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Fair Use 101 (Part Deux) February 21, 2010

Posted by friedgreenbananafish in Around the Blogosphere, Facebook, Journalism, Twitter, Youtube.
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According to Scott Simon, of National Public Radio:

“Every time you listen to your iPod, every time you use your TiVo, every time you watch “The Daily Show,” you’re participating in something called fair use. It’s what makes documentary films and news programs… a lot easier to produce. But unless youre an intellectual property lawyer, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about fair use.”

The Center for Social Media believes that we are living in a “remix culture.”  

Take online videos, for example.  How many viral videos have we seen that are a hybrid of two or more videos that came before it?  (Case in point: “David after Dentist” meets “Christian Bale’s rant” in this hilarious mash-up).  

There are even entire websites devoted to it.  The Trailer Mash is a site that encourages users to switch the genre of their favorite movies and make new trailers for them.  (Trust me, you haven’t truly lived until you’ve seen the romantic-comedy version of “The Shining.”)

But do these goofy little time wasters really violate the terms of fair use?  Not necessarily.  

Fair use permits people “to quote copyrighted material without asking permission or paying the owners.”  

It also states that works should be “transformative,” in other words, created for a purpose different from the original work. So when makers mash up several works to make a satire, parody, negative or positive commentary, illustration, diary, archive, pastiche or collage, they aren’t necessarily stealing. They are quoting in order to make a new commentary on popular culture, and creating a new piece of popular culture.

That’s how the makers of Family Guy got away with the full-length feature film Blue Harvest, (and why I don’t have to accredit the photo on the right) and why South Park’s Cartman character can sing Lady Gaga songs without paying royalties.

Speaking of Lady Gaga, have you heard that she “totally looks like” Slim Jim?  That’s protected by fair use as well. 

So what exactly is NOT protected by fair use?

Using things in their original context.  

For example, an author known as “JD California” was prohibited from publishing an unauthorized sequel to JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye in which a 76-year-old Holden Caulfield wakes up in a nursing home in New York.  

Since the book was not a parody, satire, commentary, etc. on the original, but rather an attempt to take another author’s character for one’s own use, it violated U.S. copyright law and even forced the reclusive Salinger out of hiding to defend his work.

But don’t think the world of books and the internet have different rules.  A big debate on fair use is coming straight from one of the internet’s biggest powerhouses — Google.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has declared an “e-war” with the company.  He says he’s “fed up with Google’s search engine serving up the journalistic content of his news outlets without any compensation.”  

He states that after his media companies go behind a pay wall, he will block Google searches from providing his company’s material for free.  (Read more about it here.)

It could be the bravest thing anyone has ever done to fight copyright infringement on the internet.  

It could also be Murdoch’s own kiss of death.

(To be continued…)


Fair Use 101 February 20, 2010

Posted by friedgreenbananafish in Around the Blogosphere, Facebook, Journalism, Twitter.
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(The First of Five Parts)

Due to the popularity of my last webserial, I have decided to try it again on another issue; one that is far too important to contain in just one post.  


Photo courtesy of mrselfdestruckt at Photo Bucket

What exactly is “fair use”?  In it’s most basic form it is defined as:

“The conditions under which you can use material that is copyrighted by someone else without paying royalties.”

It can also mean the doctrine of U.S. copyright law that regulates the use of other people’s work without their permission.  

For years authors, artists and songwriters have been protected from having their work stolen.  But the internet has opened a whole new can of worms.

Who is protecting the information we blast out into cyberspace?  The articles bloggers write, the artwork that pops up on Google Image, and even the status updates we post on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter?  

It turns out we are giving away a lot more than our opinion…

(To be continued)

Chinese New Year 4708: Year of the Google February 14, 2010

Posted by friedgreenbananafish in Around the Blogosphere.
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Last year, on the 20th anniversary of the massacre of Tiananmen Square, something “strange” happened in China.

TV screens went black, pages were ripped from magazines, and computers flashed HTTP 404 error messages.

The country experienced a media blackout.  There was no way the Chinese government was going to let its citizens commemorate the anniversary of its most shameful moment in history.

