Copyright Oddities

Copyright is a weird animal.  It’s one of the few constitutionally-mandated personal rights and it serves as the basis for the vast majority of the things people do online and in their daily lives (everything from this blog to your tweets and FB status postings to anything you write as a result of your job…. to photos you take while on vacation).  Yet it’s so fundamentally misunderstood that it’s almost a joke.

Which is interesting given that the penalties for violating copyright are pretty severe.  Forgetting the civil penalties (those that can be levied against you by the actual person you harmed), the criminal penalties can go up to $250,000/copy + 5 years in Club Fed.

One of the nuances of copyright is that in order to have a copyright in something, you have to have created the work covered by copyright (and it has to be a work that can be granted a copyright) … or you have to have acquired the copyright rights from the person who created the work.

Which makes the situation around the photographer who had his camera lifted by a monkey … and who then proceeded to snap a wonderful self-portrait …. so damn interesting, especially to those of us interested in copyrights.

In fact, as soon as I saw this image, I went to make it my Facebook profile photo.  Which, of course, I shouldn’t do – I don’t own the image.  And it took Facebook reminding me of this fact for me to actually stop from doing it.  But the question is:  who holds the copyright to the image?

The ownership of the photograph itself is clear: it’s the photographer (and perhaps the wire news service that paid the photographer for the photo).  But copyright doesn’t automatically transfer with the ownership of the tangible item – again, copyright is a weird creature and unless you’re willing to dive down the moral rights rabbit hole with me tonight, just accept what I tell you as fact and look it up later.

Copyright, however, requires an “author” … and per US law (17 USC), an author can only be a “natural person” or a “juridicial person” (a corporation, etc).  A monkey (or other animal) doesn’t fit into either category and is thus unable to hold copyright.  The result is that there now exists a legal quandary.  Who (if anyone) holds copyright?

The law is pretty clear at the moment (and, in fact, is being used as yet another example of how copyright law is outdated and needs to be revised for the 21st century – but really, do picture-taking monkeys only exist in the 21st century?).  However, the news agency seems to assert that copying is at least uncool if not illegal.  Which is going to prompt someone to eventually sue.

This is one to watch, folks.  The outcome could get interesting.

Embarq Advertisement for Free TV

I’m sure you’ve seen it or heard it. I’m talking about the Embarq advertisement for free TV.

Obviously it’s a popular ad.

But what’s the appeal? I simply don’t know. What bugs me most, however, is the little ditty “they don’t call her Queen Tut, for nothin'”

It’s about her being made of gold and calling her Queen Tut. Anyone else see the problem?

RIIIIIGHT. It’s King Midas who was tied to gold, not Tut! So “Queen Tut” doesn’t make any sense at all. Even the fact that King Tut was buried in a coffin made of gold doesn’t validate the ad. I wouldn’t buy Embarq now if for no other reason than their misappropriation of history. Get it right if you’re gonna’ hang your hat on it.

So, while I’m hip with the various dopey yet catchy jingles, the Embarq one just irks me.

Followup on Stolen Credit Card

I waited a few months before writing this… mostly because I was busy, but partially because I wanted to see how it all played out.

The long-story-short version of the stolen credit card saga is that one of the drivers of the limo service we used in Orlando was the culprit. They used the card to charge their household bills on (not very bright)… and they confessed once cornered.

I still need to followup with the DA on the case, as I asked to press charges. So we’ll see what happens. So far, no restitution or anything like that.

Pandering to my generation

I was walking with one of my MBA class teams through an open-air mall the other day (don’t ask why… not relevant to the story). These types of malls always pipe-in music, and today’s selection was “Maneater” by Hall & Oates. I mentioned that if getting older wasn’t enough, I’d noticed that advertisers realized that I’m in my mid-thirty’s too. I suppose they believe I have money to burn, because there are just WAY too many ads that use 80s music.

The lone female in the group says “So……. you must have all been born in the 70s, right?”

“Yes,” we collectively reply. “When were you born?”



Anyways, here’s the list of songs that I’ve heard that are featured in various ads on TV and radio.

  • “All Out of Love” – Air Supply – Denny’s Breakfast
  • “Blister in the Sun” – Violent Femmes – Wendy’s
  • “Cruel Summer” – Bananarama – Kellog’s Special K
  • “Da Da Da” – Trio – Volkswagen
  • “Don’t You Want Me” – Human League – Chips Ahoy
  • “Final Countdown” – Europe – Nintendo Wii
  • “Hungry Like The Wolf” – Duran Duran – Old Spice (my personal favorite because it also has Bruce Campbell singing it at a piano)
  • “I Melt with You” – Modern English – Taco Bell Cheesy Melt
  • “I Melt with You” – Modern English – GMC Acadia
  • “I Want Candy” – Bow Wow Bow – Pringles
  • “Love My Way” – Psychedelic Furs – CBS Cold Case teaser
  • “Making Love Out of Nothing at All” – Air Supply – Wendy’s
  • “Maniac” – Michael Sambello – Kia
  • “Money for Nothing” – Dire Straits – Toyota
  • “One Thing Leads to Another” – The Fixx – LendingTree
  • “Our House” – Madness – Maxwell House
  • “Over the Rainbow” – Israel Kamakawiwo Ole –
  • “Rockit” – Herbie Hancock – Visa Checkcard
  • “Tainted Love” – Soft Cell – Levi’s (ok, this one is from a few years ago, where they bring a pair of jeans back to live… but still)
  • “Talk” – Talk Talk – Cingular
  • “Tarzan Boy” – Baltimora – Listerine (also from a few years ago)
  • “We’re Not Gonna Take It” – Twisted Sister – Bee Movie
  • “Whip It” – Devo – Pringle’s Pack-It

What other songs have you heard that bring a smile to your face, but don’t really cause you to go buy any of their products?

Stolen Credit Card

I hate opening the credit card bill. Yeah, I know what’s in there – we’re pretty good about keeping track of that stuff. But I don’t like the REMINDER of what we’ve spent our money on each month. So I, in true guy fashion, let Tina open it. I rationalize that since she pays the bills, she can review it – besides, if I charged something I didn’t tell her about, she’ll come to me, never worry about that.

But I knew this month was going to be unusually bad – vacations and work trips, etc. So I hesitantly opened it when I got home tonight. I saw all the suspects. But then a few I wasn’t expecting.

Hmmm. Ok, so the first thing I do is try to think if there was something I ordered online that I just wasn’t remembering. But I happened to also glance another line down and fail to recognize FIVE OTHER charges.

Crap. Someone’s using our card.

I’m on the phone with our credit card company in a matter of seconds. By “on the phone” I really mean “on hold”… where I sat for 20 minutes – long enough for Tina to arrive home and find me fuming on the couch.

When a customer “service” rep finally answered, it was like talking to someone who was on their first night on the phones. Now, I’m sorry, but you should know better than to put that new of a person (or that untrained of a person) on the fraud line. