Saturday, January 31, 2009

Chipmunka :: Attitudes to Copyright #2 - All Your Copyright Are Belong To Us

I joined forces with another party who also had problems with the content of the book.

Ignoring for the moment the various untrue statements within the book, our problems were:

  1. The book contained scanned images of letters that each of us had written. We had not given permission for these letters to be used - we had not even been asked for permission, even though we were both easily contactable up to, and after, the book's publication.
  2. The book contained a number of photographs that I had taken, some of my fellow complainant. Apparently, the author had contacted my fellow complainant, who refused permission for the images to appear in the book. The person who should have been contacted in each case was the person who took the photographs, as the copyright owner of an image is the image creator - in the case of photographs, it is the person who took the photograph. In these cases, it was me.
It appeared that Chipmunka had no such mechanism in place for ensuring their publications did not fall foul of copyright law. Surely, if they had, they would have obtained a copyright release for each image and letter that appeared in the book. In fact, the only copyright mentioned in the book was that of the author.

Some of the images were of the author, taken from such an angle that it was extremely unlikely that the author took them, yet there were no image credits for any content in the whole book.

By publishing the book in this manner, Chipmunka were representing all content in the book as being the copyright of the author.

While I can perhaps understand that finding the copyright holder for an image might be hard, I still fail to see how something that has been written by someone else, and is clearly presented in context as being written by someone else, could be published by anybody with any understanding of copyright law without first obtaining permission for publication. That a company in the business of publishing books could do this is beyond belief.

Perhaps not so much beyond belief after I received this:
"Please find attached a very amended ebook. The names of all but
one person - the author. There is a disclaimer on page two

Once you have read it I hope your approve it for publication"
Chipmunka's solution to the copyright problem was to offer to change names in the book. This was staggering. Their solution to publishing a letter written by me was to claim that the letter was written by another, fictional person.

I had suggested earlier that if all material that I owned the copyright to was removed from the book, and the book was published under a pseudonym, that I would most likely be happy for the book to be published, as I would not be identifiable, and therefore the question of libel would not need to be brought up.

It seemed as though Chipmunka were hoping that I would feel that I could no longer be identified, because my name had been changed (even though the author's had not - and being mentioned as the author's relative in numerous places made the changing of my name a moot point), and that I would therefore not be concerned about either the representation of me in the book, or the use of my copyrighted material. This made me feel that I was dealing with a company who were not particularly used to dealing with issues of copyright, or libel, and it was going to be an uphill struggle to even make them understand what the problem was with what they were doing.

I was right.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Chipmunka :: Attitudes to Copyright #1 - How Do I Understood Copyright Law?

Following my initial complaint to Chipmunka, I received a message that the book had been withdrawn pending an investigation. The results of this investigation were slightly strange.

Chipmunka claimed in extremely garbled language that they had taken legal 'advise' and that there was no need to remove my letter from the book as apparently letters are 'technically published' as soon as they are sent, according to Chipmunka.

I say strange because a cursory search of the Internet cleared this up for me before I sent my first complaint - I wanted to be sure I was in the right here. I found this:

"The distinction between the owner and the copyright holder

"Especially with manuscripts and other unpublished sources, it is important to distinguish between the owner of the document and its copyright holder. The owner may be the copyright-holder, but very often is not. Ownership confers the right to remove, sell or even destroy unpublished materials, but it does not confer the rights covered by copyright law. A letter from Thomas Hardy to Queen Victoria, for example, may be in the ownership of the present Queen of England, but the Queen cannot publish the letter or even reproduce it on her Christmas cards, without the permission of the Hardy estate."
(Squirrel's emphasis)

I was told that even though Chipmunka did not need to remove the letter (as far as they were concerned), they would do me a huge favor by removing it anyway, provided I agreed not to complain about any other content in the book, ever, and that I agreed to do this within 24 hours.

I stalled, in order to review the book more completely. I didn't feel comfortable signing away my rights, especially as at this point I knew they were wrong. They might have happily placed another letter I had written in place of the one I asked to be removed, for example, and there would have been nothing I could do about it. I was not happy with this aggressive protection of Chipmunka's interests at the expense of my own. I sent a response explaining this, and was given 2 weeks to address my issues, which I did.

I found that there were also photographs in the book that I and others had taken (copyright of an image belongs to the image creator - the photographer in this case), and a number of untrue statements about myself and others. I put a full list together, and sent it back to Chipmunka.

During this time, the eBook had been withdrawn from sale. By 16th June, 2008 I had informed Chipmunka that the letter and photographs were infringing my copyright, and I let them know the full list of complaints would be with them by the end of that week. On 17th June, 2008, the book was back on sale again.

I asked why:
Is there any particular reason why the ebook is back on sale despite infringing on my copyright?"

And received the following excuse: the eBook department 'did not read their email.'

On 23rd June, I was told that Chipmunka would have a response to the issues with the book within a week. The response was... interesting. And the responses would continue to get more and more interesting as time went on.


Footnote: fans of Kay Jamison's Touched With Fire; Manic-Depressive Ilness and the Artistic Temperament may find the following page interesting: Chipmunka Foundation website (Google Cache) particularly the "Copyright 2008 Chipmunka Foundation" at the foot of the page. I have found the same list on the web in a number of places, most of which include a credit similar to this:

This list is taken from Kay Jamison's Touched With Fire; Manic-Depressive Ilness and the Artistic Temperament
In Appendix B: Writers, Artists, and Composers with Probable Cyclothymia, Major Depression, or Manic-Depressive Illness. "This is meant to be an illustrative rather than a comprehensive list; for systematic studies, see text. Most of the writers, composers, and artists are American, British, European, Irish, or Russian; all are deceased . . . Many if not most of these writers, artists, and composers had other major problems as well, such as medical illnesses, alcoholism or drug addiction, or exceptionally difficult life circumstances. They are listed here as having suffered from a mood disorder because their mood symptoms redated their other conditions, because the nature and course of their mood and behavior symptoms were consistent with a diagnosis of an independently existing affective illness, and/or because their family histories of depression, manic-depressive illness, and suicide--coupled with their own symptoms--were sufficiently strong to warrant their inclusion.
In the Chipmunka page they give the following:

"Many of the greatest minds in history and many of the most successful people alive today have had depression and "mental health issues". You are not alone anymore. Read the list of people below. We would like to thank KPMG for doing this research for us."
(Squirrel's emphasis)

Apparently, KPMG neglected to mention their 'research' came from another source. Interestingly, the Chairman of the Board at Chipmunka is Paul Brandwood - 'Chief Operating Officer, Financial Sector Advisory, KPMG'.

The Chipmunka Foundation website now shows only a blank page. I guess they are watching. Hi, folks! Maybe they are updating the page to remove the uncredited material, or are adding the appropriate credits. We'll see. The page can still be viewed as it was in the Google cache link above.

The website is now displaying the uncredited material again.