Posts Tagged ‘law’

Teacher with bunny phobia sues 14-yr-old for drawing; Also, owl w/ fear of heights

April 30, 2010

I love catching stories like this  from the Telegraph UK going across the wires:

A teacher with a phobia over rabbits is suing a 14-year-old pupil for compensation after she drew a bunny on the blackboard.

The teacher, from Vechta, Germany, says she was traumatised by the drawing, and claims the girl knew it would terrify her.

She had transferred to the school where a pupil from her former school had just become a pupil and told her new friends about the teacher’s fear of rabbits.

“We did it for fun and out of curiosity”, one of the girls told a court, adding, “We wanted to see if she would really freak out.”

School officials removed her from the class and now the teacher is seeking compensation for her terror and her loss of earnings, her lawyer Manfred Bormann told the court.

The case continues.

Since I’m on the subject of phobias, here’s a good story on a tawny owl whose childhood trauma left him afraid of heights.

Troy the Tawny Owl

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Who owns electronic rights on authors’ backlogs?

December 21, 2009

The answer could make or break a publisher or two over the next years.

Did the publishers acquire this right when they signed the author, though it was before electronic publishing existed? Or does the author now have a fresh medium in which to sell his or her older works? I hate to say it, but I think the publishers have a point on this one.

The publisher and the author will not likely have contemplated this specific scenario since their agreement was written before e-books existed. But exclusivity is a part of any contract of this type. In any case, the intent was to limit the rights to sell to other book publishers, irregardless of whether those particular book publishers existed at the time of the contract’s signing or came into being during the contract’s lifetime. No court would find the contract isn’t binding merely because the book publisher is new, and thus the contract couldn’t have contemplated that particular publisher buying the rights. The intent was to bind the author from reselling publishing rights to any other publisher. It seems to me that exclusivity would flow through to new book media, especially where the new media is merely a form of book that is not on paper. While I’m rooting for the authors and their estates on this one, as I am an indie/DIY fan, I’m betting the publishers’ lawyers used broad enough language in their publishing contracts to cover any form of book.

We’ll find out soon enough, as the fight has begun, with the NYTimes saying Random House sent letters out claiming all e-rights in its authors’ works. From that article, the other e-publisher’s response was weak: “Mr. Sharp, president of Open Road, said in an e-mailed statement: ‘We are confident in our agreements and only make deals with parties who represent to us that they own the rights.'” That doesn’t mean much; if I walk in and say I own the rights to a book, does that mean Open Road has legal standing against Random House because I was full of crap? No it doesn’t.

Random House has gone to court over this before:

There is some precedent for arguments over e-book versions of backlist titles. In 2001, Random House sued RosettaBooks, an e-book publisher, for copyright infringement when Rosetta signed contracts with authors — including Mr. Styron — to release digital versions of previously published novels.

In its suit, Random House relied on wording in its contracts that granted it all rights to publish the works “in book form.” In its letter to agents on Friday, Random House invoked the same wording to defend its right to publish e-books of backlist titles.

In 2001, a federal judge in Manhattan denied Random House’s request for a preliminary injunction against RosettaBooks, ruling that “in book form” did not automatically include e-books. An appellate court similarly denied Random House’s request.

The case never went to trial. In a settlement, Random House granted Rosetta a license to release e-book versions of 51 titles. Under a different agreement with Mr. Styron, Rosetta also published two of his books, though its license to do so has since expired.

The fact that the preliminary injunction was denied is not, in my opinion, evidence that Random House will lose the next round. It looks like there will have to be a precedence-setting, to-the-end court fight before this one’s decided. Books such as Catch-22 and Sophie’s Choice are the battleground in this fight, per the article, and that makes sense. The books we all have to read for college have an annually changing captive audience, and that captive audience will be reading mostly electronically in just a couple of years. I’m all for the author getting the profit for books, and as a begrudging Kindle Convert I think e-books are going to take over. If those authors can prove an e-book is something entirely different from a book, then the rights old publishers hold soon won’t be worth the paper they were printed on.

Judge Orders Former Exec to Write a Book

June 10, 2009

This is from the NY Times

On Monday, Judge Ricardo M. Urbina of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, sentenced a former senior pharmaceutical executive to write a book.

Earlier this year the executive, Dr. Andrew G. Bodnar, a former senior vice president at Bristol-Myers Squibb, had pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the federal government about the company’s efforts to resolve a patent dispute over the blood thinner Plavix.

The judge sentenced Dr. Bodnar to two years of probation during which he is to write a book about his experience connected to the case. Dr. Bodnar must also pay a $5,000 fine.

Elkan Abramowitz, Dr. Bodnar’s lawyer, said he had never before heard of a case in which a judge sentenced a defendant to write a book.