SOPA/PIPA continued

Wow. Was that awesome or what? The sheer number of websites that went dark for the entire day. The Big Name Websites that did the same. Wow.

Wikipedia’s English site was completely dark. Not just the front page with a ‘click here to continue’ link. But blocked from one end to the other.

Craigslist, Reddit – dark
Webcomics – available but with a huge notice
Google – available but with censored out logo
Wired – censored

The list goes on.

But it is far from finished. Senators and Congress folk woke up this morning and realized this was serious. Many backed out and said they no longer support either bill. Even many of the sponsors of the bill pulled out. Some tried to compromise. Some tried to wave it off. Most scratched their heads and wondered what the big deal was about. But both bills are still very much alive. One will still be voted on January 24th although it is not expected to go further.

Want to do more?

Learn about it.

There has to be better ways to go after the truly guilty without also taking down the innocent. There are ways to find out the IP addresses of people who upload books and music illegally. There are ways to find the IP addresses of people who download them. With that information, they can be tracked down and stopped. Just the other day a writer got the address and phone number of a woman in Argentina who is uploading hundreds of lesbian fiction. She wants authors to contact her and demand she stop. She also posted a cool pseudo phone conversation that I think we all wish were true. So if this one author can find this information, why the hell can’t the government??!!

Okay, rolling off soapbox now. Stay tuned for more information as the saga continues.

SOPA/PIPA

UPDATE: as soon as I posted this, I found a growing list of sites that are going dark on Jan. 18th. Sopastrike.com
If this site were bigger, I’d add it officially to the list. Yes, my sites will be going dark for 24hrs.

Below is a modified version of something I posted over at Lesbian Fiction Forum.

I’ve heard bits and pieces about this but not enough to understand it. So I’ve decided to do some research. Here’s what I’ve found so far:

(SOPA is the House version and PIPA (Protect Internet Providers Act) is the Senate version. Most of what I found online was about SOPA and noted that PIPA is essentially the same thing. I’m still looking into PIPA so what I have below is specific to SOPA.)

On the surface, stopping online piracy is a good thing. We authors are fighting this all the time. I was thinking this act is a good thing. But it’s not.

Basically, what SOPA will do is this, using this site as an example:

Let’s say I want to tell you of my love of chestnut trees. I go to Wikimedia Commons and use an image that is labeled as such that I can use it. However, the person who uploaded that image did not have the proper right to do so. The original photographer (or owner of the tree) sees the image on Wikimedia Commons. Now, under SOPA, that photographer can shut down not only Wikimedia, but for anyone and everyone who downloaded that image because by law, the webhost would have to release every IP address of anyone who downloaded it. Including me. They can then shut down my site AND have access to all of YOUR IP addresses as well. AND unless my webhost and Wikimedia Commons webhost could show that they actively tried to censor us, THEY would be punished.

Not to be a conspiracy theorist, but it makes me concerned for the fringe groups such as LGBT. They could shut down as many sites as they want. All they have to do is find one bit of copyright infringement. Not only could they shut down the sites, but also the IP addresses of everyone who visited.

I looked for some stuff of SOPA in plain English. I found a big graphic that helped me to understand it better:
http://venturebeat.files.wordpress.com/ … ternet.png

Electronic Frontier Foundation has several letters from some big groups against SOPA as well as articles that talk about the bill:
https://www.eff.org/search/site/SOPA

January 18th is Blackout Day. Many sites will be putting up a censorship marker for 12-24hrs or more to show what would happen if SOPA passes. These include Wikipedia (maybe?), Reddit, Icanhazcheezeburger (LOL cats), and several others. The list is growing as the news of it expands.
http://techland.time.com/2012/01/12/sop … ay-follow/

The irony of it all, is the original introducer of SOPA, Texas Rep. Lamar Smith, would be guilty under his own proposed laws and his own sites would be shut down. (although it is a reach since the image is from an archived version of his site)

While I think it is great that congress is trying to do something, I think they have no fucking clue or are getting bad advice. Most sites I read today said a lot of campaign money and donations to the introducers of these bills come from the Big Companies who want to shut down any and all piracy (like the record and movie companies).

