Thursday, February 14, 2019

Looking for love in All the Wrong Places

Now that everyone is connected to the Internet and it’s become a ubiquitous part of our daily lives, people are shopping for everything online. Take me, for example. This week alone, I've bought shoes, toothpaste, a calendar, and a set of dining room chairs, all purchased online. But many people are taking it one step further and shopping for their significant other in cyberspace.

Dating – or at least the quest for Mr./Miss Right – (or Mr./ Miss Right Now) has moved online for the same reasons everything else has: it’s quicker, easier, and you can do it at 2 a.m. in your pajamas. Typically, dating sites feature a prospective match’s profile (Unless you’re on the prowl for Mr./ Miss Right Now, in which case, you can use the one-paragraph short form, known as Craigslist, and list the acronyms – NSA, SWF, D&DF, etc. – you’re looking for. Don’t put too much thought into this process, because it doesn't matter what you list; Craigslist readers will ignore your criteria and contact you anyway).

In addition to the profile, date seekers usually post a photo of themselves. Usually, but not always. Sometimes, they post pictures of their dogs. Depending on the breed, it may be hard to tell the date seeker from the dog. About a third of the time, the dog turns out to be the better choice. Beware of photos in which the date seeker is hiding his/her face: either not facing the camera, wearing dark glasses, or in costume, or where the thumbnail photo cuts off the head (Alfred E. Neuman lookalike) or body (Sea World reports a whale escaped) … Or where there is no photo at all. There’s a reason why he/she didn't want you to see the hidden feature.

Then there are the misleading photos. The Technically Honest One: it is a photo of the date seeker, however it was taken 10 years ago; The Best Friend: the date seeker with his/her much better looking friend, whom you’ll be disappointed to learn is already taken; The Guess Who: see if you can pick out the date seeker from a group photo shot. Finally, there’s The Glamour Shot: a stunningly beautiful photo that makes you think the date seeker should be a model – it turns out, she is a model and some scammer has used her photo on a fake profile. A word of caution: if it looks too good to be true, Google Image Search the photo.

Avoid profiles that are too short. If the date seeker is continually answering essay questions with “ask me anything you want to know” or “we can talk about that later” it shows he/she has put less thought and effort into meeting you than into writing the weekly grocery list. At the other extreme, if the date seeker has indeed written a long grocery list of specific qualities, characteristics, or other requirements a prospective match must meet, then this person is too picky and shallow to become involved with.

Peruse other date seekers’ profiles to learn what they do right, and more importantly, what they do wrong. I found three examples on one site in the first five minutes, this morning. In response to the question “What are you doing with your life?” she wrote: “Studying hard to become a charter accountant.” Obviously, she wasn't studying hard enough, because if she had been, she would've known her chosen occupation was a chartered accountant. If you’re too stupid to know what you are studying to become (or worse, so careless that you don’t check what you've written before you post it … not a good idea, by the way, for detail-oriented professions like accounting), then you’re not dating material (and I certainly don’t want you doing my taxes, either).

The second profile I saw today featured a chubby girl in a string bikini. Now, health concerns aside, there’s nothing wrong with a potential match being a bit overweight. We can’t all look like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. But when marketing yourself, you should always lead with your strongest features, not highlight your weakest attributes.

The third profile began – and ended –  by stating the woman was “Not interested in casual sex”. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being upfront about what you are, or are not, looking for in a relationship. But don’t send mixed messages by labeling the same profile with the username “Cutie2PlayWith”.

Remember, online dating is all about marketing yourself. You are the promoter, as well as the product. Prospective daters will assume whatever image your profile conveys is the image of yourself that you've carefully chosen to present. While the zombie costume may have won raves at a Halloween party, it’s not a good choice for your dating profile photo. Your rant about your ex might be justified, but is your dating profile the right place for it… is that the first thing you want a potential date to read?

