Monthly Archives: June 2013

Artist Who Loves Mashup Culture Calls Current Copyright Law “The New Prohibition”

Copyright law, new distribution technologies, the creative process, and mashup culture meet in a dark alley. What will they look like when they emerge?

Andy Baio, spoke this month at a CreativeMornings meeting in Portland, Ore. and called the current state of copyright enforcement “The New Prohibition.” Baio, an avid technologist, digital entrepreneur, “Wired” columnist, and artist believes that the threat of copyright damages stifles creativity.

Portland/CreativeMornings - Andy Baio from CreativeMornings/Portland on Vimeo.

Along with partner Andy McMillan, Baio, who was involved with the startup of Kiskstarter, the online fundraising platform for independent artists, runs “XOXO,” one of Portland’s artisitic symposiums. Fifteen hundred tickets sell out within hours. He is passionate about building creative community.

Fresh from a copyright lawsuit himself, Baio understands, the artistic process, and has a fair grasp of fair use. He does not support the idea of intellectual property rights as they currently exist and believes they have a “chilling effect” on creativity.

In his presentation, Baio tells the story of his copyright suit. He thought he had a solid case for fair use, but ended up settling for $32,000 to avoid the potential $150,000  in potential statutory damages. To avoid maximum fines, most copyright suits, like Baio’s, are settled out of court. “It takes a lot of affiliate income to cover that,” notes Baio in his video.

“Cut, copy, paste. The ability to reuse and remix is so deeply baked into our tools, it’s rewritten our culture,” reads the introduction to the online video on LiveLeaks. “We learn to make great art by copying, and we participate in our culture by reusing and modifying what we see,” continues Baio.

The Law

The United States copyright law was originally passed in 1790 to “promote creativity by administering and sustaining an effective national copyright system.” Writers, painters, photographers, musicians, and performance artists depend upon the law to deter others from copying, claiming, modifying, distributing, or benefiting financially from their creativity.

The law allows “statutory damages” of up to $150,000 for works that are officially registered with the U. S. Copyright office.

Matt Stitzer, general counsel for IAC, the company that owns such well-known brands as and Vimeo explains how damages are awarded: “Statutory damages only apply with respect to registered copyrights, i.e., in the vast minority of cases,” Stitzer wrote this week via electronic correspondence. “For everyone else, copyright attaches at the point where the ‘original work of authorship’ is reduced to a tangible medium. For the latter class (unregistered works), it is difficult to prove damages,” Stitzer continues.

All this legalese used to be the terrain of artists, lawyers, and other artists. Now it belongs to every kid with an iPhone who uploads a video mashup (WARNING: graphic lyrics) to the latest Macklemore hit and every high school graduating class whose year-end video is accompanied by a Radioactive’s “Imaginary Dragons“or Nickelback’s “Photograph.”

From eternity past people have gathered together for storytelling. Today the phenomenon looks like kids gathered around electronics watching video and music content. Now they can create, upload, and share their own, becoming part of the dialogue. (Photo by Kaley Perkins)

Describing what he considers to be a “new era of frenetic self-promotion,” Stitzer writes, “It is difficult to envision the social exhibitionists among us defending the notion of self protection. Our concepts of copyright protection are bound to erode,” he believes.

The Derivative Nature of Art

Baio is less concerned with self-promotion than with the creative process itself. He joins a host of luminaries and students of literature who purport that all art is derivative. Austin Kleon wrote a book called, “Steal Like an Artist,” encouraging Creatives to copy and study works that resonate with them until they find their unique voices.

“All art is theft,” said Pablo Picasso. T. S. Eliot articulated it like this:

“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn.”

In his presentation, Baio provided as example the “Harlem Shake” mashup phenomenon found on YouTube. According to Baio, the first mashup was posted on Feb. 4. As of this writing (June 30), over 264,000 derivative clips showing up on in a YouTube search. Choosing one clip, Baio created a graphic, showing its derivative pedigree.

How consistent is copyright law with the creative process and how culture organically unfolds? Not very, believes Baio:

But the law hasn’t caught up with our changing values, effectively criminalizing the creativity of millions. Cover songs on YouTube, fanfic, mashups, and supercuts all violate copyright, and lawyers are starting to find new tools to discover and enforce infringement.”

Ohio Attorney General Downplays Role of Anonymous Sources

No tips offered by anonymous sources helped convict Trent Mays or Ma’lik Richmond, two Steubenville, Ohio teenagers found delinquent in the August 2012 rape of a 16-year-old, Jane Doe. That is according to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office in a phone interview Thursday morning.

