De routes van Google Maps zijn het resultaat van menselijke keuzes. We worden daarmee direct beïnvloed in ons gedrag. Voor veel mensen is dit soort invloed onvoldoende zichtbaar. Om niet overgeleverd te zijn aan het beperkte voorstellingsvermorgen van programmeurs moeten we ons daar wel bewuster van worden.
Ik woon al jaren in Amsterdam. En net als iedereen ga ik overal naartoe met de fiets. Vaak gebruik ik dan Google Maps om te bepalen welke route het handigst is. Een paar maanden geleden viel mij ineens iets op: als ik van de ene kan van de stad naar de andere kant van de stad moet fietsen, dan kiest Google nooit een route die door of over de grachtengordel gaat. Zelfs niet als ik zeker weet dat het de snelste route is om ergens te komen. In plaats daarvan moet ik er altijd omheen.
Een paar van mijn meer paranoïde — of noem ze sceptische — vrienden, waren ervan overtuigd dat de rijke eigenaren van de grachtenpanden, Google betaald zouden hebben om het verkeer om te leiden. Zelf geloof ik dat niet zo. Ik denk eerder dat er een soort softwarematige ‘glitch’ in het systeem zit. Het algoritme achter Google Maps is waarschijnlijk gemaakt voor het stratenplan van San Francisco en niet voor de layout van ons werelderfgoed uit de 17e eeuw.
Toen las ik het verhaal over een klein groepje inwoners uit Los Angeles dat probeert om via de gemeente, en bij kaartenmakers, ervoor te zorgen dat het iconische ‘Hollywood Sign’ — je weet wel die grote letters op de berg — volledig van de virtuele kaart verdwijnt. Veel toeristen proberen zo dicht mogelijk bij het Hollywood Sign te komen en parkeren dan in de dure buurt die er direct onder ligt. Dat creëert volgens de bewoners van die buurt verkeersproblemen.
Ik ben even in dat verhaal gedoken. Of beter gezegd: het internet heeft mij erin gezogen. En het is echt een NIMBY verhaal van epische proporties: rechtszaken, dreigementen, eigenrecht, borden met passief agressieve teksten, etc. En dat al jaren. Heerlijk.
Maar wat blijkt nu… Google heeft geluisterd naar de bewoners. Als je vlak onder het sign Google Maps om een wandelroute vraagt naar het sign, dan krijg je niet het directe pad — dat wel degelijk bestaat — te zien, maar leidt Google je via een wandelroute van ruim anderhalf uur naar een uitkijkplatform dat ongeveer zeven kilometer verderop ligt.
Dit is een voorbeeld van de manier waarop Google een heel directe, maar vaak ook impliciete, invloed op het leven van mensen heeft. En die invloed is alomtegenwoordig. Het is nu Google die bepaalt hoe ik van mijn werk naar het theater fiets. Door dat toe te staan, besluit ik eigenlijk om de onuitgesproken aannames van Google’s Geo-team over wat ik belangrijk vindt, te vertrouwen.
De ongelooflijke hoeveelheid menselijke aandacht die er in Google Maps is gestopt — bijna elke straat wordt handmatig getweakt — en alle ontwerpbeslissingen worden compleet verhuld achter een gelikte en strakke interface. Een interface waarvan we denken dat hij neutraal is. En als deze internetdiensten niet helemaal doen wat we van ze verwachten dan geven we onszelf of “de computer” de schuld. Zelden houden we de mensen die de software gemaakt hebben verantwoordelijk.
De design-psycholoog Donald Norman verwees een aantal jaar geleden naar een nieuwsbericht over een automobilist die bijna veertien uur rondjes had gereden op een drukke rotonde. Zijn ‘lane keeping’ software zag steeds auto’s naast hem rijden en liet hem daarom niet van baan wisselen. Hij zat uren in de binnenbaan en kwam er niet meer uit. De politie heeft hem uiteindelijk totaal oververmoeid uit zijn auto geplukt.
Dit is gelukkig geen echt gebeurd verhaal. Maar het had waar kunnen zijn. Norman gebruikt het om te laten zien hoe weinig aandacht er in het ontwerpproces wordt besteed aan onze menselijke cognitieve capaciteiten en beperkingen. Zijn verhaal was ook vooruitziend: onze auto’s luisteren steeds minder vaak naar onze instructies en laten zich leiden door de ontwerpbeslisssingen van een programmeur aan de andere kant van de wereld.
