Archive for April 2011
Naturally, while I am working to get Inconstant Moon launched, not only is there a Canadian Federal Election in full swing, but a new release of WikiLeaks cables− in particular the batch on Canadian Copyright pressure− the ones I have been waiting for − have been released.
Canadian DMCA Background
Ever since the United States passed their DMCA, Canadian Governments have been struggling to pass a Canadian DMCA.
First the Liberal Government tried to pass Bill C-60
Then the Conservative Government that replaced them tried to pass Bill C-61
Then the Conservative Government held the Copyright Consultation. More than eight Thousand Canadians responded to the copycon, and their submissions are still online.
The Conservative Government ignored the preponderance of feedback from the consultation and tried to pass Bill C-32
The DMCA is a bad law, and most Canadians that understand copyright issues are very much opposed to a Canadian DMCA.
When you realize that Bill C-60 was tabled by the Liberal Party of Canada, and Bill C-61 and C-32 by the Conservative Party of Canada, it was dreadfully clear that the law’s objectives were the same.
Both the Liberal and Conservative copyright law appeared to be made in the USA.
Now, however, it is no longer just theory.
You can read the cables yourself, here:
WikiLeaks cable Viewer: Canadian Copyright
Michael Geist is understandably working his way through them and blogging his findings
- Wikileaks Cable Confirms Public Pressure Forced Delay of Canadian Copyright Bill in 2008
- Wikileaks on CRIA and the U.S. Government: How They Combine to Lobby on Canadian Copyright
- Wikileaks Cables Show Massive U.S. Effort to Establish Canadian DMCA
Drew Wilson: ZeroPaid:
Russell McOrmond: Digital Copyright Canada
WikiLeaks Central: GeorgieBC
Those of us who suspected this are gratified these manipulations are now confirmed facts.
Thank you WikiLeaks.
It’s official: I will be uploading “Inconstant Moon” once more before publication.
I thought it would be ready to go now, and it is – as far as content goes. But between the editing and reformatting, the proof copy in my hand right now simply has too many typos.
So, today I will finish the absolute final proof-reading & corrections (with no editing!) so that I can upload it to CreateSpace before I go to bed tonight.
[No matter how long it takes. Argh.]
As a blogger, I make use of images in all of my blogs. But when i can’t take my own, I look for photos online. But © copyright, all rights reserved means I can’t use an image. And Canadian copyright law makes every photograph copyright © all rights reserved as the default.
Both Google and Flickr offer an Advanced Image Search option. When looking for images to use in my blog, I choose to search “labelled for reuse.” I can tell you right now that Google returned zero labeled for reuse image results for the incumbent in my riding.
[I would have screen captured the Google page to show you here, except that I can't, because the page is "protected by copyright"copyright. Isn't copyright fun?]
Canadians can’t even use images included on Government of Canada web pages paid for with our tax dollars because they are protected by Crown Copyright. And if you haven’t heard, CBC does the same thing. They don’t allow citizens to reproduce anything from their website, even when it is of a non-profit public service nature.
That makes it copyright infringement to reproduce the photo without permission. As a blogger, I don’t have time to ask, so it is easier for me not to not use photos unless they are licensed for re-use, rather than risk legal ramifications (EFF calls that the chilling effect). So people who want to include your photo – and provide you with needed publicity – won’t.
The flip side is that when you are in public life, total strangers can legally take your photograph and publish it without your permission. So what is likely to happen is that unflattering images will appear on flickr or WikiMedia Commons that are licensed for reuse. Unflattering images make attack ads possible.
Privately granted permission can easily be withdrawn, disavowed or legally challenged. Most bloggers don’t have legal departments, nor pockets deep enough to risk spending the rest of our lives in court arguing this.
Wikipedia is not an advertising medium, which means that famous people or political parties can’t make their own (presumably biased) pages.
One photographer who takes photographs of politicians to include in Wikipedia explained how he was forced to include an incredibly unflattering photograph of a highly placed Canadian politician in Wikipedia page. He had never been able to get a good picture of the man, and an unflattering photograph is better than none.
Which is an excellent reason for famous people or political parties to license images they can live with for reuse. You can post licensed images anywhere online, on your website, blog, even as an Identi.ca avatar, or on a free Flickr page.
If you don’t, someone else will.
