(1) WHEN WILL YOU MAKE AN END? Unlike other recent kerfuffles, John Scalzi has a good deal to say about the copyright controversy in “Two Tweet Threads About Copyright” at Whatever.
Background: Writer Matthew Yglesias, who should have known better but I guess needed the clicks, offered up the opinion that the term of copyright should be shortened to 30 years (currently in the US it’s Life+70 years). This naturally outraged other writers, because copyrights let them make money. This caused a writer by the name of Tim Lee to wonder why people were annoyed by Yglesias’ thought exercise, since he thought 30 years was more than enough time for people to benefit from their books (NB: Lee has not written a book himself), and anyway, as he said in a follow up tweet: “Nobody writes a book so that the royalties will support them in retirement decades later. They’re mostly thinking about the money they’ll make in the next few years.”
This is where I come in….
6. The moral/ethical case is ironically the easiest to make: think of the public good! And indeed the public domain is a vital good, which should be celebrated and protected — no copyright should run forever. It should be tied to the benefit of the creator, then to the public.
7. Where you run into trouble is arguing to a creator that *their* copyright should be *less* than the term of their life (plus a little bit for family). It’s difficult enough to make money as a creator; arguing that tap should be stoppered in old age, is, well. *Unconvincing.*
8. Likewise, limiting that term limits a creator’s ability to earn from their work in less effable ways. If there’s a 30-year term of copyright and my work is at year 25, selling a movie/tv option is likely harder, not only because production takes a long time (trust me)…
9. …but also because after a certain point, it would make sense to just wait out the copyright and exclude the originator entirely. A too-short copyright term has an even *shorter* economic shelf-life than the term, basically. Why on earth would creators agree to that?
The comments at Whatever include this one by Kurt Busiek distinguishing patent and copyright protections:
“I’m not sure I understand why copyright and patent terms are such different lengths. My father is an electronic engineer who designed an extremely successful glassbreak sensor (e.g. for home security systems). Guess how long a patent term is at max? Twenty years from date of filing. It’s a far cry from 120 years or life+70 for copyright.”
Because patents and copyrights cover different kinds of things.
On the one hand, patents are often more crucial — if we had to wait 120 years for penicillin to go into the public domain, that hampers researchers and harms the public much more than if we had to wait that long for James Bond. The public domain needs that stuff sooner.
If you patent a process that allows solar radiation to be collected and stored by a chip, then anyone who wants to do that has to license the process from you, even if they came up with it independently. You’ve got a monopoly on the whole thing.
But if you write a book about hobbits on a quest to dunk some dangerous mystic bling in lava, well, people can’t reprint your book or make a movie out of it without securing permission. But they can still write a book about halflings out to feed some dangerous mystic bling to the ice gnoles — what’s protected by copyright is that particular story, not the underlying plot structure. Tolkien gets a monopoly on his particular specific expression of those ideas, not on piece of science that can be used a zillion different ways.
I’m sure there are other reasons, but those two illustrate the basic idea, I hope.
(2) RIGHTS MAKE MIGHT. Elizabeth Bear’s contribution to the dialog about copyrights is pointing her Throwanotherbearinthecanoe newsletter audience at three installments of NPR’s Planet Money podcast that follows the process of gaining rights to a superhero. At the link you can hear the audio or read a transcript.
- Comic book companies horde thousands of characters for future use : Planet Money : NPR
- Thousands of superheroes exist in the public domain : Planet Money : NPR
- Micro-Face gets an original comic book : Planet Money : NPR
Here’s an excerpt from the third podcast:
…SMITH: The daughter of the original artist who created Micro-Face, Al Ulmer. Maybe we should have our lawyers here just in case it gets a little litigious. After the break.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MALONE: You want to start by just telling us your name and who you are?
LOUCKS: Hi. Yes. I’m Peggy Loucks (ph), and I’m 83 years old. And I’m a retired librarian. And I’m the daughter of Allen Ulmer – U-L-M-E-R.