In de Verenigde Staten zijn er bijvoorbeeld ongeveer twee miljoen auto’s met een zogenaamde ‘starter interrupt device’. Kredietverstrekkers kunnen daarmee — op afstand — de auto’s van wanbetalers kalt stellen. Ze kunnen trouwens ook zien waar de autobezitters rijden en op locatie gebaseerde beperkingen instellen. Soms heeft dit desastreuze gevolgen. Denk bijvoorbeeld aan het echt gebeurde verhaal van een moeder die probeerde haar astmatische kind met spoed naar het ziekenhuis te brengen, maar van wie de auto niet wilde starten. Ik vind dit symptomatisch voor hoe technologie de afstand vergroot tussen de eigenaren van de technologie en de mensen die de gevolgen van de technologie moeten ondergaan.
De manier waarop software ons gedrag reguleert is vaak erg absoluut. Je kunt een algoritme niet even vriendelijk — of wanhopig — aankijken om een uitzondering op de regel te worden. Naar mate het netwerk in alles om ons heen gaat zitten en ons leven meer en meer gemedieerd wordt door technologie die niet door ons ontworpen is en waar we geen zeggenschap over hebben, zullen we steeds vaker geconfronteerd worden met software die — letterlijk — onmenselijke beslissingen neemt. Dit is de voornaamste reden voor mij om bij Bits of Freedom te werken. Als we de zaken niet snel anders gaan aanpakken, dan worden we compleet afhankelijk van het — noodzakelijkerwijs — beperkte voorstellingsvermogen van de programmeurs die onze levens vormgeven.
Tot slot nog even terug naar Google Maps. Het kan namelijk anders. Een onderzoeker bij Yahoo heeft bijvoorbeeld plekken in Londen gecrowdsourced die stil zijn, mooi zijn of waar mensen gelukkig van worden. Je kunt er dus voor kiezen om een ‘happy route’ te nemen van Piccadilly Circus naar de Tate Modern. Natuurlijk is het fijn om een alternatief te hebben voor de meedogenloze effenciency logica van andere navigatiediensten, maar wat ik er vooral zo mooi vind aan deze alternatieve routes is dat ze mij een expliciete keuze geven over wat ík belangrijk vind als ik door de stad reis.
Hans de Zwart sprak deze lezing op donderdagavond 13 augustus 2015 uit binnen het ‘Come Closer’ programma op het dak van de Oude Kerk in Amsterdam. De tekst werd op 14 augustus gepubliceerd in NRC Handelsblad en op 15 augustus in nrc.next.
It seems there are no lows to which the recording industry won't sink, reaffirmed this week by a series of anti-piracy ads that exploit the tragic stories of dead (and highly successful) musicians. Violynne won most insightful comment of the week for an open letter to those who might be misled by this campaign:Dear upcoming artists reading this article,
What you're actually reading are the states caused by these performers and their record labels.
In a time before royalties (and it took a new copyright law to get them, by the way), these performers had no choice but to trust their labels, many of which withheld thousands, if not millions, from the artists which actually created the music.
Their suffering had nothing to do with people stealing their music (trying to walk out with an LP tucked under the shirt isn't easy).
Their suffering was due to lost revenue by the labels, most represented by the RIAA (whose sole purpose is to extort as much money from artists as possible).
Don't fall for the ruse. Take a few months and learn business, economics, and the law so you can manage, market, and profit by yourself.
Because the second you take that advance and sign the dotted line, you'll be hitting the bottle and pain killers too.
For second place, we head to the story of the DOJ dropping a case after being told it can't simply seize laptops at the border. One anonymous commenter pointed out how telling this reaction is:The government would rather drop a case against a serial killer if it meant saving them the ability to continue spy on others illegally.
Proof is this case, as well as the one where they dropped a kidnapping case just so they don't unveil they were using Stingrays to catch the guy.
For editor's choice, we start out on our post about another Techdirt post that disappeared from Google due to a right-to-be-forgotten request. One commenter asked when the last legitimate such request was made, and John Fenderson supplied a simple answer:Never. There can't possibly be a legit request since the entire idea is illegitimate.
Next, we head to the news of Universal's humorless takedown of a parody Nirvana song, where Jef Oliver noted how much online culture can tell us about the entertainment industry:Someone posts a video on the internet. Several comments say "Enjoy it before it is taken down."
