Beware internet lynch mobs

The Photographer, The Entrepreneur, The Stockbroker And Their Rent-A-Mob

Jeremy Nicholl has written an amazing commentary on a fascinating and controversial series of events. Warning, takes a while to load but it does load.

A quick backstory:

The photographer Jay Maisel took a picture of Miles Davis for the cover of the famous album Kind of Blue. Maisel owns the copyright to the image.

Many years later Andy Baio decided to use the image as the basis for the graphic design for the cover of a new album, Kind of Bloop. The new image is highly pixelated but the original image can be made out.

Maisel sued Baio for copyright infringement. Baio, who is well known on the web posted Kind of Screwed describing what happened to him and his feelings about fair use. Baio’s post is well worth reading just for his history of the fair use issue no matter how you feel about this particular incident.

Then things got ugly as people who had no idea who Jay Maisel was formed a lynch mob and went after him both on the internet and at his studio. The most vocal of these people was/is a guy named Thomas Hawk (a pseudonym for Andrew Peterson) who my friend Dale and I have been disgusted with since from the early days of flickr. Hawk/Peterson is a professional victim and ambulance chaser, wherever there’s controversy there’s Thomas Hawk, usually claiming victimhood for himself or someone else.

Now that you have a bit of backstory and the names of the major players, read Jeremy’s commentary and don’t forget the comment thread under it, some great posts there.

You may wonder how I feel about this and the truth is, I have mixed feelings about the gray area where copying collides with standing on another person’s shoulders and taking an idea further. The aspect of this that most infuriates me has nothing to do with copyright or fair use, it has to do with internet lynch mobs who can do serious damage to a person without having to take responsibility for it.

The downside of the social internet is that it gives people tools to spread an idea around the world in minutes with no vetting on the accuracy of the idea. As the idea is telephoned through Twitter, Facebook, blogs (like this one) and more it becomes decontextualized or re-contextualized and warped, usually leaving an over-simplified story that is ripe for the likes of Thomas Hawk and his tribe of ambulance chasers.

Should Teachers Be Allowed to Hate Blog About Their Students?

Should Teachers Be Allowed to Hate Blog About Their Students?

Good has an interesting post about a teacher who posted her opinions about her students on her blog.

Natalie Munroe, a 30-year-old Philadelphia-area high school English teacher took her extremely candid commentary about students to her public blog—and of course a student discovered it. Munroe says she didn’t do anything wrong, and claims her blog entries are free speech, but last week the Central Bucks School District suspended her with pay and officials want to fire her.

My initial reaction is that she’s violated a trust, similar to attorney-client or psychologist-client although not a legal trust, a social trust. I asked my wife Anne who’s a teacher and she agrees that this teacher went over the line by publishing her opinions in a public place, even if she was naive about the fact that her students might someday read those opinions and figure out that she was talking about them.

Another aspect of this story is that many people involved with social media have no clue that publishing on the internet is not like venting at the local bar. Still, most who are clueless about this are young people, an adult, even one who may not be all that tech savvy should know better.

Internet Quarantines

Bruce Schneir has a fascinating piece on Internet Quarantines.

The short of it: If an ISP finds that a computer getting online through its gateway is infected with a virus and is spreading it, that ISP could close down the cable modem of that computer’s home or business network and keep them offline until the problem is solved.

There’s the technical problem–making the quarantine work in the face of malware designed to evade it, and the social problem–ensuring that people don’t have their computers unduly quarantined.

No doubt we’re on the way to quarantining in the background (self-healing?) with operating systems that update themselves and applications that send manufacturers information about the environment they’re running in.

The social problem is the one that interests me and Bruce discusses it:

Who gets to decide which computers to quarantine? A software vendor (Microsoft for example) might want to quarantine all computers not running legal copies of its software.

What if someone uses their cable modem for voice over IP telephone calling and that’s their only means of making and getting calls? Take them offline for a virus and you’ve made for a potential disaster when they can’t call for help when they fall down.

What if someone gets quarantined by mistake? What will their recourse be?

Public health is the right way to look at this problem. This conversation–between the rights of the individual and the rights of society–is a valid one to have, and this solution is a good possibility to consider.

Quarantining is a form of social engineering and as we’ve found out with attempting to change the whole to protect the part (ADA, Affirmative Action, etc.) that things get messy. This doesn’t mean that social engineering is a bad thing to do or that quarantining isn’t something to consider to make for a safer/cleaner internet, just that it might get a bit messy downstream.

What some people don’t know about copyright is a lot

The Day The Internet Threw a Righteous Hissyfit About Copyright And Pie

Great headline. Fascinating story.

Linda Holmes at NPR has written the best overview I’ve read yet of this now viral story about copyright and ignorance. I particularly like that Linda makes reference to what I call virtual lynch mobs: people ganging up on others just because a bunch of people have tweeted that these people have done something wrong. I’m not defending Cook’s Source or the editor, they deserve to be routed for thinking it okay to lift copyrighted information and republish it, even with proper citation but without permission, but no doubt the comments on Facebook and elsewhere involved dismembering people for this nasty deed. Support the authors who were plagiarized, stop subscribing to and using Cook’s Source and put them out of business but let’s not waterboard the editor.

Technology Leads More Park Visitors Into Trouble

The national parks’ history is full of examples of misguided visitors feeding bears, putting children on buffalos for photos and dipping into geysers despite signs warning of scalding temperatures.

But today, as an ever more wired and interconnected public visits the parks in rising numbers — July was a record month for visitors at Yellowstone — rangers say that technology often figures into such mishaps.