Successful marketing begins with truth in advertising. Don’t lie or mislead. Be upfront about your weaknesses, but lead with your strengths. Put the time and effort into writing a profile that shows that you think finding the right relationship is important. And if all else fails, at least you can still buy shoes and toothpaste on the Internet.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Love Potion No. 9

Love spells on eBay? Going once, going twice, sold. Apparently there is nothing that can’t be purchased on the Internet. Although the auction site banned the sale of spells and hexes in September 2012 –  at which time, CNN reported eBay’s Spells and Potions category had “more than 6,000 active listings and happy feedback from quite a few satisfied buyers”  – a quick check of auction listings reveals there are still plenty of spells to bid on.

There’s the “Full E-mail Love Spell” for only $9.99 (free shipping!). You may want to hurry though; with Valentine’s Day approaching, there are only three spells left from this seller.

If you haven’t found your true love yet, you can always purchase a Soulmate Spell for a mere $10. The Soulmate Spell comes with the following warranties: “Will not interfere with any existing spells or work done by other spellcasters. My spells are completely safe and will not backfire or cause any harm. This spell is permanent and will not fade over time.”

Of course, if your intended is proving resistant to your natural charms, you may have to resort to “The Most Powerful Black Magick Love Spell”  At $36.99, it might seem a bit pricey, but it does come with this guarantee: “If you do not see results in 60 days from when your spell was cast and are not completely satisfied please email me and I will perform a new spell service free of charge.” Even more reassuring, in the fine print of the eBay auction details, the seller assures us that the love spell does not involve the sacrifice of animals.

If things go really well for you on this Valentine’s Day, you may wish to purchase the “Fertility Conception Pregnancy Spell” for only $1.75. Presumably, this spell would require some physical effort on your part, which you may enjoy repeating as necessary.

Of course, the flip side of love is hate. Need a voodoo doll? Where else, but eBay? (Pins not included; batteries extra). The seller states: “This order is for the voodoo ritual service only. We do NOT send out any physical item. We have hired a traditional Haitian Voodoo priest named Houngan Louidor, who is in charge of magic rituals and is a link between humans and the Voodoo spirits, also known as Loas.” The scary thing is, that of the three available, two have already been sold.

But when simple incantations are not enough, eBay will still help you find the right hex to put the whammy on someone. What could be more appropriate than the “Total Vengeance Black Magic Spell Book”?  Granted, at a mere 48 pages, it’s hardly an arcane tome, but it features some sure-fire winners, such as the General Turmoil Spell, the Enemy Affliction Spell, and instructions on how to create an “Enemy Doll”. I can tell it’s user-friendly because it comes with an  Easy Hexing Spell, and I’m already composing a list of victims for the 6-Day “Shut Up” Spell.

Of course, returns could be problematic.

     Dear eBay:
     I am writing to request a return authorization for a spell I purchased on eBay last week. The incantation was supposed to turn my ex into a horny toad. Instead, it just made him horny and now he is humping every girl in town except me!
     Sincerely yours,
            Witch Hazel
             666 Devil's Lane
             Salem, MA

Perhaps for this Valentine’s Day, you’d be better off doing your bewitching with flowers and candy.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

One Vertebrae at a Time

To quote the late author Harlan Ellison: “If you put your hand in my pocket, you’ll drag back six inches of bloody stump.” Harlan was referring to individuals stealing his copyrighted work product for their own financial gain and literally taking grocery money out of his mouth. Harlan, an acquaintance I greatly admired both as a man and as a writer, was a far nicer person than I am. Steal from me and I'll thrust my arm up your ass, rip out your spinal cord, and feed it to you one vertebrae at a time. Gleefully.

Let me clarify: I'm not directing this at my fans who enjoy and support my work. Unlike many authors, I've been supportive of fans of my work, often inviting them to participate in fan fiction projects, wikis, charity projects (like Careywood), performances of my stories as plays, and other fan projects with my characters so long as they are not produced for sale or presenting my work in a harmful or defamatory light. This post is directed at scammers and crooks, intellectual property thieves who steal an author's copyrighted work and sell it without permission and keep the money that should have gone to the creator. That's probably not you; but it happens a lot!

