Tag Archives: platform

The new EU copyright law takes a stance for rights owners like authors and publishers

2018-09-16

The Parliament of European Union has accepted the new Copyright Directive proposed by the Commission. The EU Parliament, Commission and Council will negotiate the details, aiming at having the law proposal ready for EU member states by the end of 2018. Although some details may still change, the overall purpose and objectives have been accepted by the Parliament. What does the new EU copyright directive mean for authors and book publishers?

boy reading in library, books on a shelf
The article 11 and article 13 are the most discussed items in the copyright directive. The directive includes many other important items, like making digital content product available across borders (inside EU), making it easier to deal with data mining in research institutions, and other clarifications for use of copyrighted material in academic and educational environments.

Author/publisher relationship in the article 12

The article 12 deals with author-publisher relationship directly, aiming at giving publishers more rights for compensation when a work is licensed, for instance, to a library. In many countries, libraries pay small fees to authors for book loans. Publisher don’t usually benefit from this. The directive wanted to make it possible.

Some national author organizations were concerned about the article 12 that it would have restricted author’s copyright, but the wording of the article was changed to clarify it before the Parliament voted.

Change of business model for news aggregators indicated in article 11

Some European countries, like Germany and Spain have already tried to make big internet service platforms pay for the content they extract from newspapers and other news sources. Often this involves the title, a snippet and a link to the page where the news was published. So far, attempts to charge news aggregators like Google have failed.

It may appear an innocent activity, but when companies, such as Google and Facebook do it on a massive scale, it is actually a good business case for them. Valuable free content that an algorithm only has to sort and display to visitors.

The new directive gives news publishers a strong negotiating position to charge news aggregators and other internet services that use publishers’ news items in newsfeeds and other functions of their sites.

Authors and book publishers who have blogs where they comment on news and link to news sources need to follow closely what the exact requirements and practices for free linking and referring to news sources will be as EU negotiations proceed. Linking to an external web page, and extracting text or photos from an external web page are two completely different things.

I have not been able to find anything in the EU Directive that would restrict linking to web pages, be it a newspaper or anything else.
Tavira, Portugal: a non-digital nomad in a park

It is business as usual for authors and publishers despite article 13

In the EU, a creator of a work (author, composer, film maker) always owns the copyright to the work. He or she can transfer (sell) the rights or partial rights to someone else, like a publisher. Anyway, the owner of the rights decides where, how and who can read, listen or view the work.

This basic principle of copyright law hasn’t changed at all, but EU wants to adopt Article 13 that enforces the rights owner’s rights specifically on the internet. The article more or less directly addresses dominant internet services, like YouTube, Facebook and Wikipedia “service providers that store and provide to the public access to large amounts of works or other subject-matter uploaded by their users”.

EU’s point seems to be to make it absolutely clear that an internet service platform is responsible for all the content available on the service – user-uploaded or otherwise made available. It also makes it clear that all copyrighted works shared on a platform must have the rights owner’s explicit consent.

There are no grey zones anymore. The rights owner is entitled to a decent compensation if he or she has agreed that the work is made available on an internet service.

The curious thing in the article 13 is that it mentions “effective content recognition technologies” as a measure for preventing unlicensed content on a sharing service. Why on earth does it have to mention how a monitoring task can be executed? Leave it to the innovative businesses to create a solution. Hopefully this will be changed or removed during the negotiations.

For an author or book publisher, the article 13 is not earth-shattering news. If a copyrighted ebook has been uploaded to a sharing service, it has always been a copyright violation and the rights owner has been able to ask officials to intervene.

Online encyclopedias that have borrowed lengthy pieces of content from nonfiction books should look into their practices before problems arise. Also some fan fiction services may have content available extracted from fiction books. Right owners’ consent must be sought in each case.

The big fuss about the EU copyright law primarily concerns mixing and sharing culture

Most music makers, photographers, film makers, writers and publishers are happy to see a strong stance in favor of copyright protection, but some artists see risks in restrictions. The EU directive is trying to level the playing field between the rights owners (who can be a self-published author without any legal help) and internet giants that dominate search, advertising, social media and sharing services.

New works – music, films, books, photos – can be, and always have been, created using existing works more or less directly in the process. In the digital era, a new song can have the tune of “Every Breath You Take” but with new words and beat. Digitally merging old and new photographs or video clips is easy.

Sharing exciting video clips and funny photos or pieces of texts on social media is so common we don’t think about it anymore. Sometimes, someone has done a lot of work to produce that piece of work.

Loud advocates who want the current fuzzy situation to continue argue that preventing sharing or mixing is against freedom of speech and harmful for the entire internet.

It is true that EU’s new directive is straightforward with copyright owners’ rights, and eventually it will have an impact how sharing, mixing and news aggregation services operate on the internet. The services must change their processes so that all new content that becomes available on the site has cleared ownership checks, and if it is a copyrighted work, an agreement with its owner is in place.

