Tackling Fair Use

In late 2010, the NFL began to air a short promo during football games, which features grainy cell phone video of home audiences celebrating.

The video’s source footage, harvested from YouTube, includes scenes where members of the home audience pointed their cameras at their television screens during a game, in apparent violation of the NFL’s licensing restrictions.

Typical NFL broadcasts include the statement:

“This telecast is copyrighted by the NFL for the private use of our audience. Any other use of this telecast or any pictures, descriptions, or accounts of the game without the NFL’s consent is prohibited.”

The promo illustrates the arbitrary and capricious nature of corporate attitudes towards the distinction between “fair use” and “copyright infringement.”  Commercial organizations such as late night talk shows, news broadcasts, and marketing firms routinely make use of footage that individuals produce and distribute on services like YouTube.  The individuals who originate this footage are rarely credited, even in commercial broadcasts.  At the same time, when individuals post commercial content to YouTube, that content is routinely removed.

Since the passage of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, private firms have had a powerful tool to remove content from the Internet.  The DMCA provides a legal framework for the issuance of a “takedown notice” which compels an offending party to cease the distribution of infringing content.  This law has, however, been widely abused by businesses, often targeting small operators who don’t have the resources to determine whether a takedown notice is valid.

In a Spring 2009 statement issued through the Telecommunications Carriers Forum, Google claimed that 57% of the DMCA takedown notices it received were sent by firms seeking to frustrate competition, and that some 37% of the received takedown notices were not valid copyright claims.

Another noteworthy feature of this promo is the use of proprietary CBS trademarks in the status bar and on the field, as this spot is broadcast by competitors to CBS, such as Fox.

¡Googol This, New Oxford American Dictionary!

MySpace has introduced a major user interface overhaul; because the user base of MySpace includes both traditional consumers as well as producers of original content (and, in either case, suppliers of demographic data for advertisers), this change affects different users in different ways.

myspace ad

With a single advertising campaign, MySpace is both announcing the change and, simultaneously, providing a mechanism to monitor user reactions to the change.  The advertising has, in a sense, been cast to the swarm, crowdsourced to the micro-blogging service Twitter.

The text to the left of the blue Go button as it appears in the ad above does a number of different things.  First, it informs users that the changes to MySpace are more than cosmetic; the service has traditionally been a popular resource for cash-strapped bands in search of a media-rich web presence, but these latest changes to MySpace are in many ways oriented more towards the convenience of the service’s current (or prospective) media consumers.  Information about pop culture and celebrities are pushed on users aggressively.

Second, the formatting of the text refers to the syntax of Twitter messaging: the # at the beginning of the text signifies that the attached adverb and proper noun will together function as a keyword or a tag for a post made with Twitter.  Anybody can visit twitter.com and easily see all the posts tagged with the advertised text, making it easy for the MySpace marketing staff to, essentially, eavesdrop on a massive user discussion about the changes.  MySpace doesn’t even need to put together a focus group because the Twitter makes users enjoy (or at least see no adverse consequence to) organizing their own discussion on behalf of MySpace.

Third, the reference to Twitter in the MySpace ad satisfies a certain postmodern cultural preference for referentiality.  The referential qualities of the text’s formatting say new, hip, participatory, democratic.  It’s a sort of techno-fetishism for the cult of progress.  In a way, the advertising campaign for the new MySpace is not so much about the changes to the service (which are self-evident to a large number of existing users), but is more about the Twitter tag.  If new users learn about the new MySpace, it will in many cases likely be through some other social media service (since, in the past, MySpace was not sufficiently reputable for continuous news coverage, while today, FaceBook is as popular as Google).

The discussion on Twitter varies in character, but gravitates towards various themes:

It’s fair to assume from the @ in the above Tweet™ that MySpace is actively monitoring the Twitter discussion.  The above Tweet™ is furthermore genuinely diplomatic, offering constructive suggestions.

Many express basic statements of preference:

Others suggest the usage of basic features — which was once self-evident — has either been moved, removed, or counter-intuitively re-organized:

Some Tweet™s describe or advocate specific actions among MySpace users:

Occasionally, a Tweet™ will combine the advertised tag with other tags, treating the tags almost like semantic primitives (or even a little like ideograms built from a combination of Western punctuation and latin characters (and in some cases, Arabic numerals)):

Here’s a sample of some consecutive Tweet™s:

One new feature that caught my attention was the Discover button.  Whenever your mouse rolls over the Discover button, the following appears on top of the new interface:

If you click the Next button in the lower right, the thumbnail images change:

Clicking on the Next button a second time produces this:

Which means, if you choose to engage with the Discover button by clicking on Next once, and then choose to continue by giving it a second click, after that second click, the Next and the Prev button are functionally equivalent.  Once you’ve expressed enough interest to commit to a second click, the purpose of this interface element is to provide an illusion of choice.

When Did World War III Really Start?

Here, Rambo is welcomed by the Taliban at a terrorist training camp:

Rambo is in Afghanstan to lend material support to Osama bin Laden’s friends, the CIA (under State Department cover):


Source: Rambo III

Human Obsolescence

Old Navy Aerobix Victims.
Comprising a long-running series, these advertisements depict consumers of the advertised clothing brand as lifeless mannequins — or maybe ventriloquist dummies.  Decorated with brand-name images of historical pop stars, this particular ad culturefucks an intergenerational youth-cult theme by subversively depicting the heroes of the rockstar mannequins as mannequins also.  Different figures exhibit various classic iconographic hand gestures throughout (such as members of a crowd holding Bic lighters in the air at a rock show).
Machine and Inventornator.
Progress means that we exist to invent.  Also, new inventions are better, and as long as the future brings us new inventions the future means everything is better.  We are unique among the animals because we can plan for the future, and we are best off planning for the best possible future.  In the future, our planning will bring us technology that does much of what we do better than we can do it ourselves.  “Microsoft gives me the family nature never could.”
Google Will Make You a Robot in 13 Easy Steps.
During a boardroom meeting, a young, hip, executive meatbag’s telephone transforms him into a machine.  Given the genealogy (or demonology) of the public relations industry and the freudian characteristics of technological prosthetics, the emphasis on this particular Brand of efficiency facilitated by connectivity is perhaps not incidental to the iconology of the advertisement.  Agents swarm the cloud.  “Whose brain are yours today?”  Google have been secretly working on an automobile that drives itself through traffic.  Progress is when the car decides where to drive.
An ad for a psychiatric medication that depicts the patient as a mechanical wind-up doll.
This same visual metaphor has appeared in other ads for the same pill.  The first third of the spot is about the symptoms this psychotropic drug is meant to treat. The second two-thirds are about how this advanced pill can make you into a robot even if science doesn’t really know how, and what side-effects you might expect from ingesting this substance regularly.  The visual subtext says: you will feel better when you stop being a robot and start treating life like the Game modern sociologists say it is.  Ask your HMO for a list of licensed drug dealers in your family-friendly neighborhood.

Has Disney Always Been This Creepy?

The same machine that made Britney Spears made Miley Cyrus. When mass media present famous underage girls in a sexual context, it’s commerce; when teenage girls take nude photos of themselves, it’s child pornography. The same mass media that is complicit in this form of human exploitation was also complicit in the housing bubble, the Iraq War, and the tech bubble. Advertising is an odd industry: there are huge profits, but almost no capital; advertising firms don’t (literally) own printing presses, newspapers, television stations, retail outlets, or the like. They do however own lots of catchy phrases and stylized images…

creepy advertisement for disney product