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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

3/30/10 Writing and Publishing News

Where the law and literature meet:

The battle lines are drawn - Ingram won’t distribute books for publishers using agency model: http://www.quillandquire.com/blog/index.php/2010/03/25/ingram-draws-line-in-sand-over-agency-model/

Run into Prince Charles while jogging? Best not blog about the experience. New proposed law imposes gag order on anything about the royals: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article7069750.ece

Lawyer sues when HBO promotes his movie then plays porn movie with same name instead: http://www.abajournal.com/weekly/article/lawyer_sues_after_film_contained_more_thighs_than_anticipated

Amazon reported in Scotland for bullying: http://news.scotsman.com/entertainment/Bookshops-hit-back-at-Amazon.6186211.jp

Trouble for Google in France: http://www.thebookseller.com/news/115133-french-publisher-gallimard-to-sue-google.html

Simon Singh, champion of libel reform, freedom to sport really hideous haircuts: http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/law/article7078008.ece

Blame libel tourism on Arnold, and more on the history of libel tourism, libel reform: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jwKRQVu4JPYuCjr3U1CcZPfE0NxgD9EKG0901
More headlines:

Book tourus interruptus: http://www.csmonitor.com/Books/chapter-and-verse/2010/0330/Like-Sarah-Palin-Karl-Rove-faces-book-tour-disruption?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+feeds%2Fbooks+%28Christian+Science+Monitor++Books%29

Don’t give up your day job and other realties in the current publishing market: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookreviews/7523153/Apoca-lit-Now.html

Stephen King doesn’t need no stinkin’ iPad: http://publishingperspectives.com/?p=13636

Five lessons Apple can learn from Amazon: http://government.zdnet.com/?p=8271

Romance heroes are as sexy as socks: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1262162/Heroes-The-new-men-modern-romantic-fiction-sexy-socks.html

Has Gerald Posner set world plagiarism record?: http://gawker.com/5505620/gerald-posner-may-set-world-plagiarism-record

Margaret Atwood is a Twitter addict: http://gawker.com/5505244/the-real-margaret-atwood-is-a-twitter-addict

As a sign of the apocalypse, Glenn Beck is signed to write a novel. But will it make him cry?: http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/celebrities/glenn_beck_unveils_his_upcoming_novel_156793.asp

Stephenie Meyer to release new book, free e-version: http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/authors/stephenie_meyer_to_release_first_new_book_in_almost_two_years_156730.asp

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

3/24/10 Writing and Publishing News

Where the law and literature meet:

German court claims jurisdiction over libel case because article can be viewed in Germany: http://www.rcfp.org/newsitems/index.php?i=11326

Screenwriters lose plagiarism suit over God of War video game: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/99222-Sony-Fends-Off-Copyright-Lawsuit-Against-God-Of-War

Mohammad cartoon faces the dread British courts over libel: http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/62909

Philip Pullman threatened, needs security over new book: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/7493602/Philip-Pullman-threatened-by-religious-zealots-over-new-Jesus-Christ-book.html

Authors Guild warns writers to read letters from Random, HC carefully before agreeing to lock in e-book royalty rates: http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/453656-Authors_Guild_Warns_Again_on_e_Book_Royalties.php

Barrister wins big bucks after being accused of helping a friend get away with murder: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/barrister-pockets-630000-for-libel-20100322-qrda.html

The Takedown (notice) Hall of Shame: http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/takedown_putdown

The great new business model, Harper Studio, goes down in flames: http://gawker.com/5495612/harpercollins-rethinking-bloggy-book-label

Reasons to refuse to allow Google BookScan to publish your thesis online: http://gawker.com/5494979/does-michael-lewis-snatch-his-ideas-from-college-kids

Finally, Britain may reform its libel laws: http://www.thebookseller.com/news/114902-pa-welcomes-mojs-libel-reforms.html  and http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/mar/24/libel-tourism-reform-jack-straw

Random says it may pass on iPad bookselling: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/4d11b5fc-36b9-11df-b810-00144feabdc0.html  

$18.9 million verdict reinstated against employee who stole company manuals, gave to competitor: http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1202446702735&Reinstated__Million_Copyright_Verdict_Marks_Latest_Twist_in_LongRunning_Case

More headlines:

Which Nobel laureate had to proofread in the forest due to spy fears?: http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/europe/news/article_1542573.php/Spy-fears-drove-Nobel-laureate-to-proofread-in-forest

Nicholas Sparks, bastion of modesty: http://www.powells.com/blog/?p=16818?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=web&utm_campaign=facebook_fans&utm_content=Book%20News%20March18

