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Thursday, November 24, 2022

WWW thoughts for the day




No, this is not an astrological blog; it is a review of VENUS RISING, the latest offering by the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

It features three contemporary ballets that simply celebrate the joy of dance and youth.  No deep messages about the troubling state of our planet, just perfect movement.

The first is AURUM, which features two of the principal dancers, pictured above, Sarah Garbowski, and Paul Matthews.  Paul retired recently after seventeen years with the company, and last night his replacement was the very well qualified British dancer, Damani Campbell Williams.

Choreographed by RNZB alumna, Alice Topp, and created for the Australian Ballet in 2018, Aurum is inspired the kintsugi, the Japanese art of healing cracks in porcelain by filling them with pure, molten gold. The lighting and set design were perfect for this imagery, absolutely brilliant.  The mirror effect was mesmerising, and the streaks of gold just wonderful.

The music was composed by Ludovico Einaudi. It's a name unfamiliar to me, but I find he is very popular, an Italian pianist who experiments with modern musical forms to create his own voice.  The score for this ballet with up there with the best of Philip Glass.  Wonderfully danceable, and the dancers gave their all for it.  Even if there had been just this one ballet, the evening would have been memorable.

The second ballet was THE AUTUMN BALL, which was commissioned by the Wanaka Festival of Colour, and choreographed by Sarah Foster-Sproull.  It premiered there in autumn 2021.  The theme is falling leaves, and the colours that come with the close of summer and the dawning of winter, and again the lighting design -- this time by Daniel Wilson -- was perfectly in sync.  The music was composed by Eden Mulholland, a local (Ngati Uepohatu) and very prolific composer for theatre and dance.

The third offering was WATERBABY BAGATELLES, choreographed by the illustrious Twyla Tharp, and which had its world premiere in April 1994 at the Wang Center, danced by the Boston Ballet. 

Spiced with a great deal of humour (which the dancers very obviously enjoyed) it is a lighthearted play on the fun enjoyed by boys and girls. Apart from being watery, there is no overriding theme, so it really a collection of images of young people having fun.  The music, which appears to have been composed by a whole bevy of names, is an equally moveable feast.  All good stuff, highly enjoyable.

It was a marvellous evening.  Go to the ballet.  You will not regret it.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Z-Library seized, Russian operators arrested


The Authors Guild makes a sensational -- and very satisfying -- announcement

New York (November 16, 2022): The Authors Guild, the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit advocacy group for published authors and journalists, welcomed news of the arrest and indictment of Russian nationals Anton Napolsky and Valeriia Ermakova for their role in operating the massive, notorious ebook piracy site Z-Library. The Z-Library network of domains was seized by the U.S. government and taken offline on November 3, 2022, the same day that its two principals, Napolsky and Ermakova, were arrested in Cordoba, Argentina, upon the request of the U.S. government. The pair faces charges of criminal copyright infringement, wire fraud, and money laundering. The court order was unsealed today.

“The arrest and indictment of Z-Library operators is one of the biggest breakthroughs in the fight against online criminal ebook piracy to date,” said Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild. “We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and to the FBI for all of their hard work in not only shutting down the site but also finding and apprehending the perpetrators. We also thank the U.K. Publishers Association and international authorities who assisted in the investigation, as well as the authors who assisted us by filing statements reporting piracy of their books on Z-Library.”

Z-Library, which had been operational since at least 2009, was perhaps the most visible and high-traffic ebook piracy site in the world, with some of its domains ranking among the top 10,000 most visited websites on the internet worldwide. The site claimed to host 8 million pirated ebooks and 84 million articles through a vast network of “mirrors,” or identical versions hosted on different servers, and had recently gained particular notoriety after trending on TikTok as a source for free ebooks. Substantial traffic to Z-Library domains originated from the United States.

Over the past year and a half, the Authors Guild worked with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI to assist their investigation and indictment of Z-Library principals. Among other things, the Authors Guild provided testimony and examples of substantial harm that Z-Library’s activities were causing working authors. The Authors Guild also alerted the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office (USTR) about the scope of Z-Library’s pirate activities in its comments in response to the USTR’s annual Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy.