People with cellphones call rangers from mountaintops to request refreshments or a guide; in Jackson Hole, Wyo., one lost hiker even asked for hot chocolate.

I used to subscribe to and read Accidents in North American Mountaineering which in places was just as humorous as this article. Add technology to the mix and you have even more brazen people going into the wilderness thinking cell service is everywhere and that they can call for a ranger for any reason.

This story overlaps with kids (escorted by adults) climbing Mt. Everest or sailing around the world (unescorted).

I have no problem with people going off into the wilderness and doing challenging things; I have serious problems with a small number of those people who are unprepared and assume they can be rescued if they get into trouble. It costs thousands of dollars an hour to fly a helicopter with a rescue team to a remote area to do a rescue and in this country few hikers, climbers, or sailors pay for this. They should, or, if they’re 14 their parents should.

We need insurance companies to offer policies that will pay for expensive rescues and then, in order to climb Grand Teton a group needs to have such a policy and sign a waver saying they will not ask for a rescue if one of them gets a blister. Insurance will help pay for rescues but unfortunately it might also give people a false sense of protection.

We all have to start somewhere and the first time I went camping I took a space blanket and a few candy bars. After one uncomfortable night in Lassen Park we walked out and took the bus home with our tails between our legs. Had cell phones been around then I doubt we’d have used one to call for help.

When I go out on a 7 mile day hike in summer (like two days ago) I carry enough gear to spend the night in the woods if I have to: flashlight/headlamp, extra clothing and a raincoat, extra food and water and a first aid kit. Yes, I do carry an iPhone although coverage is spotty in the places we hike. My candy bars (Clif bars) are better too.

Reuters retracts Icelandic volcano photo

Reuters Retracts Icelandic Volcano Photo

This is a fascinating story. This is the comment I made in the thread at PetaPixel:

I think most of us can agree that a DSLR is doing some processing before the image gets written to the card and how a photographer sets things up will determine how little or much is done. There is no “turn off all in-camera processing” as all DSLRs process the image that coms off the sensor in some way, even RAW files.

Maybe pointing the finger at processing or post processing is a mistake, let’s just let photo editors decide what they want and leave it at that. If they want a more conservative look or they want an amped up look, that’s their decision.

As photographers we know that even if we attempt to take and process images that, to the best of our ability channel reality, we all have different eyes and a different sense of what “real” is so it’s subjective all the way down.

As is said above, Ansel Adams put a red filter on to make Half Dome look more dramatic, and it worked. As one who’s spent a lot of time both in front of and on Half Dome, I can assure you that while I love the Adams image, it’s not the way Half Dome looks to most if not all human eyes. Again, great image, but a Reuters photo editor might rightly reject it.

This remains a fascinating topic that has been “discussed” for years and will continue to be discussed for many years to come.

French TV show uses famous Milgram torture experiment

French TV show uses famous Milgram torture experiment

Here’s the BBC piece: Row over ‘torture’ on French TV

I can’t make myself watch it and amazingly, as Mark Frauenfelder at Boing Boing quotes:

Egged on by a glamorous presenter, cries of “punishment” from a studio audience and dramatic music, the overwhelming majority of the participants obeyed orders to continue delivering the shocks – despite the man’s screams of agony and pleas for them to stop.
Eventually he fell silent, presumably because he had died or lost consciousness. The contestants didn’t know that the man, strapped in a chair inside a cubicle so they couldn’t see him, was really an actor. There were no shocks and it was all an experiment to see how far they would go.

Only 16 of the 80 participants stopped before the ultimate, potentially lethal shock.

Milgram was right, people, even later generations who should know better, will follow orders and hurt or kill other people.

More on this famous experiment at this site.

Use their work free? Some artists say no to Google

Use Their Work Free? Some Artists Say No to Google

This is fascinating and it parallels sentiment in the photography world. Personally, I’m not sure this stance is right for everyone but it’s certainly right for some, especially well established graphic designers and artists who aren’t groping for exposure.

My problem with it is this: a beginning photographer (or artist) might feel the need to bootstrap exposure and may not be so secure in the quality of his or her work. Taking advantage of a few opportunities to show work to a wider audience, with citation and without pay, can lead to more exposure, confidence, more work, and in the end, money.

This other side is like a beginning photographer going crazy watermarking his work and being overly concerned with theft before the work is mature and before the work is stolen.

So, it’s complicated and one size doesn’t fit all.

I stole your images, put them back or I will call a lawyer

I stole your images, put them back or I will call a lawyer


The twist is that moving images breaks legitimate inline image posts as well, like me posting my images from flickr at this site. If I replace an image on flickr it breaks the link to this site which of course I can fix but it’s a pain. And, I know others legitimately blog my images from flickr and those links do get broken as I replace images. It happens rarely but it does happen.

As for the person who wrote the email linked to above, I’m speechless.

Stolen picture used on a billboard in another country

Stolen picture used on a billboard in another country

Danielle innocently scans holiday card of her family, posts picture to facebook and her blog and a friend notices it used on a billboard advertising a grocery store in the Czech Republic.

No doubt this goes on all the time and sometimes through chance it’s caught. The assumption of the folks who steal the pictures is that if you reuse them in another country the odds of someone familiar with them finding out will be low to nil. But, now that the world is much more connected the odds of someone on facebook with friends in other countries means the odds change and this is an example of that.

I see an idea for a new web site: a lost and found for images. Photographers can post images there that they know have been stolen and folks who see images like this can post pictures of the stolen pictures in use. Hopefully the site would have a way for these two posts to match up. Of course, thieves might troll this web site looking for images. Gad.

[via Digg]