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Industry News: Crowdsourced copyright laws in Finland, Amazon loses money, publishers pay up

July 27, 2013

‘Crowdsourced’ copyright law to be considered in Finland

More than 1100 people participated in drafting a bill that will be considered by the Finnish parliament, easing penalties for some copyright violations, such as “small-scale” file downloads from peer-to-peer networks. Currently the penalties for such violations is a felony, which the law would change. It would also allow teachers to use online materials for classroom exercises, including YouTube videos and online articles. They would npt be allowed to copy textbooks, however. The bill is likely to be the first considered under a new law that allows bills written by groups of individuals to be considered by Parliament if at least 50,000 sign a petition supporting the bill. The current bill has more than 52,000 signatures. The signatures must be verified and then Parliament can consider it.

What this means to you: Eventually, it could mean more than you think. There’s a small, but growing movement aimed at making significant changes to intellectual property law around the world. Those changes would weaken intellectual property law, in favor of an open source model, where much intellectual property is essentially free, but people can donate. Obviously, there are enormous implications to this approach. If a country were to decide to do away with copyright, for instance, servers in that country could be blocked, preventing access by others. But the movement is out there. It may not affect your work, but it merits knowing about.

Amazon loses money on revenue of $15.7 billion

Amazon is, according to many in the publishing industry, the functional equivalent of the Death Star–a massive entity that can strike fear into potential rivals based on its mere presence. And though its might is a fact, it is not without its own weaknesses. Amazon lost money (2 cent2 per share) in a quarter in which it was expected to make money (6 cents per share). The losses were minimal based on revenue ($7 million, with revenue of $15.7 billion), but the article does say Amazon’s operating income is down 26% to $79 million. Given what analysts call Amazon’s “razor-thin” margins, that’s significant. But the concerns are minor compared to Amazon’s successes: its Prime Instant Video service, a competitor of Netflix, is growing and obtaining exclusive content. Goodreads has more than doubled its membership in a year to $20 million. And in spite of some less than glowing reviews around its release, the company has deemed the Kindle Fire HD, along with the Kindle Paperwhite, as successes.

What this means to you: It means–grumble, grumble–that to get everything you want to watch, you probably have to subscribe to Amazon, Netflix, and Huluplus–but that’s a different discussion for a different blog. But in an industry setting where today’s leaders could be tomorrow’s also-rans or corpses (see Borders, Barnes & Noble, Yahoo), Amazon’s future may depend on aggressively pursuing opportunities and using its size to damage its competition. Amazon, like most corporate entities its size, has positive and negative points. Its policies are very friendly for readers and for some writers. Its customer service is at least adequate, and its logistics systems are good enough that you don’t notice them. (It may also bring a number of jobs to the Tampa area, where I live). But it also uses predatory business practices and its continued growth may eventually be hurtful for consumers.

Ebook damages top $166vmillion

In case you were curious, the damages for the ebook settlements are being totaled and the cumulative price paid by publishers to the Federal and state governments is currently more than $166 million, out of an assessed total of $218 million. The first three publishers to settle, Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster, will all pay less than their original estimated assessment. The last two, MacMillan and Penguin, will pay more. In terms of total money paid, Penguin took the highest hit, with $75 million, with Simon & Schuster’s $18.3 million the lowest total. Overall the settlements are about $52 million less than the original calculations of $218 million. Apple’s payments have not been calculated, pending its appeal of its assessment.

What this means to you: It could mean a small payout for whatever ebooks you’ve purchased, but you aren’t likely to get rich off the settlement. It also means that money has to come from someplace, and odds that’ll be the price you pay for the publishers’ products. To keep in mind the comparative total, that $216 million is only slightly more than the Yankees are currently on the hook for to pay the entire length of Alex Rodriguez’s total contract.

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