9.30.2005

Map chat

A comment on a previous post:


The perfect example of what you're talking about was what happened to William Bright last month. Bright digitally shrunk the maps of the New York and San Francisco subway systems and made them available online so that commuters could download them for free onto their iPods.Both BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and MTA (Metro Transit Authority) demanded that he remove their maps from the Internet. They're claiming copyright infringement. Now, how the devil is this poor little guy hurting BART and MTA? He was doing a service for commuters that--at present--neither transit authority offered. It was one of the silliest things I'd ever heard.


So, the blogger took the novel and typed it onto her blog so readers could download it for free onto their coputers. Random House demanded the blogger remove the novel from the internet. They're claiming copyright infringement. Now how the devil is that poor little blogger hurting Random House? She was doing a service for readers that -at present- Random House doesn't offer.

Does it sound silly now?

18 comments:

Devoted Snarkling said...

Changing the subject, is Judith Miller shopping her book proposal yet?

Maya said...

Yup, still sounds silly to me. BART and MTA are municipal transit systems providing services for commuters. I can absolutely appreciate their legal position, just not the practicality of their response.

But, then, I'm kind of on Google's side in the library fracas, too. :)

Miss Snark said...

Judith Miller, or as she is now called J.Diddy, is represented elsewhere. I'm sure there's some paper making the rounds, but I won't see it till it's sold.

Elektra said...

Sadly, there's not much public transportation available here, so this may sound stupid, but: wouldn't it be more like somebody just blogging the back of the book teaser? I mean, it's not like the guy was driving to the bus stop and carting people around. The transport services would still be the only option and would recieve the same amount of 'customers' and fare. The commuters have just been helped out a little.
But, as an above poster said, they're still fully within their legal rights, and the guy probably should have just asked or suggested the idea to them.

roach said...

The two problems with Google's Library project is that a) they are trying to make it opt-out instead of opt-in (as a recipient of massive quantities of spam e-mail a day I am of the belief that everything should be opt-in) and b) they are asking the wrong people to opt-out of the program.

They are approaching the publishers, who do not have the rights to opt-in or out. They should be dealing with the authors, but that would take a lot more work. They were following the rule of it being easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

And while I can sympathize with the person who thought he was doing a favor to everyone by reproducing those maps, it was infringement. The transit authorities could have taken a more ... enlightened (?) view of things, but I can't fault them for protecting their copyrights.

Miss Snark said...

I don't know about SF's metro map but here in NYC, "the map" is a HUGE deal. I still carry one with me at all times. (I've been known to use it as gift wrap in an emergency giftage crisis..but that's another story).

The thing about content is the owner gets to decide how it's used. Even if what he decides is shortsighted, stupid, not in the public interest or lamebrained. He owns it.

It's akin to James Joyce's estate not allowing the recitation of Ulysses in Dublin on Bloomsday last year cause of the change in copyright law. No matter how much people screamed, the heirs were within their rights.

You can thank Sonny Bono and Mickey Mouse for this.

Bernita said...

Perhaps the poor little sod thought the maps were a sort of "public domain."

kitty said...

Question: You mean people can not read books aloud, or passages from a book, unless they have permission?

Miss Snark said...

Kitty, herewith the explanation which I STOLE by cutting and pasting from another blog:


" I was listening to the radio on the 100th anniversary of Bloomsday (the day celebrated by James Joyce's Ulysses fans in honour of the main character, Leopold Bloom whose adventures on that day are recounted in the book.)There were a lot of festivities and celebrations in Dublin to mark the occasion. However, it was marred by the fact that the heirs of James Joyce have asserted their rights to the book and have forbidden any performance of the work. Apparently, people are allowed to read Ulysses in public but not perform it. So there were a number of nervous actors trying to figure out the boundary between reading & acting ie. if you use different voices for the different characters would that constitute acting?

I found the whole thing pretty sad as surely acting out, reading or whatever other creative activity in relation to the book could only serve to enhance its readership and endear more people to other of Joyce's work. Pity that Joyce's heirs (his grandson I think) has taken such a narrow view"

James Joyce last living heir has made a potload of money suing for copyright infringement.

Maya said...

I guess I've just bought into Tim O'Reilly's architecture of participation in which sharing increases value.

When you think about it, that's the philosophy on which the new collaborative Internet initiatives are based. Wikipedia was an early one.

C.E. Petit said...

One real problem with the transit-maps issue is the exact method of reproduction that was used. If the transit authorities wish to copyright the exact representations of their maps, that's their decision (a dumb one, but authorized by the copyright law… except if the transit authority were a federal government agency, in which case the work is automatically in the public domain). What they can't do, though, is keep someone else from recasting a map as a new drawing. That's what should have been done, and it's at least as useful. Remember those t-shirts (popular in the 1980s) with a schematic map of the tube system in London?

Maya said...

Roach: Google is approaching the publishers because--for the most part--they have no other choice. We are talking about any work published after 1923 and, since there is no centralized database of copyrights, Google faces an almost impossible task when it comes to tracking down the copyright owners.

If you are a NPR listener, download the segment from "On the Media" (www.onthemedia.org) for a discussion of this subject

C.E. Petit said...

Maya, the Copyright Office is currently working on this issue through the Orphan Works Study (n.b. I testified at one of these hearings… at which I was the only representative of actual authors, artists, etc.). The problem isn't the lack of a database—there are both commercial databases (e.g., Thomson & Thomson, which costs $90 for a search) and the official database at the Copyright Office (which covers every transaction since 1976, including renewals). The problem is that no database can possibly be complete due to successions of interest. What happens, for example, when a publisher who claimed work-for-hire goes out of business? What happens when an author dies without leaving a will, or leaves a will that doesn't explicitly deal with his/her copyrights?

roach said...

For every title I have published through my e-book imprint I have filed a copyright registration with not only my information (as the publisher) but also the contact information for the writer. That database is searchable and for a majority of modern titles Google could certainly track down the authors.

Just because it is hard doesn't excuse them from doing the right thing.

Maya said...

I can tell I'm going to have to be more careful in my phrasing if it's going to be parsed by an attorney. :) I said there was no centralized database of copyrights. C. E. Petit responded that no copyright database could possibly be complete due to successions of interest.

To this little lay person, it sure sounds like--by either explanation--Google is screwed because they cannot track down the current copyright owners of many, many published works.

The thing that confuses me is that Google is not suggesting that they will make the entire work available to someone doing a search. They will only provide excerpts (which, by the way, is the same thing Amazon does). I would think that this would increase the possibility that someone might become interested in purchasing a book found via this search method.

A big thanks for the link to the Orphan Works Study. I'd heard about it, but hadn't actually found the site.

Travis said...

Are BART and MTA supported in any way by tax dollars? (This isn't a rhetorical question; I'm asking because I don't know.) If so, I think it would be more appropriate to compare the maps to the American flag than to a novel.

Stacy said...

I don't get what the fuss is about. Is it that people think that it should be okay to take something that is not yours in the first place and do whatever the hell you want with it? Or is it something else more complicated? Helpful blogger couldn't have pointed out the failing to the Transit people, and let them do the heavy lifting?

I wonder how Helpful Blogger would like it if I lifted something from his blog and published it in my best-selling book without so much as a by-your-leave?

Richard said...

Can someone who has that map help me? At the moment I'm at the Beach 105th Street station of the Rockaway Park shuttle and don't know how to get back to Williamsburg!