Censoring the Clean Reader App

The internet and social media is all a flutter with the newest tempest in a teapot, and it’s all thanks to the Clean Reader app.  In fact, on social media, there are writers and authors who are voicing their negative opinions of the app.

IMAGE 1So what exactly does the app do that has so many of these writers and authors in an uproar over it?  And is it really as dangerous and damaging as some writers and authors claim it is? Let’s look at what the app doesn’t do to better understand what it does do.

What does the app not do?

It doesn’t remove any words from a digital book.  In other words, it’s no different than when a store puts the X-rated magazines on the top shelf, wrapped in brown paper to keep minors from seeing certain things.  Just like the brown paper doesn’t change the magazine, the app doesn’t change the eBook file.

It doesn’t change any words in a book or replace them with alternatives just like the brown paper on an X-rated magazine doesn’t change any photographs in the magazine or replace them with alternatives such as cartoons or sketches.

It doesn’t censor any works or limit the user’s ability to read the book in the exact form provided by the author or publisher.  If it did, then there would be no option to turn the app on or off.

It doesn’t change the meaning of any phrases or text.  In other words, it’s a sort of digital thesaurus for readers of varying reading levels.

It doesn’t substitute a title if the original title has an objectionable (to others) word in it.

It doesn’t impose any features or restrictions on a reader outside of the ones that are already in place such as digital rights management (DRM) restrictions that are placed on the book by the author or publisher.

What do some writers and authors claim the app does?

There are writers and authors who insist that the app — which no one is being forced to buy or use — is censorship, illegal, and infringes on copyright.

IMAGE 3There is nothing illegal about the app otherwise it wouldn’t be available for purchase via major download portals.  Apps are vetted before they are approved for sale.

It doesn’t infringe on copyright any more than a musician performing his or her version of someone else’s song would infringe on the songwriter and publisher’s copyrights.

This isn’t censorship by the app developers as the purchaser of the app determines if he or she wishes to have the app on, and whether they want to read a clean version, a cleaner version, a squeaky clean version, or the version with objectionable words.

How are the settings defined?

The clean setting blocks major swear words from display … words such as the F-bomb.  In other words, the most common objectionable words are blocked by the reader on this setting.  The cleaner setting blocks everything the clean setting blocks, plus a few more words.  And the squeaky clean setting blocks objectionable words, profanity, and racially offensive terms.

Who defines what the app will block?

Readers define what the app blocks.  In fact, on the app website, if the word a reader objects to can be viewed on the squeaky clean setting, the reader is encouraged to submit that word, term, or phrase for consideration.

So why are some writers and authors objecting to this app?

There are undoubtedly as many reasons as there are writers and authors who object to the app.

So why is this app even available?

There are many reasons however the one reason that I believe is one of the top reasons is because children, having been raised with technology since day one, are very adept at accessing technology … even technology they shouldn’t be accessing.

Just like responsible adults store mature items meant only for adults in hiding places around their homes rather than displaying them on their livingroom coffee tables, this app keeps little eyes from accessing words, terms, and phrases that aren’t meant for their eyes.

They’re minors.  It’s our responsibility as adults to ensure that they aren’t introduced to certain things too early in life.  It’s our job to make sure that they enjoy their childhood without having the adult world of mature themes encroach on it.

Some will say that it’s poor parenting to keep such words, terms, and phrases away from children, and if they want to raise their children that way, it’s their prerogative.

However, there are parents who would like their children to understand that there’s a time and a place for everything, including the use of objectionable, obscene or profane words.  And they want their children to understand that there’s never a time or a place for a racial slur.

A good reader can derive meaning from content with or without objectionable, obscene, or profane words.  A good author can write a story that provides good content and entertainment even when objectionable, obscene, profane, and racially charged words are removed.

Final word

If you as a reader, or you as a writer or author, don’t want to use the Clean App, don’t use it.  Don’t submit, or have your publisher submit, your book for consideration by the Clean App developers.

Just because you don’t see the value in the app doesn’t mean others shouldn’t have the opportunity to buy and use the app on their digital devices.

Elyse Bruce

SUGGESTED READING

New App Lets You Read Your Favorite Novels — Without The Swearing
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/03/12/new-app-lets-you-read-your-favorite-novels-without-the-swearing/#

This Freaking App Can Sanitize The [Heck] Out Of Any Book
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/style-blog/wp/2015/03/06/this-freaking-app-can-sanitize-the-heck-out-of-any-book/

Clean Reader App Lets You Clean Up — Or Water Down? — Your eBooks
http://news.yahoo.com/clean-reader-app-lets-clean-water-down-e-123543558.html

Joanne Harris Condemns Clean Reader App For Replacing Swear Words In Novels
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebritynews/11492003/Joanne-Harris-condemns-Clean-Reader-app-for-replacing-swear-words-in-novels.html

An email from Clean Reader
http://joannechocolat.tumblr.com/post/114572318791/an-e-mail-from-clean-reader

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6 Responses to “Censoring the Clean Reader App”

  1. Donya Lynne Says:

    “Don’t submit, or have your publisher submit, your book for consideration by the Clean App developers.”

