Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Legal Stuff

Falling under the category of "Patently Ridiculous," Indigo has got itself into the blogging news by turning away Julie Wilson, author of Seen Reading. For those of you who may not know, the blog is about Wilson and the books she sees people reading. The following is an excerpt from her site:

What is Seen Reading?

1. I see you reading.
2. I guesstimate where you are in the book.
3. I trip on over to the bookstore and make a note of the text.
4. I let my imagination rip.
5. Readers become celebrities.
6. People get giddy and buy more books.

Seen Reading is great. Who would make a fuss over it? Big Blue; that's who. As reported in Quillblog, an Indigo employee took exception to Wilson copying out 50 words from a text she didn't own. Apparently it's illegal. Read it for yourself.

In fairness to Indigo, this was the work of one unnamed employee. I hope it was a manager, because I can't imagine one of the friendly floor walkers throwing around that kind of weight.

As for the legal terms... technically, Indigo is right. "Fair use" means you can only quote from a source that you own. At least, it does in Canada. (Someone let me know if I'm wrong about this, so I can fix the error. I have proper notes written down somewhere.) Wilson would have to buy hundreds of books a year. The only publicist I've met is Taryn Manias at McArthur & Company. I'm not sure how much publicists make (even the cool ones who work for McArthur or Anansi), but I'm pretty sure their personal budgets don't include buying hundreds of books per year.

Of course, you can quote from a library book. That's one loophole. The difference is that libraries pay for that license, so the issue falls under Public Lending Rights.

Which is to say that Julie Wilson would have been just fine if she picked up the same book for the same reason in a library. Or a less picky bookstore. My guess is she'll just go to another bookstore.

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