Monday, May 25, 2009

Beating Myself Up for Nothing

Two years ago I came up with an idea of writing the story of King Herod. There were so many things about him that I didn't know, and the flat evil stock character he had become just wasn't enough anymore. In fact, the more I found out about him the more of a tragic hero he became to me.

The problem was that everytime I set out to write the story, it grew. I couldn't simply start with the Christmas story because the fact that he sacrificed his own two sons to keep Jerusalem stable seemed key to understanding his perspective on the massacre of the innocents in Bethlehem. But to really comprehend his motives for killing his own sons you had to see what the two Hasmonean brothers did to Palestine, feuding for the kingdom until there was almost nothing left.

I believe Herod was loyal to the Jews, building their economy until it was stable and even robust. He was also a practicing Jew- not simply a Samaritan as some say. To understand that you have to be told about the short missionary phase of the Jewish population where his father was converted. So converted that he had a Jewish prophet come pray for his army before going to battle, a plan that backfired.

You also should understand that Herod's father was poisoned by treachery, his brother committed suicide rather than be mutilated and tortured in the Hasmoneon feud. Finally, Herod married the grandaughter of one of the brothers, thus uniting the kingdom. Oh, and it was Herod that brought the Romans in... one of the reasons his people hated him.

But he also brought the Olympic to Galillee, built palaces, courtyards and the TEMPLE.

As I studied, I realized that my original plan wasn't going to work and now I've got a six book series which may never see the light of day, but I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and get started.

I guess I'm glad I waited. Like bread dough the idea just need time to rise to its proper height. Wish me luck.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Daffodil Principle

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Flagrant Copyright Abuse- Am I Guilty?

Recently, there has been a little bit of a tussle about my blogging about the LDStorymakers conference. I’ve been reading the recent messages with consternation, anxiety and alarm. I have to confess I’m guilty of this offense and if I've hurt any feelings, that was never my intention. One person went so far as to say blogging about it was a “flagrant abuse of copyright.” Although cleverly penned, this isn’t legally accurate.

Some years ago my mother wrote a book called “Things I Wish I’d Known Sooner.” One of the chapters was called “The Daffodil Principal.” The book was published by Deseret and did quite well- so well, in fact, that Simon & Schuster reprinted it as a national release. A few years after it went out of print, this chapter ended up on the internet. It was being emailed back and forth verbatim as a spiritual thought/ motivator without any mention of the author. My mother was aware of it and not pleased.

Later, my mother was sitting in BYU Women’s Conference, listening to a certain celebrity’s wife who was giving a rousing address when the woman picked up a piece of paper and said she wanted to end with a legend called, you guessed it, “The Daffodil Principal.” My mother’s mouth dropped to the ground. The presenter proceeded to read my mother’s story word for word. When it was over, my mother waited in line to speak with the presenter, not very patiently I might add, amid countless other women begging to get a copy of her work. When my mother finally explained that it was her story, this woman looked at her like she was from Mars and said, “Oh, no, sweetie, this is a legend.”

Not happy, my mother called Deseret Book, hoping for retribution. They told her it really wasn’t a misuse of copyright, and there was nothing my mother could do. At the same time Deseret Book was so impressed by the interest that they decided to turn the story into a children/gift book and it sold very well, making my mother a tidy profit on a book that had previously been dead.

So the question is why wasn’t this a flagrant misuse of copyright?

The purpose of copyright is to protect artistic expression and profits.Carolyn Campbell was spot on when she refused to allow two paragraphs of her presentation to be used in a book without paying for it, because the book would have been SOLD. Those profits belonged to her. (I adored her presentation and did blog about it. SORRY I didn’t ask permission and will take it down if you want.) Anyway, that same person could have paraphrased her presentation and still included it in his book without permission because copyright does not protect “Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices.” See It only protects the specific way she says it, her exact words.

So, for example, Julie Bellon who also gave an incredible presentation on editing, which I adored, told us about CLAW. If someone listening decided to write up the CLAW book on editing and not give her any credit, they could (although I think it would be a jerky thing to do), and it would in no way be a violation of copyright even if they made a million dollars on it as long as they didn’t use her specific language, because again, ideas, procedures, methods, etc. can’t be copyrighted.
Cliffnotes has made millions off of paraphrasing copyrighted material and it’s entirely legal.

So what about my mother’s case? Why wasn’t that a misuse of copyright? They were handing out copies of HER story.

Well, in section 107 of the copyright law it talks about FAIR USE. I’ll include what it says on the website (if anyone is still reading at this point.)

Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered “fair,” such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:
1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
3. amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

“The Daffodil Principle” was being distributed “for a nonprofit educational” purpose. If the presenter was charging five dollars a copy, my mother would have had her for infringement and could have sued for the twenty or so dollars she would have made. Most blogs would be considered the same “nonprofit educational” (especially since hardly anyone reads mine), but might also be protected under “news reporting” even with specific quotes.
Now this really is a great thing. It is what allowed Rachel to read snatches from the different books she brought, which was brilliant by the way, without violating copyright. She didn’t have to pay the authors for permission because it was nonprofit educational. She was entirely within her legal limit to do that.

I don’t know how someone got Julie’s slides- which is very odd. Now, if they were to sell them, they would violate copyright, but to use them in this way is decidedly gray, but I doubt would be infringement (albeit annoying.) To be honest, Fair Use is not cut and dry, but considered on a case by case basis. Still, very few educational nonprofit cases are every won, which is why your English Teacher can copy long excerpts from different stories and hand them around the room as examples of writing without ever paying for those stories. (Most public school teachers work for NOTHING.) One the other hand, once she publishes her textbook on the subject, she’ll pay out the bazooka for those same quotes.

Bottom line, when someone reports on a political speech or critiques a movie (both of which are copyrighted), and even publishes it for money, they are not violating copyright. If I invite the neighborhood to watch the latest Star Trek when it comes out on DVD at my house, I’m not violating copyright, even though I’m decreasing MGM and Blockbuster’s profits by doing it, UNLESS I ask them to pay for admission. That would be a flagrant abuse of copyright.
In conclusion, and I promise I’m almost done, copyright law isn’t that complicated but it doesn’t mean that once you write something or say something that no one can touch it unless you allow them to, even if the little symbol is there. It means that no one can sell it or pretend it is theirs (unless it’s only an idea or process.) Like with my mother this may be very annoying but in the end all it does is provide a great venue for free publicity which you may ultimately cash in on.

Maybe next conference we should have a class on copyright. I’d be willing to teach it and anyone who wants to blog about it, please do!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Lipstick Wars Saga

Last year I began writing my next Visiting Teaching Adventure, "Lipstick Wars!" It all started from some paintings from my friend's mother where she had drawn a tank with a lipstick tube as the cannon. Combine that with a young mother with an escaping toddler and ta-da, Lipstick Wars was born. The problem was when I tried to do an episodic adventure, connecting it to my last one, I had more characters than season three of House. (You know, where he hires all those interns?)

The first time I finished it, it was unweildy with four main characters, two major plot lines and over 85,000 words. I thought it was a masterpiece but due to length and magnitude, it was REJECTED with encouragement to rewrite it.

So I nixed the subplots, got rid of a couple characters and turned the others to stock (sounds like soup.) I finished it last night but in doing so have a few major plot flaws that I have to work through but am blind to. Today I'm going to roll up my sleeves and clean the house, face laundry, catch up on cubscouts and write an analysis for my hubby. Hopefully, while I'm vacuuming or folding clothes, the answer will hit me light a bolt of lightening.

Tomorrow I'm sending it out to readers with or without the changes. Maybe they won't notice that the teenager who nearly loses her testimony from an ambivalent and shaken young mother, never really contributes to the final scene AT ALL. Ugh.

There's got to be a way....

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Rats! The Seed of Testimony

While taking my son to BYUi, I asked him when he felt he knew the church was true. The twelve hour car ride made him a captive audience and I decided to use the time to my full advantage.

His reply was an interesting one. He said that when he was in second grade he brought home the school rat for the weekend. I wasn't aware of it until he showed up in the car with the cage, but I figured what could one weekend hurt. Well, he invited over a little friend to come play and they were jumping on the bunk beds when his friend decides to jump off the bunkbed and lands right on the rat.

I came running when I heard the screaming and saw the dead rat on the floor. It was totally squished. But my son asked if we could pray for it. We knelt down and did so and when we opened our eyes, the poor thing was moving. It couldn't walk but its legs were twitching. I called the vet and told him we had NO money but since it belonged to the school, could he take pity on us and see what could be done. (I assumed he put the thing out of its misery.)

By the time we got loaded in the car with all my preschoolers, the rat was at least alert. The vet took the creature, x-rayed it and came in the room with a large smile telling us that he couldn't see a thing wrong with the rat. Brian believed it was healed and the experience became an anchor to his testimony. The part I'm not sure he knew was that the next fall when I went back to the class, the poor creature had lost most of its hair. I'm sure from the trauma of being squished.

Anyway, I thought I'd use the story in my next visiting teaching adventure. It's just too good not to.