Sunday, January 23, 2011

DMCA Further Developments

With regards to Nicky's DMCA notification, Blogger has informed me that "The requirements for a counter-notification under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act are not the same as the requirements for the original notification." Um, yeah. While technically true, they are splitting very fine hairs.

Notification must include, amongst other things: "(iv) Information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to contact the complaining party, such as an address, telephone number, and, if avail-able, an electronic mail address at which the complaining party may be contacted."

Counter notification must include, amongst other things: "(D) The subscriber's name, address, and telephone number, and a statement that the subscriber consents to the jurisdiction of Federal District Court ..."

The text of the law says that the notifications must "substantially include" the above information, which is where I think Google hangs their hat on not requiring complaining parties to provide a mailing address. I responded in kind by providing a mailing address (a P.O. box) but not my phone number; I don't need a basement troll calling me at all hours to whine about what a meanie I am.

Since I have responded with a counter notification, Blogger must restore my post within 10 to 14 business days, unless they receive notice from Nicky that he "has filed an action seeking a court order to restrain the subscriber from engaging in infringing activity relating to the material on the service provider's system or network." In this case, subscriber = me.

I can't see Nicky filing legal action. For one, he can't afford it. For another, the copyright infringement claim is obviously ridiculous to the layman. Here is Nicky's claim:
"She posted all the links to every story of a version that doesn't have the stories in there. This is unauthorized what she's doing."
Nicky is SOL. Lists cannot be copyrighted, and link addresses cannot be copyrighted. Furthermore, the links all point to legally posted content by the content owners.

Now the following is for Nicky, who I know reads this blog:

Nicky, before you even think about continuing to harrass me with false DMCA claims, know this - I have a job and can afford an attorney. You cannot. The DMCA includes penalties for materially misrepresenting that material or activity is infringing. I suggest you read it. Would you like to pay my costs and attorney's fees?

Friday, January 21, 2011

DMCA Timeout -or- How Nicky Has to Eat Crow

So as most of you know, back in July of 2010, little Nicky filed a DMCA complaint about my blog post with links to the publicly available stories that he reprinted in Tabloid Purposes. I filed a counter notification the same day. I have e-mailed Blogger/Google many times since then, and finally LAST NIGHT, I received a response. Six months to the day.

I had asked that they not pass on the personal information in the counter notification to little Nicky because he had threatened to kill me. They responded that by law they had to and asked if I wanted to amend or withdraw the counter notification.

So I asked for a copy of the original complaint, which they had never sent me. I figured if I was ponying up personal info, I wanted to see Nicky's, too. Blogger/Google sent me a copy back this morning, quite promptly. I looked at it and....

Wow.  By law, the complaining party has to provide "information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to contact the complaining party". However, the only information that little Nicky provided was a name and e-mail address. There's no mailing address, no phone number. Ooops. Does that meet the requirements of the DMCA? I don't think so.

I have now e-mailed Blogger/Google back and explained to them quite politely that the DMCA complaint does not appear to meet the legal requirements of a valid notice and asked that my blog post be reinstated. If that doesn't work, I do have a counter notification ready. But I have asked to submit one that contains only an e-mail address for contact since that was all little Nicky had to provide.

I've also discovered that Blogger/Google was required to reinstate my blog post within 10 to 14 days of receiving my counter notification - something they didn't do, which is in violation of the DMCA.

Things should be interesting for the next couple of days...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

12 Days of the Ethereal Gazette Issue 12 - Day 10

“The Scorpion Temple” by S.G. Cardin

Nicky has misspelled the name of this story in the Table of Contents, where it is listed as “The Soorpion Temple”. This story is supposedly “In Memory of Barbara Malenky”, but I can’t figure what the story has to do with her or her style of writing. The story opens with a quote from Lovecraft. Ms. Cardin has also posted elsewhere that this is a Lovecraft influenced story, and that I can see.

Most of the story takes place in 1961. A young archeology student, named Barbara Dugan, and her professor travel to a remote island in the Caspian Sea to investigate a temple protected by scorpions. The professor’s brother discovered the island in 1911, journalled extensively about it, and just before the story opens, died and left his estate to the professor. The professor sees a way to make a name for himself, and after setting Barbara to researching the brotherr’s journals, he obtains a sponsor and away they go. Of course, the trip ends badly for young Barbara, the professor, and the two other students taken along to help.

I can appreciate what Ms. Cardin was trying to do, but several issues plagued the story. First, I didn’t really get much of a sense of Barbara as a person, despite the story being told in the first person. There were also some factual errors, such as the professor’s brother writing about genetic mutation by radiation in a 1911 journal; gene research (and our understanding of radiation) was in its infancy in 1911. Another example is jars of formaldehyde left open for over 40 years with the contents not evaporating.