And it’s not just that they’d shut them down. But they block the DNS of that website. Every website name is assigned one when that domain name is registered. If my webhost shut me down, I could simply move to another site with the same name. Not so with this. I would have to start over with a new website name. And trust me, real piracy sites are prepared for this and it would just be a blip for them. They’d just move on and restart.

Trust me, online piracy is something all writers know about. I’m not a big enough name that any of my stuff has been pirated but I know people who have. Piracy is NOT “sharing” and it is not “good for the writer”. It is taking money out of the pockets of the writer and their publisher, plain and simple. Want to help me and other writers? Promote our work by encouraging your friends to buy the book. “Sharing” with hundreds of online users is piracy.

But back to SOPA. This isn’t the way to do it. This is NOT how piracy should be stopped. It is akin to killing the dog to get rid of the fleas. They’re just going to go to another dog. And another. And another. And…

Contact your congress person. Tell him/her to not support it.
http://americancensorship.org/ – website with more (and better) information
http://americancensorship.org/infographic.html – good infographic
http://my.americancensorship.org/ – for stuff happening in your state/region

Time Change, Battery Change

Time for my twice yearly reminder.

Set your clocks back an hour tonight (for those of us who are clock challenged, that means instead of it being 2am, it will be 1am).

So many clocks do this automatically but not the vehicles (unless you are, like, fancy schmancy with a touch screen in your car which means I need to ask you: are you SURE you want microsoft in your vehicle? ‘blue screen of death’ brings on a whole new meaning in that format) nor good ol’ non-atomic analog clocks hanging on the wall in the living room instead of the office because it’s tick tock is so damn loud I almost threw it against the wall.

And it is also time to change the batteries in your smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, and emergency flashlights. While you are up the ladder, also push the test button. If your alarms are hard wired, push the test button anyway.

Thus endeth your biannual public service announcement.

Postal Service

I just read an interesting article about an interesting division of the USPS.

Poor Penmanship Spells Job Security for Post Office’s Scribble Specialists

It describes how, even though machines have greatly advanced their ability to read handwriting, there are still many letters that get bumped out by the machines because it can’t read them. 5% is a good drop rate but it equaled (according to the article) 714,085,866 letters last year.

But the point I want to make is not exactly related to the article. It is related to the comments. And here is my point:

NO TAX DOLLARS GO INTO THE POSTAL SERVICE

Let me repeat that.

NO TAX DOLLARS GO INTO THE POSTAL SERVICE

The money you pay the IRS, not a penny of it goes to the post office. Their entire budget is dependent on the mail they deliver. (however, there may be some miniscule amount that is spent on govmint employees who must interact with the USPS in some way) The current problem as I see it, is the Govmint required them to make a huge ass payroll payment. Which they kinda did. The payment was so huge, it is an overpayment. The post office is asking the govmint to give them a break and not make the next installment. The problem though, is that “income” is counted in the US budget. So removing that huge chunk from the budget would make it short, although it’s not really. Add into that the far too many unions who are not exactly working together very well and the many employees within those unions who are still working without a contract (such as rural carriers) for several years now.

So, bitch all you want about how money is being wasted on sending poorly addressed letters at the same price as perfectly written ones (I kinda agree with you on that one) but, please, show your intelligence and stop with the “my tax money pays for that?” shit. ‘Cause it ain’t. Your tax money goes to more important things. Like a 10 year war in two countries, one of which we never should have invaded in the first place.

[disclaimer: my darlin’ is a non-union rural carrier]

Self-Publishing Rant

…and it’s not mine! Someone else thinks like I do! Wow!

I haven’t a clue who this guy is but I like ‘im.

(in the quotes below, the bolding and such is mine)

The Publishing Cart Before the Storytelling Horse

I got a little rant stuck between my teeth. It’s like a caraway seed, or a beefy tendon, or a .22 shell casing (hey, fuck you, a boy’s gotta get his vitamins and minerals somehow).

Self-publishers, I’m talking to you.

