Marilynn Byerly’s Techdirt Profile


About Marilynn Byerly

Marilynn Byerly's two passions are writing and teaching. She has taught writing, judged numerous national and regional writing contests, reviewed books, and written articles on writing which have appeared in trade publications, national magazines, and writing websites. Her articles have also been used as part of the course work for writing and publishing programs at major universities. She has been a publishing news junkie for over thirty-five years, and an ebook pioneer and critic for over fourteen years.

Her romance, fantasy, and suspense novels, and short stories have won major awards including the National Readers Choice Award, the Sapphire, and the Write Touch. She has also been named an outstanding achiever in romance by a major romance magazine.

Her website is

Marilynn Byerly’s Comments comment rss

  • Aug 9th, 2013 @ 7:57am

    honey bees are not native to America

    Honey bees were brought over from England in the early days of colonization.

    This continent already had an adequate supply of bee varieties to do the job for the native plants so we do have enough varieties of bees and other insects for pollenating.

    The main problem is that agribusiness will have to go organic to stop from killing these bees and have more than one massive crop so that bees will stay in an area.

    As an organic gardener of over twenty years, I have a huge variety of native bees, moths, flies, and birds to pollinate my flowers, vegetables and fruit trees. I also have plenty of healthy wild honey bees.

    So, despite all the scary headlines, we won't starve although we will have to import honey from places where agribusiness doesn't destroy the local ecologies.
  • Jun 22nd, 2013 @ 4:05pm

    Re: Re: Ideas can't be copyrighted

    No, everything is copyrighted in a story because it's the expression of the idea so you can't claim that a paragraph out of a novel is yours. You can quote it, if you attribute it, and that's fair use. If you take a paragraph out and insert it into your work without attribution, it's plagiarism.

    Just because you can take something doesn't make that taking right.

    If you take all hope of recompense out of the creative arts, you end up with far fewer creators and creations, and the quality of those creations left is much poorer because you take away most of the incentive of improving.

    As more than a few of my friends in the creative arts have said, "We aren't your bitches."

    Like the Little Red Hen, we'll take our bread and leave you with nothing.
  • Jun 22nd, 2013 @ 8:29am

    Ideas can't be copyrighted

    All this is just wonderful, but, once again, everyone has it wrong.


    You can tell the story of Prometheus and fire, and you are perfectly legal. If I write a short story about the same subject, my story is copyrighted so you have no right to it.
  • Apr 5th, 2013 @ 7:21am

    Death to Robocalls

    I've had robocalls about "social security" for the last three mornings an hour before my alarm went off. In this case, I support the death penalty.

    A state senator has a bill going through the NC House to add political robocalls to the "do not call" registry. Since I had four calls one Saturday morning before the alarm during the fall elections, I so hope this bill becomes law.
  • Mar 7th, 2013 @ 10:40am

    what can and can't be copyrighted

    If you want to talk about copyright and not sound like an idiot, you should know what copyright does and doesn't cover. It doesn't cover ideas, plot and theme tropes, character names, or works already out of copyright. What it does cover is the specific expression of ideas, etc. By that, I mean the words or media.

    Anyone can write a story about angst-filled vampires and the girls who love them, and many have, but if you write and sell a vampire story where the vampires glitter, the main characters are Edward and Belle, and the plot and setting are very similar to the TWILIGHT series, you can expect a call from Stephenie Meyer’s lawyers.

    Any story or idea from other authors or sources can be used by an author as long as she makes the idea her own with her own characters, setting, and plot. I have read a CAPTAIN BLOOD retelling as an historical romance, a Klingons-in-love STAR TREK inspired futuristic romance, and a paranormal romance that billed itself as HARRY POTTER for grownups. None of these authors were sued for copyright infringement because they added enough of their own ideas to create something different.