The decline of the bestseller: http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/453748-The_View_from_the_Top.php

Americans’ reading habits. We like to be scared, then reassured: http://gawker.com/5500661/americans-afraid-of-freemasons-canada-alex-rodriguez

Book not available on the Kindle is savaged by one star reviews by Kindle owners: http://gawker.com/5500086/online-mob-savages-michael-lewis-book

Gerald Posner admits to large number of plagiarism violations. One of the authors he stole from is in the audience. Video goodness: http://gawker.com/5497305/gerald-posner-im-a-thieving-cocksucker

Why the agency model will be good for Amazon: http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2010/03/23/to-beat-apple-amazon-needs-to-let-publishers-win.aspx

Jeff Kinney on multimedia and the future of children’s book publishing: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/19/AR2010031901574.html

Friday, March 19, 2010

3/19/10 Writing and Publishing News

Where the law and literature meet:
More Oscar bounce for lawyers. Hurt Locker makers sued: http://news-briefs.ew.com/2010/03/03/hurt-locker-law-suit/

Lindsay Lohan sues Etrade over use of the name Lindsay in ads: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35780790/ns/business-media_biz/  Girl, you’re no Madonna.

Amazon makes more threats to remove buy buttons – don’t even think about an agency model if you’re not one of the big five publishers: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/18/technology/internet/18amazon.html?partner=rss&emc=rss  and http://mhpbooks.com/mobylives/?p=13605

More missing buy buttons at Amazon: http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/452669-Amazon_com_Removes_Buy_Buttons_from_Diamond_s_Publishers.php

But don’t hate Amazon just because they occasionally screw up: http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/comicbookland/marvel_comics_writer_criticizes_trumpedup_outrage_over_amazon_graphic_novel_glitch_154884.asp 
Colorado calls for boycott of Amazon after associates program dropped: http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/452559-Group_Calls_for_Amazon_Boycott.php

French three strikes law actually increased piracy: http://www.teleread.org/2010/03/14/french-piracy-increases-after-three-strikes-law/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+teleread%2FKHnj+%28TeleRead%3A+Bring+the+E-Books+Home%29

Kapow! Kirby estate sues Marvel over rights to superheroes: http://www.comicbookmovie.com/fansites/GulfCoastAvengers/news/?a=15889

Unethical agent ruins e-contracts for everyone: http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2010/03/we-interrupt-this-q.html

Gerald Posner admits plagiarism: http://www.cbc.ca/arts/books/story/2010/03/17/posner-plagiarism-babylon.html  

More headlines:
Nothing to do with writing, but still. Florida vampire announces candidacy for President: http://www.wtsp.com/news/mostpop/story.aspx?storyid=127365&provider=top

High e-book cost didn’t damage Baldacci’s book sales, despite complaints: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iftfvIiV7uRYWgrbu8NHH8lDt4rAD9EF93LO0

Weird talents of well-known writers (and other celebs): http://www.cracked.com/article_18441_7-celebrities-who-had-badass-careers-you-didnt-know-about.html

Have you been quoted in a book and don’t know it? I have. Vanity Google book searching: http://www.mediabistro.com/galleycat/trends/vanity_google_booking_154889.asp

Harlequin offers books on Nintendo DS in Japan: http://www.teleread.org/2010/03/13/harlequin-offers-books-on-nintendo-ds-in-japan/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+teleread%2FKHnj+%28TeleRead%3A+Bring+the+E-Books+Home%29

If your iPad battery dies, you’ll need a new iPad: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/apple/7447353/Apple-will-issue-replacement-iPad-when-battery-runs-out.html

Scholars think lost Shakespeare play may be the real thing: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/8569101.stm

Book about Gordon Brown shelved when author missed deadline: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/mar/13/gordon-brown-publisher-shelves-book

Grisham’s kid courtroom drama has initial million copy print run: http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/453472-Cover_and_Print_Run_Revealed_for_Grisham_s_First_Kids_Book.php

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Good Wife’s Gaffe on Money Laundering

Anyone who reads this blog knows I enjoy the courtroom drama The Good Wife. I try not to be hypersensitive when they get things wrong because they do so well. But this week’s episode went off the rails a bit. In the story, a known drug dealer being pursued by the FBI for all sorts of criminal activity leaves a bag containing $200,000 in cash in a lawyer’s office. When the firm inquires, he says it’s a retainer. The lawyers then engage in a serious debate as to whether or not to take on this client. As far as I can tell (it wasn’t clear), they ended up keeping the money.

