You will remember the nation of Tunisia for being a flash point of the Arab Spring revolution, in which social media and the internet played a massive role, as well as for the post-revolution government's subsequent crackdown on those tools that brought them into power. There seems to be something of an ongoing problem within Middle East governments, in that they simply don't recognize how to handle popular dissent, often taking on the very characteristics of the dissenter's complaints to an almost caricature level. In that respect, while it may sound silly, any government learning to deal with the open communication system of the net is going to have to come to terms with memes and the manner in which they spread.
Which brings us back to Tunisia. They seem to have a problem with this Gangam Style, Harlem Shake combo-video produced by some apparently fun-loving Tunisian students (the original was taken down due to a highly questionable copyright claim, by the way, because while even the Tunisian government wasn't evil enough to block the video, a bogus DMCA claim had no such qualms).
They danced en masse to the song and posted their exploits on YouTube. That prompted a quarter of a million hits and reports of an investigation by the country's minister of education and that prompted a backlash. Video after video after video of Tunisians proudly doing the Harlem shake in defiance.
Dear Tunisian people: congratulations! You've officially been made full members of the internet community now that you've engaged in trolling your own government as a form of protest. It's only a matter of time before you'll be naming soft drinks after fluid-expelling geriatrics.
Over in Egypt, the government didn't stop at a simple investigation, however. Four students were arrested for taking part in this Harlem Shake video shot in front of the Giza pyramids.
The response? A massive protest Harlem Shake performed directly in front of the Muslim Brotherhood's headquarters.
Sorry, Middle East governments, but the people have spoken, and they want their damned memes. And, actually, that brings to mind the obvious question: how the hell are memes a threat to you to begin with?
For those of you who have managed to avoid the viral sensation of February, known as "The Harlem Shake," consider yourselves lucky. People still seem at a total loss how this became "a thing," but it involves the opening 30 seconds of a song released nearly a year ago, called The Harlem Shake, by Baauer, with the first half involving someone in a wacky costume (often involving a helmet) dancing while others around them ignore it, followed by a bass drop and suddenly everyone around is dancing crazily, often involving costumes, stuffed animals (or real animals), people in sleeping bags and much much more. It's gone quite insane (and, yes, we know it's not "the real Harlem Shake" but so what?) with way, way, way, way too many people, companies and organizations all doing their own versions. There were reports of 4,000 Harlem Shake videos being uploaded to YouTube every single day, and over 60,000 being on YouTube already. If you want (and I warn you to be careful), you can spend hours going through video after video. The KnowYourMeme link up top has collected some of the most popular ones. I cannot vouch for how many such videos it takes before you are driven insane, so be forewarned.
Over the weekend Baauer's song hit number one on the charts and it appears to be doing fairly well around the globe. Also, the song has resulted in a sold out show in NY for Baauer and what is likely to be a fair bit of money. That's because, rather than freak out about others using "his" song (which includes a bunch of samples), Baauer and his label Mad Decent have a deal with INDmusic, which helps indie labels/musicians claim YouTube videos via ContentID and place ads on them. So, combine a top selling song on iTunes, plus allowing the free use of it on YouTube (and monetizing it via ads) and it seems like a tidy profit is being made.
So, for a bit, this was looking like yet another story of how letting people build something on your music was enabling a nice way for one artist to make money, without flipping out about "copyright infringement." But... then we learned that it wasn't quite that simple. As highlighted by The Verge, while Mad Decent and Baauer have mostly let people do what they want with the song, they did send a takedown to Soundcloud over Azelia Banks posting her lyrics over the entire Baauer track, and also posting a video:
That quickly turned into a bit of a Twitter fight, with Banks calling out Baauer:
And, from there we get the following exchange:
Of course, it seemed like there absolutely had to be more to this, as it was unlikely that Banks put together that song and video so quickly after the meme took off (especially since the video doesn't reference the meme at all). Indeed, in an interview with the Daily Beast Baauer (real name: Harry Rodrigues) explains:
“I’m not happy about it,” says Baauer. “She had a version that we were going to release because I’m a big fan of hers. We knew she likes to beef with producers. So she laid something on ‘Harlem Shake’ and it was so/so. Didn’t love it. And that was a little while ago, and since all this video stuff happened, our plans all changed. Because of that, we decided to just release the song on it’s own with no vocal version. So we told her, ‘Please don’t release your version.’ And she said, ‘Well, I’m going to put it online anyway.’ And we said, ‘Please don’t. We’d really like it if you didn’t.’ And she did.”