So-called respectable sites like Daily Motion, Linked-In, and YouTube are havens for book pirates who post videos and associated links offering free copies of my books for download. Almost all of them do not have copies of any of my books. When you click the link you are taken to a succession of websites -- sometimes as many as eight consecutive links -- until you come to a signup page asking for your name, address, email, and credit card information. Yes, you need to sign up to get your free downloaded stolen book. When you click the form, two things happen: (1) the site (usually owned by a disguised overseas entity which is why it took you eight clicks to get to the landing page) gets your credit card information (your credit card will now end up on a list for sale on the Dark Web); and (2) a trojan will secretly be downloaded onto your computer. That's right: spyware, like a keystroke logger recording you type in your bank and brokerage accounts and passwords. Sometimes, it will even place ransomware on your computer and lock you out of your files. What do you get in return? A two-page PDF ad for the book you could have download for free from the Amber Book Company website.

For example, in September 2018, LinkedIn was sent a DMCA Takedown notice citing no fewer than 1,008 specific instances of copyright infringement on its site in merely one week (the letter was 98 pages long)! Daily Motion, based in France, had so many violations I had to learn enough French just to keep up with all the correspondence. Google responds quickly but is inundated by offenders.

Then there are the sites that are pure thieves. They pirate (steal) authors' books and sell them on their own websites ... without paying the author. This past week I found several of my novels listed for sale on -- except neither my publisher nor my distributors have any sales agreements with them, and I've received no royalties. I contacted one of my distributors who told me: "KissLibrary is not a vendor we are affiliated with. If you see your title on their service, we would recommend issuing a DMCA takedown, as that platform has been known to host illegally hosted titles." KissLibrary lists its offices (right down to a Google map on its website) as being in Calgary, Canada, but a bit of research shows it's really located in Belarus (formerly White Russia, part of the Soviet Union) and now a haven of cyber fraud. A Google search confirmed numerous complaints of KissLibrary hosting pirated books. Fortunately, I have friends in Belarus (and many other parts of the world, having led a long and at times unsavory life). The KissLibrary site is now offline and there is no information on the fate of the thieves behind it. I have no idea what may have happened to them... that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

One vertebrae at a time.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019


The author and publisher will sue any and all copyright infringers. We have done so successfully in the past and will continue to do so. BE WARNED.  Compliance with a DMCA Takedown Notice may or may not be sufficient to protect your assets from a lawsuit.


Wednesday, February 06, 2019

To: Internet Archive

Subject: DMCA Takedown Notice

To Whom It May Concern:

Please be advised of the following information that may inform you of the severe legal jeopardy in which you are apparently unaware you are in. Many laymen, and even some attorneys who do not specialize in Internet law, believe the DMCA safe harbor provisions insulate them from legal liability for copyright violation in all instances. They are wrong— and that mistaken belief has cost their clients hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in penalties and subsequent legal fees and costs. There are exceptions to the conventional wisdom that paying lip service to certain aspects of the DMCA safe harbor provisions will immunize them from prosecution for copyright violation. I speak from expertise in this field as an attorney who has never lost a case since 1987 and as an acknowledged expert in internet law who literally wrote the book on the subject that is now used as a textbook in colleges, universities, and law schools on four continents.

The DMCA safe harbor provisions offer a defense to a charge of copyright infringement when third parties post infringing material on a website, and such infringing material is removed in a timely manner by the website owner upon notification of the infringement. Note, the DMCA provides no protection for infringing material posted on a website by the website owner or one in control of said website rather than by third-party users, as is the case in this situation. Your own description, to wit:

“Under this program, The Internet Archive and physical library partners make available e-copies of books scanned from the physical books that we own. The e-copies may be borrowed for two weeks, after which access to the user is disabled and the copy frees up for another patron to borrow.”

