On paying the PIPA and the bad apple in the barrel…

I was reading with some interest a prescription for Australia’s slowly growing unemployment problem… To paraphrase: We should have more small to medium size businesses. The law needs to favor them, rather than big corporates, because they generate jobs at a far higher scale than big corporates… who use their size to achieve ‘synergies’ (which I think means sin-energy? The dark delight of having a gold-plated toilet for the CEO to use after he’s made more profits by getting rid of staff?) Yes, I know this has been said so often eyes glaze over at the mention but I wonder how this relates to the unemployment situation in the US… and PIPA and SOPA. In case you hadn’t figured out, the legislative burdens here are near impossible for small companies or individuals, expensive and hard for medium size companies… and a joke for massive media companies, who as we’ve seen, ignore them anyway (publishing books to which they do not have the rights), as if they have a problem they have a tax-deductible team of lawyers to deal with. And they’re so useful for putting up-and-coming smaller rivals out of the running — as the site is shut down on accusation… not on proof.

Pretty soon if we have these ‘protections’, authors will need a ‘PIPA-approval seal’, which the rent collectors in the guise of ‘Publishers’ will provide (with no other tangible benefit) and have to part with not merely 85% of the net (the current offer – and net- having learned their lessons well from Hollywood) but even more for less. As everyone knows by now, the bigger the company the more effective they are at tax avoidance, so you’d really have to wonder why governments and politicians continue to try so hard to smooth their paths for them? Must be to achieve those synergies…

When the law starts to favor (or at least not penalize) creators and small enterprises… you’ll know they finally stopped campaign donations and cushy retirement ‘jobs’ for pollies. It’s a pity, because we could all benefit from this… except the for the manufacturers of gold-plated toilets and their users.

Apples aren’t like eggs. Thus unlike the curate’s egg, this little trap in the Apple EULA is probably not a good thing in itself (it means, de facto that Apple is putting themselves in the same position as the publishers under US Copyright Law, claiming they own the format, you just own the content. The difference is, of course, that publishers provide the formatting on your raw text, adding that value. In this case YOU add the work and they impose de facto monopoly conditions on you.), maybe the whole apple isn’t rotten yet, if you just cut this bit out.

My view is this is they’re sneaking very large chance-take that you really don’t want to let them get away with, in case it is infectious, for their products and for other corporates. They’re setting conditions of contract which you do not have to assent consent to – and which I suspect has all the legal validity of a liability waiver form (you cannot sign permission for someone to break the law in their treatment of you. If you sign a document that says they can keep you in a kennel, feed you dog-turds and beat you with a whip studded with broken glass… the cops are still going to haul them off and put them in jail. And probably you into a mental asylum, or at least author re-hab.). Even less can you not sign away your rights, but have in fine print (which you are not required to show assent to) that usage means it’s fine for them to put in the dog-kennel. However, corporate lawyers are sadly tax-deductible, and therefore they will continue to dream up these rent-seeking schemes.

I know there are lots of pomumophiles out there but it is worth noting that they’re not angels either.

In the meanwhile Smashwords offers a better deal.

The endless gender war bubbles on. I’ll leave you to reach your own conclusions here, but it is worth noting the point both the male and female authors gloss over: If 80% of book buying is being done by females… 1)Commercially speaking you’re missing a chunk of market which could boost your turnover and profits by a lot. It simply isn’t logical that 80% of the market you’ve got is going to go away if you had more products that attracted the rest. Let’s say you are selling 10 million books now… 8 million being bought by women — that means you’re missing another 6 million sales — or in other words a turnover increase of 60%. Gee, who would want that? 2)I’ve always been very iffy about social engineering (not something you can say about our publishing industry, who believe fervently in it, it seems), but there is no doubt that a reading population only occurs in an educated population. If you can’t read for fun, reading for other reasons loses ground. And all the evidence seems to point to literate populations being more tolerant and inclusive… so why anyone who wants to live anywhere that isn’t an 11th century style theocracy would not want as many people as possible (regardless of gender, color, orientation or pink tentacles) reading is beyond me. If you’re happy with a situation where 80% of 50% of your population isn’t reading, you’re a bit sick in the head. If you’re happy with that being the gender that is physical stronger, just as mentally able, and far more aggressive, you have to be REALLY dim-witted too.

22 thoughts on “On paying the PIPA and the bad apple in the barrel…

  1. I realize that this is political commentary, but favoring small businesses over corporations isn’t going to work. What is so much of a problem is anything meant to protect us from the big corporations. Big businesses can deal with those things because they are big enough to hire full time departments to do nothing but. Small business and individuals are screwed. Make it easier for everyone.

