Who Owns Your Words? Writing for the Web
May 14, 2001

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Reaching Great Minds Online
May 14, 2001 Issue #89
Mike Valentine, Editor,

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==> Feature Article: Do You Know Who Owns Your Words?
==> Guest Article: E(merging) Books
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Do You Know Who Owns Your Words?
by Mike Banks Valentine

Writing for the web creates a lot of new questions about who
owns all those words circulating out there on web sites, in
ezines and in ebooks. What about the CD's created from many
of those words in all those digital forms all over the web?
Instead of books or articles or columns, it's all being re-
named "Content".

In a 2nd Circuit Court decision last year, six freelance
writers won a case against the New York Times, Newsday and
Time for copyright infringement. Their work was re-sold as
digital content on a CDROM and later published on the web.

Their claim that they did NOT relicense their work for use
on the web or in digital compilations and were entitled to
compensation when that content was re-sold was accepted by
the court in a judgement against the original publishers of
that content.

That decision was upheld by the Supreme Court in June of
2001 by a 7-2 vote. But what about articles offered free by
by writers online?

Many writers online offer their articles "Free" for use on
the web, in ezines or in ebooks available online. But in fact
are being paid by the publishers by requiring that "resource
boxes" be used, such as the four line blurb following this
article. This is, in fact, a form of payment and is agreed
to by those writers in exchange for the traffic, publicity,
subscriptions and exposure gained when readers visit the
authors web site, subscribe to their ezine or see advertise-
ments run for a fee on their web site.

"Content" is proliferating, professional "paid" writers
work is becoming less valuable online and some professionals
are shouting, "ENOUGH! We want to be paid for our work!"

An article this week at "" discusses how to
raise the ire of any professional writer by asking them to
write for free.

In an earlier article by the same author, (Janet Roberts,
associate editor of "") many articles by
online writers are labeled "advertising in disguise".

I'll buy that definition in many cases. I'll buy it in this
case. I'm advertising my weekly newsletter and my web site
by offering opinion and insight on the web. And it works!
I've written openly and widely that content I provide is
just like an ad for my web site and my business.

Advertisers pay to have their ads appear in my newsletter
and on my web site. You might say that my "advertising in
disguise" attracts advertising to support my advertising
if you want to see that advertising as inherently wrong.

But I'll also ask then why is it that my articles are well
read and syndicated across many networks of web sites and
ezines. Those web sites and ezines WANT that content and
believe it benefits their visitors and subscribers.

I run a business content distribution service called
"Free-Content" at:

Over 500 well respected writers and publishers subscribe to
that list and publish articles distributed there. I'm about
to expand that service into additional topics and expect all
to be just as successful as the business content list.

It's not advertising, it's content, it's free and I am a
professional. What does that all mean? I leave it to you to

And now for a word from our sponsor.

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E(merging) Books
By: Sam Vaknin

A novel re-definition through experimentation of the classical
format of the book is emerging.

Consider BookTailor. It sells its book customization software
mainly to travel agents - but it is likely to conquer other
niches (such as the legal and medical professions). It allows
users to select bits and pieces from a library of e-books,
combine them into a totally new tome and print and bind the
latter on demand. The client can also choose to buy the end-
product as an e-book. Consider what this simple business model
does to entrenched and age old notions such as "original" and
"copies", copyright, and book identifiers. What is the "original"
in this case? Is it the final, user-customized book - or its
sources? And if no customized book is identical to any other -
what happens to the intuitive notion of "copies"? Should
BookTailor-generated books considered to be unique exemplars
of one-copy print runs? If so, should each one receive a unique
identifier (for instance, a unique ISBN)? Does the user possess
any rights in the final product, composed and selected
by him? What about the copyrights of the original authors?

Or take On the face of it, it presents no
profound challenge to established publishing practices and to
the modern concept of intellectual property. Members register
their books, obtain a BCID (BookCrossing ID Number) and then
give the book to someone, or simply leave it lying around for
a total stranger to find. Henceforth, fate determines the chain
of events. Eventual successive owners of the volume are supposed
to report to BookCrossing (by e-mail) about the book's and their
whereabouts, thereby generating moving plots and mapping the
territory of literacy and bibliomania. This innocuous model
subversively undermines the concept - legal and moral - of
ownership. It also expropriates the book from the realm of
passive, inert objects and transforms it into a catalyst of
human interactions across time and space. In other words, it
returns the book to its origins: a time capsule, a time machine
and the embodiment of a historical narrative.

E-books, hitherto, have largely been nothing but an ephemeral
rendition of their print predecessors. But e-books are another
medium altogether. They can and will provide a different reading
experience. Consider "hyperlinks within the e-book and without
it - to web content, reference works, etc., embedded instant
shopping and ordering links, divergent, user-interactive,
decision driven plotlines, interaction with other e-books
(using Bluetooth or another wireless standard), collaborative
authoring, gaming and community activities, automatically or
periodically updated content, ,multimedia capabilities,
database, Favourites and History Maintenance (records of
reading habits, shopping habits, interaction with other
readers, plot related decisions and much more), automatic
and embedded audio conversion and translation capabilities,
full wireless piconetworking and scatternetworking capabilities
and more".

Sam Vaknin is the author of "Malignant Self Love - Narcissism
Revisited" and "After the Rain - How the West Lost the East".
He is a columnist in "Central Europe Review", United Press
International (UPI) and and the editor of
mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open
Directory, Suite101 and
He is the Economic Advisor to the Government of Macedonia.
His web site:
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Copyright 2000 Mike Valentine

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  June 10, 2001