Thursday, 22 September 2016

Copyright Restrictions On Books

Image by stevepb via Pixabay

A librarian approached me the other night. No, it's not the start of a joke. She said she'd seen me on the CLA excluded list. I think she suspected me of being a primadonna. I'm not, generally (except during band practice when I can't find my plectrum - I mean, how is it possible to lose it every ten minutes?). I chose to be on that excluded list because I want to make life easier for people - I allow far more re-use of my work than would be the case if it was included in a CLA licence.

The CLA excluded authors list. I'm in good company.
Note that this list is not comprehensive - any author who hasn't given the CLA/ALCS permission to re-licence their work is excluded, and many of them will never contact the CLA, or even know about it. Despite best efforts, this list can only ever be an incomplete snapshot.

If you are new to the acronym CLA, here's some background: it stands for The Copyright Licensing Agency. The law allows a certain amount of copying and re-use of published works. The CLA sell licences to allow a bit more than that without the threat of the CLA or relevant publisher taking legal action - though that only applies to the subset of authors and publishers they represent.

Here are some of my thoughts about this setup and the CLA, in no particular order. 
  1. As we saw above, in many cases a CLA licence is not required since the law allows a certain amount of use under the "fair dealing" provisions.
  2. A CLA licence is not all-encompassing, and can only cover authors and publishers who opt in and register with their partner organisations the ALCS and/or PLS. Lots of work is excluded but is not on the exclusion list, e.g. works from many non-trade-published authors. So even if you have a CLA licence, copying work that isn't registered (beyond what the law allows) would be illegal, and unfortunately there are new works being published everyday that aren't covered by a CLA licence, and no easy way while stood at a photocopier to check what is covered. I've worked in numerous educational institutions, and been in hundreds of libraries (workplace, school, FE [college], HE [university], business, private, national, public). An academic library might have thousands of staff and students using copiers every day, and if you sit by a photocopier and watch people use it, the process is the same in each case: approach the copier, slap book or journal on, copy, walk off (possibly reshelving the book or journal, possibly leaving it by the copier for a friendly, intelligent, lovely and gorgeous librarian to deal with). I've never observed anyone stop by the copier and try to browse the CLA website on their phone to check if the CLA licence allows them to copy that specific item. It would be horrendously complicated and impractical, which is why I've never seen anyone do that. Yet it is the only way to be sure that what is being copied is something that they are allowed to copy. It's a mess, frankly, and a bit of an elephant in the room, the thing we know but can't acknowledge. And it's one of the reasons why I think it would be better if the law allowed much more re-use than it currently does, so there would be no need for organisations to buy these extra licences (not just the CLA here - see my licensing society post for examples of other annual licences that organisations might be pressured into buying), taking chunks from budgets that could have gone on buying more books.
  3. Unfortunately organisations like the CLA/ALCS campaign for tighter copyright laws and more restrictions, rather than the way I would like things to go. I support many more concessions for re-use in particular circumstances, and removal of restrictions, so the CLA/ALCS/PLS etc have opposing views to those of authors like me. See my licensing society post for more on how this all works, and why I - as an author - don't take part in it. They don't represent me, whatever their websites seem to claim.
  4. I am sure staff at organisations such as the CLA work hard and mean well in acting in the interests of those that have joined them. They're probably really nice people, and I imagine I'd happily have a drink with any of them. But I don't agree with the CLA as an organisation prosecuting institutions which don't have a CLA licence. It all seems so mean-spirited and sneaky. And when applied to education e.g. FE and HE libraries, it seems totally wrong. Let's think about this for a moment. Suppose a university has a canteen that still uses proper cutlery rather than wasteful takeaway packaging. And a student takes a knife and tries to rob a bank with it. Then stabs someone with the knife when their meticulous and supposedly-foolproof plan goes wrong. Would you prosecute the university, because their knife was used in the crime? Or the student? I think it is pretty obvious that it would be ridiculous to prosecute the university. They hadn't known of, condoned, or committed a crime. They're not responsible for someone abusing their trust and using their property for an illegal purpose. But when it comes to copyright, common sense goes out the window. Suppose a university or council or library has a photocopier, for copying things within the limits the law allows (maybe with guidelines displayed on a poster by the machine). And a student or visitor copies beyond what the law allows - maybe a few chapters of a book about their favourite band. Again, the organisation hadn't known of, condoned, or committed a crime. They're not responsible for someone abusing their trust and using their property for an illegal purpose. It is the individual who is at fault. Yet it is the organisation that the CLA would persecute. (I was advised by more than one practitioner that the CLA generally use means other than prosecution to pressurize public and private bodies that don’t take up licences or who don’t comply e.g. encouraging students to "grass", occasional threats, audits etc.)
  5. Note the error in the image that starts this post. That list should just have a single line for my name; Organic Apocalypse (all works) should be in the publisher list below, not the author list. I contacted the CLA again about correcting that.
  6. You often can't use a Creative Commons license if you are a member of a collecting society like the ALCS. See this FAQ. Likewise not all authors can register with the ALCS: I allow people to do more with my books than the CLA/ALCS allow, which excludes me from registering. Money they claimed for copying my work on their more restrictive licences would be illegally claimed, since my licence would have allowed it without charge.
Anyway, back to the librarian. As I said to her at the time, I want to use the copyright page of my books to ALLOW more than the law permits, rather than use the page as most publishers do to try to RESTRICT actions. (Honestly, I'm so sick of books which say "No part of this book whatsoever may be reproduced blah bah blah without permission from the publisher" - liars! The law allows certain uses under the fair dealing provisions, such as quotation for purposes of review. Duh.) As an example, the CLA Licence in the past allowed institutions to copy up to 5% of a book. Apparently, starting this academic year, this will be increased to 10% of a book. For comparison, I allow 50%. I mean, I absolutely love it when my work is re-used for education.