And I’m talking to the pundits, too. In fact, I’m talking more to the pundits than to those actually walking the self-publishing path. Not everybody. Just a handful.

If you get a little froth on your screen, here — *hands you a squeegee* — just wipe it away.

Here, then, is the core of my message to you:

It is time to upgrade the discussion.

See why I like him?

First, it means: we get it. Self-publishing is the path you’ve chosen and further, is a path you believe is lined with chocolate flowers and hoverboards and bags of money and the mealy bones of traditionally-published authors. Self-publishing is a proven commodity. You can stop selling the world on its power. This isn’t Amway. You don’t get a stipend every time another author decides to self-publish. You’re not squatting atop the pinnacle of a pyramid scheme. (And if you are, you should climb down. One word: hemmorhoids.)

Instead of trying to convince people to self-publish, it may in fact be time to help people self-publish well. While self-publishing may by this point be a proven path it doesn’t remain a guaranteed path. In fact it’s no such thing: I know several self-published authors out in the world with great books, kick-ass covers, and they are certainly not selling to their potential. In fact, if they continue to sell as they appear to sell then I would suggest these books would have done much better had they been published — gasp — traditionally. Succeeding in an increasingly glutted space is no easy trick. Every bubble pops. Every gold rush either reveals a limited supply or instead ends up devaluing the gold one finds there. The reality is that it’s going to become harder — note that I didn’t say impossible — to succeed in that space and so it behooves the Wise Pundits With Their Long Beards to acknowledge the realities and help authors do well.

(…)

Though, actually, let’s take a step backward. Here’s another problem: maybe we should stop putting the publishing cart before the storytelling horse. In self-publishing, I see so much that focuses on sales numbers and money earned, but I see alarmingly little that devotes itself toward telling good stories. After all, that’s the point, right? Selling is, or should be, secondary. The quality of one’s writing and the power of one’s storytelling is key. It’s primary. It’s why we do this thing that we do. Any time you hear about the major self-publishers, it’s always about the sales, the percentage, the money earned. What’s rare is a comment about how good the books are. When the narrative was all about Amanda Hocking, everybody was buzzing about her numbers, but nobody I know was buzzing about how good those books were. Focus less on the delivery of the stories and more about the quality of what’s being delivered.

It goes on from there in a wonderful, well laid out rant that makes me envious. To have such control and to make such sense! My favorite part is probably the end.

The rhetoric often assumes that we’re all on our own side of the fence, but here’s a newsflash for you: there’s no goddamn fence. You’re a storyteller. I’m a storyteller. Good books are good books no matter how they got to market. You make your choice, so why not let others do the same? Further: don’t be a sanctimonious dick about it. Upgrade your attitude. Elevate the discussion. You should be proud of your own accomplishments and excited that the path you picked was the right path. Go any further than that and you do little to endear anybody toward your imaginary bullshit either/or dichotomy.

We should all be helping one another tell great stories.

Let’s talk to one another not as publishers, but as writers and storytellers.

All of us, wondrously pantsless. And probably drunk.

Amen.

*drops mic off stage, disappears in a cloud of incredulity and oompah music*

Free Speech and Copyright

For future reference, you can always tell when I am writing (vs playing World of Warcraft) because I am putting up posts here.

That said, I am a big fan and supporter of Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Basically, in a nutshell, EFF is an organization representing and fighting for the rights of email, stuff on the internet, and cell phones. Basically. They’re much more than that, of course.

Apparently there is/was this big event called the “e-G8”. Not exactly sure what or who they are but I just read an article about the co-founder of EFF and his attendance at this event.

When Barlow had a chance to speak, he expressed his own surprise at being on the panel, “because I don’t think I’m from the same planet, actually.” He then proceeded to trash the foundational assumptions of everyone who had just spoken.

I may be one of very few people in this room who actually makes his living personally by creating what these gentlemen are pleased to call “intellectual property.” I don’t regard my expression as a form of property. Property is something that can be taken from me. If I don’t have it, somebody else does.

Expression is not like that. The notion that expression is like that is entirely a consequence of taking a system of expression and transporting it around, which was necessary before there was the internet, which has the capacity to do this infinitely at almost no cost.