But the largest problem for me was the true nature of the scorpions and how that was discovered. Since this is key to the story, it needed to be well-thought out. Turns out aliens  crash-landed a long time ago on the island, were stranded, and bred with the scorpions because that was the closest life-form to theirs. OK, so far so good. Then they forced the local populace to build the “temple”. And then the scorpions/aliens wrote the whole story across the temple walls in heiroglyphics. Errr? A space-faring creature would write in heiroglyphics rather than a complete and mature language?  There are other issues with unique light from a particular star, etc. Overall, I thought the science fiction-y aspect of this story very weak.

Grade: C+

“Hex” by Larry M. Harris

If you want to read this story, don’t look in this anthology. Nicky has screwed up yet again and only included only about 40% of the story. Yes, that’s right, folks, this story just suddenly…stops. I Googled it, found it on-line, and read the rest of it.

This is actually a delightful little story from 1959. It first appeared in “Astounding Science Fiction” and was subsequently published at least four other magazines/anthologies. Nicky has lifted not only the text, but the original illustrations, which is legal as far as I can tell, but no credit is given to the original publication.

The story, which I really wouldn’t call science fiction, follows two characters – a young social worker with a very special “talent” for helping people, and an older Russian immigrant woman who doesn’t want to be helped and is resistant to the social worker’s talent. Despite the very spare style of writing, the two characters are well-developed and are wonderful foils for each other – the earnest do-gooder and the staunchly stuck-in-her-beliefs widow who recognizes what the young woman is doing and tries futilely to stop her.

Grade: A-

“Elegy” by Charles Beaumont

This story was originally published in February 1953 in “Imagination” magazine. It was also adapted into a script for an episode, also called “Elegy”, of The Twilight Zone. This is probably where it came to Nicky’s attention.

A group of astronauts who have been drifting through space, lost, suddenly come across an uncharted asteroid with what appears to be a city. They land their rocket (yes, a rocket) and upon exploring find that all of the occupants of the city are unmoving, like statues. Except for one man, who greets them and serves them wine while telling them a bit about the place they have discovered. Unfortunately, he doesn’t consider them acceptable additions to the city while they are still living. This story has a tragic ending.

It is always interesting reading science fiction stories written before the modern age of space travel. It requires a certain suspension of disbelief, or our current knowledge of space travel, planetary physics, etc. Yet I liked the story. Like the previous story, the writing is spare, but an overload of description was not necessary to convey the eerie nature of the city. Likewise a lot of character development is not necessary to the story. The key is in the nature of the city.

Grade: B+

Saturday, January 15, 2011

12 Days of the Ethereal Gazette Issue 12 - Day 9

“Connection Lost” by Eric Mangum

This story about a writer, Michael Branson, who goes to his late parents’ cabin to get away and write and is “haunted” by his mother’s old computer is quite a mess. Odd factual inconsistencies mar the first part of the story. A 26-year-old writer with 12 best-selling books? Taking a battery out of a cell phone instead of just turning it off? A cabin that requires flashlights for light, but can support a computer and a cordless phone? A voicemail system that doesn’t let you listen to new messages first? Etc, etc., etc.

Then a spooky event – where the computer appears to have power even though it is turned off – freaks Michael out so much that he collapses on the couch in exhaustion. A healthy 26 year old guy? Weenie. *sigh*  Michael falls alseep and wakes up with his Bluetooth headset in his ear. Really really in his ear. He manages to remove it and then…..

Then the climax of the story is *told* to the reader by a sheriff who happens upon the aftermath and reads the manuscript that Michael supposedly wrote about how he killed the young girl found in the cabin with him. Because cops believe everything written by crazy persons. Yeah.

Grade: D

“Happy Anniversary!” by Todd Martin

If you believe this story, then couples who kill together, stay together. It’s Richard and Mary’s anniversary, and Mary presents Richard with a new set of steak knives that he’s been hinting about for months. Richard’s gift to Mary is something they can both use the knives on…and it isn’t a side of beef.

This story had an interesting premise and was generally well put-together, and with a bit more editing it could have been quite good. A bit more description would have brought the characters to life; there’s no last name, no physical description, nothing beyond an anonymous man and woman. The As-You-Know-Bob portions of the conversation could easily have been moved into narrative, rather than dialogue, and the head-hopping could have been cleaned up.

