Link

Watermarks are horrible. This is very smart.

How do you change perception of a billion dollar company? Not with advertising but by changing the very interface that made them less than popular in the first place. By changing their product.

A campaign by RG/A.

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Re-centring the fight for the internet

I really like this suggestion from Joel Spolsky:

The internet seems to ignore legislation until somebody tries to take something away from us… then we carefully defend that one thing and never counter-attack. Then the other side says, “OK, compromise,” and gets half of what they want. That’s not the way to win… that’s the way to see a steady and continuous erosion of rights online.

The solution is to start lobbying for our own laws. It’s time to go on the offensive if we want to preserve what we’ve got. Let’s force the RIAA and MPAA to use up all their political clout just protecting what they have. Here are some ideas we should be pushing for:

  • Elimination of software patents
  • Legal fees paid by the loser in patent cases; non-practicing entities must post bond before they can file fishing expedition lawsuits
  • Roll back length of copyright protection to the minimum necessary “to promote the useful arts.” Maybe 10 years?
  • Create a legal doctrine that merely linking is protected free speech
  • And ponies. We want ponies. We don’t have to get all this stuff. We merely have to tie them up fighting it, and re-center the “compromise” position.

Joel Spolsky – plus.google.com

Jonathan Coulton on piracy and making money from art

Make good stuff, then make it easy for people to buy it. There’s your anti-piracy plan. The big content companies are TERRIBLE at doing both of these things, so it’s no wonder they’re not doing so well in the current environment. And right now everyone’s fighting to control distribution channels, which is why I can’t watch Star Wars on Netflix or iTunes. It’s fine if you want to have that fight, but don’t yell and scream about how you’re losing business to piracy when your stuff isn’t even available in the box I have on top of my TV.

Jonathan Coulton on piracy and making money from art. Continue reading

“I have a dream”

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.”

Martin Luther King’s famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial, 1963. ©EMI/Sony!

Martin Luther King Jr.‘s “I Have a Dream” speech is considered one of the most recognizable collection of words in American history. It’s the rhetorical equivalent of a national treasure or a national park. The National Park Service inscribed it on the Lincoln Memorial and the Library of Congress put it into its National Recording Registry. So we might hold it to be self evident that it can be spread freely.

Not exactly. Any unauthorized usage of the speech and a number of other speeches by King – including in PBS documentaries – is a violation of American law.

Another tragic abuse of copyright. It’s hard to imagine anything more deserving of being in the public domain. Continue reading

Flighty birds: My free Creative Commons designs that keep getting stolen anyway

I’ve been having some problems with flighty birds recently. Actually one is a penguin and the other is a dragon. Here they are, together for the first time:

Cartoon penguin meets Twitter dragon.

Two variations of Tux

Original Tux on the left

I created the penguin in early 2009, working on a tiny EeePC, running Linux. I was actually taking a stab at improving the look of Tux, but he went in a different direction.

The dragon was created in early 2010, to look like the familiar Twitter bird, but with a unique Welsh dragon spin.

Both images have gone on to be pretty popular on the web, used for avatars in forums, on Twitter and so on. I deliberately licensed both as Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. This means that people are welcome to use the images, for free, on condition that they provide a proper credit, and do not seek to profit directly or indirectly from use of my work. Also, they must make any derivative work available under the same terms.

The continuing misadventures of ‘Boggle’

These conditions seem more than reasonable to me, but I’ve spotted examples of people either not knowing or not caring that they are violating this very liberal licence, especially with the cartoon penguin design. There was a guy selling penguin t-shirt prints, and then only last month I found an iPhone game and a Mac software house using him. I ended up giving permission to the latter – they seemed nice enough.

The original Cartoon penguin post had actually become one of my most popular pages, bringing in 100+ hits per day via Google image search… until a few days ago I noticed this had stopped! Compare the following images:

'cartoon penguin' in Google image search - September 2009

This is how the image search for 'cartoon penguin' looked last month (September 2011).