    1. Synova, Big business get their lobbying team and donations onto MAKING complex legislation that favors them. Without those legislative nightmares small-medium business often out-competes large. Besides, I actually don’t have a moral or other problem with using the law of the country against those who use the law themselves as a business tool. I feel that yes, if you can afford a team of lawyers and accountants and lobbyists… and have the highest grossing films… and still not pay creators OR taxes — it’s time to have laws for instance giving a better tax rate to nationally registered companies, rather than those in tax havens (where they avoid contributing much to the governments of the people they derive their income from), and for making tax simple and low… and without deductions, on gross income. But then, I have always been something of lunatic.

  2. Synova,
    I might be wrong — it’s early in the morning and I’ve got an ear infection — but I think that’s what Dave was advocating for as well: removing government interference which advantages large corporations. Because that is ultimately the dirty secret. Monopolies only CAN happen with government at least helping. Of course, I can’t be sure Monkey agrees with me. He’s more on the “conservative” side and I’m more on the “we don’t need no gov-varmint side” (Which is good. He keeps talking me out of hanging people from lampposts, and you know how messy that is.)
    Seriously, the fact is, as fast as technology is changing right now, and as volatile as finance is, smaller companies should have the same sort of advantage as English ships in Elizabethan times had over the cumbersome galleons of the Spanish Armada (and this type of thought that runs to these analogies is why I’ll never be a bestseller. Never mind.) If they don’t it’s because someone is putting their thumbs on the scales. We’re becoming a crony-capitalist country, a fact not only NOT barely disguised but in fact openly flaunted by our talking-classes China-envy.
    Sometimes I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to drink heavily. That whole thing in Puppet Masters about its maybe being better to live two days on Tempus Fugit than a normal lifetime without.

  3. On the “gender war”, I can’t help but thinking of the line in the Notebooks of Lazurus Long that goes something like “Men if you’re correct, apology immediately”. [Very Big Evil Grin]

    1. THAT was for a marriage. Unfortunately men have been following it in society. Women should also remember the LL line “if you demand absolute equality you’ll end up holding the dirty end of the stick.”

      1. Sarah, after listening to the gender war “debates” and after listening to “men jokes”, I’ve gotten the idea that some women don’t want “equality”, they want “superiority”. [Sad Smile]

        On the other hand, I’m in a grumpy mood this morning.

        1. depends. I think they’re afraid of being inferior, so they’ve decided to pound men into the ground. BUT that’s a post for another day, since I’ve decided I haven’t been fatwahed by Feminists in a long time, so I MUST be doing something wrong.

            1. Understand. I’m completely for equal rights. I do think we have some natural advantages over guys, and I use them shamelessly. I just HATE androphobia with a passion and to the extent it’s become a “feminist” fixture I’m refusing to use the label for myself. I don’t know what I am. Perhaps a homosapiennist. If you’re an homo sapien I’ll judge you as a person, not by the quarter pound or lack of quarter pound of equipment between your legs. And anyone trying to get me to do otherwise can go pound sand.

              1. Sarah, have you read Wen Spencer’s _A Brother’s Price_?

                Wen wrote it after getting annoyed at “feminists” who claimed that if women ruled, the world would be a better place.

                I enjoyed the story. [Smile]

                Oh, I won’t call it a “preachy story”.

        2. That was kind of the point of the ‘feminist’ society in SLOW TRAIN – that the problems associated ‘male chauvinism’ are about group dominance, not ‘males’ — and that if your criterea for ‘dominance’ is something which has no effect on their ability to rule, over which the members of that society have no control, and those excluded cannot have access. (ie. you can’t help the fact that you were born male or female or of a certain skin color, and those excluded cannot change their color or genitalia to become part of the ‘overclass’, and there is every reason to hope that ability in governance isn’t about testicles or skin color, but brains, integrity and education). Successful societies derive most benefit by allowing the best into their ruling classes, via permeable filters of some sort – effort, education.

  4. About all I can do is applaud and say “You go, Dave!” I have no brain to add to your rant at this point.

      1. Their wives got faster, beat them to the books. 😉

        Actually I think it’s part of the modern rat race. No time for anything, so buy it on Amazon. The wife has an account, why open a separate one? My husband buys stuff on my account all the time. Or asks me to do it.

        Video games taking up a chunk of the entertainment time may be a factor as well. Although I think women are catching up, there.

