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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…)

IDK, my BFF Jesus? January 26, 2010

Posted by friedgreenbananafish in Around the Blogosphere, Facebook, Journalism, Youtube.
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By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he blogged.

 Ok, so I’m not the world’s preeminent scholar on The Book of Genesis.  That would arguably be Pope Benedict XVI.  But phony quotes aside, His Holiness does have a few new ideas for the Vatican. 

Over the weekend, Benedict (who just last year showed his disdain for technology by urging Catholics to give up all forms of social media for Lent) asked priests to: 

 “…proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue…”  

In other words, the Pope is goin’ techno. 

This user-friendly message came during his announcement of the 44th annual World Communications Day (set for May 16, 2010); a time when the Angels & Demons-like secrecy of the Vatican eases up a bit to answer questions from the faithful. 

Benedict continued by saying that he hopes by embracing these forms of communication, the Church can reach out to a new generation of Catholics, as well as nonbelievers across cyberspace. 

And Benedict is practicing what he preaches.  Tech-savvy worshippers can follow the Pontiff on the Pope2You portal, a website that links you Benedict’s personal Youtube channel, Facebook fan page, and iPhone app that sends you updates on his trips and speeches. 

Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters

But Benedict also warns priests to use technology in compliance with the Church’s theological and spiritual principles, and not to strive to become stars of new media.  

“Priests… should be less notable for their media savvy than for their priestly heart.” he says. 

After all, his doesn’t want to start getting tweets like this: 

@SwissGuard: OMG do theez stripes mke me look fat? ROFL

This American Idol is an American Hero January 18, 2010

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I must admit, I have never been a fan of American Idol.  I have never watched the program religiously, nor have I ever voted for my “favorite” contestant.  

But recently a singer has emerged from this pop culture phenomenon that I cannot ignore.

I’m talking of course, about General Larry Platt.

His viral hit, Pants on the Ground, has taken the internet by storm.  It seems we can’t get enough of this funny little song calling on the nation’s youth to quit flashing their underwear to the masses.

But Platt is a better singer than you might think.  How many American Idol contestants have sung in front of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?  Just one, as far as I can tell.

Take a moment to look at this photograph.  See the young man on the left, looking directly into the camera?  That’s General Larry Platt at age 16.

He writes:

“We had come by bus in 1963 to a church in Savannah, Georgia to plan a march to desegregate the city. Reverend Hosea Williams and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were our leaders. That particular planned march was canceled and we were singing to raise our spirits before returning home.”

But he did get to march with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  In fact, he was one of the many beaten in the historic march from Selma to Montgomery on Bloody Sunday.   

How many American Idols have done that?

The Georgia General Assembly even declared September 4, 2001 “Larry Platt Day” in recognition of his, “his priceless and immeasurable contributions to society…”

Above the CRMV photograph is a quote by Ella Baker:

“We who believe in freedom cannot rest.”

And at 62 years old, Platt doesn’t look like he’s going to be resting anytime soon.