But there was a small light that managed to shine through the darkness.  Social media

According to blogger Michael Anti, censors in China aren’t equipped to screen out the flow of this user-created information.  He says they “need time to figure out what it is.”

Photo: Xinhua Photo

Fast forward to 2010 and internet giant Google rebuking China for hacking into its citizen’s Gmail accounts.

So far, Google has bowed to the sleeping dragon, scrubbing its Chinese version of controversial images.  But not anymore.

Google is stepping up its game.   If the Chinese government won’t allow them to provide the same search results they do in other countries, the company is threatening to leave China – and give up nearly $1 billion a year to prove their point. 

And after a recent speech on internet censorship made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it seems Google has chosen the right time to do so.

There are critics of Google’s decision.  Some say it’s a PR scheme, or a cover-up for the fact that Chinese hackers actually got into Gmail’s source code.

But with 92% of Chinese citizens using social media, the country is emerging from behind the Iron Curtain, whether the powers that be like it or not.

The People’s Republic is using technology in ways never imagined by the generation that witnessed the events of Tiananmen Square.

It’s time for a revolution.  And this new year will show us just how far it can go.

Paging Michael Scott… February 13, 2010

Posted by friedgreenbananafish in Apps.
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With all the hoopla going on about Foursquare, I couldn’t help but repost this comic from Statusthis.com:

I only wonder how long it will be until we a real-life example of this see this on FAIL blog

Now, I’m not saying Foursquare is all bad, in fact, it has many positive aspects that can be used in the future of business.  For example, the Canadian newspaper Metro recently partnered with Foursquare.  

 In an ingenious advertising campaign, Metro is encouraging its readers to check into Foursquare at the location where they picked up their copy of the paper.  Now Metro has the knowledge of who’s reading the paper, where exactly these readers are buying it, and has even begun developing ads and discounts for their Foursquare-savvy readers.

But at the same time, I do question the discretion with which people are using this tool.  Your friends, followers, and fans aren’t the only ones who see what you’re up to through the voyeuristic window of social media.  

Unless you work at Dunder Mifflin, your boss isn’t stupid.  In fact, a new study by Proofpoint, an Internet security firm, shows that eight percent of U.S. companies have fired employees due to their misuse of social media.

So next time you want to play hooky, leave your phone behind.

Put down the controller and back away… February 9, 2010

Posted by friedgreenbananafish in Assignments.

The long-awaited Mass Effect 2 came out on January 26, 2010.  On that day, several of my friends disappeared.  

They weren’t in class.  They weren’t at lunch.  They were nowhere to be seen.

I walked the empty streets pondering the War of the Worlds-esque stillness, and braced myself for the end of times.

The next day, I found my friends living out their usual routine as if nothing had happened.  Weary and sleep-deprived, they told me they had beaten the game.  It was a long, arduous battle — without food, sleep, and minimal bathroom breaks — but after 18+ hours they had beaten the game.

I don’t know which was scarier:  thinking all forms of life on earth had been wiped out by an alien attack, or finding out that my friends had willfully imprisoned themselves all for the sake of a video game.

But this is not a rare phenomenon.  In fact, “video game addiction” is becoming quite a problem in some places.  Take, for example, South Korea.  According to a marvelous documentary on PBS, video game addiction is overwhelming that country’s youth.

They flock to places called PC Bongs, which is a type of internet cafe/arcade where they spend hours upon hours playing online games.  And, like Starbucks in Manhattan, there’s one on almost every corner.

Since houses and apartments in Korea tend to be small, these are the most popular places for kids to hang out.  There are even different types of PC bongs, depending on what type of game you want to play.

But some fear that it’s going too far — the games are taking over people’s lives.  Time that should be spent studying, talking to others, or even going outside is being consumed in front of a glowing screen.

That’s why the Korean government has established the Jump Up Internet Rescue School, a sort of rehabilitation program designed to teach children to use the internet wisely and for the purpose of enhancing their lives.

And after Stanford University’s School of Medicine found that one in eight Americans suffers “from at least one sign of problematic Internet use,” it’s possible that these rehabilitation programs may be coming soon to a computer near you.