I think this writer has potential, but he needs someone to look over his work with a more critical eye. Too bad he ended up with Nicky for an editor. Particularly since he also got taken by PublishAmerica.

Grade: B-

“Threat Detected” by Andrew Boughton

This is also a story a man haunted – or this case, possessed – by a computer, which eventually kills him. It is also connected to the first story reviewed today because the main character Neil is a friend of Michael’s. And Neil’s little sister Allison is the girl that Michael kills (in the first story).

While having the two interconnected stories is a nice little surprise, I don’t think that putting this story second in the anthology was the most effective placement, considering that the events in this story take place before the events in the first story. This story also had issues of its own, although in general it was better written than “Connection Lost”.

The pace is initially bogged down with lots of details of Neil’s new computer and what he does to it to get it up and running. Neil, who is apparently the sole guardian of his 13-yr-old sister, spends more time on the computer and fussing over it than he does with her – there’s no cooking her dinner, making sure she’s in bed, etc. It’s just Neil and the computer. This is either unrealistic or Neil is a pretty bad pseudo-parent. I felt bad for Allison by the end of this story.

Mr.Boughton also has issues with punctuation. Specifically, commas may not be used in place of periods or semi-colons. I had to read several run on sentences multiple times.

Grade: C

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

12 Days of the Ethereal Gazette Issue 12 - Day 8

Two housekeeping items first:

1. I have discovered that Nicky mispelled another contributer’s name, whose story I have already reviewed, in both places that it occurs in the magazine. Ken Kuptis is actually Ken Kupstis. I have corrected the spelling of his name in my previous posts.

2. I have updated the blog page for this on-going review, including links to those stories that are available on-line for free. If you want to read those stories, you can simply click away.

Now on to today's reviews:

“Hell on Wheels” by Terry Lloyd Vinson

In this story, an estranged husband and wife engage in a late night duel-by-muscle-car, with predictably tragic consequences. This story uses an unusual story-telling style, which I was initially skeptical about because I don’t like gimmicks. Here is the beginning of the story:

“The road war begins:
The Time: One-forty-five a.m.
The Date: June sixth in the year of our lord nineteen-hundred and seventy.
The place: A two-lane frontage road just off I-40, two and a half miles east of
Cattamount, New Mexico.
The landscape (an overview): Flat roadway; the narrow shoulders of which are
dominated by desert flooring with a light gravel mix that quickly transform into steep,
sand-dune constructed drop-off’s on either side….”

Soon the narrative picks up, and it is told using a distant third-person omniscient narrator. The reader gets to see what is happening in both cars, to know what both characters are thinking in the same scene (the story is essentially one long scene).The ending of the story is told using two supposed newspaper articles about the events.

I enjoyed this story. It won me over and held my interest to the end. There is not much character development, and the prose style is terse; yet the mystery of who the two drivers are and why they have such animosity is well-done. For most of the story, the drivers are referred to only as Driver One and Driver Two. Clues to their identities are revealed during the narrative, but the relationship between the two is only finally revealed in the articles.

You can check out the story for free at Authorsden.

Grade: B+

“Rosh Hashannah” by Scott Meade

What’s not to like about a story that includes an angel smiting a drunk in the liquor aisle at Wallyworld? How about this:

“Billy picked up the remote from the end stand between the couch and the recliner where John was sitting. He pointed the remote toward the entertainment system and pressed a button, which caused the CD player to begin pushing the sounds of the song “Promise Me” by Straight Line Stitch through his Bose speakers.”

“He had offered to buy it from Billy on several occasions, but would always be promised that it would be given to him free of charge whenever Billy would decide to buy new furniture.”

“Fright had revealed itself through him as he recalled the photo that he had found on the Internet.”

“His heart was pounding as sweat immediately extracted through the pores in his face.”

“John and Billy were peaking around the corner when Samantha caught up with them.”

I can’t go on. I could copy and paste about 50% of the story here. I’ll summarize by saying that the writing is clumsy, simplistic, wordy, and immature.

The plot is basically three people - Jimmy (no last name), Billy (no last name), and Samantha (no last name) – who are amatuer ghost demon hunters discuss whether or not a series of seemingly unrelated, except for the manner of death, deaths are all the result of an angel. One character argues that the deaths started on Rosh Hashannah, and people being killed are committing acts from a list of sins in the book of Galations, therefore it must be an angel. Yes, my religious history may be shaky, but I’m still wondering what Judaism and the Christian New Testament have to do with each other. *sigh*

Our intrepid ghost demon hunters also discuss how unlikely it would be to find the supposed angel because the deaths are occurring all over the world. Then they run out of coffee. What to do? Head to Walmart for more and - lo and behold! - there is the angel! And he smites someone (the drunk), which is the only interesting part of the story. Security cameras and Samantha's cell phone don’t record the angel, just the drunk's gory death. Several days later Samantha turns up dead the same way. Huh?