Still, while lots of folks are defending Baauer here (in part because Banks does have a reputation for getting into arguments with people, and in part because she also went on a homophobic rant), she did have a point when she tweeted this:
Art is supposed to be inspiring, and you should be happy when someone is inspired by your art. In fact, one might argue that Baauer's statement to Banks that "its not ur song" could potentially come back to bite him as well. In that same Daily Beast interview, he talks about how he created the song:
“I just had the idea of taking a Dutch house squeaky-high synth and putting it over a hip-hop track,” he says. “And then I tried to just make it the most stand-out, flashy track that would get anyone’s attention, so put as many sounds and weird shit in there as I could. The dude in the beginning I got somewhere off the Internet, I don’t even know where, and the lion roar just makes no sense.” He laughs. “There’s the sound of flames in there, too, it’s just really low.”
He doesn't know where the "dude in the beginning" comes from -- though, the folks at Reddit have figured it out (because Reddit knows everything). You have to imagine that wasn't licensed, though, if he didn't know where it was from. Who knows about all of the other samples. Personally, I think it's great that he created something by building on the works of others, and was inspired to create something that has become such a huge hit. But you'd think that someone who made the song by pulling bits and pieces from others wouldn't be so fast to sling claims of "ownership" back at someone else who built off of his work. Yes, there's more to it than that and, for the most part, Baauer seems reasonably giddy with all the insanity (and he definitely seemed to do a nice job with his Reddit AMA thanks in particular to this exchange).
It would just be nice if artists who really build on the works of others didn't jump to claiming ownership when others build on their works as well.
You may have heard that, over the weekend, President Obama released a photo taken late last week with him and Olympic medal winning gymnast McKayla Maroney, doing the "not impressed" pose:
If you're not up on your memes, you can catch up on the "McKayla Maroney is not impressed meme" here and here. The photo of the President doing the meme-tastic pose generated a ton of buzz, with the apparent story being that during her visit to the White House, the President pulled her aside and said "I pretty much do that face at least once a day."
Cute. And, of course, nice to have a President not so out of touch that he's unaware of internet memes.
Except... as lawyer Venkat Balasubramani quickly noted, the restrictions on use are somewhat questionable. Beneath the photo on the Flickr account, it states:
This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.
This is, of course, not a new thing. In fact, we reported on this exact phrase on the White House Flickr feeds three years ago. As we noted at the time, there had been some controversy when the White House first started using Flickr in the early days of the Obama administration, as any Federal US government created work is automatically public domain. Yet, Flickr did not have a "public domain" license option. In response, Flickr actually created a special license to indicate that the work was a US government work. That license explicitly states that "anyone may, without restriction under U.S. copyright laws... create derivative works."
And yet, the White House is ignoring what that license says in claiming that the photograph "may not be manipulated in any way." That's clearly untrue under the law and a form of copyfraud, in that they are overclaiming rights.
But, in this case, it's especially ridiculous, since the entire reason the "McKayla is not impressed" meme became so popular was the memegeneration of putting her displeased face into various other images.
With more and more internet adoption worldwide, collaboration and sharing as a genesis for creativity is becoming the norm. The marquis example is Wikipedia, of course, although we've noted a general theory that great ideas can spring from sharing and collaboration, often leading to unexpected (but fun) results. That's one of the reasons it's so fun to see things like the following emerge (completely NSFW, unless you're employed by Dark Helmet Inc.):
Yes, that's the trailer for a new video game to be released shortly, and it was inspired almost entirely by an online group and the resulting internet meme the group produced. Included amongst this list of video games resulting from internet memes, the entire premise of the game began with what was essentially a bitch-session online over how awful shooter game sequels are.
It all started with a joke on a forum. One NeoGAF forum user, annoyed with how lazy shooters had become, complained that he was tired of games like 'Dudebro 2: It's Straight-Up Dawg Time.' It grew from there.
The phrase became a byline for tired, me-too games, but it was so absurd that it got people thinking. Soon, it had mock cover art and a storyline. Before long, a team of fans were working on an entire game, a 2D platformer, and it's on the way soon. It even stars Jon St. John, the actor famous for voicing Duke Nukem.
