Archive for July, 2005

Why buy the cow?

For those who doubt the effectiveness of free art, here’s an example of getting something for giving something away.

Escape Key is a filk trio that plays science fiction conventions. They have one album available, and few people ever heard of them despite the fact that they’re really quite good.

But a lot more people have heard of them thanks to threads online like this one on Fireflyfans.Net.

It seems that Escape Key wrote, performed, and recorded a song based on the well-written and wonderfully-acted but short-lived Joss Whedon series, “Firefly” and used part of the show’s theme song as the chorus. As we all know, science fiction fans are a loyal bunch – but it helps that the song sounds all right, and that there’s buzz around the new movie.

With no real promotion on their part, the fan community picked up on the song and overnight Escape Key found their website bombarded – as evidenced by this message posted to the above message board theme.

Oh holy cow!

I had no idea people were listening to our music until I had the following conversation:

My husband (wearing a huge grin): Dear, I figured out why our net connection is so slow.
bq. Me: Why?
bq. Him: A link to Mal’s Song has been posted on a Firefly fan site.
bq. Me: You mean…
bq. Him: ...yep. We’re being slashdotted.

Thank you all so much for your kind response. I hoped people would like the song, but I never expected so many people to hear it. This is wonderful!

It’ll be unavailable for an hour or so while my husband (the guitar player) creates a torrent for it, so that people can still download it without breaking our poor little server’s head. So if you’re still trying to get it, bear with us; it’ll be back up very soon and I’ll post a new link for it to this thread.

Oh, and I hope to have a better recording of it on our next CD. (Yeah… I even have fantasies of sending it to Joss. I’m too chicken, though.)

Wow. Just… wow!

Michelle Dockrey (the singer)

Give it away for free, and people notice you.

Then you hit them with the outrageous charges! Mu-hu-ha-ha!

Wait. Did I say that last part out loud?

On a similar note, nerdcore rapper MC Chris is giving away his entire first album as a free download from his website. My backpack’s got jets.

Sunday, July 24th, 2005

Creative Commons Smackdown

Thoroughly-unlovable techno curmudgeon John C. Dvorak doesn’t like… well, he doesn’t like stuff in general.

But his latest thing to be grumpy about is Creative Commons, resulting in this little rant over at the PC Magazine website.

This is one of the dumbest initiatives ever put forth by the tech community. I mean seriously dumb. Eye-rolling dumb on the same scale as believing the Emperor is wearing fabulous new clothes.

If you are unfamiliar with this thing, be sure to go to the Web site and see if you can figure it out. Creative Commons actually seems to be a dangerous system with almost zero benefits to the public, copyright holders, or those of us who would like a return to a shorter-length copyright law.

Of course, what John C. Dvorak really thinks matters about as much as whether or not John C. Dvorak once spit on a rock in the Arizona desert. But it’s plain to see that Dvorak has missed the point (not unusual, given that he greeted the initial release of the iPod as a fiasco that would wind up costing Apple millions).

Creative Commons is not a replacement for the Copyright as it stands – it is an easy way of marking fair use for copyrighted material.

Under the current copyright law, “fair use” (which Dvorak seems to think is somehow easily defined) is vague and at times incomprehensible. Those seeking to use copyrighted material under “fair use” can work for years to ensure that they are within their rights purely to wind up getting their asses handed to them in court because their idea of fair use is different from the copyright holder’s idea of fair use, which is in turn different from the Judge du Jour’s idea of fair use.

When you release something with a CC license, you tell the world what you automatically accept as “fair use” – which is your right as the copyright holder.

But what is truly, grossly inaccurate about Dvorak’s “Creative Commons Humbug” is this little gem.

This is nonsense. Before Creative Commons I could always ask to reuse or mirror something. And that has not changed. And I could always use excerpts for commercial or noncommercial purposes. It’s called fair use. I can still do that, but Creative Commons seems to hint that with its license means that I cannot. At least not if I’m a commercial site and the noncommercial proviso is in effect. This is a bogus suggestion, because Creative Commons does not supersede the copyright laws. In fact, the suggestion is dangerous, because if someone were sued by the Creative Commons folks over normal fair use and Creative Commons won the suit, then we’d all pay the price, as fair use would be eroded further.