When your business is known for its over-aggressive copyright stance and not for the media it is supposed to be releasing, there is a problem.
Over on the funny side, our top two winners are extremely similar comment from the same post. There are a handful of people who like to accuse Techdirt of being a shill for Google, so when we criticized the company's actions on net neutrality this week, the sarcastic responses came fast and racked up lots of funny votes. Both top winners were anonymous, so here's first place:but techdirt is such a google shill, how could they possibly speak badly of Google.
Oh, I get it now, Techdirt is a net neutrality shill. They shill on principle and for the public interest. How much is the public paying you Techdirt?
And here's second place, which took a more deadpan approach:Bunch of freaking Google shills. You just won't shut up about how awesome Google is and how it can do no wrong, will you? Why don't you freaking marry Google if you love it so much?
For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out on our post about United in-flight wi-fi blocking certain news outlets. Someone commenting under the name United Wifi Content Police offered an in-character reaction:Oh shit, we forgot to block Techdirt!
And finally, after documents on the tobacco industry were released as pages of solid black redactions, one anonymous commenter gave us a good blanket response for all similar freedom-of-information failures:At least we are still free to read between the lines...
That's all for this week, folks!
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Five Years Ago
There were a lot of branding battles breaking out this week in 2010. LucasFilm targeted a company called Jedi Mind with claims of trademark infringement, false designation of origin, trademark dilution, breach of contract and unfair competition; Madonna got sued for selling clothes under the name Material Girl by a company that had already been doing that since 1997; Warner Bros. called in the lawyers over "Harry Popper" condoms being made in Switzerland; Facebook kicked off a trademark fight with Teachbook; Take-Two Interactive discovered that it couldn't snag the bioshock.com domain because it was registered before the Bioshock trademark; and yet another player jumped into the trademark fight over the Mafia Wars Facebook game. Meanwhile, in a town up here in Ontario, some guy managed to trademark the phrase "Welcome to Parry Sound" and started demanding money from local businesses.
Copyright collection societies around the world were up to their usual tricks, with a Czech proposal that would require artists to get collection society permission to use Creative Commons, a South African society fighting to prevent music from entering the public domain, and BMI trying hard to reverse a court ruling that let venues route around it.
Also this week in 2010, Techdirt received one of the most incredible legal threats we've ever been hit with, demanding we take down the entire site over some unidentified comments.
Ten Years Ago
In 2005, China's internet censorship regime was in full-swing, and we got to see some rare quotes from the state defending the system. Meanwhile, the Chinese government was also turning its attention on video games, with the introduction of a three-hour limit on online gaming sessions.
Anti-spam laws focused on children were beginning to backfire while an unsurprising study showed that college kids are too smart to fall for spam. The popular fear that texting was ruining children's language skills was shown to be unlikely, not that anyone noticed, many being more focused on using phones to track kids' whereabouts. At least in Japan it appeared that mobile phones had the unexpected effect of reducing teen smoking.
Fifteen Years Ago
Technology was changing plenty of things in 2000. This week, we saw the first car designed almost entirely on a computer — but the more exciting advancements were in new polymers, which promised all sorts of automobile performance improvements (not to mention new achievements in the field of medicine). Some scientists were working on genetically modified goats that produce spider's web protein in their milk, while others had figured out how to make skin temporarily transparent. Meanwhile, a new protest group was building robots to spraypaint sidewalks and hand out pamphlets.
The dot-com world was still uncertain, and for some reason a lot of people seemed to love gloating about that fact. The Economist took the time to look at a list of things the internet can't do, and while it focused on loftier goals, the potential list did get a bit shorter with the first forays into online pizza delivery.
Eight-Hundred Years Ago
The Magna Carta is famous as one of the foundational documents in the history of modern law, and the fact that it was signed in 1215 is one of those popular pieces of trivia that float around with minimal context. Many can name that year, but fewer know that it would be another eight decades before the Magna Carta truly held any sway. Initially, it was the centerpiece of an English civil war, drafted by the Archbishop of Canterbury and signed by King John and a bunch of rebellious Barons — all of whom on both sides promptly ignored it pretty much entirely. The King then did an end run to Pope Innocent III, who sent a letter dated August 24th, 1215 in which he declared the Magna Carta "null, and void of all validity for ever" and threatened excommunication of anyone who observed it. It would later be reintroduced at the end of the war, then again a few years later, by John's son, and then another seventy years after that by his son, at which point it finally became England's statute law.