    That sentence right there. That’s a huge reason why so many authors got upset about this app. Because authors weren’t given a choice. Neither publishers nor authors were asked if they wanted their books on the app. Clean Reader’s contracts were in place with DISTRIBUTORS, not publishers. And while authors/publishers also have contracts in place with those same distributors, their contracts did not extend beyond that distributor or stipulate that an app like Clean Reader could automatically include their books in their store and, yes, censor them. That’s the whole purpose of the app. To censor certain words into predefined words deemed acceptable by the CREATORS of that app, not the users themselves.

    What Clean Reader did (past tense, because they’ve since had their library shut down by those same distributors they had contracts in place with) was not considered illegal in the U.S., but could have violated other countries’ copyright laws, since copyright laws in other countries protect against derivative works, whereas the U.S. copyright laws don’t (which I think needs to change).

    And about this sentence: “It doesn’t infringe on copyright any more than a musician performing his or her version of someone else’s song would infringe on the songwriter and publisher’s copyrights.” I think you need to research your copyright law. Anyone who perform’s or reinterprets another artist’s work does, in fact, require the original artist’s permission (license/licence) before doing so. Why should authors’ rights be any different? See: http://www.artslaw.com.au/legal/raw-law/legal-information-for-musicians/ .

    As with musicians, authors have what are called moral rights. And moral rights state: An artist has the moral right to “protect yourself if your music or song [or book] is treated in any way that hurts your reputation.” Example: My books were on Clean Reader’s app. My audience is not the Clean Reader audience. It’s not the audience I write my books for. I was not asked if my books could be listed on the app, or I would have said no. Why? Because their audience would “freaking flip out” over my content, which is extremely erotic and delves into homosexuality as an acceptable sexual preference. The app could block all the profanity, but my content would still be there. And a Christian audience (which I understand Clean Reader’s audience was primarily made up of) would crucify me for the content I write. A lot of the authors whose books were on their app write such content. By putting their work on such an app, it opened those authors up to receiving bad reviews (damaging reputation), thus impacting their ability to attract the audience they DO write for.

    But really, all this comes down to the fact that authors and publishers were not given a choice in whether or not to have their books included on the app. Authors are not commodities to be tossed around as anyone sees fit. Their books are not commodities to be toyed with without the author’s consent. Authors deserve to be respected and included in decisions that affect them and their books. Hopefully, the Maughans know this now and will proceed with the 2nd generation of their app with a greater sense of responsibility toward not only themselves but to authors and publishers, as well.

    I wish them well in their endeavors and hope everyone has learned valuable lessons from this situation.

    Thank you,

    Donya Lynne

    • Elyse Bruce Says:

      Thank you for your comments.

      First, I would like to address you misrepresentation of what a derivative work is and is not. The Clean Reader app did not create a derivative work anymore than a brown paper wrapper around an X-rated magazine creates a derivative work of either the magazine or the photographs.

      As for your comments about an artist performing their version of another person’s music, they do not need a license. The venue pays for a license from the performing rights organization in their country and that covers remuneration of any cover songs that are interpreted by other artists in their venues. Likewise, authors were receiving proper remuneration from the sale of books regardless of whether the Clean Reader app was in place or not.

      As for the app potentially damaging any author’s reputation by virtue of offering the option of screening certain words, terms, phrases, and racial slurs out of the manuscript, that is your personal interpretation based on your fears.

      Back in the early 1980s, Gary Lee and Showdown had a hit song with “The Rodeo Song.” It was a foot-tapping song that tore up the charts and garnered the band a number of appearances from rodeos to large venues to downtown outdoor malls to bars and taverns, and pretty much everything in between. The song had loads of what was considered to be common offensive words.

      Radio stations beeped out every single one of those words when they played the song on the radio and at on-site events (which means there were a mess of beeps throughout the song). When the band performed where little ears might hear, the band members themselves put in the beeps where the common offensive words fell. Of course, in adults only locations, ALL the words were included and performed just as the songwriter had written them.

      No one suffered any damage to their reputation — not the songwriter, not the publisher, not the record company, not the band, no one. To claim that the Clean Reader app might somehow damage an author’s reputation is a fear based concern with no basis to support such a claim.

      Again, thank you for taking the time to comment, Donya.

      • Donya Lynne Says:

        We’re just going to have to agree to disagree. You’re not going to change my mind, and I’m not going to change yours. But I expect anyone who wants to sell my book to respect my decisions as the author and creator of that book, which I see you completely ignored in your response to me. You said in your original post that if we don’t want our works available to the Clean Reader app that we shouldn’t submit them or make them available to that app, to which I said, “That’s a huge reason why so many authors got upset about this app. Because authors weren’t given a choice. Neither publishers nor authors were asked if they wanted their books on the app. Clean Reader’s contracts were in place with DISTRIBUTORS, not publishers. And while authors/publishers also have contracts in place with those same distributors, their contracts did not extend beyond that distributor or stipulate that an app like Clean Reader could automatically include their books in their store and, yes, censor them.”