First of all, Creative Commons claims no ownership of the works in question, so if Dvorak gets his little curmudgeon booty sued by anybody, it’ll be the original author and not Creative Commons.

As for Dvorak’s other statements, he says, “I have sent notes to this operation and never received a reply, in case you’re wondering.” Well, he obviously didn’t read the freakin’ FAQ.

Do Creative Commons licenses affect fair use rights?

No. All of our licenses include this language: “Nothing in this license is intended to reduce, limit, or restrict any rights arising from fair use, first sale or other limitations on the exclusive rights of the copyright owner under copyright law or other applicable laws.” Fair use, the first sale doctrine, and other such limitations apply whether a copyright holder consents to them or not. That’s a good thing, and we want to let such rights be.

If I choose the noncommercial license option, can I still make money from my licensed works?

Absolutely. The “noncommercial use” condition applies only to others who use your work, not to you (the copyright holder). When other people use or trade or copy your work, they cannot do so for “monetary compensation or financial gain,” unless they get your permission.

One of our central goals is to encourage people to experiment with new ways to promote and market their work. In fact, we designed the noncommercial license option to be a tool to help people make money from their work, by allowing them to maximize the distribution of their works while keeping control of the commercial aspects of their copyright.

Take this example: You license your photograph with a noncommercial license and post it on your website. An editor at Spectacle, a for-profit magazine, comes across your photo and wants to use it for the next issue’s cover. Under the noncommercial term, the editor could copy your photograph and show it to her friends and co-workers, but she would have to strike a separate deal with you (for money, if you’re smart) to use it for the magazine.

A special note on the noncommerical provision: Under current U.S. law, file-sharing or the trading of works online is considered a commercial use—even if no money changes hands. Because we believe that file-sharing, used properly, is a powerful tool for distribution and education, all Creative Commons licenses contain a special exception for file-sharing. The trading of works online is not a commercial use, under our documents, provided it is not done for monetary gain.

And, just to re-iterate, is Dvorak gonna be sued for using CC material?

Will Creative Commons help me enforce my license?

No, we will only provide the license, plus a plain-language summary and machine-readable translation of it. We’re not a law firm. We’re much like a legal self-help press that offers form documentation—at no cost—for you to use however you see fit. We cannot afford to provide any ancillary services particular to your situation and, in any case, our mission does not include providing such services.

Wednesday, July 20th, 2005

Happy File Compression Day!

Ten years ago today, the file extension .mp3 was selected for ISO standard IS 11172-3 “MPEG Audio Layer 3.”

[translated from the original German]

Date: Fri, 14 Jul 1995 12:29:49 +0200
bq. Subject: Layer3 file extension: .mp3

Hi all,

this is the overwhelming result of our poll: everyone voted for .mp3 as extension for ISO MPEG Audio Layer 3! As a consequence, everyone please mind that for WWW pages, shareware, demos, and so on, the .bit extension is not to be used anymore. There is a reason for that, believe me :-)

Juergen Zeller

And the relationship between the RIAA, its customers, and its artists has been going steadily downhill ever since (which, considering how bad they already were, is actually kind of amazing).

Thursday, July 14th, 2005

P.T. Barnum – American!

In an effort to live out my dream of publishing some of the niftiest media I have found, I am making a concerted effort to add new content by some of the great authors and filmmakers of yesteryear to my own LuLu store.

Starting with The Art of Money Getting – by none other than P.T. Barnum, American!

While you’re worrying about who’s moving your cheese, your bank account is drying up!

So what are you going to do about it?

A true American entrepreneur, P.T. Barnum – founder of Barnum & Bailey Circus – authored this delightful and educational book on the Art of Money Getting!

And the secrets of the great P.T. Barnum can be yours now for only $6.99! It’s easier to read than Who Moved My Cheese! It’s shorter than Who Moved My Cheese! It’s cheaper than Who Moved My Cheese! And it’s less likely to make your employees want to throw rotten fruit at you.

And it’s 100% American!

Wednesday, July 13th, 2005

I can’t get behind that!

Remember how the director of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting spent thousands in CPB funding to push legislation and fund studies designed to undermine public broadcasting?