  5. Dave, another author whose newsletter I subscribe to sent out a retraction today concerning her earlier condemnation of EULA. She says that she condemned it based on things she had read, rather than first-hand knowledge, and that some of her subscribers who had tried the software wrote with information she hadn’t gleaned.

    Now, I’m merely passing on what she said, since I don’t have any iTribe devices in the house, so I can’t obtain first-hand knowledge. Grain of salt encouraged …

    Apparently, EULA isn’t software for word-processing, and it isn’t “just another document-format-changing tool”. It is pretty much unique to the iPad, and what it does is add interactivity-type bells-and-whistles to a file, resulting in a software-product, not a document. A software-product that is, apparently, platform-specific to the iPad.

    Ok, on to the topic du jour. At the risk of wandering dangerously near the dreaded “p-word” …. The current incarnation of the problem stems largely from the advent computers, combined with complexity-worship. People may love it, hate it, or feel ambivalent about it, but there’s no escaping the simple fact that the bill which *created* America’s Federal Reserve system, fundamentally redefining the operation of the entire economy, was only 37 pages long. And those 37 pages were debated, very publicly, at length and in detail, for months. But now we permit our mis-Representatives to cobble together 2,700-page manuscripts (which actually expand to more than 20,000 pages of legislation and regulation, when you add in all the other stuff they refer to en passant) in back rooms behind cosed doors, and vote on them before the ink is even dry.

    Unfortunately, none of the things I would propose as potential solutions will work in a world that has actual human beings in it …

    1. The point, Stephen, is that the product enables you to create the bells and whistles… it doesn’t create them for you (your publisher takes raw text and adds anything up to pictures and fancy chapter heads. You don’t create those -therefore they belong to the publisher). So YOU do the work for Apple using their software. Just as you do the work with Microsoft Word creating a story that was only – originally – readable on MS Word (and how that has changed). The equivalent terms for MS Word would limit you to selling that story through the Microsoft site, and them getting 30%. It’s a poor precedent to let pass.

      I think we sing from the same hymn sheet about laws.

    2. I saw the retraction, too. And went and read the various postings on this. Apparently the argument is that the software package is specifically a packager for iPad stuff — at least one analysis says this is basically a proprietary format that ONLY works on iPads, and not even all of those. The W3C folks are upset about that, but that’s incidental. And Apple is making the software available for free.

      So — the EULA says IF you use this, and you give the resulting package away free, you can do it anyway you like. BUT IF you charge for it, you must sell it through the Apple system, where they take their profit. So in essence, they are giving you this software for free in return for a slice of the profits (if any) to be made on future sales of iBooks churned out using it. Especially given that it is a packager/processor whose output only works on their system, this is seen as one way for Apple to make the package available for free and still make a profit off of it. Does that make sense?

      There’s another part of the EULA that says they can choose whether or not to sell your product (sensibly — there may be iBooks that Apple would prefer not to have in their store), which is where people say “Wait, wait, if you require us to sell through your system, and you get to refuse to sell it, does that mean you control my sales?” Maybe. I haven’t seen anyone countering that questions. The obvious option is for Apple to release you from the EULA requirement to sell through them IF they refuse to sell, but… why are sales channels and such being bantered about in a EULA anyway? Which leads to my other concern.

      The other concern I have is… if Apple gets away with this restrictive stuff here, how long will it be before they try slipping similar phrases into other software EULAs? I understand the argument that this is software that only works on their system, and they are being “generous” enough to give it away free, so let’s let them make a profit by restricting sales to their playground, but… why not make it a straight “if you use this software, you must pay us XX% of any profits made using the products?” That would still pay them back, but it would allow users the option to sell the product anyway they wanted. Or emulate the MIT OCW license, that says you can use this for non-profit educational use, and for anything else, you have to come negotiate a contract with us? I’m very leery of letting the camel’s nose get into the tent, mixing restrictions on use with “you must use our sales facilities.” I’m not convinced that this is all an innocent misunderstanding, and Apple is really being generous. Just because something is “free” doesn’t mean we can afford it.

      Sorry this is so long, but… I think this may well be more complex than it looks. And sneaking it in as “helping” the educational folks — darn it, I are one of those educational folks, and I’m not sure we can afford this kind of help.

  6. You’ve eloquently elaborated and clarified my reasons for concern, ‘nother Mike. I don’t think it an accidental miss-speak. I think it’s a bad example, which needs to be swatted out now.

    1. Not to mention, the simple fact that EULAs are considered binding is bad law/bad precedent. They are written as a contract which the user can’t examine or agree to without using the software in question, by which time it’s too late. That in itself is wrong and should never have been permitted.

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