(source)

Later, after the Big Boys up front with him had a chance to change their pants, they confronted him about it.

Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterand took Barlow to task for his dramatic statements. “I do not share this apocalyptic vision of some dictatorship that will be creeping back through the internet into our lives to control our thoughts and the way in which we function,” he said. Some controls on the internet are eminently reasonable—we need “economic solutions to economic problems.”

The head of Universal Music France talked about just how much money was necessary to nurture new talent. DIdn’t Barlow understand economics?

“If you’re spending $5 billion on new artists, we’re not getting our money’s worth,” Barlow cracked, and he reframed his argument in economic terms of scarcity and abundance.

“Trying to optimize towards scarcity, as you are by all of your methods, is not going to be in the benefit of creation, I promise you,” he said. “It’s not IP enforcement that gets you guys properly paid.” In his view, payment comes from building a product that people actually want to buy—and the movie industry’s repeated record box office takes in recent years show that people have no problem coughing up the cash for something of value.

“I am not against being compensated for what you do,” concluded Barlow.

So why would I, a crippled up old Southern lesbian, give a rip? Well, on a large scale, I don’t want them to start regulating the Internet. Once they start regulating it, they start controlling it. I don’t want them in my email and certainly not controlling what I can or cannot post. On a much smaller scale, I do believe there is a need for some sort of regulation, but not of the Internet itself. There are hundreds of web sites where people can upload whatever so that other people can download whatever. This includes music, books, movies, photos, etc. Some are legitimate. The vast majority are not. There are people who actually scan in entire paper books into .pdf format then upload them so others can “enjoy” them. This is theft. It is piracy. I’ve discussed this before. So on the one hand, keep your nose out of my stuff. But on the other hand, I understand about copyrights. We can’t copyright ourselves to death or we’ll be in a massive gridlock. But a copyright needs to be honored.

So, folks at e-G8, work on shutting down online piracy. You can keep arresting and suing the user but until you get the pirate and the pirate sites, it’s like bailing water without turning off the faucet.

To Degree or Not to Degree

My niece, bless her heart, wants to grow up to be a writer/illustrator. I’ve not sugar coated the profession (the writer part) in the least and yet that is what she wants. Does she want to be one because I am (kinda sorta) and therefore it is a viable option? Or does she want to be one because that is what she truly wants? Only Princess knows for sure.

Sometimes I see an article about writing and I think “Hey, Princess would want to read this.” but most of the time the articles are way way over her head. She is, after all, only 11 (soon to be 12). I came across and article today that I went ahead and sent her the link to. It is one discussing the arguments about whether or not a MFA degree has been good or bad for literature as a whole. Some say it has only made it better. Others argue it has only made cookie cutter novels better.

Here’s what I sent Princess:

As you prepare for thinking about college, here’s something to think about.

http://www.salon.com/books/laura_miller/2011/05/17/mfa_programs/index.html

What it basically is arguing is whether MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) in creative writing has been good or bad for literature as a whole.

I’m kinda split on the topic. On the one hand, one shouldn’t need a Masters degree in order to produce a novel. Either you can or you can’t write and a Masters isn’t going to help you much on that. However, the more I write, the more I wish I knew. Not about how to write in terms of plot, characters, etc, but I wish I knew more about sentence structure, verb agreement, and just what the heck a dangling participle is. Would a MFA give me that? Maybe. But so does classes at local community colleges. And goodness knows the bookstore shelves are full of “how to be a writer” books.

And it’s true. I wish I did know more about various grammar stuff. Spelling isn’t a priority but sometimes I wish I could write better sentences and I certainly wish I knew bigger words! Sometimes it takes me two sentences to explain in what someone else could say in two or three words. I’m not an idiot. I have a BA (behavioral science) and an AA (production crafts). And yes, I got them in that order. Sometimes I think about going back to school to get a MFA just so I can continue learning and perhaps hone my craft some. But then I think, nah, all that money wasted! Instead, I look at the online courses A-B Tech offers or I buy yet another ‘how to be a writer’ book.