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Ever since Star Trek: The Next Generation, who among us hasn't thought it would be cool to have an omnipresent voice interface with a starship or, failing that, our own house? Sure, PADDs iPhones have Siri now, but it's just not the same. Our focus for this week's Awesome Stuff isn't the first attempt to create a voice-operated computer assistant for the home, and it probably won't be the last, but the Mycroft is certainly worthy of note.
One of my first Kickstarter purchases was the Ubi, an earlier attempt at this idea by a startup that now appears to have given up on device manufacturing and focused entirely on operating a cloud service. Nevertheless, it was a nice little piece of hardware and fun to play with — but it's always fallen a little short of the smooth, perfect functioning that would be necessary to make it a seamless part of everyday life. Whether or not the Mycroft will hit a higher mark is impossible to know for sure without trying one out in person, but there are a couple aspects that make it notable.
First is the fact that it's built with a commitment to open software and hardware. It's built on a Raspberry Pi (with all the tweakability and extendibility that implies) and Linux, and is completely open source, with a special backer tier on Kickstarter that gets developers early access to the software which they can run on their own Pis before Mycroft is released. As for the AI processing that happens in the cloud, it's all done using various open, public APIs for things like voice recognition and natural language processing, rather than relying on a single proprietary service like most such devices. Second is the price: thanks to all that open software and hardware, the Mycroft on Kickstarter clocks in at only $150 for the fully extendable model and $130 for the more basic version (including global shipping, and with some additional early bird discounts still kicking around too). This is considerably lower than several voice systems with fewer features.
Devices like this are very hard to evaluate without trying them out, or at least reading some hands-on reviews — so these pre-production Kickstarter sales are for those who have faith, spare cash, or a really insatiable desire to achieve that Star Trek dream. It's also important to keep in mind that the Mycroft isn't especially useful as a standalone unit: its capabilities come from integration with other smart-home devices and the internet of things — or at least other Mycroft units. For people whose homes are already equipped with smart thermometers, wireless door locks, networked sound systems and the like, a centralized voice control system is a powerful tool, but for everyone else it's just a fun toy/exceptionally fancy alarm clock. "Here I am, brain the size of a planet..."
This is an odd detail, but one that stands out if you've used multiple voice-activated devices before: you don't need to say "Okay, Mycroft" to wake the unit up — just its name by itself will do. This is nice, since a lot of devices use the "okay" phrase (I've got "okay Google" for Google Now searches on smartphones, "okay OnePlus" to wake my OnePlus One, and "okay Ubi" for the aforementioned similar device), and while this does make that Radiohead album seem prophetic, these "okays" have a tendency to cross-pollinate and wake up the wrong device. Mycroft, I suppose, is a unique enough sound that the device can listen for it without the need for an additional trigger — though it remains to be seen whether it will be accidentally awoken by episodes of the BBC's Sherlock.
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Problem number one with Woods' suit is laid out right at the beginning of the filing, which is that Woods himself has a habit of accusing others of using illegal drugs as well, just as Abe List did: The filing shows other tweets from Woods that have similar words that Woods complained about Abe List using, such as "clown" and "scum." As the filing notes, it appears Woods thinks that he can use those insults towards others, but if anyone uses them towards him, it's somehow defamatory. Plaintiff, an internationally known actor, is active on Twitter, a social media platform. There he is known for engaging in rough-and-tumble political debate. Plaintiff routinely employs insults like “clown” and “scum,” and even accuses others of drug use as a rhetorical trope....
But Plaintiff apparently believes that while he can say that sort of thing to others, others cannot say it to him. He has sued Mr. Doe for a derisive tweet referring to him as “cocaine addict James Woods still sniffing and spouting” in the course of political back-andforth.... He also complains, at length, that Mr. Doe has called him things like a “clown” and “scum.” Naturally, Plaintiff has himself called others “clown” or “scum” on Twitter. The filing, quite reasonably, notes that these kinds of hyperbolic claims cannot be seen as defamatory, and since there's no legitimate claim here, there is no reason to do expedited discovery or to unmask Abe List, who is entitled to have his identity protected under the First Amendment.
