Chuck Wendig has posted an update about the Clean Reader app fracas.

I, personally, have written the company and requested removal of any of my books that might be in their system. I also alerted my publisher, who will be looking into it, making sure none of our books are included in the app, and taking action if they are.

Another troubling point Chuck makes is that one of his books is available for sale within the app that’s not even LEGALLY available for sale. So where are these books coming from? Obviously, through in-app purchases, as a quick look at the app’s page will show. The app is free, so they’re making their money selling the e-books.

The question is, WHERE are they getting them? That is a copyright infringement issue, right there, despite what the makers claim, if they are acting as an unauthorized middle-man, reselling the e-books. And since I didn’t authorize the app to “display” my file in a way different than the original way it was written, it’s also an unauthorized use of my content in a way I didn’t approve of. While the issue of blanking out words is troubling, even worse is how in certain settings, it can substitute other words. THAT is modifying my material and how it’s displayed.

Some people have defended the app, saying, “Oh, it’s like music on the radio and shows and movies on TV where they bleep or change stuff.” No, it’s not. That’s an FCC legal issue, where certain words are not allowed on public broadcast. (Remember the George Carlin forbidden words list? That.) Stations can be fined if they allow those things to be broadcast over the air and it’s not a paid subscription channel. (Which is why if you try to watch The Walking Dead in syndication on “public” channels that aren’t AMC, you get a different viewing experience.) Also, those are APPROVED modifications to the works.

Key issue there–the rights holders have APPROVED of those modifications.

It’s also different for print books. Yes, someone can go through a print book they’ve purchased and do whatever they want to it. They couldn’t reproduce their changes and resell them. Clean Reader claims not to modify the original file, but how they’re getting the book the customer purchased to the customer and making the display changes is still uncertain and troubling. This isn’t going to a museum and holding up a hand so you can’t see boobies on a painting. This is the equivalent of going to the museum and draping a towel around the waist of the statue of David.

The makers of this app have also blogged comparing it to ordering a salad.

BOOKS ARE NOT SALADS. You can order your salad made the way YOU want it made. Some restaurants don’t allow substitutions or changes, some do. If you want to hire an author to write a “clean” book for you, knock yourself out.

It’s even more disturbing that by making the salad-book comparison, it shows how little the makers of this app really understand publishing. Very disturbing.

Also, Page Foundry, who puts out the app? They also put out an app for romance books.

Can you say “hypocritical?”

I knew you could.

And again, I want to know how they’re obtaining those books, too. They’re in-app purchases.

Why would ANYONE use a third-party app to make book purchases, when you can purchase directly from Kindle, Nook, Kobo, oh, the PUBLISHERS, etc.

Smashwords (kudos to them) has taken the step of making sure all of their books are excluded from the app. (Yay!)

Also, it’s disturbing that many of the words “caught” by this app are body parts. Great way to teach kids lots of shame over stuff. And if the alternate word display option is used, it frequently renders the text in such a garbled way it doesn’t even make sense.

Again, NOT an approved use of an author’s works, to display it in a modified way that wasn’t approved of first. It doesn’t matter if the source file was modified or not, the modified display is NOT approved. Also, if the app is a middleman changing the way the file is displayed, again, there is a potential copyright issue there because if authors didn’t authorize this middleman to even sell the file in the first place, how do we even know legal copies (as Chuck Wendig discovered) are being served?

So, writer beware, make sure your works aren’t included, and if they are, make sure you’ve been properly paid royalties for the sales made. (I wouldn’t be shocked to see a sudden slew of audit requests from publishing companies and self-pubbed authors to verify the numbers.)

Clean Reader app update
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