Friday, August 23, 2013

Lego ‘American Ninja Warrior’ diorama

My kids and I like to make Lego dioramas of reality TV shows. Our latest is based on NBC’s fringe-sport show “American Ninja Warrior.”
As usual, characters from “Star Wars,” “Harry Potter” and whatever other Lego minifigures we have take part in the action.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Copyright law needs a ‘fair use’ exemption for curation

Copyright law includes exemptions for certain types of use. The “fair use” of copyrighted works includes the reproduction of works for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship or research.
For instance, a book reviewer can quote passages from a book they are critiquing. Or an artist like Andy Warhol can take copyrighted material and alter it to make a “transformative work.”
I believe copyright law needs an additional “fair use” exemption for curation. In this case, someone can create a new work by meticulously gathering and documenting instances of a certain trend, pattern or behavior for purposes of comment, criticism, news reporting and education.
This type of exemption is implied, but not explicitly stated by copyright law today.
Tumblr recently deleted three blogs of mine in which I was curating very specific types of photos. (For an explanation of why Tumblr deleted my account, see these articles: “Tumblr terminated my account, killed my three blogs”; “Tumblr content takedowns show its not-so-user friendly side” and “Yahoo’s Tumblr stifles free speech, silences TSA critic”.)
Before I did my research, no index was available for the types of photos I was curating. I was creating a resource where you could find instances of specific occurrences in one place.
One of my Tumblr blogs aggregrated instances of wardrobe malfunctions in the LFL women’s football league to show how ill-fitting the players’ uniforms are.
Another blog pointed out the absurdity of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration by showing TSA agents frisking and scanning well-known celebrities.
And my third blog showed how the news media tended to take pictures of pretty female teachers during the 2012 Chicago teachers’ strike.
Before I put together that research, there was no way to find or see a collection of those activities. And only when you see all the photos in one place does the scope of situation become clear.
Here are just a few examples of photo curation sites that I’ve seen recently on Tumblr. (Note that any one of these could be taken down by overzealous copyright enforcers):

Goofy Face Bruce (Photos of rocker Bruce Springsteen and his goofy facial expressions.)

Bruce Springsteen’s Crotch (Photos of Springsteen’s crotch, of course.)

Animals Riding Animals (“The most comprehensive collection of animals riding other animals on the whole wide Internet.”)

Local People With Their Arms Crossed (This blog highlights the local newspaper cliche of people posed with their arms crossed. It was written up by and Laughing Squid.)

Cop Selfies (Photos of police officers taking pictures of themselves. It was spotlighted by Laughing Squid.)

Books of Orange Is the New Black (Stills from the Netflix TV show “Orange Is the New Black” showing prisoners reading books.)

The Lisa Simpson Book Club (Photos of “The Simpsons” characters reading.)

What Netflix Does (Photos showing how Netflix’s streaming video service often crops movie images. See article by Laughing Squid.)

Law & Order & Food (Photos from the TV show “Law & Order” showing characters eating.)

Kid Casting (A collection of photos showing actors on TV shows and movies and the child actors who portray them in flashbacks.)

Bill Hader Needs Clothes (A blog showing how comic actor Bill Hader tends to wear the same clothes.)

Sad Guys on Trading Floors (“Turning the economic crisis into one of those clever Internet memes.”)

The Brokers with Hands on Their Faces Blog (Similar, but more specific, to Sad Guys on Trading Floors.)

Celebrities with Cats (Photos of celebrities with cats. Formerly called Celebrity Pussy.)

Photo: Sample Bruce Springsteen photo from Goofy Face Bruce. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Digital Millennium Copyright Act at odds with our online sharing culture

The social media age is all about sharing. People share news stories, commentary, photos, video and other things through social networking services like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and others.
Think of all the “share” buttons you see with articles and webpages today.
Our civilization is built on sharing and the free exchange of ideas. But that sharing is often at odds with copyright holders. The owners of photos, videos and other works frequently take a hard line on the sharing of their creations. They understandably want to get paid, but they also don’t care about “fair use” arguments or even the benefits of publicity.
And with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, they have a weapon to crack down on anybody who posts even a portion of their work online. Under the DMCA, people who share a copyrighted photo or video on their website are judged guilty until proven innocent. And sometimes the accused aren’t even allowed to state their case.
Thankfully not all copyright holders are interested in cracking down on sharing.
Consider Internet memes – those funny shared photos or videos. They usually start with copyrighted photos, videos or music. Most were allowed to proceed unfettered by copyright complaints.
In some cases, the copyright holders benefited greatly from the exposure. Think Psy of “Gangnam Style” fame, a music video and song that spawned countless homages and parodies. Psy and his viral video and catchy tune wouldn’t have gotten the same treatment had he and his lawyers cracked down on the copycats.