“All items presented at the time (of the original investigation) by ‘Anonymous’ were previously known to law enforcement,” said Dan Tierney, spokesperson for the Attorney General.

By “Anonymous,” Tierney is referring to the vigilante hacktivist group who hacked into school computers and, in collaboration with Local Leaks, a tip-gathering website for anonymous informants, gathered over 1,000 tips about the incident. Tips included tweets, videos, and accusations of local conspiracies between law enforcement, school officials, and community leaders. Investigative blogger, Alexandria Goddard, and “Anonymous” created national awareness by publishing evidence that witnesses and partakers of the evening had posted to social media sites, many of which have been subsequently deleted.

Many in the Steubenville community viewed the social media attention as a witch hunt. Goddard was slapped with a defamation suit which was later dropped. The community splintered. While the investigation continued, voices picked teams, either blaming the victim, blaming social media for using the case to promote its anti-rape political agenda while disregarding the victim’s privacy, or lionizing the social media attention and it role in bringing perceived justice.

Comment from Grand Jury article, capturing the sentiments of community members in support of the social media presence brought on by Alexandra Goddard and “Anonymous.” (Accessed June 22, 2013 at 5:47 p.m. PST)

“If you could charge people for not being decent human beings, a lot of people could have been charged that night,” said William McCafferty, Steuvenville Police Chief. McCafferty voiced frustration over being accused of not aggressively investigating participants and some adults who, tweets captured by Goddard suggest, may have been aware of that night’s events. Repeated calls from law enforcement for information resulted in only one person coming forward voluntarily.

“This is a good community, with good people…I know that it desperately needs to be able to put this matter behind it and begin to move forward,” wrote DeWine in a statement on his website the day after Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond were convicted of rape. To be able to move forward though, DeWine noted, “…this community needs assurance that no stone has been left unturned in our search for the truth.”

To ensure the turning of those stones, the Attorney General announced on March 18 the formation of a grand jury that would fully investigate allegations of further wrong-doing.

“What happened here is shocking, and it is appalling,” wrote DeWine. “But what’s even more shocking and appalling is that crimes of sexual assault are occurring every Friday night and every Saturday night in big and small communities all across this country.  And there comes a point, where we must say, “Enough! This has to stop!”

Because “the investigation is ongoing,” Tierney was unable to comment on whether any of the anonymous tips provided by Local Leaks were being processed for the grand jury, nor how they would be vetted if they were being processed. A direct call to the state’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s “Crimes Against Children” division led back to the spokesperson.

The 14 member grand jury “was seated but didn’t begin work” on April 15. It reconvened on April 30 and worked for three days and then “continued” for what were supposed to be three weeks. But three weeks passed and no grand jury had reconvened. Nor had it on June 17, the date of its reschedule.

“We don’t have a definite date for when the grand jury will reconvene,” reported Tierney on June 20.

As It Stands:

DeWhine is addressing sexual assault from a state-wide platform.

Deric Lostutter, the man who self-identified as “KYAnonymous,” the leader of #OpRollRedRoll, “Anonymous’s” presence in Steubenville, is currently facing jail time for computer crimes. He could get 15-25 years. The rapists got one and two.

Reno Saccoccia, the coach who was allegedly aware of the events of that night, had his contract renewed by the school district for two more years.

The website Local Leaks has been suspended for violation of Terms of Service.

ACLU Sues Head Spooks for Violating the Constitution

U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York coat of arms. (Public domain license, wikipedia.)

On June 11, four separate ACLU entities joined together to file a lawsuit with the Southern District of New York branch of the United States District Court against the five highest-ranking United States intelligence officials. The suit cites violations of the first and fourth amendments and the overstepping of Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

The lawsuit comes in the wake of revelations about the U.S. government’s surveillance program, PRISM, under which it has been collecting communication metadata of U.S. and foreign citizens from nine of the nation’s most trusted telecommunication and social media companies.

Lawmakers (44:02), whistleblowers, and global cyberchiefs warn of yet more disturbing privacy news in the days (and years) to come.

Senator Saxby Chambliss (Ga.) justified the program as “good intelligence” and stated that [surveillance of American citizens] has been in effect since 2007 and that all members of Congress have been briefed on it. Advocates say that surveillance stops terrorism and fear they won’t have the intel they need to keep the country safe.

