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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)

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

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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

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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

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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

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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…

Facebook: Not Just for Friends Anymore (Part 2 of 6) February 3, 2010

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So just how many employers are checking your profile?  

According to a 2006 survey by CareerBuilder.com, as many as 12 percent of hiring managers regularly use social networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace to screen potential employees.  

And, after discovering new information online, 63 percent of those employers chose not to hire candidates based on their discoveries.

But the big question on everyone’s minds is, what do these employers discover about their potential employees that is so terrible?  

Can photos of you and your friends goofing off on your own time really be used as evidence to show how “unprofessional” you are?  What exactly are people posting pictures of that scares their employers so much?  

As it turns out, quite a bit…

According to Tim DeMello, who owns the Internet company Ziggs, employers are often shocked at what they find on profiles — photos depicting underage drinking, orgies, drug use, and  disturbing illegal activity.  This is a far cry from the upscale, clean-cut image presented to an interviewer.  

Demello continues: 

“This person that’s sitting there is almost entirely different than the person posting on these Web sites.”  

Young people reveal a remarkable amount of information about themselves on social-networking sites, despite the efforts of these websites to block any material that is “obscene, pornographic, or sexually explicit.”  

Why do young people reveal so much about themselves, especially when they know it can ruin their reputations?  

According to Liz Funk, reporter for USA Today, it’s about classic teenage rebellion finding a new way to reach the masses — via the internet.  

She suggests that thanks in part to celebrities like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, “young women act as though they derive some kind of power…” from posing in obscene pictures, especially those involving alcohol, drugs and sex.  She continues in stating that:

“In a generation that worships privilege and fame, many teens seem to feel that if they photograph themselves drinking and posing provocatively the way celebrities do, the glamour might translate into their lives…we learn that keeping one’s life an open book is a ticket to fame. We find that when it comes to Vanity Fair, Nicole Richie concealing the private details of her public fight with Paris Hilton cost her a spot on the cover, which Teri Hatcher ‘earned’ upon disclosing that she had been sexually abused as a child.”

Funk believes that young women need to seriously reconsider what “empowerment” means.  

Sharyn Alfonsi of CBS News says:

“If you’re supposed to dress for the job you want…some of these students really need to just put something on.  Sexy photos… don’t exactly scream ‘CEO material’.”

To be continued…

Facebook: Not Just for Friends Anymore (Part 1 of 6) February 2, 2010

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Imagine yourself at a job interview: you’re wearing your best suit, a gleaming resume is in your hand, and you have rehearsed the answer to every question imaginable. 

You’re very nervous as you step into the employer’s office, but eventually you begin to relax, and you do your best to answer everything intelligently.  The employer listens to you intently and smiles, and when it’s finally over, you take a deep breath in the lobby and think back to how you did.  

Let’s see…  You dressed the part;  you have all the credentials; you were polite and witty; and your references are outstanding — looks like you got the job, right?  

Wrong.  A few days later, you open your mail and find a form letter “regretting” to inform you that you have not been hired.  What happened?  You think about what you might have done wrong all day, even as you hop online to check your email…  And suddenly, your answer reveals itself in one of the subject lines:

Your friend tagged photos of you on Facebook…”

And there you are, doing… well, you know what.  You’ve heard rumors about people not getting jobs because of photos on the internet, but you never thought it could happen to you — your profile is just something silly between you and your friends… isn’t it?   But the truth of the matter is this: 

Anything you post on a social networking site like Facebook or MySpace can be accessed by potential employers and may be detrimental to your work now and in the future.

You may argue that the information you post online is personal; it has nothing to do with your career, and employers shouldn’t be using it to judge you.  You may even argue that this “virtual snooping” is unethical — an invasion of privacy.  But in today’s competitive job market, employers are using all the tools in their arsenal to screen out unsuitable candidates.  They have to if they want to see how their companies will be represented outside the office.  

And while what they’re doing may be questionable, it’s certainly not illegal.  As soon as something is put on the internet, it is public property.  

“You’re being watched,” says Victor C. Massaglia, career adviser at the University of Minnesota Law School. “The diary used to be behind the lock and key, and now it is on the Internet for everyone to read.” 

To be continued…

The week ahead… February 1, 2010

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Dear Readers,

In the coming week I will be posting a six-part essay about the influence of social media on job hunting.  I was inspired to write this a few years ago (I apologize if the material is a little dated) after hearing several horror stories from recent college graduates looking for their first job.

We all think the things we post on Facebook are in good fun, but I wondered if anyone had actually studied the effects these teenage habits have later on in people’s lives.  

It turns out, even in 2007 (when I originally wrote this essay) there was already quite a bit of talk on how people’s online pasts might come back to haunt them.

Of course, we’re all a little more aware of the “dangers” today, but hopefully the information I’m about to present will interest you and teach you a few things you didn’t know.

Likewise, although I have done my best to update this essay with current trends, I welcome any comments from you supporting (or disproving) the material.  I would love to hear what you have to say on the matter, or if you  know of any new technological developments that may influence the concepts presented forth.

Part One of the essay will be posted tomorrow, but in the meantime, I recommend checking out this article from Livescience.com that looks at how Facebook is a haven for Narcissists.

Keeping up with the Joneses January 31, 2010

Posted by friedgreenbananafish in Around the Blogosphere, Assignments, Facebook, Journalism, Twitter.
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…and the Smiths, and the Johnsons, and the Williamses, and… 

Real time web is the newest trend to hit the net.  Ironically, it is a technology devoted to helping us spot… well, trends.

It allows users to receive information as soon as it is published, rather having to manually check for it.  An offshoot of social media, it is based on the idea of Facebook’s live newsfeed and the constant updates of Twitter.

By getting these “real time” updates on what their social circles are doing, users can spot the latest trends of what people are talking about.

Internet pundits are having a heyday monitoring the “latest” topics people are commenting/blogging/tweeting about; using this knowledge to engage other in conversation and bring traffic to their own sites.

Several companies have even developed free customizable widgets so users can stream this real-time content directly on their computers.

Despite its fancy new name, this is a concept we’re all familiar with.  How many times have we researched something further after seeing it posted on a friend’s Facebook page?  Or clicked on a feed in our CNN ticker to read the full article?  Or checked our RSS feeds over the first cup of coffee in the morning?

But although it may be old hat for us, the real news story is how Web 1.0 giants like Google are trying to keep up with this recent advancement.

In his personal blog, social media guru Michael Brito says that today’s technology isn’t fast enough to monitor these live conversations.

Traditional web searches crawl and index web pages periodically, seldom returning results differing from the day before.  But real time web search results change hourly; sometimes, by the minute. 

Last year, Google tried its hand at real time web by introducing its “Latest Results Box”.  A quick search for “Haiti” or “State of the Union” and you can see the latest results from Twitter, news organizations, and blogs galore.  

Truly, the real-time web is redefining what we mean by “breaking news”.