Quote of the Day


People all over the world spend countless hours of their lives every week being fed entertainment in the form of movies, TV shows, newspapers, YouTube videos and the Internet. And it’s ludicrous to believe that this stuff doesn’t alter our brains.

It’s also equally ludicrous to believe that — at the very least — this mass distraction and manipulation is not convenient for the people who are in charge.

Charlie Kaufman

About Boston (and other “newsworthy” trends)


I may have offended a few folks recently when I asked (rather emphatically) to be excluded from all the helpful, breathless, up-to-the-minute crap about the Boston Marathon bombings.  Sorry for the offense, but it wasn’t really my fault.  If you people weren’t in the habit of (1) getting your information from the wrong places; and (2) blasting it all around to your Friends, Contacts, Correspondents and who-the-hell-ever else without asking them if they want the benefit of your curatorship, it wouldn’t have been necessary.  Why do I think it was necessary?  Well…

Events of the past few days have demonstrated that more than adequately, I believe.  All the media have been blasting out every bit of information and ephemera about the events in Boston, and what did they accomplish?  Folks on the Internet, perusing available coverage, falsely accused a number of bystanders of being accomplices.  CNN and others adverted to a completely unrelated issue of a student missing from a nearby university for a few weeks, and intimated that he might have been involved.  That has since proven to be nonsense, but tell that to the poor s.o.b. who will have it following him for the rest of his life.  All sorts of bits and pieces have been floating around and reported by supposedly responsible — and patently less responsible — sources, and as Mark Twain once remarked, so many commentators have shone darkness on the subject that we shall soon know nothing about it at all.

The penchant for breaking news has ruined news.  I almost never follow news in the electronic media — practically never watch TV at all — for that very reason.  The rush to be the first with every little tidbit insures that a lot of the tidbits will be so fresh they’re rotten.  As was suggested today in an excellent article in Slate, the best way to follow breaking events is to turn off all electronic media, refuse to discuss the issue at all, and then read a couple of well-researched and thought-out articles in one of the newspapers of record the next day.  (Personally, I recommend The Christian Science Monitor, New York Times, and Al Jazeera for a well-balanced range.)  I’ve been doing it for years, with the result that I save a lot of time, emotion, and come out at the end considerably less confused.

So, again, sorry for any offense.  But now that you get the idea, why not carry the concept over to the next breaking news?  Rest assured that if I’m interested, I’ll be on it as soon as the flames have had time to die down.  News, like revenge, is a meal best eaten cold.

A FEW WORDS ABOUT FAIR USE AND COPYRIGHT


I see lots of folks nowadays with little disclaimers on their blogs and websites to the effect that copyrighted images and prose that they have posted are under the “fair use” doctrine or for educational purposes or personal use only. Apparently they’re under the impression that by doing so they are somehow protected from problems with copyright violations.

That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Fair use is a defense only after you have been sued!  That means after you have retained a lawyer and spent a pile of money.  Even then you may lose your case and end up paying penalties.

Furthermore, big syndication companies like Getty Images have people who prowl the Web looking for violations.  Their corporate lawyers then send you a letter to the effect that you either license the image (for fees in the low to mid-four figures) or they’ll take you to court.  And they will.  Either way, it’s going to cost you a couple of thousand dollars, and you can still end up with the penalties.

The fact that these people are actively seeking out violations (Getty makes millions a year from this, and no doubt so do their peers) makes this a bit more serious than just the chance of someone seeing that you’ve used their image and asking you to stop.  Add to this the fact that you don’t know if an image listed on — say — Flickr as available under Creative Commons is, in fact, original and you’ve got a case of your butt hanging out in the breeze.  If you got them off Google Images, the chances are excellent that they’re not public domain unless they were published a hundred years ago.

You can’t even trust images from Federal government sites, because if they were taken by an employee while off duty, the employee retains the rights, not the USG.  If they were taken in the performance of official duties, then you’re home free — but how do you know?  Answer: You don’t.

State governments and agencies retain copyrights, and you have no protection legally.  Although the likelihood of a state deciding to sue is small, remember that state budgets everywhere are in a crunch.  It could happen.

Remember, this is worth a lot of money to the companies involved.  You are not safe because you’re just a little guy.

The same things are true, to a lesser degree, about written material.  And it’s a lot easier to track down than images.

The company I write for paid for experts to research this.  You’re getting the information for free.  What you do with it is your business.