Senators Wyden (Ore.) and Udall (Colo.), both of whom serve on the U.S. Senate Select Committee for Intelligence, are critical of the program. They have asked Gen. Alexander, Director of the NSA, for evidence to back up his claims that the intel gathered with PRISM has stopped “dozens” of attacks. The senators are quoted in a press release on Wyden’s website:

“We have not yet seen any evidence showing that the NSA’s dragnet collection of Americans’ phone records has produced any uniquely valuable intelligence. Gen. Alexander’s testimony yesterday suggested that the NSA’s bulk phone records collection program helped thwart ‘dozens’ of terrorist attacks, but all of the plots that he mentioned appear to have been identified using other collection methods. The public deserves a clear explanation.”

In a phone interview, Lin Chany, a volunteer with the ACLU of Washington state, shared the organization’s view: “Since Nixon, the government has been using ‘national security’ as an excuse to spy on American citizens.”

The ACLU, a recent customer of Verizon, a telecommunication company that provides customer metadata to the NSA, explains that it is a “non-profit organization…providing pro bono litigation upholding civil rights and liberties based on the Constitution.” As such, it receives privileged phone calls from potential clients in matters of racial discrimination, gender issues and reproductive rights, whistle-blowers, journalists, and people bringing potential suits against the federal and state governments. (“Plaintiffs’ Allegations,” sections 24-27.)

The ACLU feels the extent of government surveillance will be “chilling” to its clientele. How safe would a government whistle-blower feel, for example, contacting a law firm to argue on its behalf for immunity if he felt that the government had could track him through his communications with that law firm?

The group is suing the top five intelligence officers who oversee the intelligence data gathering on the basis that the program threatens free speech, freedom of the press, and freedom from warrantless searches and seizures of private documents.

Nsa Phone Spying Complaint

The five named defendants are:

  • James R. Clapper, Director of National Intelligence who has “ultimate authority over all activity in the intelligence community;”
  • Keith B. Alexander, Director of the National Security Agency and Chief of the Central Security Service, oversees the NSA which conducts the “surveillance authorized by the challenged law;”
  • Charles T. Hagel, Secretary of Defense who, as head of the Department of Defense, has oversight of the NSA;
  • Eric H. Holder, Attorney General of the United States who has ultimate authority over the Department of Justice and the FBI; and
  • Robert S. Meuller, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who is responsible for applications made to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (“FISC”), and independent court formed in 1978 to oversee surveillance applications in foreign intelligence gathering operations.

“The ACLU’s mission here is to at least open public and congressional debate about privacy and surveillance issues,” said Chany. Mission accomplished.

Blogger and Hacktivist Become Scapegoats in Underage Rape Case

The People Vs. Monsanto, Modern Day David and Goliath

Josh’s sign showing the diseases linked to exposure to glyphosate, a key ingredient in the household weed killer, Round Up. Picture taken by Kaley Perkins, May 25, 2013.

The Battlefield

Josh is hard to miss in the middle of the crowd that is harder to miss. His six foot six inch frame hoists an enormous polychromatic sign high into the air. His list reads like a Who’s Who of diseases — diseases that result from exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Round Up, a common household weed-killer produced by Monsanto. Josh found out about the rally on Liberty News online and hopes for an eventual ban on pesticides and GMO’s.

Josh and thousands* of others from the Pacific Northwest descended upon Halladay Park in Portland, Ore. on May 25 as part of a coordinated and global March Against Monsanto, the Missouri-based biotech and pesticide-producing agribusiness-giant who brought to market the defoliant known as Agent Orange and the insecticide, DDT. It is now under public scrutiny for, among other things, introducing genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) into the global food supply.

Golaith and His Investors

Hugh Grant, CEO of Monsanto. Shared from

Monsanto is the largest biotech kid on the block and sells itself as the global leader in food production and agricultural technology to feed an ever-increasing global population

In an interview with Bloomberg writer, Jack Kaskey, Hugh Grant, CEO of Monsanto, accuses “opponents who want to block genetically modified foods” of elitism. Eliminating genetically modified foods, Hughes believes, will eliminate more affordable food choices for people who can’t afford to buy organic produce.

Critics accuse the company of, with the passage of Section 735 of this year’s Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, subverting the democratic process; controlling mainstream media; and putting profits over long-term global food security by decreasing biodiversity.