There are other ways of licensing to get around the over-stringent copyright law we have today, but the one I know about is Creative Commons on licenses. I’ve blogged a bit about it in CC is for Creator’s choice.
The photographer owns the © copyright, and can license a good image through on the Creative Commons license choosing page.
For the widest possible dissemination of any information, the best license is CC0.
Between trying to get my debut novel, “Inconstant Moon,” ready to launch, computer technical difficulties, and the current federal election (I’ll be posting an #elxn41 piece to Oh! Canada later today) it would have been easy to forget all about Earth Day.
The weather is fairly miserable this year, but it is still an important day. One of the common themes in science fiction read in my youth was the caution that if we mess up the planet irreparably, without space travel humanity will be, ahem, screwed. Personally, although I am in favor of space travel, it is still important not to destroy this planet. Even if I could move to Mars or the Pleiades with Desdemona, I’d still want the option of coming home to visit.
Earth is my home.
As it is home to other forms of life.
One day a few years back I found a baby chipmunk stumbling around, wandering into the street. A closer look showed that his eyes weren’t open yet. A few days before I’d seen a dead chipmunk on the side of the road, so it was a very good guess that this little guy was an orphan.
So I brought him home.
Amazingly we managed to raise him. I had been advised to start him on goat’s milk with acidophilus to help digest it, and that did the trick. As he got older, I fed him husked sunflower seeds and grass &tc. but his favorite was tender dandelion greens, which fortunately were not covered in pesticide in my yard. So Chippy Baby grew up.
Chipmunks live underground, but ours was raised in a hamster cage with a climbing tube. He could sit at the top of his cage and look around, secure from being picked up by human hands.
When he told us it was time to go, we released him.
Happily he survived, and can be seen checking on us from on high.
Happy Earth Day.
All other photographs are by laurelrusswurm released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) License
I got the email from CreateSpace yesterday that the proof has been shipped. Unfortunately an actual real human being from create space had to process my order because it wouldn’t work for me online. This did happen with the last one as well. I suspect it’s a Windows XP conflict. Yes, I am still mired in XP.
When I ran into the font problem I tried to go back to Ubuntu (my desktop machine is set up to dual boot) but it won’t boot at all.
Even though the computer science students in my novel are devoted Ubuntu users, at this point I myself am seriously considering switching to Trisquel, because I am not the only person I know that is having Ubuntu problems. I suspect it’s a case of the latest version being released to schedule although unready. Besides, my friend Alexandre Oliva tells me that Trisquel is supposed to be “more free” than Ubuntu.
So. I hope to dump Windows for good this weekend, hopefully my computer guy will be able to fit me in.
Meanwhile, I’m currently wandering through the CreateSpace site, in search of my CreateSpace storefront. [When you self-publish through CreateSpace you get access to a web page where people can order your book-book. I started working on it a little while ago, and I began working on it earlier, and now I've lost it... I just can't quite figure out how to get there from here....]
But being the distractable gal I am, I seem to have created a CreateSpace blog called “Laurel L. Russwurm on CreateSpace”
Naturally I had to write an inaugural post. This is, I believe, designed for CreateSpace denizens, but I’ve checked and it is not locked behind a registration wall, so you can take a peek at my Adventures In Self Publishing post without having to sign up with CreateSpace.
So, now I’m heading back to work on the Inconstant Moon serialization blog. Once that’s in hand I need to start in on formatting for the various ebook versions.
Glyn Moody directed me to an article taking aim at non-commercial Creative Commons licenses, miscellaneous factZ: Creative Commons and the Commons.
Rufus Pollock makes some interesting arguments, and points out a possible problem in the Creative Commons organization: that it is an independent hierarchical organization, and unaccountable to anyone, really. Still, what was most ironic to me was his interest in removing data(base) material from the public domain (which impacts on his work) while advocating elimination of the noncommercial option from CC licenses (which impacts on mine).
As a writer about to self publish my first novel, I have considered carefully, and chosen to license it with a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada, or CC by-nc-sa.
This license allows any type of remix desired save commercial. I think all cultural material should be absolutely free for personal use. Personal use must be sacrosanct for culture to grow.
Since I’ve been mulling over and learning about copyright over the past few years, I’ve become an advocate of free culture. I’ve learned a lot, beginning with the copyright consultation submissions made by thousands of Canadians (who were led to believe that the government was interested in what citizens felt to be important in any new copyright law*), and from reading, and having online discussions with many people.