Well, it’s no secret that the Bush administration has difficulty getting its money’s worth. And as the latest illustration of this, we point you toward this summary of the report generated by Fred Mann after being paid by Tomlinson to track political bias on public television (thanks for the link, Mac).

It turns out that the Mann Report – which Tomlinson has been reluctant to pull out and wave around like the high-cost conservative banner that it was clearly intended to be – is a completely ridiculous mess of inaccuracies and typos.

It’s a document created by a man with no credentials to suggest that he’s in any way qualified to analyze media, and the report itself suggests that Mann is at best grossly uninformed and at worst functionally illiterate.

As part of the report, Mann labels guests on PBS talk shows as “L” for liberal, “C” for conservative, or “X” for – well, nobody’s quite certain what “X” was supposed to mean.

Henry Rollins, the former singer for the legendary hardcore-punk band Black Flag, was labeled conservative for stating, in Mann’s words, that “people who have problems with the war should support the troops.” Apparently, feeling sympathy for American servicemen and women is strictly “C.”

Let us take a moment to revel in Henry Rollins’ response to the Mann Report’s assertion that he’s a C.

Jane. I don’t know if I could be called a conservative seeing how I will get up extra early to tell anyone in front of me THAT BUSH IS A COWARD AND A LIAR AND THOSE WHO VOTED FOR HIM ARE PART OF A VERY BAD PROBLEM. THAT THE FOX NEWS CHANNEL IS A BUNCH OF SISSIES WHO CAN’T TAKE A PUNCH....If Bush’s idiotic television monitors are making reference to my 70 second appearance on Fox News talking about the USO, I did that because the USO asked me to and since I do a lot of work on their behalf because I support our troops, I did.

As if mislabeling Rollins weren’t enough, Mann didn’t just mistake well-known liberals for conservatives.

Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, garnered his “L” after speaking glowingly of Ronald Reagan in a discussion with Tavis Smiley. Hagel is, of course, that comsymp who earned a 100 percent rating from the Christian Coalition last year. Another Rehm guest, Washington Post reporter Robin Wright, earned her “L” by articulating an analytical point Mann apparently had not heard expressed before. “Ms. Wright’s viewpoint was that U.S. intelligence was geared to fight the Cold War and did not adapt to the new threat of terrorism,” Mann writes, describing why he put the “L” word beside her name. For investigating three of Tom DeLay’s associates for illegal fundraising in Travis County, Texas, District Attorney Ronnie Earle, who was interviewed on NOW, was dubbed “anti-DeLay.”

And actor Jamie Foxx was labeled with a lowercase “x.” After discussing the difficulties Ray Charles had to overcome in his career.

So, we have taxpayer money that could have been spent on the quality programming that it was earmarked for that instead went to failed legislation and an unreadable, inaccurate, and amazingly off-topic report by an un-credentialed “expert” who apparently can’t be found now.

Fiscal responsibility what?

Monday, July 11th, 2005

It’s review time!

The next episode of the Anvil & Sprocket podcast is slightly delayed, but there are two new reviews up for your reading pleasure! Take a look at Thud’s review of artsy exploitation flick Eugenie (adapted from de Sade’s Philosophy in the Bedroom).

Then take a look at a movie you should really worry about your kids seeing, Dreamworks’ cheap and shoddy knock-off of Finding Nemo, Shark Tale.

Hey – now that we’ve worked our tails off to make it impossible for kids to see violent, sexual, or junk food-related content, can we change gears for a little bit and worry about the kind of access our kids have to crap?

Thursday, July 7th, 2005

The Ten That Time Forgot

Here’s the “Is it Friday Already?” edition of the Friday Random Ten…

  1. “Because/Come Together” – George Benson
  2. “Cheer Up! Smile! Nertz!” – Eddie Cantor
  3. “Brand New Sidewalk” – Nickel Creek
  4. “Too Good To Let Go” – Bastard Youth Of Basehead
  5. “Taking My Life In Your Hands” – Elvis Costello & The Brodsky Quartet
  6. “Next Ex-Girlfriend” – Bowling For Soup
  7. “Hound Dog” – Big Mama Thornton
  8. “Front The Most” – M.C. Frontalot
  9. “Ballad of the Ludlow Massacre” – David Kendall Grant
  1. “Ray Of Light” – University of Southern California Sirens

Friday, July 1st, 2005