SMITH: When we found out that Al Ulmer’s daughter, Peggy, was still alive, I was thinking, yes. I have so many questions for her.
MALONE: I, on the other hand, was nervous because, look; we don’t need Peggy’s permission to do anything with her father’s character, Micro-Face, since he is in the public domain. But like, look; if she hates this project, I mean…
SMITH: Yeah, it would be a jerk move to be like, tough luck, lady; we’re taking your father’s idea and completely changing it and making a fortune off of it. So we started off with some easy questions for Peggy.
MALONE: Do you know what he thought about drawing superheroes? Did he enjoy doing superheroes in particular, creating them?
LOUCKS: Oh, yes. You know, the – especially some of these characters, they were always in tights with capes and, you know, some kind of headgear or masks.
SMITH: So what was your father like as a person?
LOUCKS: You know, he would’ve been really someone you would like to have known and been in their company. You know, he was a gourmet cook. His beef Wellington was to die for. We always waited for that….
(3) STAY TUNED TO THIS STATION. Amazon dropped a trailer for The Underground Railroad, based on Colson Whitehead’s alternate history novel. All episodes begin streaming on Amazon Prime Video on May 14.
From Academy Award® winner Barry Jenkins and based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Colson Whitehead, “The Underground Railroad” chronicles Cora Randall’s desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. After escaping a Georgia plantation for the rumored Underground Railroad, Cora discovers no mere metaphor, but an actual railroad beneath the Southern soil.
(4) AURORA AWARDS. The Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association has announced an updated Aurora Awards calendar.
Nominations will now open on March 27th, 2021. Nominations will now close on April 24th, 2021. The ballot will now be announced on May 8th, 2021.
The Voter’s Package will now be available on May 29th, 2021.
After that date, the calendar will be back on track.
Voting will open July 31st, 2021. Voting will close September 4th, 2021.
The Aurora Awards will be announced at Can*Con in Ottawa, held October 16-18.
(5) PAYING IT FORWARD. In this video Cat Rambo reads aloud her contribution to the collection Pocket Workshop: Essays on Living as a Writer.
One of the great traditions in fantasy and science fiction writing is that of the mentor/mentee relationship. We’re told of many of the earlier writers mentoring newer ones offering advice passing along opportunities and sometimes collaborating…
(6) IT GETS VERSE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In Isaac Asimov’s autobiography In Joy Still Felt, he reprints part of a poem called “Rejection Slips” where he discusses being rejected by Galaxy editor H.L. Gold.
Dear Ike, I was prepared
(And boy, I really cared)
To swallow almost everything you wrote.
But Ike, you’re just plain shot,
Your writing’s gone to pot,
There’s nothing left but hack and mental bloat.
Take past this piece of junk,
It smelled; it reeked, it stunk;
Just glancing through it once was deadly rough.
But Ike, boy, by and by,
Just try another try
I need some yarns and kid, I love your stuff.
(7) BURIED IN CASH. “How Dr. Seuss became the second highest-paid dead celebrity” at the Boston Globe – where you may run into a paywall, which somehow seems appropriate.
…In fact, according to Forbes.com’s annual inventory of the highest-paid dead celebrities, the guy who grew up Theodor Geisel in Springfield ranks No. 2 — behind only Michael Jackson — with earnings last year of $33 million. In other words, the Vipper of Vipp, Flummox, and Fox in Sox generated more dough in 2020 than the songs of Elvis Presley or Prince, or the panels of “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz.
And Dr. Seuss stands to make even more money now. That’s because the announcement that six of his 60 or so books will no longer be published has sent people scurrying to buy his back catalog. On Thursday, nine of the top 10 spots on Amazon’s best-sellers list were occupied by Dr. Seuss, including classics “The Cat in the Hat,” “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” and “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”
A fortune’s a fortune, no matter how small, but $33 million is a mountain that’s tall. So how does Dr. Seuss continue to accumulate such wealth? It turns out Geisel, who died in 1991 at the age of 87, doesn’t deserve the credit. His wife does. Two years after the author died, Seuss’s spouse, Audrey Geisel, founded Dr. Seuss Enterprises to handle licensing and film deals for her husband’s work….