    Since Tolkien, who was a Medieval scholar, took his inspiration and names from various older texts, he wasn't a copyright thief, nor was he lacking in creativity since he took these ideas and names to make his own astonishing creation.
  • Jan 15th, 2013 @ 4:16pm

    Re: Re: Re: What is and isn't copyrighted

    I didn't realize you were talking strictly fan fiction.

    Here's a tutorial I wrote on the subject if you're interested.
  • Jan 15th, 2013 @ 11:40am

    Re: What is and isn't copyrighted

    Actually, Little Wolf, it's not hard to avoid copyright problems in fiction. All you have to do it change a few things like the names of the characters and some elements of the original world building.

    I've read a science fiction romance series that was obviously Klingons in love with the names and some changes in political elements.

    I've also read a novel that billed itself as "Harry Potter for grownups." The world and the magic was very close to Rowling's, but the characters were adults with some of them obviously based on Rowling's characters. I had to laugh when Dumbledor showed up with a name change.

    I won't even go into the number of TWILIGHT clones in the Young Adult market and now all the THIRTY SHADES novels which started as fanfic.

    None of these books had the original authors' or creators' lawyers after them for copyright violations.

    The real problem isn't copyright theft, but that readers are much more harsh about a work being so derivative.

    If you want to do well in fiction, it's best to avoid derivative unless it can be used as a marketing tool, and in most cases that means going the public domain route. For example, lots of people will happily buy a new Sherlock Holmes novel but won't even notice a mystery about a Victorian inquiry agent based in London.
  • Jan 15th, 2013 @ 9:28am

    Re: Re: What is and isn't copyrighted

    Some authors don't understand copyright any better than do most people do.

    That's why I've chosen to educate authors and readers about copyright issues so they can make informed choices.

    That's why I read sites like this and TeleRead to correct all the misinformation out there.
  • Jan 15th, 2013 @ 7:10am

    What is and isn't copyrighted

    If you are going to discuss copyright and not be laughed at, it's a good idea to understand what you are talking about.

    IDEAS can't be copyrighted. Literary THEMES and TROPES can't be copyrighted.

    It's what you do with them that is copyrighted. So the expression of the words or story on film/media is what is copyrighted.

    Lucas did not steal anyone's copyright. He used common ideas and tropes from popular culture as well as an archetypical plot to create the first movie.

    When the original STAR WARS hit the theaters, he freely admitted that the first movie was his homage to movie serials like FLASH GORDEN.

    And, it was freaking awesome for us SF geeks who saw it in the theaters because it was so dang innovative with its use of technology, etc.

    If someone uses chunks of the film, it's within his/Disney's rights to go after them.

    So you may can him names for protecting what is his, but hypocrite isn't one of them.
  • Dec 24th, 2012 @ 9:28am

    Re: Re: Public domain books available

    With just at a quick glance, I can attest that Sherwood Anderson is American. I have taught him in American literature. Jelly Roll Morton is one of the greats of classic American jazz.
  • Dec 23rd, 2012 @ 9:07pm

    Re: Re: Re: Tired old examples

    Yes, yes, I can.

    And US courts agree by allowing digital copyright owners to sue over theft, and the copyright owners often win.
  • Dec 22nd, 2012 @ 12:44pm

    Public domain books available

    This article writer certainly didn't bother to do his homework. See here for some of the authors missed:

    I have to laugh at all those who think that public domain screws corporations. If we dropped copyright or shortened it considerably, the corporations would make a killing with all those books that could be turned into movies and games.

    Not to mention all those books that could have zombies or sex inserted in for resale. In the last few months, one publisher has been busy inserting erotic scenes into classics like JANE EYRE. Nothing like a little girl on girl action to trash one of the greatest novels ever written.

    Let's hear it for the value of public domain to improve culture.
  • Dec 22nd, 2012 @ 8:26am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Tired old examples

    Yes, Robert, they not only advertised as they always have, they increased their advertising in new markets and ereader platforms.