Drew Roberts is a multi-disciplinary creator who passionately champions free culture, going so far as to publish his NaNoWriMo novels as he writes. His credo is “Free the Art and Free the Artists.” Although I admire his bravery, for myself, no one reads a word I write until I am satisfied with it. In his inimitable way, the eminently reasonable Drew has gently encouraged me to release Inconstant Moon without the non-commercial restriction.
I’ve also had discussions with copyright abolitionist Crosbie Fitch, who naturally looks askance at the very idea of self publishing, as he feels that all art and creativity rightfully belongs to everyone, and should be firmly in the public domain. Not that he thinks artists should be denied the opportunity to make a living, just he thinks that they should be paid properly first, but once art is released into our culture, it should be free to copy.
Both Drew and Crosbie are highly intelligent, informed, committed and passionate about the issue, and I’ve learned a great deal from them both. But still, these are radical ideas. Change is difficult. It takes time for new ideas to be understood, and take root. So like many other independent creators today, I am feeling my way in an attempt to decide what combination works for me.
Yet I believe very strongly in the importance of the public domain and the commons.
I may at some point decide to venture the release of a novel without the noncommercial restriction, but not this time. The law of my land (Canada) places all IP under full copyright by default, and contrary to what our American neighbors contend with their absurd USTR propaganda, existing Canadian copyright law is both “stronger” and more restrictive than is good for our culture. Canadian culture is fighting its way to freedom from all the restrictions imposed by both corporate special interests and copyright collectives wanting to lock down our culture even further through the imposition of bad laws and DRM.
If creative commons licensing did not exist, the only choice available to me as a creator would be to publish my novel under full copyright restrictions. I don’t want that. But again, I am trying it on, seeing what’s what, whistling in the dark.
Lately there has been talk floating around that Creative Commons licensing is too confusing. It is certainly more confusing than outright copyright abolition would be. Some people feel more strongly about various elements of Creative Commons licenses. Like Rufus Pollock, many people think that the Noncommercial restriction should be dropped altogether. Others, like @openuniverse, believe there is no place in the Creative Commons for a “no derivatives” restriction. Others feel share-alike is too restrictive.
Rufus suggests that since most Creative Commons licenses are designated noncommercial, we should be dropping it altogether. He thinks people are dazzled by the Creative Commons “brand” and thinks that it should all be perfectly interoperable. But what Rufus doesn’t look at is the only way for all IP to be perfectly interoperable is Crosbie’s way: through the abolition of all forms of copyright. Crosbie is perfectly correct: the only perfect cultural interoperability is to be found in the Public Domain. Because for some, even a compulsion to provide attribution is too onerous.
[I confess I am looking forward to sinking my teeth into Crosbie's "The 18th Century Overture · A Crescendo of Copyright, Natural Finale and Reprise" as soon as this novel distraction is in hand.]
The point is, it shouldn’t be up to Rufus or anyone else to tell me how I can or cannot release my own creative work.
Existing copyright has long since ceased to be beneficial to creators (if it ever really was). And it is because existing copyright copyright law is both dictatorial and stifling that creators have begun to reject it. Creative Commons licensing offers a work-around that allows creators to get free of the yoke of copyright.
The reason Creative Commons is so successful is precisely because it offers all these choices. It is the variations in licensing that gives creators the confidence to release our work in this fashion, in the way in which we feel most comfortable, rather than allow the status quo of full copyright.
Something to remember is that once work is licensed, the license can only be altered to make the work more free. So in many ways, it seems more natural to begin with a more restrictive license. After all, it can always be lightened later.
As beneficial as I believe Creative Commons licensing to be, my concern is that restrictive license provisions will remain in place as long as the current copyright terms. Which can only be a disaster for the Public Domain.
And one of the most harmful aspects of existing copyright law is the ridiculous terms. It shouldn’t outlive the creator, nor should it be transferable, particularly to inhuman corporations. That’s a large part of why copyright has become such a problem today; corporate interests do not coincide with creator interests.
So I’ve decided to put my money where my mouth is. I really don’t know what will happen.
Although I believe it to be good, “Inconstant Moon” may or may not generate income.
Either way, it is my test case. Regardless of how well it does,
“Inconstant Moon” goes into the public domain 5 years after publication.