Oh, and, not surprisingly, White will be filing an anti-SLAPP motion shortly, which may mean that Woods is going to have to pay for this mess that he caused.
The filing also notes that while Woods sent a subpoena to Twitter to try to seek Abe List's identity, the company turned it down as deficient. The full two page letter is in the filing below as Exhibit B, but a quick snippet on the First Amendment concerns: Meanwhile, Woods has already filed a response in which he is still seeking to uncover the name of Abe List, and which repeats more ridiculous claims about the whole thing, starting off with the simply false claim that the original "cocaine addict" tweet was likely seen by "hundreds of thousands" of Woods' followers. That's wrong. They would only see if they followed both Woods and the Abe List account, which very few did.
The filing, somewhat hilariously, claims that calling someone "a joke," "ridiculous," "scum" and "clown-boy" are not protected by the First Amendment. Which makes me wonder what law school Woods' lawyers went to. Because that's just wrong: AL's outrageous claim appears to be the culmination of a mlaicious on-line campaign by AL to discredit and damage Woods' reputation, a campaign which began as early as December 2014. In the past, AL has referred to Woods with such derogatory terms as a "joke," "ridiculous," "scum" and "clown-boy." ... Although AL's rantings against Woods began with childish name calling, it has escalated beyond the protections of free speech, i.e., the First Amendment does not permit anyone to falsely represent to the public that another person is addicted to an illegal narcotic. Um... but Woods himself did exactly that (see above). It's standard hyperbolic speech, which is clearly not defamatory especially when mocking a public figure like Woods who has a history of using the same sort of hyperbolic insults on Twitter. Even more ridiculously, Woods' lawyers claim that by saying that the statement was a joke, that's Abe List admitting that he knew it was a false statement. I can't see that argument flying. I can see it backfiring big time once the anti-SLAPP motion is made.
So, what about those similar tweets made by Woods himself? His lawyers tell the court to ignore those piddly things. ... to the extent AL or TG attempt to argue that the Court should consider other statements on their Twitter accounts, or any previous tweets by Mr. Woods, the argument is a red herring. First, there is no reason any of Mr. Woods' followers, all of whom were exposed to the defamatory statements, would even bother to investigate the speakers and/or their Twitter sites to determine if they were reliable sources. As to Mr. Woods, we are not aware of any false statements of fact made by Mr. Woods and his sometimes sharp commentary on political matters is irrelevant to the allegations here. Except, uh, again, Woods suggested someone smoked crack, just like Abe List joked that Woods was a cocaine addict. And, again, Woods and his lawyers are just wrong that all of Woods' followers would have seen Abe Lists' tweets. They're just factually wrong.
You never know how courts will rule in any particular case, no matter how ridiculous, but I have a hard time seeing how Woods gets out of this without having to pay two sets of lawyers -- his own and Ken White -- for filing a clearly bogus defamation case designed to shut up (and identify) an anonymous Twitter critic. No matter what, James Woods may not be a cocaine addict, but he has made it clear that he can dish it out but can't take it back when people make fun of him. What a clown.
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I guess at this point that most people already know that Pokemon Company guards its intellectual property with the same dedication that a dog guards its food bowl after it's been filled with a rare-cooked bone-in ribeye (am I the only one that enjoys giving dogs good food?). Between going after a woman who made some planters inspired by Pokemon and suing someone for making a phone app for collecting Pokemon cards, the message is clear: don't use our stuff! Even though, as is almost inevitably the case, this kind of strict control prevents uses that actually do more to promote the Pokemon brand than anything else, and even when these cases are against true fans of Pokemon, it doesn't matter. Control is what they are interested in. Control for the sake of control.
But even knowing that, I'm still surprised that Pokemon Company has decided to shut down a Pokemon-themed PAX party in Seattle over some posters and themed-drinks. The Pokémon Company International (TPCi) filed a lawsuit against two Seattle residents on Wednesday, claiming that the Pokémon-themed party they were organizing allegedly infringed upon TPCi's copyright.