Grade: D-

“Going Wild” by Christopher Dabrowski, Translated by Aneta Szaraniec-Sandecka

This is a strange little story about aliens of a higher consciousness that, I believe, has been translated from Polish. It starts out well enough with a psychiatrist hypnotising a patient as part of a routine treatment. This time, however, he asks her an unusual question while she is under – “who are you?” The answer is unexpected.

From there, however, the story lost me. Humanity goes to hell some years later, but the connection to the original scenes isn’t clear. I read the last pages again, but I still don’t get it.

Grade: D

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

12 Days of the Ethereal Gazette Issue 12 - Day 7

I apologize for the delay (thanks to an anony-mouse for reminding me), but we now continue with our review of The Ethereal Gazette Issue 12, published by the Morris, Illinois, based Lake Fossil Press.

"Sanctuary" by Lee Cushing

This story - about soldiers battling women who have turned into blood-sucking monsters (no, not vampires) - feels like it is part of a larger work. The reader is dropped into the action with no back story to orient the reader. The main characters are barely described, and climax of the excerpt is not *really* a climax, but one small victory in what appears to be a larger battle.

I did a quick search and this story is posted on Authorsden. Nicky begged Mr. Cushing to expand the story and then allow him to publish it. A note at the beginning of the Authorsden story post reads, "A group of specialists seek refuge in a convent after discovering the location of a nest of Baobban Sith in this sequel to TANGERINE NIGHTMARE." So yes, this is indeed *not* a complete story. The writing itself is not that bad, but why didn't Nicky take the time to obtain the entire story?

Grade: C

"The Horror at Martin’s Beach" by H. P. Lovecraft and Sonia Greene

I have never been much of a Lovecraft fan, but this story appeals to me more than the others of his that I have read. And yet the story still has problems.

A boat captain catches and kills a mysterious 50-ft-long sea creature – with tiny legs in place of fins and a single large eye – and shows it off over a number of days to curious on-lookers. Scientists discover (somehow?) that it is a juvenile and from the depths of the sea (??). Um, creatures from the depths of the sea – where there is no light – typically don’t have eyes. And just a single eye? Anyway...

Needless to say, revenge is close at hand. Some unseen creature comes along  and traps a group of hapless but well-meaning humans who try to aid what they assume is a drowning person, and in turn are drowned themselves. By the unseen creatures use of supernatural or hypnotic powers. The mysterious creature from the depths is an old standby of Lovecraft’s, but how this connects to the “baby” I don’t get.

At least this story contains actual horror – the drownings – as opposed to Lovecraft’s narrator simply seeing something too horrible to accurately describe (er…I see where Nicky gets his predeliction) and going mad. Still, the disconnect between physical aspects of the baby and the supernatural aspects of the supposed mama didn’t work for me.

Grade: C-

"In the Shadow of the Emerald City" by Jason Andrew

The title of this story is listed as “In the Shadow of Emerald City” in the Table of Contents. In the body of the anthology, the word “the” is included before “Emerald”. I wonder what the author actually titled his story? His blog seems to indicate that Nicky has erred yet again.

In this story, a playboy love-em-and-leave-em type is confronted with the children he never knew he had. Jimmy likes his women young and his penis bare. When the women inevitably get pregnant, he takes them to his Uncle Sal, a doctor at a family planning clinic, to solve the “problem”. Unfortunately, Sal hasn’t really solved  Jimmy’s problem.

While this story had possibilities, it got some basic stuff wrong. Like heroes crawling inside ductwork or setting off building-wide fire spinkler systems by tripping one head, the idea open sewer systems – like the one this story relies on – is not realistic. Seattle, the “Emerald City” of the title, does not, as far as I can tell, have open sewer tunnels that people and other critters could live in.

Why Sal, a doctor at a clinic, would flush the products of abortions into the sewer rather than simply putting them in the medical waste disposal is a mystery to me. Since this act sets up the premise of the story, it is a major issue. Also puzzling is why Sal would “get arrested” for performing abortions. Were the girls underage? The story never says this. Were they too far along? That is never stated or implied either.

Finally, the reaction of Jimmy to seeing his offspring is disappointingly muted. The opportunity to explore the horror of the situation was not taken and that, in particular, made the ending of this story a let down.

Grade: C-

More to come tomorrow.