Monday, June 10, 2013

Something Weird on YouTube

Yes, I know that there is a lot of weird stuff on YouTube. Every day, it seems, one of my kids is talking about something truly bizarre they saw online, usually somebody doing something loud and messy.

But I'm talking about something I've seen just in the last couple of weeks while searching for recent content. Let's say I'm trying to find videos of "cute baby animals." And I want the latest videos, so I ask the search engine to sort by upload date. What do I get?

Well, to be fair, I get quite a few videos of cute baby animals. But I also get a lot of slideshows by users 
with usernames like "beautyTube9" and "TrickPics." These are real usernames, and they are junking up the search results with these slideshows. Why do I object to slideshows?

Well, I don't, really. But I do object to slideshows that are composed completely of stolen material, and that are generated and uploads by automated programs, or "bots."

How do I know that this is what's happening? Well, let's look at the stats for TrickPics. This account was started on YouTube on June 1st, and as of this writing has posted 2,706 videos. Somehow, I don't think this user really manually posted 270 slide shows a day. Especially because all of these videos were actually posted between June 1st and June 2nd. That's 1,353 videos a day.

The user beautyTube9 joined on June 5th and has posted 2,142 videos. This user (or this user's bot) is still posting, as of an hour before this writing.

There isn't an easy way to report these users to YouTube, because their violations don't easily fall under any of the pull-down menus for reporting a user, and it's very time-consuming to report each individual video. And even if I had that kind of time, I don't even have a basis for making a complaint, because I haven't seen them using any of my material, and only the copyright holder can make such a complaint.

So meanwhile, these user are making the task of looking for recent legitimate content that much harder. And the weird part is, I don't see why they are doing it. A lot of the videos don't seem to be monetized, they aren't getting a lot of views, and there are no links in the descriptions (which consist only of keywords). So what is the point of all this?

And more to the point, how do we get rid of it?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Dear Traditional Publishers

A friend of mine recently made a Facebook post about a wonderful book of sketches, called "He Drew As He Pleased," by Albert Hurter, the great Disney character designer of the 30s and 40s. (I just realized that in 20 years, if I'm still alive and writing, I'll have to say the 1930s or no one will know which century I'm talking about. Egads!) The book has been out of print for a long time, and collector copies can run over $500.

Which is a shame, because the book is a valuable reference tool for artists today, as well as an important piece of motion picture history.

I understand how expensive it is to republish a book, especially one that has such a limited audience. That is, it's expensive if you take the traditional route. But even if you're a traditional publisher, the technology of print-on-demand (POD) is available. Using this technology, it would only take the labor and equipment needed to translate the originals into electronic files to put this on the market. As with the books I've published, the cost of printing is borne only when the book is ordered.

And, of course, once you have the electronic version, you can publish for Kindle and Nook as well.

Even if the book needs to be priced far above what a traditional book would cost, that would still be better than the price that has be be paid for a collector's copy.

This would be a way to bridge the gap between works that are in the public domain and works that are still under copyright, but out of print. Traditional publishers do not make royalties from used and collectible books, and the author (or the author's estate) gets nothing from these sales, either.

New contracts might have to be negotiated, but I think that some kind of standard agreement for POD books is far more beneficial to authors than a situation that generates no income at all. And publishers can pull this off with no inventory costs. And it will help alleviate the problem of people posting PDF files of the book online, as they have done with Mr. Hurter's book. I would much rather have a printed or legal electronic copy of a book, but I can't afford to pay hundreds of dollars for it.

Print-on-demand for the back catalogue of traditionally-published books? A win all around!