Seattle residents Ramar Larking Jones and Zach Shore attempted to organize the "5th Annual Unofficial Pokémon PAX Kickoff Party." The party would have taken place in the 500 East restaurant and bar on Thursday, on the eve of the local Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) Prime convention on Friday. As always, the copyright complaints are real but predictably trivial. The filing's chief concerns seem to be over the promotion of the party on Facebook, the inclusion of Pokemon characters on posters for the party, and Pokemon (and other games) themed drinks to be served. To be served, mind you, almost certainly to hardcore Pokemon fans. Indeed, there were prizes to be given away for cosplay, dancing, giveaways. You know, a good damned time. And for the crime of organizing a party around a franchise so beloved by its fans, the company shut it down. TPCi's complaint notes that it aims to "put an end to and obtain redress for [Jones and Shore's] blatant and willful infringement of TPCi's copyrights." Ruckus Productions, a business entity that Jones and Shore run, is also listed as a defendant beside both individuals. TPCi is seeking damages, attorney's fees, and an order to stop future instances of the event. TPCi's complaint notes that the event had been organized annually since 2011. Anyone want to actually suggest that the first four Poke-Parties did any kind of real harm to the Pokemon Company? Of course not, which is why the sudden hammer-drop makes absolutely no sense. As always, if there are concerns about setting precedent or protecting trademarks, handshake agreements and cheap licenses could easily be handed out to keep the party on. That way, Pokemon gets to save face on protecting its intellectual property, and the party goes on for its fans. Instead, the company specifically is looking to end the party as a primary goal of the lawsuit.
Because Pokemon isn't about fun, apparently.
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- Andrew Hawryluk gave up NOT going to Chipotle for Lent, and he called his strange non-abstinence "Chipotlent" and blogged about it. Since February 18, 2015, this 23yo animator from Los Angeles has been eating at Chipotle at least once a day... for over 6 months now. He's been compared to Jared who once represented Subway, but maybe that's not such a favorable comparison now. [url]
- It's one thing to order a meal at Chipotle every day, but it's another process entirely to try to maximize the weight of your food. If you want to do it, though, you can apparently get 86% more food (by weight) than just ordering like a normal person. [url]
- The 'Chipotle Quesarito' is a secret menu hack that uses a cheese quesadilla to wrap your burrito, instead of just a plain torilla. Recently, however, Chipotle has started charging $3.50 extra for this "have it your way" hack, but it's still a popular order. [url]
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Universal Music Has No Sense Of Humor, Takes Down Hilarious Twitter Profile Pun Parody Of Nirvana Song
Pure genius. https://t.co/JAofqaGXkx Watch before someone files a DMCA takedown.— Mike Masnick (@mmasnick) August 28, 2015 A bunch of people started retweeting and linking to it, with many of them commenting on how great the video was or how funny it was. Even people who aren't Nirvana fans were talking about it. A few examples:
Oh goodness, I abhor the song, but this was so well done! https://t.co/Rzxen4n4aB— Tim Chase (@gumnos) August 28, 2015
This just made my week. Amazing. https://t.co/DuQUZvUvsp— J Herskowitz (@jherskowitz) August 28, 2015
This is brilliant. Watch it now before it disappears. https://t.co/XdZ4rDIgxC— Brian Fitzpatrick (@therealfitz) August 28, 2015
OMG! That's amazing! https://t.co/VbzF95QSmG— Nate Hoffelder (@thDigitalReader) August 28, 2015
This is the funniest thing I've seen in a long time, I'm laughing uncontrollably, had to pause to calm down https://t.co/0gehTgj4q4— Jordan S. Terry (@The_Analyst) August 28, 2015 And there were many more like that. In short: the damn thing is really funny and super well done. After realizing that his video was suddenly getting an influx of traffic, the creator of it, Jim Mortleman (who says that the videos are actually a group project in finding the profiles, which he then puts together in the video) tweeted me that he was pretty sure he was safe because he'd been alerted that UMG was "monetizing" his video -- which is one of the options in YouTube for copyright holders if they want to make money on someone using their work, rather than taking it down.
@mmasnick Thanks for the mentions, Mike. YT says UMG are monetizing the video so hoping we'll be okay re ©.:)— Jim Mortleman (@Jimjar) August 28, 2015 From his YouTube screen, it actually showed that Universal Music had blocked the video in one country while monetizing it elsewhere: However, just a few hours later, as the video started getting more and more attention, views and tweets... apparently Universal changed its mind -- and if you now visit the page, this is what you see: Mortleman says that within YouTube it's now officially blocked in all countries. This is a ContentID match, rather than a direct takedown, though the company clearly made the decision to switch it from monetizing it to taking it down -- so someone made a decision.
