Why *I* Tweet

Just because Jim Groom already did it, and did it better, doesn’t mean I can’t jump in with my two cents.

In response to Jeff Swain’s video asking, “Why Do You Tweet?”


This Just In: Warner Music Group Lacks Sense of Irony, Common Sense

Ever since Warner Music Group pitched a hissy fit over copyright infringement on Youtube, finally reaching “a new and expanded agreement” with Youtube’s parent company, Google, it has been by far the most aggressive about protecting copyright claims on that sight– often flagrantly disregarding fair use.

I have to say that personally, I don’t see how a sixteen year old kid playing a Prince song on his ukulele and sharing it with friends over YouTube in any way threatens either Mr. Nelson’s or WMG’s intellectual property or record sales. Most of these claims are against the SPIRIT of copyright law– as it is outlined in Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the Constitution– if not the letter of the law. But the letter of the law is on their side, at least in those cases. Less so with other claims that fall very solidly under fair use protection.

And then there’s the claims that show not just that WMG is tone-deaf when it comes to the Constitution, but to basic principles of irony, like when a copyright claim on a small clip of music was used to silence a video of fair-use advocate and lawyer Larry Lessig. These are the transgressions that really point to the cluelessness of large groups of people following bureaucratic dictate with no larger guiding principle than profit.

I’ve gone on this little rant because I’ve finally gotten my first copyright complaint on YouTube.

Almost four years ago, I created the below video for a class project. I was trying to familiarize myself with basic editing programs, and to create a little video about US Labor History, with a slightly IWW sympathy.

I chose Billy Bragg’s rendition of The Internationale for several reasons. The song itself was a natural choice for a video on Labor History and looking at radicalism within the producing classes. Bragg’s version was in English, sung more like a folk song than an opera, and his revised lyrics emphasize a humanistic syndicalism that I feel represents some of the best aspects of American Labor in the periods between the Civil War and WWII.

The song is very much in the public domain here in the US– though apparently not in France. I found Billy Bragg’s version on a website of public domain music, and I’ll admit, I didn’t do my full due diligence, but as this was just a class project, I felt it was sufficient to do a bit. Finding it on that site, and then tracking down that the original version was recorded by Bragg on his Utility Records label, I felt safe. Even if the strictly educational purpose of the video– created for a class as a primative attempt at digital pedagogy– didn’t qualify my use as fair use, and even if it wasn’t viewed– as I feel it could be– as protected political speech… I just figured that, as the copyright holder, Billy Bragg wasn’t going to go after me for making a rather lefty student project about labor history.

But it turns out that Electra re-issued the album that this appeared on, and since Warner bought Electra in 1970, yes, WMG may indeed have some sort of claim on the music. I don’t have the particulars, and it depends on the nature of the reissue contracts, etc., but yes, they may have some claim.

And yes, nearly four years and nearly four thousand YouTube views later, they may well be within their rights to give me a copyright warning. Although given their scattershot approach, I’d really love the right to ask them to show me the paperwork before I believe it.

And I’m lucky, I guess. My video hasn’t been silenced or taken down. I just got off with a warning. As the little automated copyright imp inside of Youtube tells me, “No action is required on your part. Your video is still available worldwide. In some cases ads may appear next to your video.”

But that’s when the second shoe falls, irony-wise. Yes, WMG is challenging my right to use a piece of music that is really the property of a body of people who don’t believe in corporate personhood or private property. Yes, they are saying that they are the corporate owners and protectors of a song that features the lyrics:

When we fight, provoked by their aggression,
Let us be inspired by life and love.
For though they offer us concessions,
Change will not come from above!

…But I expect this sort of tone-deafness to irony. What shocks and delights me, however, is the idea of ads appearing next to my little video about the resistance and dignity of exploited workers. I wonder what products they might use to subsidize my use and pay off WMG for my use of the song. Because no matter what it is, there’s a good chance that it’ll be a product that is producing an unsafe product, or outsourcing American jobs to countries with fewer worker protections, or using sweatshop labor to keep prices low.

And I think, yeah– I wouldn’t mind having these images, this music, used next to such an ad. At all. Maybe it’ll make people think about where their Nikes or their Chinese-built electronics come from. Maybe this ad placement will actually, despite the intentions of the corporations involved, raise consciousness a little tiny bit about the machine of production in an international economy.

Or maybe they’ll eventually silence it, and I’ll just have to upload it again with a crappy MIDI file of the song.

ETA: Apparently, YouTube has silenced yet another Lessig video.