But, I guess we’ll just have to wait until the new Halo comes out.

Crossing the finish line… February 8, 2010

Posted by friedgreenbananafish in Assignments.

After blogging every single day for a week, I have a newfound respect for those who blog this often of their own free will.  

Of course, I can’t help but think that these people are either those with a lot of time on their hands, or are paid to blog professionally.  I highly doubt the super-bloggers are those trying to make it through X amount of credit hours, or study for multiple tests in the upcoming week, or keep up their GPAs.

One thing I did enjoy about blog-a-day week was that it increased readership to my blog.  Since my posts were part of a series, I had several people add me to their blogroll so they could keep checking back for the latest updates each day.  

I ended up with quite a few comments from these people, so I started checking their blogs, and actually engaged a few of them in conversation about the subject matter.  It was nice being able to connect to people with similar interests.

In the end though, I doubt I will be able to keep up this fast pace of blogging, at least while I’m still in college.  Maybe after I graduate I will have more time to devote to it, since I would like to keep my blog going after this class.  But for now, grades trump all.

Facebook: Not Just for Friends Anymore (Part 6 of 6) February 7, 2010

Posted by friedgreenbananafish in Facebook.
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Fortunately, there are some things you can do to make sure that your online profile won’t come back to haunt you when you’re looking for that new job.  

First, employers often use the information they find online to see how accurately you portrayed yourself in a resume or an interview.  It doesn’t look good to go into an interview and say one thing about your outstanding education, work experience, etc. and then have your boss check your profile and find out none of it’s true.  Either don’t lie, or don’t post it.

Secondly, when posting messages, or writing on a friend’s wall, be sure to watch your language; beware of posting derogatory comments, swear words, and dirty jokes, all of which can tarnish your professional image.  Just think, if you were a hiring manager, would like to see someone representing your company displaying racist or sexist comments?  

Another good tip is to check your English — using poor spelling and grammar on your profile  gives off the impression that you are uneducated, or just don’t care enough to take the time to do things correctly.  This can definitely turn away potential employers, so just take a couple of moments to proofread before you post.  

Check out your name on Google and other popular search engines, and check it often.  By knowing what your friends have posted about you, and knowing what your Googlegängers are up to, you can answer any questions an employer might have about you…  (Or them.)  

And last, but not least, keep your profile private.  Change the settings so only friends can view your profile (not snooping employers).  But take this piece of advice with a grain of salt — you should never rely too heavily on privacy settings, because in the world of cyberspace, anything is fair game, and once something is on the internet, you CANNOT get it back…

 These suggestions (check out a great list of them here) along with a little common sense and dignity should keep you safe in today’s online culture.  

Facebook and other social networking sites, when used responsibly, can be a great resource for connecting with people from all over the world, be it professionally or socially.  

But always be on the lookout for something that could come back to haunt you.  If you have the slightest doubt about something, just keep it private — people will still like you.  

Indeed, the best advice may be from Ben Nebo, a sophomore at the University of St. Thomas, Minnesota.  He said rather simply, “If you don’t want your mom to see it, don’t put it on.”

Good advice in a world where anyone with an internet connection can see very intimate details about you.

Facebook: Not Just for Friends Anymore (Part 5 of 6) February 6, 2010

Posted by friedgreenbananafish in Facebook.
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But what exactly is this cultural phenomenon and who started it? 

According to Michael Hirscorn, of the Atlantic Monthly, it all began in 2004, when a nineteen-year-old Harvard student was trying to, “digitize the legendary freshman-year ‘facebook,’ and allow students not only to gawk at one another’s photos but also to flirt, network, and interact.”  

The student’s name was Mark Zuckerberg, and he had just created a website that in only three short years would make him one of the youngest CEO’s in Silicon Valley. 

Zuckerberg believes that what makes his invention so compelling is his vision of a “social graph”; a mathematical formula that maps the real-life connections between every human on the planet.  

He argues that he simply took the main model of social interaction we use daily and put it on the internet — by crafting a personal “web” of friends, family members, classmates and business partners, you are automatically connected to each of their social graphs, thus expanding your circle and creating a “social infrastructure.” 