Grant presented a strategic analysis of Monsanto at this year’s annual Sanford C. Bernstein investor’s conference in New York City, New York on May 29. According to slide #14 Business Growth is one of the key indicators of the company’s financial performance: “Global business portfolio drives gross profit expansion, with continuation of business momentum, expansion of U.S. base and international acceleration.”

That is business-speak for selling more expensive seed brands to farmers, extending biotech engineering into new crops, and planting more land both in America and abroad with GMO seeds.

According to the same slide, the company is using its profits to repurchase its own stocks, further consolidating its value to owning stakeholders. Monsanto’s unaudited quarterly earnings report for 2Q 2013 posts a net profit of $3.07 billion.

David and His Fellow Rock-Flingers

The March Against Monsanto rally was organized by Tami Canal as a response to the passing of the “Monsanto Protection Act,” a six-month variance that allows harvesting of genetically modified crops not allowed under current legislation. Local Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley and other legislators are fighting to overturn the legistlation; signatures were gathered on Merkley’s behalf at the May 25 rally.

Skyler Veek learned about the March Against Monsanto on Facebook. She and her son, Rain, traveled to the Willamette Valley from the Oregon Coast to take part in the march. “Keep your laws off my seeds!” reads Veek’s sign. She wants to raise awareness about local Oregon Senate Bill 633, legislation that acts much as the Monsanto Protection Act but for the state of Oregon.

Skyler and Rain Veek want people to fight against legislation that would take control away from localities and put it in the hands of special interests. Picture by Kaley Perkins, May 25, 2013.

People from the small Oregon town where Veek originates may have considered her activism to be alarmist until May 29 when reports surfaced that some of Oregon’s wheat exports this year have been rejected by Japan and South Korea on the grounds that they contain genetically modified wheat. Thailand has put its ports on notice.

Monsanto has issued a statement that indicates it intends to fully cooperate with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) investigation into the “GE glyphosate resistant wheat variety that Monsanto was authorized to field test in 16 states between 1998-2005.”

Annual wheat crops in Oregon range between $300-500 million, with 2011’s crop hitting $492 million. Oregon, which mixes its wheat with that of Washington and Idaho, exports 90% of its wheat. Japan and South Korea are not the only countries to reject GMO crop imports.

The Slingshot

Ronnette Steed, Julia Degraw, and Leah Maier at the main information booth after the rally. Picture by Kaley Perkins, May 25, 2013.

Julia Degraw, keynote speaker of Portland’s March Against Monsanto and Pacific Northwest organizer of Food and Water Watch, is not intimidated by the global scope and seemingly endless pockets of Monsanto.

“This is a huge warning cry (to Monsanto),” Degraw says about the day’s turnout, citing the support of over 2,000,000 people in 49 countries. “This is proof that we have a lot of power behind us.”

Earlier in the day, the articulate and undaunted Degraw encouraged the crowd to be fearless in its goal to unseat the global biotech giant. She cited multiple European countries that have successfully banned GMO’s; she cited civil protests that have had sweeping socio-economic results throughout American history:

  • Anti-trust laws during the robber baron years
  • The New Deal
  • Women’s right to vote
  • Unions and an eight hour workday
  • Civil rights legislation

“For right now all the vegetables and fruit for human consumption are generally not genetically engineered,” Degraw explains. “This is why we want GMO food labeling sooner rather than later.” According to Degraw, for now, genetically engineered food is primarily in soy and corn found in processed food and animal feed. “You’re going to want to know where your meat is coming from,” her tutorial concludes.

While Degraw proudly identifies herself as a political food activist, she offers the following advice to people who simply want to affordably avoid eating GMO’s:

  • Shop the edges of your supermarket.
  • Buy real food.
  • Avoid Processed food.
  • Cook. You have to eat real food.

Degraw refers people to Michael Pollan, a non-political food writer who educates people about the food system, as a resource for people just learning about GMO’s and wanting to know more.

Gathering More Stones

But for Degraw and others who want to take an active role in eliminating GMO’s and pesticides from our food supply, the fight is just beginning. “We need to actually have legislation that works for us,” says Degraw. Citing Oregon’s SB 633 as did Veek, she points out that current legislation, “…actually encourages Monsanto to take over the food system.”


*Portland’s march was second in size only to that of New York City, New York. Estimates range between 2,000 (in an interview with Julia Degraw) to 6,000 from a local online news article. In an email, Sergeant Pete Simpson, Public Information Officer for Portland Police Bureau reports that his office is not in the habit of reporting crowd sizes.