There’s so much wrong with this picture it’s hard to know where to start. So I’ll start with how they’ll all end up in jail. The first reason they’d never take the cash is that they’d have to fill out a Form 8300 with the IRS telling them where you got the cash. A drug dealer wouldn’t want that to happen, so he’d never hire a legitimate firm if he wanted to pay in cash. Don’t file the form, go to jail and pay a fine. Way too risky for most lawyers.

Let’s assume the firm filed the form. They’ve accepted criminal proceeds. The FBI is watching. They’ll be prosecuted for accepting the proceeds. Or at least the FBI will seize it and institute forfeiture proceedings to take it away. And they might just snatch up some firm assets along the way and claim they’re bought with criminal proceeds. The firm would be tied up for years defending themselves. I know a lawyer who faced years of criminal prosecution because he vetted money another lawyer was paid to make sure it didn’t come from criminal proceeds. The government claimed he knew the proceeds were dirty and issued the opinion wrongfully. He didn’t even get the money. He just told another lawyer it was okay to take the money. He was recently acquitted, but it took years of anxiety, hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, and a somewhat damaged reputation. Imagine what happens if the FBI thinks you actually took the money knowing it was dirty.

If the firm tried to get the client to pay in installments of $9000, they’d be guilty of the crime of structuring transactions to avoid the reporting, which is an even bigger criminal offense.

And who’s to say they aren’t being set up in a sting in order to reduce someone’s sentence?

I’m not saying that law firms aren’t faced with this dilemma every day (although nobody’s ever tried to hand me a giant bag of cash, so what gives?), but the lawyers in the show didn’t even blink at the consequences. There should have been some discussion of how the FBI would come down on them if they were caught accepting the money. A mention of the reporting requirements. Something showing the audience that the writers were aware it was a big risk to accept the money. Instead, the lawyers had the money piled in their office for anyone to see.

Legit law firms would simply refuse the bag of cash and decline the representation, or tell the client they had to report it and let the client decide to hire a different firm. Crooked firms would take the cash and the client, but would be aware that they were part of a crime when they did so. The writers needed to choose which kind of firm they were writing about and let us know. They didn’t.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

What Happened in Vegas was Opposite Reality

I watched What Happened in Vegas over the weekend. I figured with the ever-charming leads of Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher, it was hard to go wrong. The story was light and cute – perfect for wasting time instead of working on my outline.

However, the basic plot bothered me throughout. The writers had their opposites-attract protags meet and drunk marry in Vegas, then win a $3 million jackpot. They realize they’ve made a huge mistake. They’re both from NY, so they try to divorce there. Here’s where the plot goes to Oppositeville.

The judge orders them to live together and try to work things out before he’ll grant the divorce. And he won’t let either use the money until they do. Huh?

In NY, unless there are grounds (which don’t include irreconcilable differences, since they’re not a no-fault state) they need to separate for a year before divorcing. So the judge just made their marriage even longer. They could have tried to annul, but the writers didn’t go there. Why pick New York? It’s the last state in the union that doesn’t allow no fault divorce. It is the only one that would therefore require a separation, not a weird mandated togetherness period.

What could the writers have done to fix this? Well, the judge ordered them into counseling. So how about having the plot line show them knowing they have to stay apart but maybe the judge orders them into counseling during the separation. And instead of having them living together trying to get along, why not have them occasionally be so attracted to each other, despite knowing they’re so different, that they hook up? So maybe they have to hide the fact that they’re still hooking up as husband and wife.

Or they could have married in a covenant marriage state (how they’d do this drunk, I can’t imagine). Some states (not Nevada) allow the parties to agree to make divorce harder, including mandated counseling. This probably wasn’t practical for the writers. I’d have stuck with the mandated separation.

On the money side, they’re rich. I can’t imagine a legal scenario where the judge keeps them from spending the money. It’s marital property. They’ll have to split it. The judge will consider a host of factors before splitting it, so it might not go right down the middle. That part of the plot was ridiculous.

Wouldn’t it have been interesting to show how the different character personalities were spending the money? If one was burning through it, the judge might grant some temporary relief to halt or slow the spending. So that might work if the writers really wanted to freeze the funds for the story.

I know, I know. It’s a comedy. I have to grant some liberties. It bothered me, but I managed to find the movie enjoyable. It wasn’t Citizen Kane, but I wasn’t looking for art. Still, had the writers bothered to get it right, they might have made the movie even more interesting and enjoyable.