    The examples I used are very successful authors with a huge fan base. They continue to write the same kinds of books so they keep the fans they have, and until recently, they had a huge increase in backlist sales as each new book came out.
  • Dec 21st, 2012 @ 9:24am

    Re: Re: Re: Tired old examples

    Thank you. Nothing like an over-the-top metaphor to get a point across. Of course, lots of writers are having their careers murdered by low incomes and contemptuous pirates so maybe it isn't so over the top.

    As to evidence, there is no way to collect information for a valid study comparing ebook sales to ebook theft, but I belong to several groups with thousands of professional authors. According to anecdotal evidence from many of them, yes, there is a correlation between an increase in pirate theft to lowered sales.

    Some who have been very successful for almost ten years as straight-to-ebook authors have watched their sales numbers fall as illegal download numbers soar. I know some "New York Times" bestsellers whose digital sales have become ridiculously low as illegal downloads increase and sales of their backlist has plummeted.

    I've had others tell of fans who complain to them because one of their books isn't available for free on the pirate sites and don't see the irony is the complaint.

    I also know of over a dozen authors who are good friends who have simply given up their careers because they are so dispirited by the thefts, the contempt of those readers, and failing income.
  • Dec 20th, 2012 @ 4:12pm

    Re: Tired old examples

    I was talking about a specific example, Doctorow, used in the article, not the whole article's topic. Doctorow is a very unusual writer because he has incredible market access which very few writers have. That makes him a very poor example in discussions like this.

    As to obscurity. A normal person who is murdered in a gruesome manner is no longer obscure for a short time, but I doubt many people would want to become well-known for this reason.

    In the same way, most authors don't want their books becoming well-known in pirate circles because a vast majority of us who are pirated don't see any improvement in our bottom line. All it means is that our next book goes up even faster at the pirate sites and the download numbers keep increasing.

    Most writers are perfectly happy to be obscure and get payed by those who do read us.

    In other words, writers are rarely fame whores. We write for cash and are proud of it.

    Using illegal download numbers and sales numbers as comparative tools is disingenuous since the numbers mean nothing in comparison. All that can be said is that the more famous the author, the higher the illegal downloads. The more obscure the author, the lower the downloads. Yeah, like duh!

    And owning a copyright is "monopolistic?"

    Gee, does owning a car or a house make you monopolistic? Am I a monopolist because I own the copyright of five novels I spent years writing?

    The truth of the matter is that copyright is owned, a vast majority of the time in the creative fields, by some individual or a small group of individuals, not some corporation. Stop demonizing those of us who work hard at our creations and spend many unpaid years learning our craft.
  • Dec 20th, 2012 @ 8:20am

    Tired old examples

    Doctorow makes his money as a celebrity expert, and through his paper book sales and his movie deals. The free ebooks feed the other sources of income.

    Most writers don't have their books in every bookstore like Doctorow, they don't have movie deals like Doctorow, and no one would pay them a penny for their opinions. They do have everything to lose if the only readers they have read them for free.

    Konrath used the Doctorow model to his own advantage, but he's not been hustling this method since ebooks became such a large part of the market share of income.

    One of the most important points about all these successes is that the copyright owner CHOSE this method. No one chose it for them so you can't use it as an excuse to upload an unwilling participant's copyrighted books on a pirate site.
  • Dec 20th, 2012 @ 8:09am

    DMCA exemptions

    I hate to use facts against such righteous indignation, but the US copyright office/Library of Congress already offers exemptions to the DMCA for the blind and others with disabilities. Here's a link.
  • Feb 13th, 2009 @ 10:13am

    the difference between TTS and audio rights

    The real point of the Author Guild's comments is the legal issue of whether text-to-speech and audio rights are the same thing. This hasn't been clarified in court, and until it is, authors and publishers are afraid that by allowing TTS through the Kindle or any other reader, they are losing their audio rights.

    Right now, many of the major audio book companies won't touch a book that has TTS so publishers are blocking TTS via DRM.

    This situation is a good thing for the disabled and other readers because once this issue is settled, probably in favor of TTS and audio rights being different things, TTS will be allowed on all electronic books.

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