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Book Pirates! Diary of an Amateur Web Sleuth

July 2006 By Denny Hatch
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In the News

Battling the Online Pirates
Signs of hope, a year after the Supreme Court’s MGM v. Grokster decision. A year ago, in MGM v. Grokster, the Supreme Court handed down one of the most important decisions affecting intellectual property in more than two decades. In its unanimous ruling, the court cut to the heart of the matter: “We hold that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties.” As a result, the online landscape for movies, music and other forms of intellectual property has now changed for the better.
Mitch Bainwol, chairman and CEO, Recording Industry Association of America
Dan Glickman, chairman and CEO, Motion Picture Association of America
The Wall Street Journal, July 1, 2006
“Businesses based on theft are falling by the wayside or going legit, and a legal marketplace is showing real signs of promise,” wrote Mitch Bainwol, chairman and CEO, Recording Industry Association of America, and Dan Glickman, chairman and CEO, Motion Picture Association of America, in The Wall Street Journal on July 1.

Maybe in the world of DVDs, CDs and software.

The genteel world of book publishing is another story.

Sure, the Harry Potter books have been counterfeited and are selling across Asia.

But I was stunned to find that an obscure book written 50 years ago by my father, that’s still under copyright, was appropriated without permission, republished and offered for sale all over the world.

A Copyright Swiped
My father, Alden Hatch, who died in 1975, was the author of over 40 books, mostly biographies.

In my daily travels through the Internet I discovered that a new edition of my father’s 1947 “Franklin D. Roosevelt: An Informal Biography” had been published by a company called Kessinger that’s out of Whitefish, Mont.

My stepmother is my father’s literary heir and owner of all his copyright works. I called her and asked if she had signed a contract for the Roosevelt book.

She said no.

A nice man from Sterling Point Books had contacted her awhile back about the possibility of republishing my father’s biography of General George S. Patton. Only too happy to have a small advance against future royalties, she signed a contract. The book is out with a new title (“Old Blood and Guts”) and a smashing new cover.

But no one contacted her about the Roosevelt book, and she had never heard of Kessinger.

Nor had I.

The Kessinger Web Site
I paid an electronic visit to www.kessinger.net and discovered it bills itself as “Kessinger Publishing’s Rare Reprints—Thousands of Scarce and Hard-to-Find Books.” These range from 465 titles by “Anonymous” to Samuel Zwemer (six titles).

I found my father’s book right away. Returning to the Kessinger home page I found a box, “Copyright Questions,” and clicked on it.

What came up was the damnedest outline of a business model I had ever seen in my life. I reprint it here in full:

Please Notify us of any Possible Copyright Infringements

Kessinger Publishing LLC respects the intellectual property rights of all individuals, businesses, and organizations. If you believe that we have infringed upon your copyright, please notify us by providing us with the following information:

Takeaway Points to Consider:

*The Internet is a hotbed of illegal products—counterfeit and stolen merchandise. Be careful what you buy and sell. For example, given the massive publicity eBay has received as a major source of counterfeit and pirated merchandise, a person would have to be nuts to shop on eBay.

*With two exceptions, under U.S. copyright law you own everything original that you create in terms of copy and design. Coverage is instant and automatic, starting with your raw notes or sketches all the way through to finished product. The two exceptions: (1) You’re an employee drawing salary and benefits and your work is being done for your employer; and (2) you signed a “work-for-hire” agreement that assigns all rights to your work to the person or organization paying you.

*Millions of books have been written and printed, and the vast majority is in the public domain—no longer copyrighted—and free for the plucking. The full text of hundreds—perhaps thousands—of classics are available online. Before reproducing and selling any intellectual property, do the research to find out if it’s in copyright.

*The associations of the recording and motion picture industries are on the warpath and will prosecute anyone who’s caught reproducing and disseminating copyrighted material.

*If you catch someone using your material, you can order them to cease and desist.

*In order to be awarded damages, you must have registered your work with the U.S. Copyright Office. This goes for books, plays, music, articles, advertising efforts, etc. You’d be amazed at the number of mailings I have seen over the years where copy was lifted word for word.

*You may want to review your suppliers’ and partners’ work to be sure they’re absolutely legitimate and not compromising your business and reputation.

Web Sites Related to Today's Edition:

Kessinger Publishing
http://www.kessinger.net/

Lightning Source
http://www.lightningsource.com/

Orphan Copyright
http://www.copyright.gov/orphan/

Copyright Renewals
http://www.scils.rutgers.edu/~lesk/copyrenew.html

Copyright Law of the United States
http://www.copyright.gov/title17/

Copyright Information Center
http://www.copyright.cornell.edu/

Has Your Work Been Plagiarized?
http://www.ithenticate.com/

Copyright Office Forms
http://www.copyright.gov/forms/
 
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Most Recent Comments:
Nancy McClure - Posted on August 15, 2007
Legislation has been proposed that a amends the 1976 Copyright Act. The "Orphan Works act" lets publishers get away with violating copyright and avoiding penalties easily by claiming the author is unidentifiable or unlocatable. Congress claims to thing the "creative community" (i.e. big publishers) support it, when in fact creators are up in arms.
http://www.illustratorspartnership.org/01_topics/article.php?searchterm=00178
Click here to view archived comments...
Archived Comments:
Nancy McClure - Posted on August 15, 2007
Legislation has been proposed that a amends the 1976 Copyright Act. The "Orphan Works act" lets publishers get away with violating copyright and avoiding penalties easily by claiming the author is unidentifiable or unlocatable. Congress claims to thing the "creative community" (i.e. big publishers) support it, when in fact creators are up in arms.
http://www.illustratorspartnership.org/01_topics/article.php?searchterm=00178