Photo: Sample of the Internet meme Grumpy Cat. (See the entry on Know Your Meme.) 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Yahoo’s Tumblr stifles free speech, silences TSA critic

For a year and a half, I ran a website on Tumblr that lampooned the practices of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration. The blog focused on one comical aspect out of many of airport security: TSA screeners patting down and scanning recognizable Hollywood celebrities like Rihanna, Jennifer Lopez, Megan Fox and Regis Philbin as if they were potential terrorists.
On May 20, Tumblr summarily deleted that blog and all my research and writings because of a questionable copyright complaint filed against an unrelated Tumblr blog of mine. I had three Tumblr blogs, two of which were never the subject of any copyright complaints – including the anti-TSA blog.
But on one blog, a Canadian photographer didn’t like my use of three of his images. He filed two complaints with Tumblr under the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act. I appealed, saying my use of the images fell under “fair use” protection, specifically the “transformative works” provision. The photos were heavily edited with funny text added.
But Tumblr never responded to my appeal, or my numerous emails, and deleted all three of my blogs. Tumblr terminated my account for “repeated” violations of the DMCA. Tumblr apparently has a two-strikes law, not mentioned in its vaguely worded user policy.
Tumblr, now owned by Yahoo, apparently isn’t interested in “fair use” arguments or DMCA appeals.
While Tumblr publicly claims to support its users and free speech, its actions in my case and likely others demonstrate that’s not so.
Think of all the popular Internet memes that are transformative works based on copyrighted photos, including Texts from Hillary, McKayla Is Not Impressed and Ryan Gosling “Hey Girl,” all of which are hosted on Tumblr, by the way.
Tumblr is chock full of photos and videos that don’t belong to the bloggers posting them. These range from fan sites for celebrities like Justin Bieber and screenshots of TV shows and movies to the hard-core pornography that’s rife on Tumblr. But Tumblr turns a blind eye to those websites as long as it doesn’t get a complaint from a copyright holder. They could all be taken down by zealous copyright enforcers.
All it takes to stop blogs from running those images is a copyright holder with a rigid view of copyright law and a blogging company with no interest in exemptions to it.
That happened in the case of the original “Sad Keanu” Internet meme hosted on Tumblr. However, it didn’t stop the humorous meme from spreading elsewhere on Tumblr and the Internet.
Tumblr founder and CEO David Karp talks about free speech (usually related to porn on Tumblr) and supporting Tumblr’s users. But talk is cheap, David.
Imagine you wrote a book that you spent more than a year researching and then because you quoted portions of another book, even with proper attribution and “fair use” protections, your entire book was deleted. Not just the portions of someone else’s work, but all of your writing and research. Now imagine that you had two other books deleted at same time that weren’t part of the copyright dispute.
That’s basically what happened to me with Tumblr.
Instead of taking down just the photos in question while I appealed, Tumblr deleted my entire account and my three blogs and then ignored my appeal.
Through its actions, Tumblr silenced a critic of the U.S. government’s TSA. Tumblr didn’t care about my First Amendment rights. It’s a private business that can cut off your microphone whenever it feels like it.
I hate to think of the many hours I spent on those three blogs. They were my hobby for a time. Now they’re gone. And Tumblr refused to return my writings and my research, including the weblinks I had collected.
So, back up your work, if you use Tumblr.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013 is a great website for prepping for rock or pop music concerts

Before I go to a rock or pop music concert, I like to check out what songs the artist or band performed at recent shows so I know what to expect., owned by Live Nation Entertainment, is the best website I’ve seen for collecting music artist set lists or play lists. I’ve even posted my own setlist record from recent concerts by Rihanna and Kesha (or, as she stylizes it, Ke$ha).
The song listings on even link to videos, so you can preview music that you’re not familiar with.
For example, at a recent show, Kesha previewed a great new song called “Machine Gun Love.” provided a link to a YouTube video of a live performance of the song.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Internet company histories and website error pages

Here are some fun lists that show what popular websites used to look like and what their first posts were.

What 14 popular websites used to look like. (Business Insider; April 28, 2013)

First posts on some of the Web’s biggest sites. (This Was First)

And finally, I’ve written about Internet 404 error pages several times before. These pages are the ones you stumble upon when a weblink is no longer active or you have a bad weblink. They can be pretty entertaining. They’re like Easter eggs on the Web. The Business Insider put together a list it calls “The Best 404 Error Pages Of All Time.” It contains 19 examples and is by no means exhaustive.

Here are posts I’ve done on the subject:

24 notable webpage error messages (Oct. 30, 2011)

10 fun webpage error messages (Sept. 26, 2012)

Obama-Biden 2012 website appears to make fun of Biden on error page (Oct. 2, 2012)

As a bonus, I’m including here three more website 404 error pages, from top down: Evite, Buzz Media and Yfrog.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Anthony Weiner winning in the porn market

Embattled New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner might be losing in the voter polls, but he’s winning in another area: porn videos inspired by his sexting scandals.
His shenanigans have inspired five porn videos to date. That puts him in sixth place among real-life inspirations for porn movies. Actor Charlie Sheen is first with 19 porn movies based on his crazy escapades with porn actresses. Politician Sarah Palin is second with 10 movies, followed by Tiger Woods (8), Britney Spears (7) and criminals Bonnie & Clyde (6).
The first time Weiner was exposed for exposing himself online, he had to resign from Congress. That incident led to the 2011 movies “Anthony’s Weener” and “Congressman Weiner’s Scandal - Ginger Lee Exposed.”
His second scandal for similar activities has led to three porn movies this year: “Finding Weiner: A XXX Parody,” “Don’t Pull Out” and “Weinergate.” And because Weiner has refused to pull out of the mayoral race, he might inspire still more adult movies. We’ll see.