Compare that with the result today:

'cartoon penguin' in Google image search - October 2011

...and this is the same search today (October 2011)

Yup, now Google has removed the link to my original page, and instead sends searchers to this charming Tumblr page:

bowlofcarrots, some random dude on Tumblr

SEO surgery

Clearly the guy is no designer or SEO expert, but he has managed to outrank me for my own image! I’m assuming he’s winning because the image is near the top of the page in the title area (that appears on every page), and he’s renamed the image ‘cartoon-penguin.jpg‘, whereas my original is the less useful ‘penguin_finished_012.png‘.

Last night I optimised my site a little in an attempt to win back favour. I also contacted Mr. Bowlofcarrots via his site and Tumblr support, though I don’t really expect any joy from either of them.

It’s surprised me how annoyed I am by this minor injustice. After all, this is an image I was happy enough to give away for free. It occurred to me that even though this Tumblr user isn’t attempting to ‘steal’ my work in the same way as some previous people have, he has nonetheless taken it from me in a more real sense. Quite innocently, he has robbed me of my sense of ownership of the image itself. It’s very frustrating.

The @thisiswales saga

My other ‘bird’, the Twitter dragon, has been on other adventures. In this saga, I found him being used as part of the branding for an official-looking Twitter account calling itself ‘this is Wales‘.

Twitter page for @thisiswales, 5 July 2011

How @thisiswales looked in July, 2011

Official-looking it may be, but that’s simply because it imitates the look and feel of a BBC design, while appropriating the ‘This is X’ brand owned by Northcliffe Media (see This is South Wales / @thisisswales for examples). Not to mention, my Welsh dragon design.

Twitter repliesI asked people on Twitter if I should be upset about this – after all, this is another of my ‘free’ designs, and @thisiswales didn’t actually seem to be for any kind of profit.

It turned out that most were more outraged on my behalf than I was! (Thanks everyone!)

In the process of complaining, I may have upset the account’s owner, but he did remove my design later that day as he promised he would. Well, kind of. As I write this I notice that the background image still contains my work, but I think I’ll declare victory anyway.

The owner denied any wrongdoing, claiming that he “recently took on @thisiswales with logo already in place.” This may be true, but I have actually been aware of the account since July, and at that time it linked to the same Mr. @uselessdesires. Depends how you define recent I suppose.

So what?

I do realise both of these cases are pretty trivial. It’s not like Paperchase or Urban Outfitters have stolen my work to be used to fuel their profit machine. In the worst case, a blogger has been denied 100 hits a day that weren’t really contributing anything of real value anyway.

Cartoon penguin in life preserver and goldfish bowl helmet. But it’s frustrating to offer something for free, yet still have it taken without permission asked or credit given, especially when the casual theft can have a negative impact on me. It makes me want to use a more traditional full-copyright licence, and go after people who take the piss.

I wonder where they’ll turn up next?

UPDATE 2011.10.18: Tumblr got back to me; they have suspended the blog that was using my penguin image. A bit harsh perhaps, but I’m not going to complain. It will be interesting to see if I regain my ranking (or if Mr. Clipart manages to get his Tumblr blog reinstated).

How do you like them apples?

This weekend while visiting St Fagans I decided to look upstairs in the workman’s institute for the first time – to discover a massive collection of apples on display. Seemingly this was an event organised for ‘Apple Day‘. My camera was in my hand as I’d been snapping away all day, so I naturally took a picture – only to be loudly tutted at.

It seems – according to the prominent signs I had missed – that photography was not allowed because the information on the laminated cards next to all the apples is the property of a library. Apparently a photograph would constitute a reproduction of this information, and that’s when the lawyers got involved and decided to spoil the fun for everybody.

They had quite a detailed sign explaining exactly why. I’d like to have taken a picture of it, but it was very busy and I felt quite conspicuous. I got the impression that the organisers didn’t like the situation much either, but didn’t have any real choice.