(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
- March 7, 1980 — On this day in 1980, the Brave New World film premiered on NBC. (It would show on BBC as well.) It was adapted from the novel by Aldous Huxley by Robert E. Thompson and Doran William Cannon, and was directed by Burt Brinckerhoff. It starred Kristoffer Tabori, Julie Cobb and Budd Cort. It has a forty-six percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can watch it here.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born March 7, 1944 — Stanley Schmidt, 77. Between 1978 and 2012 he served as editor of Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine, an amazing feat by any standard! He was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor every year from 1980 through 2006 (its final year), and for the Hugo Award for Best Editor Short Form every year from 2007 (its first year) through 2013 with him winning in 2013. He’s also an accomplished author. (CE)
- Born March 7, 1945 — Elizabeth Moon, 76. I’ll let JJ have the say on her: “I’ve got all of the Serrano books waiting for when I’m ready to read them. But I have read all of the Kylara Vatta books — the first quintology which are Vatta’s War, and the two that have been published so far in Vatta’s Peace. I absolutely loved them — enough that I might be willing to break my ‘no re-reads’ rule to do the first 5 again at some point. Vatta is a competent but flawed character, with smarts and courage and integrity, and Moon has built a large, complex universe to hold her adventures. The stories also feature a secondary character who is an older woman; age-wise she is ‘elderly,’ but in terms of intelligence and capability, she is extremely smart and competent — and such characters are pretty rare in science fiction, and much to be appreciated.” (CE)
- Born March 7, 1959 — Nick Searcy, 62. He was Nathan Ramsey in Seven Days which I personally think is the best damn time travel series ever done. And he was in 11.22.63 as Deke Simmons, based off the Stephen King novel. He was in Intelligence, a show I never knew existed, for one episode as General Greg Carter, and in The Shape of Water film, he played yet another General, this one named Frank Hoyt. And finally, I’d be remiss to overlook his run in horror as he was in American Gothic as Deputy Ben Healy. (CE)
- Born March 7, 1966 — Jonathan Del Arco, 55. He played Hugh the Borg in Star Trek: The Next Generation and in Star Trek: Picard. That is way cool. He also showed up as on Star Trek: Voyager as Fantôme in “The Void” episode. (CE)
- Born March 7, 1970 — Rachel Weisz, 51. Though better known for The Mummy films which I really, really love (well the first two with her), her first genre film was Death Machine, a British-Japanese cyberpunk horror film which score a rather well fifty one percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. I’ve also got her in Chain Reaction and The Lobster. (CE)
- Born March 7, 1974 — Tobias Menzies, 47. First off is he’s got Doctor Who creds by being Lieutenant Stepashin in the Eleventh Doctor story, “Cold War”. He was also on the Game of Thrones where he played Edmure Tully. He is probably best known for his dual role as Frank Randall and Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall in Outlander. He was in Finding Neverland as a Theatre Patron, in Casino Royale as Villierse who was M’s assistant, showed up in The Genius of Christopher Marlowe as the demon Mephistophilis, voiced Captain English in the all puppet Jackboots on Whitehall film and played Marius in Underworld: Blood Wars. (CE)
- Born March 7, 1903 – Bernarda Bryson. Painter, lithographer; outside our field, illustrations for the Resettlement Administration, like this. Here is Gilgamesh. Here is The Twenty Miracles of St. Nicholas. Here is Bright Hunter of the Skies. Here is The Death of Lady Mondegreen (hello, Seanan McGuire). (Died 2004) [JH]