Photos: Promotional art for “Weinergate” (top) and “Don’t Pull Out.” 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Video game console flops, retro video phones and other tech lists

Continuing my series of business-related lists this week, here is a collection of tech-industry lists.

15 biggest video game console failures ever. (Business Pundit; Feb. 7, 2013)

This list includes Apple’s failed game console, the Apple Bandai Pippin (1995-97). It was launched before the return of co-founder Steve Jobs and under CEO Michael Spindler, who also launched the ill-fated Newton. (See photo of the Apple Bandai Pippin above.) 

12 retro video phone concepts. (Gizmodo; Dec. 3, 2010)

6 hilarious cases of online voting contests gone awry. (Cracked; March 6, 2013)

13 people with permanent tattoos based on passing Internet fads. (Huffington Post; May 25, 2011)

The 5 worst error messages in the history of technology. (Cracked; April 23, 2013)

Microsoft is responsible for three of these, including the “blue screen of death” and the “red ring of death.” 

The 20 most expensive keyword categories in Google AdWords (TechCrunch; July 18, 2011)

How 4 tech companies decided to name their meeting rooms. (Huffington Post; Dec. 18, 2011)

Top 10 technology hoaxes. (The Telegraph)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Brands, logos and advertising – more interesting business lists

Here are some more thought-provoking business lists curated from across the Internet.

7 iconic brands that just vanished. (24/7 Wall St.; July 3, 2013)

The list includes Compaq, Sony Ericsson and Cingular Wireless. (The Huffington Post also published the list.) 

Interesting facts about 10 famous brands. (Graphic Design Blog; Sept. 9, 2010)

This list includes Apple, Adobe, Cisco, Google, Intel and Sony. 

It’s an arrow! Famous logos with hidden images. (Divine Caroline)

15 inadvertently lewd company logos. (Business Pundit; April 2, 2013)

“Logo Life: Life Histories of 100 Famous Logos” by Ron van der Vlugt. (Designboom; Sept. 4, 2012)

“Logo Life” from BIS Publishers charts the evolution of some of the world’s best known logos, such as Lego. (See above photo.) 

15 super creative print ads starring animals. (Business Pundit; Jan. 23, 2013)

This list includes a funny ad for Google featuring a sheep and the text “Did you mean? Battleship.” (See below. Click image for larger view.) 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Funny knockoff products, gimmicky athletic shoes and other neat business lists

Beat the summer doldrums with some interesting business lists curated from around the Internet.

11 geeky and gimmicky shoes, from Reebok Pump to Nike Air Mag. (CNet; Sept. 10, 2011)
This list could have included Converse “React Juice” shoes, KangaROOS, Reebok EasyTones and Skechers Shape-Ups. (See also Top 10 Gimmicky Shoes at The latest gimmicky shoe has to be the Adidas Springblade

16 epic product fails. (Huffington Post; Sept. 28, 2012)
New Coke, Microsoft’s Windows Vista and Netflix’s Qwikster make the list. 

15 awesome knockoffs. (Huffington Post; May 9, 2013)
I especially liked the “Breaking Bad” video cover that used photos from Bryan Cranston’s earlier TV series “Malcolm in the Middle.” (See cover photo up top.) The fake Apple iPhone also is pretty funny. (See photo below.) 

15 brilliantly featherbrained pieces of Angry Birds merchandise. (Business Pundit; June 6, 2013)

13 things that seem like scams but are actually really great. (Business Insider; June 11, 2013)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Baseball Hall of Fame should have selected pitcher Tommy John

The National Baseball Hall of Fame inducted its class of 2013 last weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y. It was a subdued affair because, for the first time since 1965, no living person was inducted.
The honorees this year included only selections from the veterans committee ballot: New York Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, umpire Hank O’Day and barehanded catcher Deacon White, who last played 123 years ago.
Hall of fame voters rejected Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, stars accused of using performance-enhancing drugs. The two were in their first year of eligibility, but didn’t even come close to getting picked. It was a sign that players tainted by the steroids era will have a tough time getting into the hall. (See coverage by USA Today, ESPN, Newsday and the New York Daily News.)
The hall gave special recognition over the weekend to Dr. Frank Jobe for developing the historic elbow procedure, known as “Tommy John Surgery,” which has helped hundreds of major league players past and present extend their baseball careers. John, the former left-handed pitcher who won 288 games in his 26-year major league career, joined Dr. Jobe for the special recognition, the New York Times reported.
But here’s the outrage: John is not yet in the hall of fame himself. The veterans committee needs to correct that oversight as soon as possible.
My father-in-law, Al Eisele, who played minor league ball with John, wrote an impassioned argument in favor of John’s induction into the hall in 2007 for the Huffington Post. It’s a good read and worth checking out.

Photos: Top half of Tommy John’s 1964 rookie card (above) and John’s Topps baseball card from 1989, his last year as a player.