Good to know you’re not alone.


My digital storytelling project pitch…

We were asked to “pitch” our final projects over in my Digital Storytelling class.

In movie-making, a pitch is usually an oral thing– the short written version is a “treatment.” And given that the project that I want to work on would involve in me taking video of myself and putting it up on the web, interacting with people via sites like YouTube– something that I am not at all accustomed to or particularly comfortable about– I figured that doing my “pitch” via video would be particularly helpful.

So yeah– here’s my pitch. Do you think it sounds like a worthwhile/interesting/achievable project? Are there pitfalls I haven’t thought of that I should think about?


Economics and Annoying Smart Guys

This pretty much reflects exactly how I feel about the current economic situation.


Bjork Explains Television


Do You

One of the projects I’m working on at CHNM this summer is helping with the “final push” for the Mozilla Digital Memory Bank. The grant is ending around September, and we’re trying to get as many people to submit to the site before we can’t put as much time into it. Ideally, I’d love to see a bit of community form around the site, so that it continues to archive new material even beyond that date.

To this end, I’m trying to use all the social networking tools I can.

I’m contacting the admins of Mozilla-related Facebook communities.
I’ve created a Mozilla DMB Livejournal account to contact communities there.

I’ve even created a Youtube account, and posted video ads for the site, trying to get users to submit accounts of their experiences with Mozilla Products:

…I’m trying to come up with other social media that I could use to increase the profile of the site– the more eyeballs we get on the site, the more people will submit. It’s a numbers game– if one person out of fifty people who find out about the database actually submit material, it’s still worth it to try to get several hundred people to find out about the site.

Any suggestions?


(Semi-)Weekly Ukulele Post

I love ukulele orchestras.

The sound of a single uke can be sublimely beautiful or twee and plinking, it’s much more versatile than people give it credit for being. (It seems that Jake Shimabukuro’s helping to change that somewhat, although I still love the uke primarily as a rhythm instrument.)

The sound of a single uke can evoke a lot, and be pretty amazing. But there’s nothing in the world quite like the sound of, say, fifty ukuleles, playing as one. The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain are becoming minor Youtube celebrities, and I can see why. They’re a little stiff and droll for me, though. I have to say, I prefer the raw fun of The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra— who can be heard here in a rousing rendition of Outcast’s “Hey Ya.”

Well, a band that’s already been in pretty frequent rotation on my iTunes just came out with a new song featuring a ukulele orchestra. Needless to say, I’m jazzed.

The band is the Bastard Fairies, a group I often explain to my friends as “LA’s answer to the Dresden Dolls.” Like the Dresden Dolls, they’re a male-female two-piece, heavy on the theatricality, childlike music, and dark themes. But where Amanda Palmer is a bit of the waifish Victorian china doll, the Bastard Fairies’ singer, Yellow Thunder Woman, is the Native American answer to Betty Page. Where the Dolls seem to draw inspiration from Weimar Republic Caberets, the Fairies prefer punk rock, regressed to childhood. Nursery rhymes about sex, death, and beer.

What drew my attention to the Bastard Fairies wasn’t actually their music– it was their delivery system. These guys were ahead of Chris Anderson in the belief that the future of business is free.

The then-unsigned band elected to make their excellent debut album, Momento Mori, freely available for download, and then look for someone to distribute them. A lot of people, myself included, downloaded the album out of sheer curiosity. The album got picked up by Adrenaline Music, the download page went away, and the CD was released with additional tracks. It can be even be purchased now on Amazon. Go pick up a copy– it’s worth it.

Anyway, I’ve been listening a lot to this new uke orchestra Bastard Fairies track.

Allow me to introduce the Bastard Fairies’ cover of Melanie Safka’s “Brand New Key”, featuring the Uncle Lincoln Ukulele Club:


The Bastard Fairies’ Website
The Bastard Fairies’ Myspace
The Bastard Fairies on


…My first little try at making a movie.

Be nice– it’s the first time I’ve done anything like this.

I decided to work with images I found online that had something to do with US Labor History. You’ll see lots of Wobblies (just ’cause I’m fascinated by them), Emma Goldman, some of the victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory disaster, miners, a photo of members of the Knights of Labor, Trotsky reading a US Communist Party paper, broadsides, Eugene V Debs, WPA workers, depression-era farm families, a sharecropper’s house, the office of the Appeal to Reason… and a lot of other stuff… All put to Billy Bragg singing “L’Internationale.”

Hope you enjoy.