        But, as I’m finding with all of you who support this app, you completely ignored that and vilified me for secondary comments I made instead of acknowledging that you were wrong in your assessment of how books were loaded on the app.

        Have a good day.

      • Elyse Bruce Says:

        This in response to Donya Lynne’s second comment to this blog article.

        Comment from Donya Lynne: “But, as I’m finding with all of you who support this app, you completely ignored that and vilified me for secondary comments I made instead of acknowledging that you were wrong in your assessment of how books were loaded on the app.”

        You were not vilified. The erroneous comments you made were addressed with factual information.

        Comment from Donya Lynne: “Clean Reader’s contracts were in place with DISTRIBUTORS, not publishers. And while authors/publishers also have contracts in place with those same distributors, their contracts did not extend beyond that distributor or stipulate that an app like Clean Reader could automatically include their books in their store …”

        Then your fight is with the distributors with whom you have contracted, and not with the creators of the Clean Reader app.

        To allege that your fight is with the Clean Reader app would be like X-rated magazines going after the makers of Kraft paper used to wrap their magazines.

        Comment by Donya Lynn: “That’s a huge reason why so many authors got upset about this app. Because authors weren’t given a choice. Neither publishers nor authors were asked if they wanted their books on the app.”

        There is no reason for authors or publishers to take their disagreement with what their distributors did beyond the distributors since that is where the problem lies, if indeed there is a problem.

        The eBooks were in no way altered by anyone other than those who chose to use the app which, again, is not censorship by the creators of the app.

        Obviously you did not understand my previous comments with regards to “The Rodeo Song” which was a situation similar to this with the exceptio being that it had to do with music instead of eBooks.

        I still strongly urge you to educate yourself on what constitutes a derivative work, and also suggest that you reconsider the personal attack against me where you falsely allege that my previous comments vilified you.

        Thank you again for your comments.

  2. Thomas D. Taylor Says:

    Most authors who understand the concept of this app don’t have a problem with it. I certainly don’t, and I view some of the objections to it as ones rooted in ignorance.

    We do not often see these authors who object to this app objecting to Kindle, which deletes spaces between copyright pages and the following page, pages between chapters, and eliminates pages altogether in favor of continuous scrolling. As poets and musicians use caesurae http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Ceasure in their writing, many authors such as myself like to use the spaces between chapters as punctuation, and we sometimes use mini-cliffhangers at the end of a particular page to make a book a literal “page-turner.” These effects are lost in the Kindle format.

    Using the logic of the anti-app people, we should insist that Kindle, as well as Smashwords, and other venues shut down, as they are fundamentally changing the nature of compositions.

    Except these venues haven’t altered anything, although interestingly, they also reserve the right to REJECT submissions based upon content that may be vulgar, illegal, or deemed to be “junk” books (e.g. public domain books that have been minimally annotated and then resold).

    But I have yet to meet an author who has a problem with these alterations, because, in essence, no alteration has taken place. The “caesurae” show up as a line break, the “mini-cliffhangers” exist within the context of the story, and it is a relief for readers (I am told) to breeze past the copyright pages and get right to the story.

    We do not often see these authors who object to this app objecting to translations. There are sure to be mis-translations in any literary work given the many differences between languages.

    We do not often see these authors who object to this app objecting to movies and motion picture media, which often delete whole scenes and/or insert content that never existed in the original writing, often without author consent.

    No, it is only this app, which simply obscures words (instead of removing them, mis-translating them, or altering them) that some authors are objecting to.

    To which I say, keep your work from being accessed by the Clean Reader App if you’re so concerned about it. Put a clause in your contract which states that any right of a publisher or distributor to submit your work to the Clean Reader App is held by you and rescinded to others. Carefully review your contracts before signing them to ensure that your work does not wind up there.

    Personally, if authors did this en-masse, it would increase my visibility among those customers who wish to read the types of works that I write and publish using the Clean Reader App…so I am all for self-censorship of the kind authors seem to want to practice with this app.

    P.S. I write horror, science fiction, mainstream fiction, and nonfiction. There is content in some of my books which would be objectionable to children, and to many adults.

  3. Lorie N. Davis Says:

    Forget “little ears and eyes!” I’m concerned about MY EARS AND EYES! I, a mature reader of many books per week, and a published author in my own right (Lorie H. Nicholes – Amazon) do not want to read disgusting words in books. They do NOT make my life a better, deeper or richer place. Running across an F-bomb or any other bomb is like inviting a visitor into my home, and having them suddenly defecate on my carpet. I may try to clean it out of the fibers, or purge it out of my mind, but the brown spot remains, however lightened. I wish I could know how profane a book is BEFORE I start it, because when I run across disgusting words, I chuck the book across the room with vast irritation — that’s the end for me! There are many great, modern authors who use little, no, or mild profanity in their novels (John Grisham, for one) and who have thriving readership because they write well and portray life honestly without resorting to crass vocabulary. Profanity does not make anyone a great, truthful, or “fresh” author. As Orson Scott Card told me once, “If you leave OUT the profanity, nobody will notice. Nobody will care.”


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