As one of the company’s cofounders said, “In five years, we’ll have everybody on the planet on Facebook.”  

(Which kind of makes you wonder if Kevin Bacon has a Facebook; and, if he does, how many friends do you have to have before you have one friend in common?)   

But there are some analysts who are not so sure about the values of having an online social graph.  Danah Boyd, a researcher at the UC Berkeley School of Information, argues that as years progress, the social graph will become meaningless.  She asks the question:

“Do you really want to be speaking with everyone you ever met?” 

This is something to think about, especially when it comes to the workplace.  With more and more people on Facebook by the hour, many questions of “Facebook etiquette” have arisen, most of them situated in the office; one of the most unexpected, yet common concerns is what to do when your boss “friends” you. 

Consider the predicament of Paul Dyer when he found himself in this very situation — to decline his boss’s invitation would be a slight and cause a rift in the workplace, but to accept the invitation would force him to share intimate details with his coworkers. 

His decision?  He accepted the boss’s invite, but with some embarrassing results:  his boss, trying to be “cool,” started posting unusual pictures of himself, and writing strange comments on Dyer’s profile. 

So it appears that Facebook can be good, bad or ugly — it all depends on how you use it.  

To be continued…

Facebook: Not Just for Friends Anymore (Part 4 of 6) February 5, 2010

Posted by friedgreenbananafish in Facebook.
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So, with all this “cyber stalking” the question is raised:

Is having an online profile really worth risking damage to one’s reputation?” 

A growing belief among some professionals is that we can use this technology to actually better our career chances.  Dan Kadlec, contributing writer for Money magazine, argues that social networking sites:

“…aren’t just for teens to swap photos and gossip anymore. They’re a quickly expanding way for grown-ups to maintain and expand their professional networks….  Think of these groups as a digital cocktail party that never ends — but where no one drinks too much and everyone in the room is hell-bent on getting ahead.”

What Kadlec is saying here is that rather than being a mere “toy” for college kids, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter can instead be used by professional adults hoping to gain access to a world of business opportunities and to expand their networking capabilities. 

Kadlec is not the only one with this train of thought.  All across the country (especially in Silicon Valley) Facebook is the hot spot for business professionals to make connections, discuss new ideas, and put deals through. 

Some technology experts even suggest that Facebook messaging may eventually replace traditional email in both the personal and business worlds.  Even former AOL CEO Steve Case is getting in on the game — in his own Facebook profile, he wrote:

“Facebook has emerged as the it service and company … It [Facebook] represents the next logical progression.”

To be continued…

Facebook: Not Just for Friends Anymore (Part 3 of 6) February 4, 2010

Posted by friedgreenbananafish in Facebook.
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Another, rather controversial, aspect of Facebook screening concerns the rights of job candidates when it comes to equal opportunity employment.  

While most employers are simply looking at profiles to check facts or see that the candidate isn’t involved in illegal or disruptive activity, some employers are taking it a step further — checking personal details like religion, sexual orientation, relationship status, or political views and taking this information into account when the hiring process begins.  

Although clearly a violation of United States labor laws, it does happen, and because it is so hard to prove, job-seekers are best-advised to just leave details like this private and off their profiles.

But sometimes what the internet says about you… isn’t really about “you” at all.

Take, for example, the case of Eve Fairbanks, a perfectly innocent college student: after her mother confronted her about the pornography “she” had been posing for, Eve realized she had been the victim of a “Googlegänger” — a term used for someone who has the same name as you, and whose name appears before yours on the Google “hit list”. 

Most of the time it is someone innocent enough, but sometimes, like in Eve’s case, it can be much, much worse.  

Eve finally convinced her mother that she was not, in fact, an internet porn star, but her story leads the rest of us to wonder what false information people — especially employers — are getting about us via the internet.  

Who knows what the other [your name here] could be doing or saying?  

Like the verb “to Google,” the term “Googlegänger” is catching on with a generation of young job-seekers who are beginning to realize that in a world in which we rely so heavily upon the internet, sometimes you’re not defined so much by your accomplishments, but by how Google-friendly those accomplishments are.

To be continued…