- Born March 7, 1934 – Gray Morrow. Two hundred fifty covers, fifty of them for Perry Rhodan; four hundred interiors. Also Classics Illustrated; Bobbs-Merrill Childhoods of Famous Americans e.g. Crispus Attucks, Teddy Roosevelt, Abner Doubleday; DC Comics, Marvel; Rip Kirby, Tarzan; Aardwolf, Dark Horse. Oklahoma Cartoonists Associates Hall of Fame. Here is Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Here is the NyCon 3 (25th Worldcon) Program & Memory Book. Here is The Languages of Pao. Here is The Best of Judith Merrill. Here is Norstrilia. Here is a page from “The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth” in GM’s Illustrated Roger Zelazny. (Died 2001) [JH]
- Born March 7, 1952 – John Lorentz, age 69. Active, reliable in the excruciating, exhilarating, alas too often thankless work of putting on our SF conventions, e.g. chaired Westercon 43 & 48, SMOFcon 8 (Secret Masters Of Fandom, as Bruce Pelz said a joke-nonjoke-joke; a con annually hoping to learn from experience); administered Hugo Awards, sometimes with others, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2015; finance head, Renovation (69th Worldcon). Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon 53, Norwescon XXI (with wife Ruth Sachter). [JH]
- Born March 7, 1954 – Elayne Pelz, age 67. Another indispensable fan. Currently Treasurer and Corresponding Secretary of the Southern Cal. Inst. for Fan Interests (yes, that’s what the initials spell; pronounced skiffy), which has produced Westercons, Worldcons, and a NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas). Widow of B. Pelz; I danced at their wedding; E chaired Westercon 55 upon B’s death. Twice given LASFS’ Evans-Freehafer Award (service; L.A. Science Fantasy Soc., unrelated to SCIFI but with some directors in common). Fan Guest of Honor at Leprecon 9, Loscon 13 (with B), Westercon 48, Baycon 2004. Several terms as LASFS Treasurer, proverbially reporting Yes, we have money; no, you can’t spend it. [JH]
- Born March 7, 1967 – Donato Giancola, age 54. Gifted with, or achieving, accessibility, productivity, early; Jack Gaughan Award, three Hugos, twenty Chesleys, two Spectrum Gold Awards and Grandmaster. Two hundred seventy covers, four hundred forty interiors. Here is Otherness. Here is The Ringworld Engineers. Here is his artbook Visit My Alien Worlds (with Marc Gave). Here is the Sep 06 Asimov’s. Here is the May 15 Analog. Two Middle-Earth books, Visions of a Modern Myth and Journeys in Myth and Legend. [JH]
- Born March 7, 1977 – Brent Weeks, age 44. Nine novels, a couple of shorter stories. The Way of Shadows and sequels each NY Times Best-Sellers; four million copies of his books in print. Cites Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Yeats, Tolkien. “I do laugh at my own jokes…. scowl, change the word order to see if it makes it funnier, scowl again … try three more times…. occasionally cackle…. This is why I can’t write in coffee shops.” [JH]
(10) LIADEN. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have issued Liaden Universe® InfoDump Number 127 with info about the availability of a new Adventures in the Liaden Universe® chapbook. Also:
LEE AND MILLER PANELISTS AT MARSCON
Sharon and Steve will attending the virtual MarsCon, to be held March 12-14 (that’s this weekend!) Here’s the convention link.
Steve and Sharon hope to attend DisCon III virtually. We have no plans to attend in-person, as much as we’d been looking forward to doing so.
Sharon and Steve will be Writer Guests of Honor at the virtual AlbaCon, September 17-18, 2021. Here’s the link to the convention site
The Trader’s Leap audiobook, narrated by Eileen Stevens, is tentatively scheduled for April 11, 2021
(11) PROPS TO THE CHEF. Ben Bird Person shared “My last commission with food illustrator Itadaki Yasu. It’s an illustration of the prop food featured in the original star trek episode ‘The Conscience of the King’ (1966).”
(12) THE BURNING DECK. Your good cat news of the day, from the Washington Post. “Thai navy saves four cats stranded on capsized boat in Andaman sea”. (The article does not say whether the boat’s color was a “beautiful pea green.”)