Very little, if anything, will change because of EU’s new copyright law for an author who is writing his or her next book, or for a publisher that is investing in the production of a new book. The business model, after all, is still the same for them: produce an original work and market it to an audience that pays for the product.

A community built for writers needs a platform strategy

2018-06-21

Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg once said that online communities can’t be created. Communities exist both in the real world and online, and all you can do is to provide tools and services that attract community members to your platform. Writing Cooperative is a community for writers, but the story how it was born is quite exciting.
writers with laptops around coffee table, photo by rawpixelPhoto by rawpixel.

Two complete strangers Jessica Jungton and Sand Farina met on the brand-new blogging service The Medium when it was just launched. They realized they both wanted to have something that would help them and everyone else write better. Since Medium provided some rudimentary tools for editing, they started from there.

In 2014, the founders of the Writing Cooperative opened it for business. Writers quickly discovered the community, and the founders asked a few people to help them run the business.

Everything seemed to be going well until Medium changed the features it provided to its users. Since the Writing Cooperative relied completely on Medium, it was a major problem for the business. After some tweaks, things worked until Medium changed its functionality again.

Recently, Medium started charging visitors for reading articles. Accidental visitors can read three articles for free, and after that they have to purchase a monthly subscription. This new policy is bound to have a huge impact on the number of visitors who would like to read the Writing Cooperative every once in a while.

Today, the Writing Cooperative doesn’t rely on Medium alone anymore, but uses messaging service Slack for communication as well.

You can read the story with the founders’ remarks at ProWritingAid.

I am surprised that a fairly large community like the Writing Cooperative has stayed on Medium. The changes the platform does will never end. The community will encounter problems in the future as well. Writing Cooperative admits that they don’t know how their revenue from Medium is made up.

10 years ago, I was one of the founders of a network of small businesses. We needed online presence and tools. We settled on a platform (it doesn’t exist anymore) that was perfect to our needs because it was intended for small businesses. We started building on the platform, but pretty soon, we realized that we couldn’t rely on constant technical and business model changes the platform was having.

We created our own site. Fortunately we had graphic designers, programmers and writers in our network who could share the work. It required more initial work and money, but we were happy after it was done and live on the internet.

This is why book publishers want details about potential authors’ blog and social media footprint

2016-12-17

If you already have had an opportunity to talk to a book publisher or an agent about your terrific book concept, you may have been asked about your blog and social media presence. For you, they don’t necessarily have anything to do with your aspirations as a writer. Maybe you don’t even have a blog and your social media is mostly about watching cat videos on Facebook. Here is the thing: when a publisher is estimating the size of the market for your book concept, the audience you are able to reach yourself can be a significant factor.
man thinking what to write on aptop
Let’s take an example. You have been living and working in Berlin, the capital of Germany, for a year. You have learned so much about the culture, country and people that you are planning to write a cultural guide to other foreigners who intend to move to Germany. If you have a travel blog where you discuss about the country, the city, the language and the way Germans behave, you probably have an audience. Your blog or other social media contribution is also a quick way for publishers and agents to browse how and what topics you write about. If, on the other hand, you have only updated your Facebook page that your family and friends read during the year, it really doesn’t count as an audience.

Without going into details of blogging, tweeting, instagramming or whatever will be the next big thing in social media, the key thing is: how many people you can reach on your own?

Many experts in the publishing business call this the Author Platform. For an extensive explanation on the Author Platform (also known as the Writer’s or Marketing Platform) and how to build one for yourself, read this article at Writer’s Digest.

The Platform concept is particularly useful for nonfiction writers. Publishers and naturally readers expect that the writer knows what he or she is talking about. The writer must be an authority of the topic of the book. This doesn’t mean that he or she should be a world-renowned expert, but should have the credibility so that the audience can trust the information in the book. Experienced, professional writers can write just about anything, but they have plenty of techniques and contacts for verifying the information they write.

If we use the cultural guide to Germany as an example, living and working for a year in Berlin gives enough experiences to write a book, but probably means that the guidebook won’t dive very deep into the local culture. If the aspiring author writes the manuscript in Berlin, it may take another year, and the authority only grows.

So, these two key things are the reasons why publishers and agents are interested in writers’ footprint (both in the real world and on the Internet):

1. Audience
2. Authority

When we discuss about writing and book publishing, we easily neglect an important factor that impacts both the publishing decision and the whole book project. Especially nonfiction books are not only about text, but also about photos, schemas, tables, drawings, and today also (thanks to ebooks) about animations and videos. If you can shoot decent photos or videos, draw pictures or put together smart data tables, it is a big advantage for you.
photographer taking a photo in flower field
If you have a plan for a nonfiction book, and are looking for an ebook publisher, read this as well.