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Shutting down Mormon Texts Project

I know it was just a month ago that I was getting MTP going again, but I’ve found that I can’t run both Mormon Artist and Mormon Texts Project at the same time. (Which should be no big surprise, since MTP’s death rattle has been shaking for over a year now.)

So, no more MTP books. I’m sorry. If someone wants to take over the project, I’d love that, and I’m more than happy to pass on what I’ve learned and help get other people going with something like this.

My DMCA takedown request experience

FYI, I’m posting this in case other people publishing public domain ebook editions get similar notices.

Tuesday night around 8:30 I got this email (I’ve removed the contact info):

Subject: This is a verified DMCA Removal Request from Attributor

*** Sent via Email - DMCA Notice of Copyright Infringement ***

Dear Sir/Madam,

I certify under penalty of perjury, that I am an agent authorized
to act on behalf of the owner of the intellectual property rights
and that the information contained in this notice is accurate.

I have a good faith belief that the page or material listed below
is not authorized by law for use by the individual(s) associated
with the identified page listed below or their agents and
therefore infringes the copyright owner's rights.

I HEREBY DEMAND THAT YOU ACT EXPEDITIOUSLY TO REMOVE OR DISABLE
ACCESS TO THE PAGE OR MATERIAL CLAIMED TO BE INFRINGING.

This notice is sent pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright
Act (DMCA), the European Union's Directive on the Harmonisation
of Certain Aspects of Copyright and Related Rights in the
Information Society (2001/29/EC), and/or other laws and
regulations relevant in European Union member states or other
jurisdictions.

My contact information is as follows:

Organization name: Attributor Corporation as agent for Rights
Holders listed below
Email: ...
Phone: ...
Mailing address: ...

My electronic signature follows:
Sincerely,
/Eraj Siddiqui/
Eraj Siddiqui
Attributor, Inc.


*** INFRINGING PAGE OR MATERIAL ***

Infringing page/material that I demand be disabled or removed in
consideration of the above:

Rights Holder: Deseret Book

Original Work: Life of Heber C. Kimball
Infringing URL: http://bencrowder.net/downloads/mtp/LifeOfHeberCKimball.epub
Infringing URL: http://bencrowder.net/downloads/mtp/LifeOfHeberCKimball.mobi

Initial reaction: Oh crap. They’re going to force my hosting provider to take down my websites. And there may or may not be some maximum security prison involved. Also, is this a scam? It does look like one, but why on earth would they pretend to be an agent for Deseret Book?

Then it got more confusing, because Life of Heber C. Kimball was originally published in 1888 and is unequivocally in the public domain (all U.S. copyrights before 1923 have expired). I did some quick research to make sure I wasn’t misunderstanding the law, and it was clear: Life of HCK was in the public domain.

So why was Deseret Book pretending to be the rights holder for something in the public domain? Seemed evil and greedy.

I responded to Eraj’s email explaining that there must have been a misunderstanding. I also dug up contact info for Deseret Book’s intellectual property person and emailed her as well. And I forwarded the takedown notice to Linode, letting them know that it was a false accusation and that I was working with DB and Attributor to clear things up, in case Attributor sent the same notice to Linode. (I’ve heard horror stories.)

Yesterday morning, I hadn’t heard back from Eraj or the DB person (understandably), so I found the DB person’s number online and called her. Apparently Deseret Book sends a list of titles to Attributor, who then checks for those titles online (title meaning the text “Life of Heber C. Kimball”) and sends out takedown notices when they find a match. The reason Life of HCK was on the list is that Deseret Book has reprinted it with additional material (images, etc.) that is copyrighted by them.

Anyway, the DB person said this is the first time this has happened (presumably because there aren’t really a lot of people making ebooks of old Mormon texts). She apologized for Attributor’s error and told them to stand down. Later in the day I got the following email from Attributor:

After further review of the matter, we would like to rescind the take down notice which was sent for the title and link in question. We have included a full retraction notice which follows.

*** Sent via Email – Retraction of DMCA Notice of Copyright
Infringement ***

Dear Sir/Madam,

I would hereby like to rescind my take down request for the
content described below. My contact information is as follows:

Organization name: Attributor Corporation as agent for Rights
Holders listed below
Email: ...
Phone: ...
Mailing address: ...

My electronic signature follows:
Sincerely,
/Eraj Siddiqui/
Eraj Siddiqui
Attributor, Inc.

Original Work: Life of Heber C. Kimball
Retracted URL: http://bencrowder.net/downloads/mtp/LifeOfHeberCKimball.epub
Retracted URL: http://bencrowder.net/downloads/mtp/LifeOfHeberCKimball.mobi

Phew.

So, Deseret Book is not in fact claiming ownership of the public domain. And the Deseret Book person was nice and apologetic and asked for feedback on my experience and how they could make things better. I made the following recommendations:

  • For the public domain reprints that Deseret Book does, have a human check the supposedly infringing content first before they send out a takedown notice.
  • For titles in the public domain, where there’s more likelihood of a false positive, have someone at Deseret Book email the person first.
  • Add a line to the takedown request saying something like, “If you feel you are not in fact infringing, here’s the name and number of the person at Deseret Book you can talk to.”

