Dec 17

Civility and Copyright

One of the latest hoohahs to occupy the mind of bloggers is about video We Didn’t Start the Bubble, the Richter Scales and Lane Hartwell. A fun video has been taken off YouTube under DMCA provisions as the band did not credit Lane (nor any of the other photographers) in the video for the work that was used. There’s a lot of stuff on it, but here’s a brief summary.

  1. The Richter Scales made a very funny video parodying the web bubble and all the stuff that goes on. They used a lot of images grabbed from the web. They did not credit any of the photographers, but only the people who actually worked in the video. As they say on their blog:

    We did make an effort to credit those people we actively worked with on the video, as well as Billy Joel, which we listed in the comments on YouTube and on our blog. But, given the large number of sources we used, the task of assigning credit for each source seemed impractical.

    They thought the task was too hard, they thought the use was OK under the US ‘Fair Use rule’ so did not do it.

  2. Lane Hartwell, whose photo of Owen Thomas was used in the video, contacted the band. The photo was published all rights reserved, they had not credited her and she wanted to sort it out. She apparently felt that her query was not treated seriously enough, although she did get a credit on the YT notes, and moved onto the next step
  3. Ms Hartwell filed a DMCA notice with YT and requested the video be taken down. YT complied, as they have to, and it’s up to the Richter Scales to prove they are not using the image illegally.
  4. The Richter Scales have acknowledged the need to credit the photographers.

    Some folks have left comments saying we should acknowledge all the people who created the images we used in the video. Good point. We will go through the video and cite every source, and wherever possible, we will credit the original photographer. Once the list is up, if you see a mistake in it, please let us know, and we’ll do our best to rectify it.

  5. Ms Hartwell is currently in discussions with the band and will release a statement soon

There’s a more reportery take on this story at Wired magazine. Those are the facts as I see them at the moment. But there is a LOT of opinion out there, with people coming down on both sides. So here’s my opinion to add to the mix:

  • I think both parties were right as they believed at the time. Fair Use and Parody is a complex piece of law with no true guidelines, each instance has to be interpreted at the time. As you do not want a lawyers involved every single time, the interpretation comes down to what the individuals involved believe and what they can negotiate. Lawyers have been consulted, or just adding opinions, in this case and they do not agree.
  • Once the group had been contacted, I believe they were wrong to ignore, or give the impression of ignoring, lane’s concerns. She then moved onto the logical next step, a take-down notice. Because the US has woolly laws of fair Use (although often giving far more rights to use than other countries) they have a process to simply get things sorted – even if it is often mis-used.
  • With a take-down in place, the band can protest and prove they are using the images legally. What appears to be happening is a lot more discussions between the band, ms Hartwell and maybe more photographers. The video could still be back
  • Putting media ont he web is not free licence for all to use. There are still rights and restrictions and if an image is labelled All Rights Reserved, or CC By Attribution, it tells you what you have to do to use the image. But putting stuff on the web, or on the radio, or on the TV, or in any media that can be copied, brings with it risks and as a content producer you have to be aware of those risks and what can happen. There’s no place for naivety because many, many people completely ignore the copyright issues or just don’t know what they are. Civility at times is lacking, as the web can spiral down into a free for all.

Which brings me, at last, into a point about civility on the web. Tempers got hot on this subject and on some blog posts the comments turned into a slanging match. Especially the one from Mathew Ingram, who believes Lane Hartwell is wrong. Read down the comments and you this series: (I’ve summarised):

  • Shelly Powers stating she is on Lane’s side and using the image was wrong
  • Mathew Ingram stating that he believes her legally wrong
  • Michael Arrington also believing that the use of the DMCA was incorrect in this place. Then accusing Shelly of only supporting Lane because she is a woman.
  • Mathew asking Michael not to use a gender card as it is not relevant to the discussion
  • Michael stating” actually, Mathew, I’ll do whatever the fuck I feel like, and you can decide to censor comments or not.” and accusing Shelley of being “a fascist around these issues.”

Now, the comments may not be from the people named, but the posters are consistent throughout the stream and I’m hoping Mathew has done a cursory look at IP addresses to do some verification. Given that Arrington is one of the most influential tech bloggers, who earlier this year came out with statement below regarding the Kathy Sierra situation I find it astounding that he can use the same tactics that he previously decried. In this case they are not anonymous but they are ad hominem and should be avoided.

A lot of people we interact with daily seem very normal. But put them behind a keyboard and allow them to make anonymous comments and some really evil stuff can result. There’s no clear line as to what’s acceptable and not acceptable. But if you find yourself making anonymous attack comments that may be going overboard, ask yourself if you really want to be causing people the kind of pain that Kathy is going through. And then just stop

Read the rest of the comments stream, take a look at Arrington’s influence and then make your own mind up about how much you value his opinions.

Update 1: Hartwell posts her statement:

The band’s response was that upon receiving my complaint, they contacted an attorney who told them they had the right to use my work without gaining permission, paying a licensing fee or giving me credit. They said the video was a parody and thus the unauthorized use of my image was protected under something called “Fair Use”. Normally when I contact someone about my work, they apologize and remove it immediately. Because they didn’t, and mentioned talking to a lawyer, I felt it necessary to talk to a lawyer myself. Despite reports to the contrary, I have not sued the band. I spoke with a lawyer to clarify my standing on the issue of copyright.


When I find someone using my work without my permission, I ask them to remove it or pay a fee. They usually remove it and we are finished. The band did not remove the image from the video when I brought it to their attention and instead they told me they had the right to use it. They could have easily apologized, removed the video from YouTube and re-edited without my image and reposted.

Update 2: Arrington posts about the comments.

Dec 09

Flooding and Firemen

I said on Seesmic today this place is out to get me and earlier this evening we had another example of it. Sitting in my room I hear a bang, a whooshing news and then a fair bit of swearing and shouting. I went out to find that one of the sprinklers had gone off and was pouring water into the apartment. The sprinkler was next to the only source of heat in the place, a ceiling mounted gas heater, as there’s been no central heating since Friday, so that may have triggered it, but we’re not sure.

Anyway, what we have now is water pouring in at about 35 gallons a minute and no way of switching it off. We can’t close the valve as it has a padlock and chain on it preventing them being shut. Between us we managed to get things done. Clear away the stuff and get a bucket brigade going with the 3 garbage cans. Everyone gets soaked with the rusty old water. Luckily there were 7 people here so we managed to contain a lot of it, but there is still an inch of water spread in many places. John phones 911 and the Fire Brigade turn up in about 10 minutes. One chain cut, one valve closed. They found another sprinkler head to replace the broken one, so we still have fire protection.

The water was in the public section, so most of the stuff is OK, except a lot of the paintings done by John. We’ve spent the last hour or so cleaning up, mopping and pushing the water out of the place it just needs to dry out. Hopefully the heating will be back soon to help that along. Not the most pleasant way to spend a Sunday evening!

Changing the sprinkler