So I'm proud of the copyright pages that will be used in my future books, as reproduced below. Hopefully you'll find it more straightforward and refreshing than most copyright pages.



Organic Apocalypse Copyright Manifesto

Organic Apocalypse believes culture should be shared. We support far more re-use than the UK law and licensing organisations currently allow. We respect our buyers, reviewers, libraries and educators. You don't need to sign anything or pay for a licence to get the extended rights below.
  • You can copy or quote up to 50% of our publications, for any non-commercial purpose as long as the source is acknowledged. So it's okay to do that for purposes such as review, criticism, study, assessment, research, teaching, education, parody, or just to say "Hey people, isn't this book amazing?"
  • You can sell our print books when you've finished with them. (Or pass them on to other people: share the love.) You buy, you own.
  • We don't add DRM to our e-books (though some third-party distributors do - wherever possible we opt out of such restrictions). Feel free to convert between formats (including scanning, e-formats, braille, audio) and store a backup for your own use.
  • Libraries: our print books can be freely loaned to the public, and sold on in booksales at end-of-life. Also, we don't inflate the price for libraries: you pay the same for a copy as anyone else. 
This is based on the situation in the UK: if your local law allows more than we state above, that's great! Local law then takes precedence over this.

Note to librarians and educators: all Organic Apocalypse titles are excluded from CLA (Copyright Licensing Agency) licences. We believe the law and CLA licences are too restrictive, and should allow far more re-use and sharing. If we joined the CLA we would have to restrict what we allow people to do with our work, and we won't compromise on that. So until the law becomes fairer in terms of allowing more re-use and sharing of copyrighted work, this manifesto is the best we can do. Times are hard, libraries and schools are closing: we do our bit by being as flexible and fair as possible. Peace and love and keep up the good work.



Updates Since I Drafted This Post - 2016-09-22 17:29

When I first drafted this post and ran it past a number of professionals in this area I had just thought the CLA were a bit clunky. But at the moment I'm rather furious.

This afternoon the CLA responded to my email about point 5 above, concerning them having incorrect information on their website.

Firstly, they said they don't update the publisher list any more (even though it is still openly available with no caveats). It is "an old list of Excluded Works that is no longer maintained/updated".

The confusing CLA site. Apparently visitors are meant to know that the author exclusion section is still used but the publisher exclusion section isn't. Image from 2016-09-22.

Instead people have to search yet another system of theirs (one which you can't browse - so you can't see a list of all excluded items, only search for ones you already know of). This makes me think of endless rabbit holes.

So far, so bad.

