Author Of Book About Android UI Told He Needs To Get Copyright Signoffs To Use Any App Screenshots

from the fair-use? dept

We’ve talked in the past about just how ridiculous publishers are when it comes to doing something like quoting a song in a book. The publishers apparently have no appetite for standing up for the fair use rights of their authors, so they just refuse unless you get a license for absolutely everything, even when it’s clearly and obviously fair use. In the latest example of this kind of insanity, it appears that Wiley — a publisher who already has a reputation as a maximalist — is telling the author of a book about Android’s UI, Juhani Lehitmaki, that he can’t rely on fair use to post screenshots of any apps. Instead, it’s requiring that he get approval from each and every app developer. Lehitmaki has gone on Google+ seeking permission from a long list of developers:

I need a little bit help with my book stuff and thought to ask it from all of you awesome people here at G+. I’m in a bit difficult situation in the finishing it. I have been in belief that using screenshots of apps as examples of the platform functionality is covered under fair use but apparently I was wrong.

So now I need to acquire permission to use screenshot of different apps I’ve used so I can keep them in. So if you or someone you know are the copyright holder of any of the following brands / apps or know who to contact please let me know.

He then lists out 22 apps (down to 21 once he got permission from one):

* Google android apps
* SPB Shell 3D (by SPB Software)
* SlideIT Keyboard (by DASUR LTD.)
* Siine Keyboard (by Siine Ltd)
* Evernote android apps
* Twitter android app
* Gameloft android apps
* Tiny Flashlight + LED (by Nikolay Ananiev)
* Able Remote (by ENTERTAILION LLC)
* TED (by TED Conferences)
* Gigbeat – Concerts (by GIGBEAT, INC.)
* TouristEye – Travel Guide (by Tourist Eye)
* Winamp android app
* Pulse News (by ALPHONSO LABS)
* Songkick Concerts (by SONGKICK.COM, INC.)
* Prixing – Scanner & comparer (by PRIXING)
* Catch Notes Notepad (by
* Sony, Android skin
* Samsung, Android skin
* HTC, Android skin
[edit: removed the ones I’m already in contact with. Thank you!]

He notes that all of the screenshots are used as examples of good UI design and are clearly credited. In other words, in each case, the app is portrayed positively.

Here’s the thing: he should be pissed off at Wiley for totally failing him as a publisher and being obnoxiously unwilling to stand up for their author. Using screenshots in this manner is fair use. No question. I can’t see how any intellectually honest person could go through the four factor test and not find that using screenshots in a book like this are fair use. Wiley should back up their author, but they don’t, because they’re too scared of a lawsuit and apparently don’t have the guts to stand up for fair use rights. It’s shameful, and should be a warning to any author not to sign on with Wiley. Why bother signing on with a publisher who makes you go through a silly wasteful exercise like this?

In fact, I’d imagine that many of the app developers are similarly inconvenienced by this process of now having to give Juhani permission. Of course they want their apps featured, but now they have to fill out some sort of release or license just to make Wiley’s lawyers happy. This process inconveniences absolutely everyone. Wiley should be ashamed.

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Companies: wiley

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Comments on “Author Of Book About Android UI Told He Needs To Get Copyright Signoffs To Use Any App Screenshots”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
fogbugzd (profile) says:

Re: Wait, I don't get it

>>why can’t they do it themselves?

Ahh. I see you don’t understand how publishers work now. For really huge authors the publishers actually provide that type of service. But for 99% of the authors, the publisher does very little except for physically printing and distributing the books. Authors generally have to do all of their own legwork and most likely do most of their own marketing.

fogbugzd (profile) says:

This is not uncommon, and the practice is not limited to Wiley. That is the problem with publishing any kind of academic book now. You must get sign-offs on every single quote. Every. Single. Quote.

Even public domain quotes are a problem with some publishers. Some require specific evidence of public domain. But I understand that one of my English Department colleges was given a list of required sign-offs that included William Shakespeare. That is going to be a tough one.

I know of at least one person who went the self-publishing route in part because of the impossibility of getting all of the clearances needed for his text. With tools like self-publishing is becoming a very viable option. Publishers in some fields need to get over their insane fear of fair-use lawsuits if they want to hold onto the academic publishing market.

GMacGuffin says:

Re: Re:

I was involved in licensing a song by a “famous dead musician” for a documentary about his backup singers. The paralegal for the film’s producer was concerned because the bass line was similar to another 45-year-old song. Asked if there were any issues related to that, past or now.