“While we are heartened by the takedown and the resulting reduction in harm to authors,” Rasenberger continued, “we are not unsympathetic to the plight of those college and other students who have perhaps felt forced to resort to such illegal pirate websites and other free sources of textbooks to help them manage the extremely high cost of higher education. However, these students’ anger is misdirected. The exorbitant cost of education should not be borne by authors and publishers but by the universities, and it should not be used to justify reliance on foreign criminals for textbooks or to trivialize the immense personal and economic harm Z-Library was causing authors who are trying to make a living under increasingly difficult and hostile economic circumstances.”

The Authors Guild will continue to follow updates in this case.

About the Authors Guild

With more than 12,000 members, the Authors Guild is the nation’s oldest and largest professional organization for published writers. It advocates on behalf of working writers to protect free speech, freedom of expression and authors’ copyrights; fights for fair contracts and authors’ ability to earn a livable wage; and provides a welcoming community for writers and translators of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and journalism. Through its educational and charitable arm, the Authors Guild Foundation, it also offers free educational programming to empower authors in the business of writing, as well as organizing events that highlight the importance of a rich, diverse American literary culture and the authors that contribute to it. For more, visit

Friday, November 4, 2022

Merger of Penguin-Random and Simon & Schuster blocked


Authors Guild Celebrates Court’s Decision to Block Penguin Random House-Simon & Schuster Merger in DOJ’s Antitrust Suit

New York (Nov 1, 2022): The Authors Guild, the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit advocacy group for authors, celebrates the D.C. District Court’s decision to block the merger of Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster in an antitrust action initiated by the Department of Justice last November. In a summary order rendering her decision, U.S. District Court Judge Florence Pan wrote that the DOJ had successfully shown that “‘the effect of the proposed merger may be substantially to lessen competition’ in the market for the U.S. publishing rights to anticipated top-selling books.” The full order is under seal pending the parties’ redaction of confidential information.

“This decision is a major victory for authors,” said Authors Guild president Doug Preston. “This is the first time a court has recognized what authors and the Authors Guild have been arguing for decades: that consolidation among publishers hurts authors. It leaves authors with fewer potential buyers of their manuscripts, which restrains their power to negotiate advances and other terms.”  

If successful, the merger would have drastically cut competition in the publishing market. According to the economist Nicholas Hill, who testified as the DOJ’s expert witness during trial, the merged entity would have had a 49 percent market share, far greater than its next biggest competitor HarperCollins’ 22 percent. The Authors Guild has cautioned that this degree of market power concentration makes competitive bidding and auctions less likely and drives down what agents are able to negotiate in advances. Publishers also have a greater incentive to spend on book marketing when they must recoup a large advance, which has a substantial impact on visibility and authors’ earning potential.

The Authors Guild has opposed consolidation among publishers going back five decades to the 1970s. Over the decades the Authors Guild has issued reports and statements and testified before Congress in response to the growing trend of large publishers acquiring smaller firms. When the merger between PRH and S&S was announced in 2020, the Guild called for the Department of Justice’s antitrust intervention, pointing out that “the history of publishing consolidation has also taught us that authors are further hurt by such mergers due to editorial layoffs, canceling of contracts, a reduction in diversity among authors and ideas, a more conservative approach to risk-taking, and fewer imprints under which an author may publish.” The Guild voiced its support for the DOJ’s lawsuit and consulted with DOJ attorneys on the merger’s impact on authors. Many of our arguments to the DOJ were reflected in its complaint.

“The consolidation of publishers decreases the overall diversity—in the broadest sense—of books that get published,” stated Authors Guild CEO Mary Rasenberger. “As the DOJ recognized in its complaint, it means that fewer authors will be able to earn a living writing, which impacts their ability to write books. Moreover, every publisher has a unique personality, taste, and risk tolerance. The fewer publishers there are, the fewer ideas and voices are reflected in what gets published. We lose out on authors that present unusual or controversial ideas, those from overlooked and marginalized communities, and literary writers who challenge the status quo both in content and style.

“The decision is particularly exciting for us because it shows that the court understands that monopsonies—the concentration of power among one or a few large buyers—are as harmful to competition as monopolies where sellers control pricing,” Rasenberger continued. “This is particularly true where the suppliers are authors or other creators who have almost no ability to negotiate most terms of their contracts. And in the case of books, it is particularly important since books are so crucial to the exchange of ideas necessary to support democracy.”

The Authors Guild looks forward to reading the full order when published.