Monthly Archives: June 2012

A Room of One’s Own

Inspired by The Art of Manliness’s recent post on the libraries, studies, and writing rooms of 15 famous men, I decided to dig around on the internet and find some rooms that inspire me as a reader, agent, and attorney.  I’m currently on the hunt for a suitable office space but often find these spaces to be exorbitantly overpriced or too sterile.  For the past year I’ve had the pleasure of working at the beautiful SOHO offices of The New Press and around various coffeehouses, court libraries, and sometimes from *gasp* home.  My goal is to find a space that is near my home, quiet yet inspiring.  If only the landlord would let me paint the walls purple…

Here’s Virginia Woolf’s writing room off the garden, one of the many rooms she wrote in:


Photograph: Eamonn McCabe


This seems like an absolutely lovely space, albeit sometimes distracting with its large windows and proximity to the world outside.  Woolf was constantly being interrupted or distracted from the activity in the garden, the sounds of children from the school next door, or my personal favorite, from her husband Leonard sorting apples above the room.

A modern take on the room or rather, Manhattan duplex of one’s own, takes a cue from publishing maven and founder of Open Road media, Jane Friedman.  You have to visit the Wall Street Journal site to check out the video of her stunning duplex, filled with over 10,000 books– actual physical old-school books, not e-books (though I personally love e-books).  But here’s a picture of one of the walls of her place:


Photographs by Dustin Aksland for The Wall Street Journal


Friedman calls the functional tree-sculpture the Tree of Life and fills it with objects of personal importance.  When Friedman started Open Road, she actually had the business running out of her duplex (much like Toms shoes’ co-founder turned author Blake Mycoskie’s company, which ran out of his apartment in the early days).

Actually, if cost were not a factor, I think the most fantastic office in the world would be in a treehouse.  You’re up in the air, somewhat removed but then you’re part of the tree, which incidentally, reminds you of paper.  It’s at once very comfortable and grounding.  There’s really something beautiful to be so close to nature.  I think a lot of modern offices and homes and spaces are taking a cue to that and allowing nature to infringe on our personal space.  Indeed, I find myself most inspired while outside and often, while in college and law school, could be found reading under a tree when there wasn’t a tornado warning (see St. Louis) or blizzard (see Boston).

Probably one of the more famous treehouse offices is the Bayan Treehouse Office, occupied by Rocky Rockerfeller (principal of Rockerfeller Partners Architects).  I think I’ll let the picture speak for itself (and Rocky’s picture and expression probably gives away how much he loves it):



I am drawn to the clean lines and modern feel, yet the proximity of nature reminds you of the past–look, this tree has been here longer than this treehouse has!  It doesn’t hurt to have 360-degree views to clear the mind.  Sometimes just staring at nature can calm one (there have been studies on this!).

What rooms or places do you find most inspiring?

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Google Books Litigation

The Google Books litigation is currently before Judge Denny Chin of the 2nd Circuit.  I had the pleasure of meeting Judge Denny Chin at a Harvard APALSA (Asian Pacific American Law Students Association) function while I was in law school. It will be not only interesting to see how Judge Chin rules on the case and the ruling will have implications for authors everywhere.  The Authors Guild and ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers) sued Google on a class action basis and Judge Chin refused to dismiss the case based on lack of associational standing, certifying the class and allowing the case to continue.  Google’s main defense is fair use.

Basically Google scanned entire books for their Google Books (also known as Google Library) project, the content of which is digitally searchable.  So far Google has scanned over 12 million books and delivered digital copies to local libraries.  Some of these books are still protected by copyright.  Google did not pay any permissions or licenses to scan these books and make the content searchable.  However, only snippets of the text are available to see based on any one search.  The snippets are basically sentences before and after the search term.  No more than a few sentences are revealed at any one time.

“To prove direct infringement, a plaintiff must first prove that the defendant copied the protected work. Kelly v. Arriba Soft Corp., 336 F.3d 811, 817 (9th Cir. 2003) (“the plaintiff must show ownership of the copyright and copying by the defendant.”); see also LGS Architects, Inc. v. Concordia Homes of Nev., 434 F.3d 1150, 1156 (9th Cir. 1996).  The two prima facie requirements for copyright infringement are: (1) ownership of the allegedly infringed material and (2) violation by the alleged infringer of at least one of the exclusive rights granted to copyright holders.”  Id., from

Judge Chin’s most recent opinion characterized Google’s actions as “sweeping and undiscriminating.”  Additionally, Judge Chin explained that when Google copied the books:

“it did not conduct an inquiry into the copyright ownership of each work; nor did it conduct an individualized evaluation as to whether posting ”snippets” of a particular work would constitute “fair use.” It copied and made search results available en masse. Google cannot now turn the tables and ask the Court to require each copyright holder to come forward individually and assert rights in a separate action. Because Google treated the copyright holders as a group, the copyright holders should be able to litigate on a group basis.”  (From:

Because judges have discretion to determine if there is fair use, based on the four factors below, it is ultimately up to Judge Chin to decide if Google has a defense.

Four Factors to Determine Fair Use:

  • the purpose and character of your use
  • the nature of the copyrighted work
  • the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and
  • the effect of the use upon the potential market.


The litigation has dragged on since 2005 and you can bet that it will be at least another year or so before the Court comes down with a decision.  I hope Google has some stellar attorneys because it’s going to be hard to argue fair use.  Although Google will likely contend that the searches are not wholesale copying because only a snippet is taken and that the purpose of the use is educational, which historically confers broader protection, one could, if he was resourceful enough, find a way to copy most if not all of a book using the searchable content database.  True, this would be very cumbersome.  But copying a whole book is not necessary, even copying a page or more of a copyrighted book can constitute infringement.  One thing is certain though, I’ll be following this case.

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New Author Katie Li Signs with Penumbra Literary!

Penumbra Literary is pleased to announce that it has signed with a new author, Katie Li.  Katie is from Boston, MA and has been a writer for over ten years now.  She is a versatile writer and has completed a non-fiction manuscript along the lines of a memoir, along with several other fiction pieces.  Katie has been published in Xenith, a digital magazine, among many other publications.

Here is Katie’s Bio: Katie Li has been working in the arts for over ten years. She began her career while studying at the Boston Arts Academy (2003), where she majored in Theatre with a focus on Production and Stage Management. Katie was the co-host of the MCET program Writers On Writing, and received the Promising Writer Award by ArtsFirst, as well as the award for Excellence in Directing by the Emerson College High School Drama Festival. She also received funding to conduct her community service project, Everlasting Moments, a memoir writing group for senior citizens at a local nursing home. Katie attended Hampshire College (2007) where she designed her own course of study in Creative Writing and Contemporary Literature. She was a contributing performer to the ensemble based production Other: A Play By and About Multi-Racial Asians. Her writing was featured in The Nexus and Slateblue, as well as in performances by the local theatre company TC^2: The Next Stage. Katie is currently working on her first novel.

To learn more about Katie and her writing, please visit her website:

Penumbra Literary looks forward to working with Katie!

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