Tuesday, September 15, 2009

YouTube moves a little from the Dark Side

YouTube is the place people go for music. Whether they want to listen to a particular song, watch a music video, or upload a collage dedicated to a loved one, YouTube is the internet destination.

In the past, that has greatly bothered me. As I tell people, I’ve made my living from intellectual property (computer software), so I couldn’t steal someone else’s work with a clear conscience. It is my understanding that it is illegal to make public, like uploading to the internet, copyrighted material in which you do not own the copyright. Likewise, similar to using stolen goods, it would be illegal to view or listen to such material.

YouTube, owned now by Google, does not require that the person uploading videos prove that he has the legal right to do so, just like web hosts do not prevent website owners from uploading illegal content. There is a bit of difference though. The two most popular illegal uploads to YouTube are music and music videos which have been registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. And these works are publicly available for purchase. This means that Google could discover the origin of these works, as opposed to confidential company information that was newly leaked. See “Detecting the Origin of Text Segments Efficiently” for an example of Google’s intelligence when it comes to deciding the origin of news. They aren’t ignorant, and they have the money to access BMI, ASCAP, SESAC, etc. to find the information required to abide by the law.

But they don’t do that. Why? I’d say they suffer from an aggression that lawyers phrase, “It is better to ask forgiveness, than to ask permission.” This can be interpreted as, “It’s OK to violate the copyright holder’s rights, and if they complain, we’ll remove the offending material.” Google also used this stance when it decided to copy millions of books to make them available to readers, without consulting the publishers of those books. Like an ignorant child who taunts “Finders keepers; losers weepers,” Google tried to gift to the world that which was not theirs by claiming that they will make out-of-print books available even though these books are still works bound by copyright law. Basically, they are acting criminally, and asking to be policed, rather than seeking to avoid breaking the law.

Well, YouTube has recently changed this posture. While copyright owners who do not police their works may continue to have them stolen, YouTube now allows these owners to register their works with YouTube so that any uploads that contain these works will accrue royalty payments. (Scribd and other sites friendly to violators should follow this improvement.)

This means that when someone uploads a video, YouTube will scan the audio portion to see if it matches one of their commercial customers’ songs. If it does, then each time this video is played, YouTube will pay the copyright holder for this performance. I imagine that a registering copyright holder can also request that their songs not be allowed to be uploaded from elsewhere, just as there would be a need to disallow playing based on location, since licensing contracts can dictate different owners of the copyrighted material for different regions of the world.

If you are uploading videos, you can use YouTube’s AudioSwap feature to include legal music directly, to ensure that you are not violating someone’s music copyright.

What does this mean to me? Well, it now gives me plausible deniability. I can now claim that each time I play a video from YouTube, that the royalty owners are getting paid for that performance. This makes YouTube my new favorite location for finding specific songs -- all the music without the guilt.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Lightning Source to royalties to authors

When DashBook introduced importing sales reports, we received a lot of praise from our customers. Book publishers still are a large percentage of our customer base, and when a publisher can't justify printing thousands of copies of a title, they turn to print on demand (POD). This may be for the initial printing of a book or it may be a fallback to keep a book from becoming "out of print" when its popularity wanes.

Why do so many book publishers choose Lightning Source (LS) for their POD? This is very simple. Because LS is owned by Ingram, all books carried by LS are placed in Ingram's book listings. This means that all booksellers who use Ingram (that'd be every one in the U.S.A., plus) is able to see the LS book in the catalogue and order it. That would be fine for anyone expecting the readers to request a book from a bookstore, but it won't put a book on their bookshelf. No bookstore is large enough to carry every published book. Well...

then there is Amazon. While Amazon does not warehouse all of the books it sells, it does maintain a database of every book that it could sell. So to follow the thread, this means that all books in LS are listed in Amazon's database and are searchable and purchasable from http://www.amazon.com. Not only are the books listed, but Amazon keeps ratings and comments about each book, so if the authors or readers wish to comment on a POD book carried by LS, they can do so on Amazon - the largest seller of books in the world. (nope, I'm not gong to bother researching the veracity of Amazon's success)

So, now that many book publishers are using Lightning Source, they receive a nice report showing them their sales. Here's where we get back to Dashbook. Publishers generally need to pay authors and other contributors a percentage of the sales of books. The royalty contracts describing the conditions and amounts can vary quite a bit, and can become unwieldy to track without specialized software like DashBook. Within DashBook, a publisher can describe these royalty arrangements so that subsequent sales transactions will generate royalties accrued to each royalty recipient.

Now that DashBook has a built-in ability to import LS sales reports and perform a currency conversion (LS - U.S., LS - U.K., etc.), we save a lot of typing, which greatly reduces time and errors. In fact, when a publisher has a large list of book sales to import, this can save hours. When you add that savings on top of the time saved in actually performing the royalty calculations, publishers just can't afford not to use a great tool like DashBook.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Why don't all authors follow submission guidelines?

The publishing industry is a very old one, which means that over the years the people in the industry have established procedures and guidelines meant to streamline the process of getting from book idea to print. Of course, such establishment works best in a static world, as can be seen by the frantic response to young publishers breaking the rules, creating eBooks, and setting low prices.

We have rules for grammar so that someone can know a language and understand books written to those grammatical rules.

One would think that an author would be capable of reading submission guidelines which were written in their native language, and follow them. Of course they could, but why do so many editors complain about submissions that do not follow the guidelines?

I think it is because the editors themselves have fallen into the trap of convention in the publishing industry. Everyone has "Submission guidelines" so they think that they must need them, too. Yes, it would be good practice to set rules for submissions, so do just that. Do not set guidelines unless you expect them to be read as helpful hints.

If you want to be forceful and reject submissions that are not within your standards, set standards instead of suggestions. How about using "Mandatory submission rules (not just guidelines)" to properly cast your requirements?

Can you be bold enough to not use old industry terms that apparently do not carry your intended meaning? What would be a new term that would properly convey your meaning to the thousands of authors out there who do not know your business?

This is your industry. Define it.

Import sales reports from iTunes Music and App Store

This week we released DashBook v3.2. Yes, we sometimes just can't wait to get new features in the program and out the door!

Our prior version 3.1 introduced our sales report import ability. DashBook can import sales reports from text formatted files, such as csv and tsv. Although we provide a utility that you can use to create a mapping to the sales reports you receive, we also include a bunch of them directly in our package so you can focus on your business.

Both the music business and software development require a community effort that is often compensated by paying a percentage of sales to those involved in creation of the product. And one of the hottest places to sell these wares today is iTunes.

v3.2 added an import map for Apple's iTunes sales reports. This map allows you to import your iTunes sales whether they are from music sales or iPhone App Store sales. During import, you can enter a currency conversion factor. One of our customers noted that typing in the bank transfer fees as a sales commission percentage allowed him to pass the pro-rata of that expense to each of the products sold, so that the royalties he pays out are properly accounted.

Our import was also enhanced to enable creation of invoices for consignment sales. This was critical to properly add the reports for Midpoint Trade Books and Consortium, two more distributors used by DashBook customers.

If you have a distributor or reseller for which DashBook does not have a built-in import, please let us know so that we can help.