideshow - A few hits:
Atrios has the dope on nearly everything, but he has failed to pay attention to the fact that Feminists Against Censorship really has accomplished something over the last 13 years. We changed the debate - we actually put serious anti-censorship arguments back into the public discourse in Britain, and repeatedly pointed out that there was no evidence for the purported harm of pornography.
There's a decent debate to be had -- well, has been had, and hashed over repeatedly, without resolution, like most debates -- about the effects of pornography and exploitation and stuff. Which is much more serious than the preceeding sentence makes it sound. Just wanted to acknowledge the existence of it, even if the entry sort-of takes the existence of the stuff for granted.
And again, the whole "What is alternaporn?" thing? Does me head in. It's about choice and control, really, meaning precisely nada to do with that article. . .
Update: I'm a moron, you know.
Via Google Groups, A Brief History of The Book of Dreams, from Someone Who Should Know, And In Fact Does:
Any writer owns copyright to anything he or she writes, ethically and by the law of the land. What is normally sold in the publishing world is publication rights. For an original short story, a writer expects to sell First North American Serial Rights, if it's to a magazine, or just First North American Rights to an anthology, or non-exclusive publication rights to a reprint.
A contract may add extra fillips to this: it's not uncommon for an author to agree not to publish a story anywhere else for two years after the story sees print, say (usually with exceptions made for single-author collections or best-of-the-year anthologies). A magazine editor may buy a non-exclusive option to reprint the story in a future anthology made from the anthology, or to use it in foreign editions of the magazine; a book editor may buy non-exclusive rights to use the story in foreign editions of the anthology.
Comic books, by contrast, are traditionally work-made-for-hire (WMFH). The author is paid a lump sum for all rights to the script, and possibly to the characters and other innovations in the story. The writer may or may not be paid a royalty if the work sells well. (The writer of a regularly-sold story may or may not be paid a royalty, too. Details can always be messed with in contracts.)
A solicitation letter was sent out over Neil's signature (but he didn't write it--or, his co-editor didn't use the letter Neil wrote) based on Neil's agreement with the book publisher and DC: we were invited to submit stories for the Sandman anthology. We were granted the right to use DC-owned characters in the story. The stories would remain ours.
But DC changed the rules midstream. When we finally got publisher word about the stories Neil had accepted (it'd been maybe a year since he read and decided to buy mine), we got a letter from Neil's co-editor attached to a contract from DC. The letter said we had to sign the contract as a sort of release so we could get a contract from the book publisher, and a lot of writers just signed it without particularly reading it.
I read it. It was a WMFH contract. Imagine my surprise.
From an old (September, 1998) alt.fan.neil-gaiman post from Martha Soukup, SFRT assistant sysop and all around cool person.
Later, we'll discuss the propriety of me extensively quoting something written about copyright, from an archive which itself kind'a violates copyright, in an entry about copyright.
Or not. I'd prefer not, to be honest.
Update 2: Suze.net, not .com; have it right in the link, but spazzed on typing it. And am wondering if I really want to go over the article with a fine-tooth comb to confirm my suspicion that not only are all the people interviewed publishers/distributors, but that they're all men.
I'm in a fairly good mood this morning. I'd hate to ruin it with that sort of ignance.
BTW, link from slashdot.org; forgot to give credit earlier.