I want to do this for two reasons.
First: because I truly believe that a strong and healthy public domain is essential for all of our shared culture as human beings.
But my second reason for emancipating my work is far less altruistic: I want to give my creative works a fighting chance of surviving me.
* The later unveiling of Bill C-32 indicated a total disregard for the feedback provided by Canadians in the Copyright Consultation.
All Creative Commons logos licensed by Creative Commons with a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
Inconstant Moon banner and cover art Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) lothlaurien.ca
When I decided to start writing my novel, “Inconstant Moon“, I bought a refurbished IBM Thinkpad to use exclusively for writing. This laptop came with a truncated version of Windows 98, because anything more recent wouldn’t fit on the tiny hard drive. Originally the machine would have came with a floppy drive, or perhaps a CD writer, but it has neither now.
Instead it’s got a DVD player and a slot for an Internet wireless card. I suspect the computer shop cobbled it together out of bits and pieces with the intent of creating a DVD watching laptop, though I’ve never even played a DVD in it. Today probably opt for a netbook, but for the moment, my laptop remains an excellent dedicated writing machine. And any technology we can keep out of the landfills is to the good.
I was relying on the USB port to be able to get documents in and out of the laptop. The problem is that Windows 98 didn’t recognize the USB port. Rather than mess around with Microsft patches, I decided to dump Windows and instead install Ubuntu, a gnu/linux free software operating system. [If you're interesting in finding out more about free software, Richard Stallman, founder of the free software movement, explains the four freedoms. here.]
So my my debut novel, “Inconstant Moon”, was written on a Linux machine, using the free OpenOffice Writer software.
But there was another problem with my laptop. I was unable to connect the wee beastie to the Internet. So when it came time to upload the novel, first to NaNoWriMo for the “win”, and then to CreateSpace for the proof, I hadn’t yet resolved the problems of connecting to the Internet with my laptop, so I used the USB thumbdrive to transfer my manuscript to my desktop machine, which was running Windows XP.
And transferring my novel into Windows meant the Ubuntu fonts didn’t work properly because Windows didn’t support the free software fonts (surprise). So transferring “Inconstant Moon” into Windows made it a visual disaster. But it was my only option. I had to replace the free fonts in Ubuntu with Windows proprietary fonts. It required reformatting, which was a great deal of work. But I did it and the whole thing looked good. All the subsequent editing on the desktop Windows machine for one reason only: I didn’t want to have to reformat every time I switched machines.
When the proof came back from Create Space it was gorgeous. I planned to proof read and then publish, but excellent new feedback from my beta readers transmogrified “proof reading” into “major editing”. The Windows fonts I had selected printed nicely in the proof, so I wanted to keep them. Nienke was quite taken with the look of the overall book design, which is a great compliment, and gratifying, as she is one of the people I look to as a natural arbiter of style. Everything in the proof looked so good I didn’t want to risk the book design by messing with the fonts.
And the next proof looked great, too. But again, proofing turned into editing, including the addition of several new scenes. Even so, this time through it was only a minor edit. The final rounds of editing “Inconstant Moon” took much longer than I thought, but I have to say I am very happy with the result.
@notveryalice has lately been exploring what makes art “good” in her blog. Personally, I find it extraordinarily difficult to tell if my own work is doing what I want it to without a lot of distance. I can read my own work with perfect objectivity… years after I’ve written it. First I have to get beyond remembering the writing with perfect clarity.
That’s why beta readers and/or editors are essential to the business of self publishing. Beta readers provide feedback and allow me to get a different perspective. Much of my confidence that I’ve written a good novel is from the feedback I’ve received. It is always a good sign when beta readers are so drawn in to the story they forget to flag the typos. The last rounds of editing have smoothed off the last rough edges and enriched the story. So I’m pleased.
The most important thing I’ve learned as a writer is when to stop. You can keep editing forever. That’s not what I want, I want my work to be out there. Anyway, although theoretically there is always room for improvement, once you go beyond the sweet spot, my experience tells me that the work generally goes downhill. With the final edit complete, the last bit of business before uploading “Inconstant Moon” to CreateSpace was research for an afterward “Notes on the Type” page.
I was aware that fonts might be covered by copyright, but, self publishing noob that I am, I foolishly had the idea that “Windows XP Professional” would have licensed the fonts they made available to me so that I would be able to use them in desk top publishing. But now the novel is done, and I’m planning to finalize it.