is a textbook example of copyright infringement in violation of the US Copyright Act of 1976 and is totally unprotected by the aforementioned safe harbor provisions of the DMCA for several reasons, including the one mentioned above. Specifically, you admit (1) the infringing material is posted by the Internet archive itself and physical library partners, and not by third-party users. (2) Under the laws of partnership, The Internet Archive is legally liable for the illegal acts, i.e., copyright infringement, of any of its proclaimed and named partners, just as these partners are equally liable for any infringement perpetrated by The Internet Archive. (3) You admit that you “make available e- copies of books scanned from physical books that we own.” The active scanning copyrighted print books is a violation of the exclusive right of copying granted the copyright holder under the 1976 US Copyright Act. Furthermore, the active “making available”, i.e., distribution of the infringing material is an additional violation of the exclusive right of distribution granted the copyright holder under the 1976 US Copyright Act. Your admission that “The e-copies may be borrowed for two weeks, after which access to the user is disabled and the copy frees up for another patron to borrow.” is further evidence of the violation of the exclusive right of distribution granted the copyright holder under the 1976 US Copyright Act and also serves to illegally deprive said copyright holder of sales of said lawfully copyrighted work which you are either selling for your own pecuniary gain or distributing free of charge to individuals who would otherwise be required to compensate the copyright holder pecuniarily as foreseen and required by the federal copyright laws which you are in violation of.

You admit that you are producing “e-copies of books scanned from the physical books that we own.” First, our statutory copyright encompass a bundle of rights that include the rights to produce both print books and electronic books of the copyrighted material. By illegally reproducing our copyrighted material from a print format to an electronic format, you are infringing on both of these protected exclusive rights contained within our copyright. Furthermore, you state these are books you own. Let us be perfectly clear: while you may own an individual copy of a physical book under the First Sale doctrine, you do not in any way shape or form have any claim or ownership in the copyrighted content of said book. You do not own the copyrighted material and it is illegal infringement on your part to copy, distribute, or sell said protected material.

Your protestations that you are a registered charity and nonprofit library, or that you make such violations available to the public on a “limited basis” have no legal bearing other than to establish your guilt in copyright infringement. Furthermore, your statement that “we have made a good faith effort to disable lending access to any e-book instances of the identified works or items on our sites, and” Is nothing more than a disingenuous lie: as of the writing of this letter, the infringing material remains available on your site for download in violation of our copyright. Your further statement  “As mentioned above, we have disabled lending access in this instance as a courtesy.” Is equally disingenuous and equally untrue, as lending access as of this writing has not been disabled and the infringing material is still available for download in the copyright violation continues.

You further write “We seek to be respectful to creators and operate within the traditional norms and functions of libraries.” This too, is disingenuous and yet another lie. The traditional norms and functions of libraries are to order copies of our publications through distributors such as Baker and Taylor, Ingram, Coutts, and many other fine wholesalers. When necessary, we have also worked directly with libraries, as well as schools internationally, and even providing specially adapted versions for disabled students. Your actions, which are in total violation of copyright law including the DMCA are in no way operating within the traditional norms and functions of libraries. Note under  17 U.S. Code §1201 (d) the library exemption is not applicable in this case and under subsection  (3) A nonprofit library, archives, or educational institution that willfully for the purpose of commercial advantage or financial gain violates paragraph (1)— (A) shall, for the first offense, be subject to the civil remedies under section 1203; and (B) shall, for repeated or subsequent offenses, in addition to the civil remedies under section 1203, forfeit the exemption provided under paragraph (1).

Nor does the DMCA safe harbor provide protection for  persons circumventing a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under the DMCA, such as by electronic conversion of a print book to an ebook through digital means. 17 U.S. Code §1201.

You close by stating “We understand that some may view this program differently than we do and appreciate your contacting us.” As you undoubtedly surmise, we certainly do view this program differently. It is nothing more than a blatant attempt at copyright infringement and we intend to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law; rest assured, we are experienced in these matters and have the time and financial resources required to pursue this matter to a satisfactory conclusion. We reserve the option to conduct further investigation to determine if this is a wide-ranging abuse of copyright laws that may lend itself to later certification as a class action lawsuit. While removing the infringing content may mitigate further damages it will not absolve you of liability for your ongoing infringement to this point. You may have your legal representative contact me directly or you may wait until you receive service of process once the complaint has been filed in Federal Court.


Keith B. Darrell, Attorney-at-Law
Amber Book Company LLC