Overall: scary at first but turned out not to be a horror story after all. Hurrah for reasonable people.

Update on Mormon Texts Project

So … I’ve been very much a slacker in this department. In spite of my negligence, though, there still seems to be interest in these books, so I’m planning to get things going again.

Where I left off

Voz de Amonestacion (the Spanish translation of Parley P. Pratt’s A Voice of Warning) is proofed and I have it formatted in EPUB. All it needs is a final spellcheck, actually. But I’ve been putting it off and putting it off because I don’t know enough Spanish to do it well. But maybe I’ll just release it as a pre-release “alpha” edition and let readers send in typo fixes… (The thing with that, though, is that nobody ever actually sends in typo fixes. And then the book remains full of typos.)

I also need to finish formatting John Taylor’s The Government of God. There’s still a lot of proofing left to be done on Daniel W. Jones’s Forty Years Among the Indians. And in the EPUB/Kindle conversion backlog there are three books left: A Voice of Warning, Succession in the Presidency, and A Rational Theology.

Going forward

Before, I somewhat arbitrarily chose the books we published, but this time round I’d like to focus more on reader demand.

To that end, here’s a list of books I’ve thought about doing for MTP. If you have a preference, leave a comment listing the books you’d most like to see us do. Write-ins are welcome as always. (And sheesh, when did I turn into a total pollster? Positively shameful.) In alphabetical order:

  • A New Witness for God, by B. H. Roberts, published 1895
  • A Series of Pamphlets on Doctrines of the Gospel, by Orson Pratt, published 1884
  • Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow, by Eliza R. Snow, published 1884
  • Cowley’s Talks on Doctrine, by Matthias F. Cowley, published 1902
  • Late Persecutions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: With a Sketch of Their Rise, Progress and Doctrine, by Parley P. Pratt, published 1840
  • Leaves from My Journal, by Wilford Woodruff, published 1882
  • Outlines of Ecclesiastical History, by B. H. Roberts, published 1893
  • Popular History of Utah, by Orson F. Whitney, published 1916
  • Prophecies of Joseph Smith and Their Fulfillment, by Nephi Lowell Morris, published 1920
  • Saturday Night Thoughts, by Orson F. Whitney, published 1921
  • The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, by Parley P. Pratt (go figure), published 1874
  • The Bible and Polygamy, by Orson Pratt, published 1892
  • The Blood of the Prophets: Biographical Sketches, by Matthias F. Cowley, published 1902
  • The Gospel: An Exposition of Its First Principles, by B. H. Roberts, published 1888
  • The House of the Lord: A Study of Holy Sanctuaries, Ancient and Modern, by James E. Talmage, published 1912
  • The Latter-day Prophet: History of Joseph Smith Written for Young People, by George Q. Cannon, published 1900
  • The Life of John Taylor, by B. H. Roberts, published 1892
  • The Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet, by George Q. Cannon, published 1888
  • The Missouri Persecutions, by B. H. Roberts, published 1900
  • The Mormon Battalion, by B. H. Roberts, published 1919
  • The Mormon Doctrine of Deity, by B. H. Roberts, published 1903
  • The Philosophy of Mormonism, by James E. Talmage, published 1914
  • The Rise and Fall of Nauvoo, by B. H. Roberts, published 1900
  • The Vitality of Mormonism, by James E. Talmage, published 1919
  • The Strength of the “Mormon” Position, by Orson F. Whitney, published 1917
  • Wilford Woodruff: History of His Life, by Matthias F. Cowley, published 1909
  • Women of Mormondom, by Edward Tullidge, published 1877

For write-ins: as you can probably tell from that list, I’m mostly interested in doing historical and doctrinal books, not so much fiction and poetry (at least right now). Books needs to published before 1923 so they’re out of copyright. And this may go without saying, but I’m not interested in doing anti-Mormon books.

Essentials in Church History

Joseph Fielding Smith’s 1922 book Essentials in Church History is now available in EPUB and Kindle. It’s a long book, which is part of the reason it’s taken so long. But it’s quite good and I think you’ll enjoy it.

A side announcement: starting now, all new MTP releases will use Kindle Format 8 (KF8) instead of the original Kindle Mobipocket format. (Older Kindles will still be able to read the books, but they won’t look as nice.) The reason for the switch is primarily economy of time — KF8 is very similar to EPUB and requires hardly any tweaks. The original Kindle format, on the other hand, is different enough that it takes a big chunk of time to make each Kindle edition. I’d rather spend that time releasing new books.

Joseph Smith the Prophet-Teacher EPUB/Kindle

B. H. Roberts’ discourse Joseph Smith the Prophet-Teacher is now available in EPUB, Kindle, and web editions.

Which leaves just six MTP books in our EPUB/Kindle backlog. We’re getting there… (At some point, by the way, I’m planning to also do EPUB/Kindle editions of Jesus the Christ, The Articles of Faith, and The Story of the Mormonism, using the existing Project Gutenberg texts as a base.)