Over the years, as my career shot through its giant pinball machine, changing directions whenever it hit a peg, I have been involved in quite a few trade associations, ranging from the CEA (Consumer Electronics Association) to the ABA (American Booksellers Association). I’ve written for that other ABA (an article in the ABA Journal), spent years as an associate member, contributing editor, and faculty member at NCRA (the National Court Reporters Association), and exhibited many times at the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) annual conference. If I added up all of the regional associations that I’ve joined, spoken at, written for, or exhibited with, I could come up with another few dozen easily.
The first time attending one of these conferences can be uncomfortable. The events are mainly social, and you don’t know any of the other attendees — all of whom appear to be lifelong buddies. But networking is an important part of business, and you work through the awkwardness. Next year will be easier! Back in my days in the electronics business, at least one thing was easy: how to dress. For the most part, men in the electronics business had two choices. We could dress up (suit and tie) or dress down (an appropriate t-shirt). As I became more known as a writer, I felt more comfortable dressing like me, which included cowboy boots and a Stetson. That could still be dressed up or down and could still look quite professional.
Despite over 25 years as a published writer and almost 10 years with writing as my primary source of income, I’ve never attended a major writers’ conference. It is, however, time to do so. In a couple of weeks, I’ll be attending the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) summer conference. Hopefully, I shall be networking with publishers and agents and determining what comes after Who Pooped in the Park?
Writers. We’re an eclectic bunch. Nobody expects us to wear suits, right? I can just be me. Until the Saturday mixer. Let me just quote directly from the conference schedule:
7:30 PM – 10:30 PM
THE 40 WINKS ANNIVERSARY POOLSIDE GALA
In honor of our 40th Anniversary Conference we’re throwing a pajama party! The 40 Winks Ball will be a legendary poolside gala with food, drinks, music and dancing. The only thing we’ll need is you in your pajamas or a reasonable facsimile. Special prizes will be awarded for the best dressed for bedtime! Hurry on down to the pool on Saturday night! We can’t promise you’ll get much sleep, (maybe 40 winks or so) but staying up late will never be more fun.
Wait a minute! I have to network professionally in my pajamas? Nobody wants to see me in my pajamas. I don’t even have pajamas. This will be a challenge. Or maybe it’s an opportunity. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, right? I just need to come up with some incredibly clever sleepwear for a professional mixer.
Or does it really matter? After all, I’m the guy that writes books about poop. I don’t think the expectations will be very high.
As a writer and bookseller, I depend on copyrights and their enforcement to make a living. I believe that people should be able to profit from their creative labors, and that a properly-constructed copyright system encourages people to create. I also believe that our current system isn’t properly-constructed, but that’s another topic entirely.
Last Wednesday, July 6, a group of major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) entered a voluntary agreement with the music and movie industries (MPAA and RIAA) to enforce copyrights on their customers’ websites. When someone (most likely the RIAA or MPAA) notifies your ISP of a potential copyright violation on your website or through P2P usage, you will receive a warning. The first four warnings are “educational” in nature, with no penalty and no appeal. As you move up to the fifth and sixth warning, the “mitigation” stage kicks in, and you could find your access speed throttled back or a landing page that comes up every time you try to access the Internet.
This bothers me on several levels. Even though the ISPs won’t be monitoring your Internet traffic, and disconnection isn’t one of the possible punishments, it puts Big Daddy right in your office or living room. And the penalty phase seems misguided to me. Once you’ve reached the fifth or sixth warning, and the ISP has applied a penalty, you have the option to appeal. Unfortunately, you have to pay for the appeal ($35.00), and your reasons for appeal are highly limited.
The memorandum of understanding lists six possible grounds for appeal (the misnumbering is theirs, not mine):
(i) Misidentification of Account–that the ISP account has been incorrectly identified as one through which acts of alleged copyright infringement have occurred.
(ii) Unauthorized Use of Account–that the alleged activity was the result of the unauthorized use of the Subscriber’s account of which the Subscriber was unaware and that the Subscriber could not reasonably have prevented.
(iii) Authorization–that the use of the work made by the Subscriber was authorized by its Copyright Owner.
(iv) Fair Use–that the Subscriber’s reproducing the copyrighted work(s) and distributing it/them over a P2P network is defensible as a fair use.
(vi) Misidentification of File–that the file in question does not consist primarily of the alleged copyrighted work at issue.
(vii) Work Published Before 1923–that the alleged copyrighted work was published prior to 1923.
Does anyone else notice a glaring omission on that list? If someone reports you for copyright infringement, you can’t say “Piss off; I own that!” I suppose you could go for clause iii and say that you had given yourself permission, but remember you can’t appeal the first four warnings at all, and if someone reports you for placing your own copyrighted content on your website or blog, it will cost you $35 and some unknown amount of time to make the penalties go away.
I am interested in how this will affect writers. I have found copies of my work scattered all over the Internet, and found that most website operators ignore my requests to take it down. Although the RIAA and MPAA started the process that led to this memorandum of understanding (MOI), it opens with the following words:
Copyright infringement (under Title 17 of the United States Code) on the Internet (“Online Infringement”) — including the illegal distribution of copyrighted works such as music, movies, computer software, gaming software, e-books and the like via Peer-to-Peer (“P2P”) file exchanges and other illegal distribution via Internet file hosting, streaming or other technologies — imposes substantial costs on copyright holders and the economy each year.