Then the CLA refused to add Organic Apocalypse to that database of excluded publishers, unless I jumped through unnecessary hoops by creating an account on a third party site that I have no interest in, and apparently the CLA want me to inform this extra site about every single book that is excluded, rather than it being a blanket exclusion. Apparently only then will the CLA fulfil their legal obligation to list excluded works. Which, basically, stinks.

And it leads to the situation where the CLA know certain works are excluded (e.g. all Organic Apocalypse-published titles, now and into the future), but the CLA refuse to communicate that to the people they sell their licences to. Also they sell licences by making it seem as all-encompassing as possible: so they are profiting from the implication that the licence covers works that they are fully aware it does not cover.

It is the CLA that sells the licence; the CLA have been informed that all works by a publisher are to be excluded. If they refuse to acknowledge that, and try to create extra barriers to acting on it, then they are profiting by selling rights they are not permitted to sell. So a warning to those who pay the CLA for a licence: by omitting excluded publishers it means the CLA licence's excluded works are inaccurate, and you have no way of knowing for sure what is included or excluded in a CLA licence.

The other thing that stinks is the lack of parity between how you opt in, or opt out.

Suppose you don't want to licence the CLA to re-sell some of your rights? You should not have to do anything, since by default they have no permission. But they require you to tell them specifically; and even that is not enough in some cases like this, where they try to send you off to register with another organisation.

Whereas suppose you do want them to re-sell some of your rights? No need to tell them about each book. Or do anything. Or even know about it, or agree with it, or be happy about it. Unless they specifically hear from you, they continue regardless.

The systems to "opt out" are made much more complicated and onerous, even though the CLA have no right to include your work automatically. Basic truth: you don't have to "opt out" of something you never agreed to "opt in" to in the first place. But that is exactly the position the CLA etc put you in.

I will update this. Hopefully it is a misunderstanding on their part and can be quickly rectified, but at the moment ... (Sigh). I hope I don't have to look into my options for dealing with the barriers the CLA are putting in place, but they are preventing me from exerting my rights. This experience just reinforces my decision to keep barge-pole length from their licences (and connected organisations such as the ALCS and PLS). Let's hope they correct this and respect the rights of authors and small publishers.

Updates Since I Drafted This Post - 2016-09-23 11:38

Resolved now, but I am tired (went bed at 6am, we authors are nuts) so I may add further details on another day. Thanks to the CLA for eventually acting on my request. I still think the CLA should make it clear from their first page that the CLA licence only covers authors and publishers that opt in, and they should link to both a full browse list and a searchable version of that opt in list from that homepage statement; and also link to the opt out list and explain that it is a guide, but only the opt in list is comprehensive. Still, enough progress for me to put my sabre away.

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Monday, 19 September 2016

New Covers For My Darker Works

It's obviously the month for posts about book cover design - my own, and that of others.

As part of updating my existing books I have made small changes to the interiors (and in the case of Turner, added a bonus chapter). Then on to the wrapping: new covers too, all in the same style.

Turner has had a few covers in the past, often beautiful (e.g. this and this); however, I wanted to see whether marketing it with something more grimdark grungy might lead to sales.

Anyway, here are the new covers - e-book, and wraparound print covers. What do you think? I'm already making notes for future tweaks!









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Monday, 12 September 2016

The Importance Of Cover Design - Jane Davis

Recently I wrote about book cover design in relation to my own books, a topic I often return to. Keeping to that theme, I am going to hand this post over to fellow author Jane Davis, to talk about the importance of cover design to her and her work. It's a pleasure to welcome Jane here, especially as she hosted me on her site a few months ago. Over to Jane!



The Importance Of Cover Design


One of the other huge joys of self-publishing is choosing how to present your work. Given that mine is difficult to categorise, I was conscious that I needed a strong brand. Of course, cover design is just one element of brand, but it’s a vital one nonetheless. An author has only eight seconds to grab a reader’s attention, so first impressions really do count. Rather than start from scratch, I chose to use elements from the cover of Half-truths and White Lies as building blocks: the font and the strong photographic image, repeated on the spine. The brief I gave cover designer Andrew Candy was that my books should look like a set you’d want to collect. I was thinking of my own bookshelves: the novels of John Irving; Frank Herbert’s Dune series; classic Penguin paperbacks. I wanted that certain something that would make people say, ‘Oh, another Jane Davis.’