The four small cats trapped on a sinking boat needed a miracle. The abandoned ship, near the Thai island of Koh Adang, was on fire — sending plumes of thick black smoke into the air as the waters of the Andaman sea rose around them. The ship was not just burning: It was sinking. And it would not be long until it disappeared beneath the surface.Wide-eyed and panicked, the felines huddled together. When the help they so desperately needed arrived, it came in the form of a 23-year-old sailor and his team of Thai navy officials….
(13) GOOD DOG. In the Washington Post, Steven Wright says video game developers are making an effort to have animals in the games that you can pet and interact with but that it takes up a lot of additional pixels since the designers are trying to make the games realistic and are using tons of pixels having characters run and blast foes. “The ‘Can You Pet The Dog’ Twitter account is having a big impact”.
… Tristan Cooper, who owns the Twitter account “Can You Pet the Dog?,” never set out to create a social media juggernaut. Rather, he was just trying to point out what he felt was a common quirk of many high-profile games: While many featured dogs, wolves and other furry creatures as hostile foes of the protagonist, those that did feature cuddly animal friends rarely let you pet them. Cooper says the account was particularly inspired by his early experience with online shooter “The Division 2.”
… However, as the account quickly began to grow in popularity, Cooper and others began to notice a subtle increase in the number of games that featured animals with which players can interact. To be clear, Cooper doesn’t wish to take any credit for the proliferation of the concept, despite the obvious popularity of the account. (“Video games had pettable dogs long before I logged onto Twitter, after all,” he wrote. “That’s the whole reason I created the account.”)
However, he and the account’s fans do sometimes note the timing of these additions, particularly when it comes to certain massive games. For example, he notes that battle royale phenomenon “Fortnite” patched in pettable dogs only a few weeks after the account tweeted about the game. And “The Division 2” finally let you nuzzle the city’s wandering canines in its “Warlords of New York” expansion, which came out in March 2020 — around the same time Cooper was celebrating the year anniversary of the Can You Pet The Dog? account….
(14) WHAT’S THE VISION FOR NASA? [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport says that the increasing rise of private spacecraft with a wide range of astronauts as well as cost overruns in its rocket development programs is leading the agency to do a lot of thinking about what its role in manned spaceflight should be. Davenport reports a future SpaceX mission will include billionaire Jared Isaacman and will be in part a gigantic fundraiser for St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital (a St. Jude’s physician assistant will be an astronaut as will the winner of a raffle for another seat). “NASA doesn’t pick the astronauts in a commercialized space future”.
… And it comes as NASA confronts some of the largest changes it has faced since it was founded in 1958 when the United States’ world standing was challenged by the Soviet Union’s surprise launch of the first Sputnik into orbit. Now it is NASA’s unrivaled primacy in human spaceflight that is under challenge.
… In an interview, Steve Jurczyk, NASA’s acting administrator, said the agency is well aware of how its identity and role are changing, and he likened the agency’s role to how the U.S. government fostered the commercial aviation industry in the early 20th century.
NASA’s predecessor, NACA, or the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, “did research, technology development to initially support defense … but also later on supporting a burgeoning commercial aircraft industry and aviation industry,” he said. “So that may be how we evolve, moving forward on the space side. We’re going to do the research and the technology development and be the enablers for continuing to support the commercial space sector.”
… But NASA officials are concerned that much of the future workforce is going to be attracted to a growing number of commercial companies doing amazing things. There is Planet, for example, which is putting up constellations of small satellites that take an image of Earth every day. Or Relativity Space, which is 3-D printing entire rockets. Or Axiom Space, which is building a commercial space station. Or Astrobotic, which intends to land a spacecraft on the moon later this year.
The question NASA faces, then, is an urgent one: “How do you maintain that NASA technical expertise?” Jurczyk said.
The agency does not know….
(15) YOU COULD BE SWINGING ON A STAR. OR — Ursula Vernon could no longer maintain what critics call “a willing suspension of disbelief.”
Commenters on her thread had doubts, too. One asked: “Were any special herbs or fungi involved before this message was received?”
As for the possibility of putting this phenomenon to a local test —
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John Hertz, Ben Bird Person, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]