Notice the inclusion of ebooks? This seems to imply that writers can contact an ISP and report violations under the terms of the MOI. Would this also include our articles, stories, poems, and audio books? How about digital copies of artists’ work? Well, apparently not. According to the MOI, notices of infringement may only be given by the “Content Owner Representatives,” which they define as the RIAA and MPAA. If your content is pirated, you can’t do a thing about it unless the RIAA or MPAA choose to respond.
If, however, those organizations do choose to pass through notices generated by individuals, it would create a whole new form of harassment. If you don’t like someone, report them for copyright infringement over and over and over. Even if they’ve done nothing wrong, it will cost them $35 each time to remove the mitigation measures.
This could be a very far-ranging contract, and there could be consequences unforeseen by the signers of the MOI.
Incidentally, the ISPs that signed the agreement — as listed in Attachment A of the MOI — are SBC Internet Services, Inc., BellSouth Telecommunications, Inc., Southwestern Bell Telephone Company, Pacific Bell Telephone Company, Illinois Bell Telephone Company, Indiana Bell Telephone Company, Incorporated, Michigan Bell Telephone Company, Nevada Bell Telephone Company, The Ohio Bell Telephone Company, Wisconsin Bell, Inc., The Southern New England Telephone Company, and BellSouth Telecommunications, Inc. (the AT&T Inc. companies); Verizon Online LLC, VerizonOnline LLC –Maryland, and Verizon Online Pennsylvania Partnership (the Verizoncompanies); Comcast Cable Communications Management, LLC; CSC Holdings, LLC (solely with respect to its cable systems operating in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut)(the Cablevision systems); and Time Warner Cable Inc.
(Edited July 10)
Here’s the latest version of my Who Pooped in the Park? book signing schedule for July and August. There will probably be more, but here’s what’s confirmed so far:
West Yellowstone, Montana
Sun, July 24, 7:00-8:30 — Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center
I will be giving a scat and tracks talk in the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center theater starting at 7:00 p.m., followed by a book signing outside the gift shop (which closes at 8:30).
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming/Montana
Mon, July 25, 11:00-2:00 — Old Faithful Store
Mon, July 25, 3:00-6:00 — Old Faithful Inn
Tue, July 26, 11:00-1:00 — Canyon Lodge
Tue, July 26, 4:30-7:30 — Lake Hotel
Wed, July 27, 11:30-2:30 — Map room at Mammoth
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Nevada
Sat, July 30, 10:00-2:00 — Red Rock Visitor’s Center
Red Lodge, Montana
Mon, Aug 1, 6:00-8:00 pm — Beartooth Nature Center
This will be a “poop talk” and book signing as a part of the Beartooth Evening Adventures program.
Most of these will be book signings without a formal talk, but I’m always happy to chat if things aren’t too busy.
Eight years ago today, I competed in the wild horse race at the Red Lodge Home of Champions Rodeo. At the time, I was between chemotherapy treatments for a life-threatening case of large B-cell lymphoma. It was, shall I say, an interesting time in my life, which I wrote a newspaper article about three years ago [update: the article is now here on my blog]. The oncologist had informed me that the treatment (CHOP chemotherapy plus monoclonal antibodies) had about a 50% chance of success in cases like mine.
I didn’t win anything. But I set my sights on being there that weekend, doing my part, and walking away under my own power. It meant a lot to me, and I still wear the buckle I bought myself to commemorate that event almost every day. They say fighting cancer is all about your attitude. Perhaps they’re right.
The whole experience of having cancer in 2003 changed my point of view on what’s important in life. Family and friends count for a lot more than money and possessions. Enjoying life is paramount. I’ve become less concerned about what others think of me, and my attitude these days is generally “live and let live.”
That is probably what upsets me so much about legislators hurting people who could have used help instead (see my post about the changes in Montana’s medical marijuana laws), or vicious personal attacks during political campaigns. Unfortunately, many diseases still carry social stigmas with them (e.g., AIDS), and it seems like most of the attention — and money — goes to just a few hip diseases. I see more posters, ribbons, news articles, bumper stickers, and talk shows about breast cancer than all other types of cancer combined. Ever see a fundraiser for non-Hodgkins large B-cell lymphoma?
My other bout with cancer happened just last year, and it was one of those that you don’t generally discuss in polite company. Prostate cancer is one of the “icky” diseases. Your average man on the street doesn’t really know what his prostate gland does, and if he’s heard anything at all about treating prostate cancer, he’s probably heard about the dangers of impotency and incontinence as possible side-effects. I know that scared the heck out of me when I was diagnosed.
Now, I have received my second “all-clear,” leaving the current score at Gary: 2, Cancer: 0. Although I wouldn’t call either experience enjoyable, the side effects have been minimal and my life can continue as normal. But not as it was before.
In our little town of 2,300, our “Pints for Prostates” fundraiser pulled in over $1,200, and over 50 people showed up to have a great time, hear my quick talk about prostate cancer, and leave with some discount coupons for PSA tests at the hospital. That made me feel pretty good, and I’m hoping to do even better next year.
Although I like to think of myself as a generally easy-going kind of guy, I have a lot less tolerance for intolerance these days, and virtually no tolerance for incompetence. It’s a good thing I haven’t set my sites on public office, because I’m too darned blunt for it. Legislators from Federal level to city level are passing laws that don’t address the problem they were purported to solve. We’re spending billions of dollars interfering with other countries when we aren’t doing an adequate job of fixing problems at home. Our health care system is badly broken, and legislators are working overtime to fight attempts to fix it rather than working together for a solution.
Ah, well, I’m rambling. I’ll go back to my regularly-scheduled posts with a focus next week. I hope you all enjoy your Independence Day weekend!