Apparently, somehow, the entire premise for what looks like a hysterical game was generated spontaneously online in a collaborative format, as was the trailer, cover art, and storyline. Now, it may quickly be pointed out by some that the end product of this creativity is subject to copyright by default, but that misses the point entirely. This is simply another example of how creation occurs and how sharing and exchanging ideas freely can produce an interesting project as well as a great deal of fun. As collaboration of this nature expands due to the ability of people to connect on the internet, the overall need to lock up ideas relative to creative output is going to weaken. There may still be some "artists" who create simply for monetary gain, but their ranks are lessening.
According to a story pointed out to us by @sinkdeep, that sweet octogenarian lady is back, accompanied now by her lawyers, claiming copyright on her work and demanding a cut of the takings from the collection box that the church authorities have placed near the fresco (original in Spanish.)
It would be fascinating to know where the idea came from: whether somebody suggested to her that she had a "right" to some of the church's money, or whether the sense of entitlement -- in this case for more or less ruining an admittedly minor work of art -- is now so widespread that everyone, everywhere, naturally assumes they ought to get their cut as soon as money is involved. Either way, it's a sad commentary on our times -- and on what a belief in copyright can do to otherwise generous people.
Advertising is a fascinating topic. When ads are done well, the content is usually good enough to stand alone without trying to market a product. Who wouldn't want to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony? But it's not easy to create really great and memorable ads. Maybe it's an ancient Chinese secret, huh?
A few folks have been sending in various versions of the fact that the San Louis Obispo police department has decided that the infamous Pedobear meme is something that people need to be warned about because "PedoBear is and should be associated with Internet pedophiles/sexually-preferential offenders who reportedly use him to communicate their interests in young children to each other."
Of course, this ignores what the Pedobear meme is really about -- which is more of a 4chan /b/ "you're being creepy" sorta of thing, which expanded to take on a life of its own (in typical /b/ meme fashion). Amusingly, the police also complain about an internet jokester (with too much free time) dressing up like Pedobear at Comic Con and handing out candy -- noting that after police discovered him, he was "excluded from this family-friendly event." Watch out, Rick Astley, you may be next.
from the i-still-don't-care-how-craaaaaaazy-you-were-in-college dept
You've probably heard of this "25 Random Things About Me" note craze that's going around Facebook: somebody writes a note containing 25 facts about themselves, then tags 25 people who are supposed to do the same. It's pretty much the same as any other similar chain letter-type of thing that's bounced around the internet since the heydays of AOL and Prodigy, except perhaps for the fact that it doesn't ask you to send a sick kid a postcard at the end. It's hard to decide what's more striking about the craze: people's continued fascination with this sort of thing and their willingness to participate, or the media's obsession with them. It's hard to tell just how many people have taken part on Facebook thus far, but traffic to the site's Notes is four times higher than usual, according to one estimate, with 28 percent of Facebook's US users checking out a note at some point in January. As for the media, check out the "mystery" over who originated the 25 Things meme (short answer: nobody has any idea). Maybe the most interesting thing here is how the 25 Things meme plays into the ideal of social currency. For some people, they see the list as a way to enhance their social currency within a community by sharing info that will make others view them more positively. But then there's those of us who have been "tagged" 50 times already, and see any more tags as a way for people to devalue their social currency even further.
Last week, Network World columnist Paul McNamara had an amusing post about some jittery Circuit City execs who had demanded that all stores destroy copies of Mad Magazine, after it made fun of Circuit City. While, Circuit City actually showed it had a pretty decent sense of humor in apologizing for the trigger happy exec who demanded the destruction of the magazines, the situation gave McNamara a chance to mention The Streisand Effect -- the phrase I jokingly coined years back, which has recently become a somewhat commonly used phrase.
McNamara, though, hadn't heard of it before -- which isn't really that surprising. While the phrase is used here and there, it's still mostly known among a rather small group of folks. But, McNamara wanted to know if there was a similar phrase for not knowing an internet meme until after everyone else seemed to know about it. I sent him an email suggesting that he use his own name as part of it because, for example, Mike Godwin gets a lot more attention for Godwin's Law than I'll ever get for The Streisand Effect (and not least of which is because Godwin's Law is a lot more interesting). McNamara seems to have taken my suggestion, and declared that being late to the game on an internet meme should henceforth be called McNamara's Syndrome. I'm all for it. Now, if only Paul were to send a cease-and-desist letter to Techdirt for mentioning his name in this manner, then he'd be sure to get some attention for the phrase.