And it's a hellishly stupid decision. The video was fantastic and didn't take anything away from the song. It certainly wasn't a replacement for the song and, if anything, was likely to draw a lot more interest to the song and remind people of its existence. I'm not a huge fan of the song, but have been humming it to myself all afternoon because of that video (which I ended up watching a few times).
Also, this seems like a pretty clear care of fair use -- though I imagine some will disagree. The hilarious use of twitter user names to create alternative lyrics to the song is quite transformative. No one was watching this video as a replacement for the original song, but because the video itself sort of celebrated the song with alternative lyrics made up entirely of Twitter profile names where "Here we are now, entertain us" because "Huey Long Gnarl Emma Talus" (if you haven't seen the actual video... it's much funnier in the way it was presented). And now it's all gone and you can't see it.
All because of copyright law and UMG's total lack of a sense of humor.
Even if you think the fair use case is bunk and that the video is infringing and UMG is totally, 100% in the right to do what it did, I'm curious how this helps UMG in any way, shape or form? It doesn't help them get any more money, and it just makes people pissed off. How is that a smart business decision?
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First: the one area where Amin's actions do seem fairly questionable are when he helped another Virginia teen travel to Syria, apparently to join ISIS. That part definitely seems like it stepped over the legal line. But, the rest of the charges against him seem... like a teenager using Twitter and other social media to discuss stuff he's interested in. Amin ran a Twitter account called @AmreekiWitness, which had about 4,000 followers. He tweeted pro-ISIS propaganda, but that still seems to be a form of protected speech, last I checked. And, his big "crime" appears to be linking to an article about why ISIS supporters should use Bitcoin. The following are examples of the defendant's use of Twitter in furtherance of his conspiracy to provide material support to ISIL: On or about July 7, 2014, using the @AmreekiWitness account, the defendant tweeted a link to an article he authored entitled "Bitcoin wa' Sadaqat al-Jihad" (Bitcoin and the Charity of Jihad). The link transferred the user to the defendant's blog, where the article was posted. The article discussed how to use bitcoins and how jihadists could utilize this currency to fund their efforts. The article explained what bitcoins were, how the bitcoin system worked and suggested using Dark Wallet, a new bitcoin wallet, which keeps the user of bitcoins anonymous. The article included statements on how to set up an anonymous donations system to send money, using bitcoin, to the mujahedeen.
On approximately August 1, 2014, the defendant showed support for ISIL and his desire to help garner financial support for those wanting to commit jihad. Through @AmreekiWitness the defendant discussed methods to provide financial support for those wanting to commit jihad and for those individuals trying to travel overseas.
On approximately August 19, 2014, the defendant showed support for ISIL and desire to support ISIL. The defendant tweeted that the khilafah needed an official website "ASAP," and that ISIL could not continue to release media "in the wild" or use "JustPaste." Through various tweets, the defendant provided information on how to prevent the website from being taken down, by adding security and defenses, and he solicited others via Twitter to assist on the development of the website. The defendant also operated an Amreeki Witness page on the website ask.fm. The defendant used these accounts extensively as a platform to proselytize his radical Islamic ideology, justify and defend ISIL's violent practices, and to provide advice on topics such as jihadists travel to fight with ISIL, online security measures, and about how to use Bitcoin to finance themselves without creating evidence of crime, among other matters.
The defendant also created the pro-ISIL blog entitled, "Al-Khilafah Aridat." On this blog, the defendant authored a series of highly-technical articles targeted at aspiring jihadists and ISIL supporters detailing the use of security measures in online communications to include use of encryption and anonymity software, tools and techniques, as well as the use of the virtual currency Bitcoin as a means to anonymously fund ISIL. Tweeting about Bitcoin and saying that ISIS needs a website is a crime? One that deserves over a decade in jail? Obviously, aiding ISIS in any way is incredibly stupid, but it seems like a pretty slippery slope to argue that teaching people how to use Bitcoin or saying that ISIS needs a website rises to the level of "material support for ISIS" by itself. It seems like such a definition could lead to many, many people at risk. If you disagree with US policy for dealing with ISIS and say so -- at what point does it cross over the line? It seems way too easy to twist this into criminalizing dissent, rather than actually supporting a designated terrorist organization.
I'm all for coming up with ways to stop the spread of ISIS, and to prevent further attacks by the group. But jailing an American teenager over his tweets seems... excessive.
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