Big up the Bronx!
RIAA file sharing target Tenise Barker has taken an interesting tack in her defense. She admits to downloading a few songs from Kazaa a few years back, but she argues that the statutory damages -- which can reach $150,000 per infringing file (more than $1 million per album!) -- are unconstitutional.
In the words of her answer to the amended complaint:
Plaintiffs' damages theory, that it is entitled to statutory damages of from $750 to $150,000 per song file downloaded would lead to an unconstitutional construction of 17 U.S.C. § 504, which would lead to a result plainly violative of due process, since the damages awarded under any such theory would range from 2,142 times the actual damages to 428,571 times the actual damages sustained.
This is potentially very damaging to the RIAA's whole M.O. -- if they can't compel thousands of people to settle for their customary $2,000-$5,000 under the shadow of millions in damages (or more), they'll actually have to pay to prosecute the tens of thousands of suits they've initiated. The lawyers' fees would probably cost more than the profit margin for the entire industry, even in its best years.
Of course, the courts have not been very sympathetic to constitutional challenges to copyright law in recent years, but you never know how this might turn out. The winds of change are definitely picking up in strength.
BTW, Barker's attorney, Ray Beckerman, has basically been singlehandedly defending dozens of the RIAA's targets for years, for virtually no money. If you feel like contributing to the defense fund, click here.
More information on Beckerman's excellent blog.
(Full disclosure: I submitted expert testimony for another of Beckerman's suits a few years back, regarding the wholesale price of digital music files)
I love this clip of Bert and Ernie lip-synching to M.O.P. There's nothing especially mind-blowing about it, it's just well edited and funny.
Often times, mash-up videos look kind of disjointed because they combine several sources, so the principal actors/figures are in different clothes, scenarios, etc. from cut to cut. However, this isn't a problem in this case because hip-hop videos are cut that way anyway. Interesting how some aesthetics prefigure and therefore easily accommodate configurable reappropriations...
Thanks for the tip, Joost!
Maybe it's no surprise given the multitude of high-profile Photoshopping stories in the press lately, but I think we can confidently say that "to Photoshop" has officially become a verb in the American lexicon.
He she or it Photoshops.
My anecdotal evidence: The Washington Post used the term in a vox pop quote without even explaining it. In fact, the reporter used it as the article's kicker:
Curtis likened the Census Bureau's stance to something out of the Cold War era.
"It's like we've been Photoshopped out of the picture," she said. "How long is the federal government going to pretend we don't exist?"
This is a great development. Widespread comfort with the term "Photoshopping" indicates widespread configurable literacy, and suggests that (a) media production and manipulation continues to become more democratized, and (b) people are thinking critically about the digital media they encounter.
What's also interesting is that the reporter reflexively associated the word "Photoshopped" with cold war-era photographic manipulation practices, despite the term's foundation in digital culture.
The sheer brute force of the Internet's distributed intelligence continues to baffle and humble me. If postmodernism killed the author, Google has finished off the rest of us. Seems like every time I have a moderately interesting idea, someone's beaten me to it. Which, of course, is not an original observation.
The latest: I had a clever little idea for a parody of the already-iconic Shepard Fairey Obama poster, featuring a blue and red John McCain, with the legend "Get off my lawn!" instead of "Change we can believe in." Ageist, yes. Puerile, yes. But probably politically effective in some small and moderately amusing way. After all, public opinion polls show that, when asked to identify McCain in one word, the most common choice is "old."
Anyhoo, I decided to Google "mccain 'get off my lawn'". Whaddaya know -- not only were there 15,400 results, but the very first one was my t-shirt design, uploaded to Flickr a week ago.
I hold no grudges. The "Hotness Factory," as its designers call themselves, did a great job.
I've been reading a great book this weekend: Gridlock Economy, by Columbia Law professor (and my cousin) Michael Heller.
It's based on a concept he first pioneered about a decade back: the "anticommons." The basic schtick is this:
Just as lack of private ownership can allow a "tragedy of the commons" in which, say, too many shepherds denude a meadow or too many factories poison the atmosphere through overuse, too much private property prevents us from doing important things like curing Alzheimers or renewing a blighted urban landscape, because the difficulties of lining up all the ducks contribute to underuse.
I regularly ask Michael to come lecture to the students in my copyright class at NYU, and I know first-hand what a brilliant theorist and communicator he is. However, I wasn't prepared for the complete and utter readability of his book, in which he anecdotally exemplifies all kinds of complex legal ideas without ever seeming to go over our heads or talk down to us.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who has the slightest bit of interest in the stuff I blog about. In particular, if you're interested in digital music, he's got a really interesting perspective on how the absurd sample licensing laws have prevented hip-hop and other new musical forms from reaching their full potential. We'll never hear another 3 Feet High and Rising, Paul's Boutique, or It Takes a Nation of Millions, at least not on a label, until we solve this particular gridlock crisis.
The Center for Social Media just released an amazing document -- a "Code of Best Practices" for the fair use of video in the context of remixing, mashing, blogging, and other emerging forms of configurable culture.
This is great! In the absence of any rational legislation or caselaw on the subject, these legal eagles and brilliant cultural theorists (including my pals Mimi Ito and Jen Urban) have relied upon in-depth research with actual practitioners and IP owners to establish a strong argument about the intersection of norms and laws with regards to these emerging practices.
In plain English: nobody really knows what's legal and illegal these days, but if you like to mash stuff up, this document will give you a pretty good foundation for a strong legal defense.
so for the last week i've been addicted to scramble, one of those online flash game facebook plugin appropriations of classic word games. this one is basically boggle -- you find as many words as you can in a randomized matrix of letters in a limited amount of time.
just now, i was playing, and i thought i'd found a real coup -- the word "internet." that's eight letters, so it's worth like a gazillion points.
unfortunately for me and my score, it was an abortive coup. as you can see below, the game juked me, claiming that "INTERNET not in dictionary."
WTF???!??!? what kind of dictionary are these guys using? how can an online word game not recognize the word "internet?"
i have no poignant analysis, only spiteful derision and bitter disappointment. and a few lolz.