I’m all, look lady, are you seriously going to worry about the possibility of being sued over similarities between two 45-year-old songs? You don’t think Sly might have noticed the similarities in, say, 1966? Or that he’d be barred from suing now? We’re talking about two fairly big hits, by musicians who likely knew each other …

… And they never got back, even though we were perfectly willing to give them the license.


Richard says:

Re: Codes of fair use "best practices"

Publishing books may not be the only situation in which third parties are risk adverse or maybe uncertain over fair use. In the case of documentary filmmaking, substantial public distribution of a film may mean taking issues such as errors and omissions insurers into account. The Center for Social Media has produced a number of fair use “best practices” guides, and there have been attempts to clarify fair use. The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) mentioned that various parties have benefited from the “best practices” guides; for example, US film insurers now allow reliance on fair use to a certain extent. For the situation of incorporating third party material into educational books, it might be worth considering as to whether one or more “best practices” guide(s) might be useful for authors and also publishers.

2012 Calling says:

It's 20-effing-12 fcs!

The 21ST CENTURY is already more than 1/10th over!.

Someone please kill of the previous 3 centuries (with their idiotic made-up “laws” [I mean come one – you couldn’t even walk on a street without being knee-deep in road-apples waaaaaaaay back then], plus all the evil money-grubbers and their lawyers) once and for all so we can get on with the modern age!

Juhani Lehtim?ki (profile) says:


Hey guys,
Thanks for picking up the topic and all the support. I’m pretty stumped by the issue. As an author there’s not much I can do. Everyone I’ve been in contact from Wiley have been great and very helpful. I’ve got all the support I’ve needed. This issue seems to be just a stupid corporate policy and I hope they would change it but the people I’m working with to get the book published doesn’t have a word in this issue and they must follow it. I would also like to point out that I do get support from the Wiley folks with this issue and they have not left me alone even though it is contractually my responsibility.

But I that techdirt is 100% right about the core issue. Screenshots should definitely be covered by fair use. If they weren’t there would not be tech blogs & computer magazines etc. This discussion is good. I hope publishers would change their policies.


jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Thanks

Thank you for your response.

I hope that TechDirt will be interested in hearing the details of how easy or difficult this whole process is for you once the book is finally published, and if there’s any reaction from Wiley or the people you’re working with.

“Stupid corporate policies” like this will only scare away future authors.

New Mexico Mark says:

Re: Thanks

In my opinion, the issue is not whether a publisher is helpful about a stupid policy or not. If they lack the intelligence or the courage to do the right thing, they are part of the problem.

Imagine a publisher that had a policy requiring you fly at your own expense to their office and do the hokey pokey before they could publish your book.

Put your right hand in
Take your right hand out
Put your right hand in…

“Here, we’ll help you move your hand. Sorry about all this, but we just don’t have better way to do publishing.”

Makes about as much sense, huh?

And I submit that there is something creative people can do. They can kick lickspittle middlemen to the curb, stand on their own two feet, and show spineless bureaucrats how life should be lived.

I’m not saying choices like that are easy, painless, or cheap. Freedom never is. But until more people say “enough is enough” it will only get worse.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Using screenshots in this manner is fair use. No question.”

Actually, his publisher is doing him a huge favor by not letting him try to stand on this legal head of a pin.

They may be fair use (and probably are), but any one NOT signed off on is a potential lawsuit, as someone decides to argue the fair use of it. Win or lose, the publisher understands that it’s much better to get permission than it is to pay to prove your rights. Worst of all, on a bad day, a judge might actually rule against them, leaving them holding the bag.

You need to understand that in the real world, sometimes it’s better to err on the side of caution than it is to be a trailblazer who gets eaten by a bear.

Riggs (profile) says:

....I'm probably too cynical

but I can’t help wondering (and Juhani, since I see you watched this thread I’m not actually asking you, that would be far too intrusive), if this is actually structured like music contracts. Do any lawyer fees the publisher pays have to be repaid out of any advance he was given? If so, this only gives those representing the publisher every incentive to to find every reason to bill a few more hours here and there. It doesn’t come out of their clients pockets ultimately…

relghuar says:

"don't have the guts to stand up for fair use rights"

I’d say they’re more afraid of the potential of someone else using fair use aginst them, so they push very hard to discourage everyone from any fair use claims.
It also serves as pretty effective disinformation campaign – when even their own authors now think “they are apparently wrong” trying to rely on fair use…..

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