Authors, beware of Amazon’s Copyright Grab!

My publisher recently received a notice from Amazon suggesting the idea of giving away copies of my two books, Amalfi Blue and Shrouded in Pompei.  Amazon’s angle was to increase sales and allow me to promote my books across social media platforms.  No purchase was necessary by the entrant and it’s not really clear who was paying for the cost of the prizes.  Certainly, I was not going to receive money if nothing was being sold.

OK, the free giveaway sounds good so far, right?  Wrong.  If it sounds too good to be true, it generally is!  Lucky for me, I happen to be a really good lawyer and cherish my creative copyrights because the red siren of doom sounded as soon as I read the fine print in Amazon’s Giveaway Services Agreement.

To the uninitiated laymen…you’re screwed if you use Amazon’s Giveaway…in my humble opinion.  Look at the Definitions section.  Amazon defines “Your Material” as “all Technology, Your Trademarks, Content, information, data, photographs, images, videos and other materials and items provided or made available by you or your Affiliates to Amazon or its Affiliates.”

CopyrightThen scroll up to Paragraph 5 and check what type of license you are granting to Amazon:

“You grant us a royalty-free, non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use, reproduce, perform, display, distribute, adapt, modify, excerpt, analyze, re-format, create derivative works of, and otherwise commercially or non-commercially exploit in any manner, any and all of Your Materials, and to sublicense the foregoing rights; provided that nothing in this Agreement will prevent or impair our right to use Your Materials without your consent to the extent that such use is allowable without a license from you or your Affiliates under applicable Law (e.g., fair use under United States copyright law, referential use under trademark law, or valid license from a third party).”

So why does this scream – “put on the brakes?”

  1. Royalty free – that means they don’t have to pay you to use your creative material or content.
  2. Create derivative works – that means they can make a movie or merchandise your characters when the book is a bestseller…again without paying you any royalties.
  3. Sublicense the foregoing rights – that means they can sell your rights, now their rights, to any third party

It amazes me how Amazon continually tries to exploit independent authors who have become the lifeblood of their Kindle revenue stream.  Writers, always, always read the fine print of any Terms & Conditions before signing up for anything that sounds just too good to be true.  You risk giving away your intellectual property rights for a free book giveaway!

50 Years of Beatles’ Memories

It was a Friday…I remember it well. My Dad, an eager, young architect couldn’t wait to see the new JFK Airport and I was excited by his enthusiasm.  We ventured into the weekend traffic to pick up my aunt at the airport and drove into history.  Hoards of screaming girls were everywhere.  Imagine if that were to happen today. They’d shut the airport down, thinking it was an army of invading terrorists.  How things have changed.

I knew The Beatles were coming to town.  We all did.  How could you not.  It was the first thing in just over two months to take our minds off the great national tragedy we had suffered with the Kennedy assassination.  As with any period of grief, it is different for everyone but when a nation shares such an overwhelming loss, the cloud of grief lingers because of the shared miasma.  When a ray of difference breaks through the cloud, there is no holding back the light that permeates everywhere.  The Beatles were the ray of light a nation in mourning needed.

Who knew what would happen next?  Come Sunday night my Dad asked, “So, are you going to watch The Beatles?”  Silly question, my family watched Ed Sullivan every night.  This would be no different.  Yeah, right.

Ed Sullivan smiles while standing with The Beatles on the set of his variety show on Feb. 9, 1964.

Express Newspapers/Getty Images

“Ladies and gentlemen, The Beatles.”

That’s all it took.  We were hooked.  We were sucked into their world and they changed our world for the better.  My Mom and I laughed when the graphic under John’s picture read “Sorry, girls, he’s married.”  That’s OK, we still had three others to dream about.

Their music was inspiring and uplifting at a time when a nation needed something to drag it from the abyss.  Thank you John, Paul, George and Ringo for showing us the light. Thank you Mom and Dad for indulging my every Beatle whim for the rest of my life.

I went to Liverpool last year for my first Beatles’ journey, day trippin’ in Liverpool.  The BEST trip of my life and I can’t wait to go back.

A Time to Kill on Broadway

When my past as a college theater critic collides with my present as a litigator, a happy-stance happens on Broadway in “A Time to Kill,” Rupert Holmes’ dramatic adaptation of John Grisham’s first legal thriller.  I am leaving the multiple ethical issues presented to the play’s protagonist, attorney Jake Brigance, to my legal musings over at the NYS Bar Association blog for the Entertainment, Arts & Sports Law section.

Here, for Lady Litigator, I am merely a fan, a theater-goer who has not enjoyed a legit production in a long time and was quite happy to spend 2.5 hours with “A Time to Kill.”  For fans who did not read the 1989 book or see the 1996 film starring Matt McConaughey & Sandra Bullock, this staged production has some twists absent from both the book and the film and force the observer to perhaps think in a new way.

Sure racial bigotry still exists, especially in the deep south and this story takes place in race torn Mississippi, where a young black girl is viciously and brutally assaulted, raped and hung by two drugged out white men.  Her distraught father, Carl Lee Hailey, retaliates by gunning them down inside the courthouse and political and racial upheaval ensures.

The ensemble cast is brilliantly led by Sebastian Arcelus as Brigance and John Douglas Thompson as Carl Lee with veteran “legal” actor Fred Thompson (“Law & Order”) as the judge and Tom Skerritt as drunken, disbarred  attorney Lucien Wilbanks, a mentor to Brigance.

The story has a timeless quality thanks to the directing of Ethan McSweeney and the wonderful sets of James Noone.  The courtroom’s turntable stage is front and center but scenes change effortlessly as prison cells and living rooms are moved in and out with suspended walls.  However, this story takes place as much inside as outside the courtroom where the worlds of the KKK and the NAACP collide in protests in this small southern town.  The noise, the rancor, the visual imagery are all highlighted on multi-media screens suspended to the rear of the courtroom, out of view from the proceedings where justice is supposed to be blind.  But is it?

While those around Brigance try to make this case all about race, from Carl Lee’s plot and ponderings about a white jury to the politically ambitious prosecutor’s insistence that color does not play a role in HIS courtroom, the idealistic, young attorney focus on the humanity of the case.  He makes the predominantly white jury see the facts through the eyes of a father.  How would they react if this happened to their daughter, granddaughter, niece?  In the words of the defendant, “God had a son.  He didn’t have a daughter.”