I’m always absolutely clear about what I don’t want. My novel, These Fragile Things, is about a family in crisis when teenage daughter Judy claims to be seeing religious visions. But that’s only one element of the storyline and I didn’t want to exclude readers who wouldn’t normally read Christian fiction. I chose a butterfly with a broken wing, which represents transformation and hints at vulnerability.



For the cover of A Funeral for an Owl, perhaps the most literal of all my book covers, I had the image of a boy in mind, and my search for the right face took a long time. I was thinking of Ken Loach’s film adaptation of A Kestrel for a Knave (the wonderful Kes), and U2’s album cover for Boy. I provided Andrew with five separate images and precise instructions about where to put each one, but the end result was still a surprise. I sat on it for a couple of days but didn’t ask for a single change.


As I learned to trust Andrew’s instincts, my briefs grew more complex. For An Unchoreographed Life, my novel about a ballerina who turns to prostitution when she becomes a single mother, I wanted to avoid any hint of erotica. Told partly from the perspective of a six-year-old, my story has more in common with Henry James’s What Maisie Knew than Belle de Jour. Describing a scene where my main character Alison comes face to face with a stag, I asked if it would be possible to combine the image of a ballerina with a deer. Andrew’s answer was yes, but only if I could find the right woman and the right deer, otherwise it would end up looking like a photoshop ‘bodge-job’. So that was my challenge. The final image suits the book perfectly: a woman who hasn’t been able to let go of her past and wears a mask.


The design for An Unknown Woman needed to show a woman undergoing an identity crisis. I wanted it to represent the difference between the way we see ourselves and how others see us, but also to hint at a complex mother/daughter relationship. I came up with the idea of two halves of a woman’s face and Andrew suggested adding a cracked mirror. I sourced the image of the younger woman, but it was Andrew who found picture the older woman, and then used his technical wizardry to manipulate it so that they look like one and the same. The cover has won two awards and I have no doubt that it contributed greatly to Writing Magazine’s decision to name An Unknown Woman as their Self-published book of the year.


For my latest release, My Counterfeit Self, I chose an image by Sergiy Glushchenko/500px, which had already won an award for underwater photography. Water is a repeat theme within the novel, but there’s also the sense of falling, the sense of disaster and shock. My main character, Lucy Forrester, is a political poet whose main cause is CND. It struck me that the bubbles coming from the woman’s mouth already looked a little like a mushroom cloud, but could be manipulated. I particularly liked the idea of the mushroom cloud coming out of the poet’s mouth.

If asked for a short-list of the key elements of my cover designs, I would say that they have to be instantly identifiable, inclusive and - I hope - intriguing.

-- Jane Davis




About Jane

Jane Davis is the author of seven novels. Her debut, Half-truths and White Lies, won the Daily Mail First Novel Award and was described by Joanne Harris as ‘A story of secrets, lies, grief and, ultimately, redemption, charmingly handled by this very promising new writer.’ The Bookseller featured her in their ‘One to Watch’ section. Six further novels have earned her a loyal fan base and wide-spread praise. Her 2016 novel, An Unknown Woman won Writing Magazine’s Self-Published Book of the Year Award. Compulsion Reads describe her as ‘a phenomenal writer whose ability to create well-rounded characters that are easy to relate to feels effortless.’ Her favourite description of fiction is 'made-up truth'.

Jane lives in Carshalton, Surrey, with her Formula 1 obsessed, beer-brewing partner, surrounded by growing piles of paperbacks, CDs and general chaos. When she is not writing, you may spot Jane disappearing up the side of a mountain with a camera in hand.

Her latest novel, My Counterfeit Self, is released on 1st October 2016, but can be pre-ordered at the special price of 99p/99c.

‘A compelling portrayal of the bohemian life of an activist poet, the men she loves, and the issues she fights for.’ Eleanor Steele

Jane's social media links:
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Monday, 5 September 2016

Book Cover Redesign For Harvest Festival


I don't know about you, but I'm always fascinated by how book covers are created - the designs that drop by the wayside and the elements that make it to the final version. It's probably why I've changed my own book covers so many times: I enjoy the process. I've written about this in the past (Cold Fusion 2000; the first professional cover for Turner which began here, continued here, and led to this; and a second professional cover for that book!)