Just to be certain, I wanted to check that I could use the selected fonts for a commercial project. So I tried to find out what the license was. I spent days jumping through Windows hoops trying to find out what the license was. I’d chosen four fonts in the manuscript and on the cover. Perhaps some or all might not allow for self publishing, which is, after all, a commercial use.
What a shocking concept: the possibility that I might not be legally entitled to use the fonts included with the software. All I need to know is whether or not I can legally use the the fonts I’ve chosen in my novel. Like most self publishers, I don’t have legal advice on tap.
After a week of trying unsuccessfully to find out from Microsoft if I could legally use the five fonts I’d selected, I decided instead to dump all the old fonts and find free alternatives. What it came down to is that I simply couldn’t find out. Microsoft is much tougher than I am. [I expect I'll blog the details later.]
For me, of special importance is the ability to have licensing that will allow me to release my novel “Inconstant Moon” under a Creative Commons license. There was a moment of weakness when I considered paying the license fees just to get it over with. But the language of the license was disturbing. Although I’m not a lawyer, it certainly made it sound as though the font licenses might restrict my ability to use the Creative Commons license I want. Most frustrating is the fact that Microsoft does not make this information available on one of their web pages.
But it is simply not worth risking a copyright infringement lawsuit. The amount of time invested in this wild goose chase was more than enough, and it was time to pull the plug and look into free fonts.
the world of free fonts
Because I didn’t want to risk the successful book design, I had put off making the full fledged migration to Ubuntu I planned so I could keep the Microsoft fonts. But when I began looking for alternatives, the irony is that the wider world offers better choices under free licenses, and makes what’s on offer from Microsoft look pitiful by comparison. I will blog more about my situation later, in hopes of trying to help others avoid the problems I’ve been having. But first I need to get my novel finished.
Libreleft Books logo
When I decided to self publish, I decided I wanted my own imprint, so I came up with a name, “Libreleft Books.” The logo I designed for it consisted of encircling the ‘Libreleft Books’ text with a wreath of laurel leaves. It seemed like a good idea, as my name is Laurel, after all. The Laurel wreath has long been used as an emblem of quality, a symbol of superiority. Or, as @CharlieSheen famously says, #winning.
But. A conversation with @notveryalice reminded me that the movie festival circuit has embraced the laurel wreath as a symbol of festival winning. Which means that using my laurel wreath design might open myself up to charges of copyright or trademark infringement.
I have read about the ways copyright and trademark law are being used to suppress creativity and competition. And while no one is likely to confuse a book with a movie festival, lately the law no longer seems to make such distinctions.
Back in the days I wrote for television I had learned it was always safest to name a character something terribly common, like John Smith, or incredibly uncommon, like John Dortmunder. The most dangerous in terms of lawsuits is a name that only one person has. The extrapolation is that the safest course would be the redesign of my lovely Libreleft Books logo.
The very definition of chilling effect.
For an eleventh hour change, instead of my wreath, it would be safer to use a book. I’m pretty sure that the most common book publisher logo going is some graphic representation of a book. And the very commonness of the symbol is in itself protection. So I after dumping my beautiful wreath graphic, I drew a picture of a book to be the background. It has entailed a huge amount of effort, and what is galling is that it has delayed my self publication. I like this one too, but not as much as my crown of laurel leaves. But between the Caslon font and the wreath… well. Chill.
“but if there’s any profit, pls make a donation to organizations like Doctors Without Borders.”
I’ve done a wee bit of modification, adding a copyleft arrow as a serif on the capital L, extending the serifs into swashes to join the letters k and s. But that’s the thing about free: I am legally free to make these alterations. I’m not sure I’m happy with it, but I don’t have time to second guess just now. Maybe it’ll grow on me, or maybe I’ll change it down the road. The point is that I can proceed. So, thank you, Manfred Klein — and all the other designers and digitizers — for making sure to populate the Internet with free fonts.
So. There is a happy ending.
I am finishing up the reformatting, and my novel “Inconstant Moon” will be uploaded to CreateSpace by tomorrow. The chilling effect for fonts and logos hasn’t stopped me, but it did slow me down. And I will share the information in an effort to try to help others avoid the same trap, because the ability for writers to self publish is a good thing. And important.