Now let's take a look at the development of the cover for Harvest Festival

Harvest Festival's first temporary cover: a red harvest moon.
I didn't want to give anything away about the plot, or where the threat comes from.

The first cover I created was temporary, because I wasn't even sure about releasing a standalone novella. It was an experiment, and one that I think is successful, since many people seem to enjoy a short, action-packed book. I decided it could stay, and it was time to work on something more professional.

I then created this "pumpkin" cover after it became clear that 
Harvest Festival could stand on its own feet.

The pumpkin cover came about because I needed to capture the theme (horror at harvest time) without giving away the real threat/mystery. Strange blue lights are important in the novella, so I made sure they were included.
Note: for the pumpkin cover above and all the following images you are looking at the full wraparound cover for the print book - so the left half of the image would be the back of the book, the right half is the front cover (and would be cropped to provide the e-book cover). There is no spine text on Harvest Festival because it is a novella, and is too thin to accurately place any. Later images haven't had the back text and ISBN added yet, because I am still working on design.
Although some readers loved the pumpkin cover, others thought it was misleading - they expected some kind of teenage slasher novel, and they told me the book I'd written was far more interesting than the cover implied. I love Harvest Festival, and enjoy re-reading it myself, so decided to bestow it with a better cover, crafted with the care and attention I'd given to They Move Below.

Composition.

First I found some images and knocked up a rough idea for composition. A Welsh farmhouse topped by oppressively strange clouds and space. (If you've read the book you'll understand why each element is relevant!) The hand was to add an idea of threat without giving too much away. It's red to imply infra-red vision: the viewpoint of a predator. That's also the reason why I applied Depth of Field (DoF), so that the house is in focus and the rest of the image begins to blur, a way of focussing attention, one of a number of ways to do that. Another was highlighting the house with a vignette effect, but I decided that didn't work so I haven't shown those drafts.

This was me playing with the Depth of Field idea - notice how it pulls the eye towards the element that is in focus, at the expense of losing detail elsewhere.

At this point I was happy to start afresh and rebuild the elements at higher resolution.

A more polished version of my ideas.

All the elements were present now. The colour tones have been shifted to the blue end of the spectrum to match the story and imply cold. I fixed the derelict windows on the house and replaced one with a light - because it is an upstairs window it adds to the feeling of it being night time, people going to bed, isolated vulnerability. I switched to a hand reaching for the gate (red, for contrast - heat, organic, injury). There's a lot of detail on it, but ambiguous as to who (or what) it belongs to. It appears to be wounded, with some strange textures which will make sense to anyone who has read Harvest Festival.

Starting to add text.

Now with the front text and tagline added. There's so much detail in the image it took a few attempts to create "pop" on the title, and I'm still not sure if I have enough yet, so that the text stands out from the background. I used a motion blur shadow to add depth to the title. The novella's anme frames the lit window, though also possibly obscures it. A subtle black edging to the image helps the author name stand out. The tagline at the top is clear and easy to read, probably the largest I've ever had a tagline, but I think it can really help to give an indication of what a novel is about, and to reinforce or clarify the visual image. Yellows and oranges make a good contrast to blue. My long-term readers will probably recognise the typeface from a previous version of Turner, but with added relief (raised reflective bits) to make it look more solid.

The same as above, but the hand obscures part of my name. 
Does that effect work, or is it better to show my name clearly?

A boosted visual.

For the version above I added various effects to boost the colours, making things more stark and alien (and slightly cartoony). The sky works better but I am not sure if it is too much, and would make the text harder to read. Happy to have any comments on that.

The same boosted version, with a Depth of Field effect.

The Depth of Field effect is also something I am unsure about - do you prefer it with that, or without? Is the loss of detail worth it to help draw focus to the house?
   
That's as far as I've got, and I welcome feedback. Once I finalise this cover I'll update They Move Below with with the same font and style, then create a new cover for Turner to match, so my three dark action/horror/thriller books look like a set. Comment below, or via email, Facebook or Twitter. Thanks!

Update: final versions can be seen here.

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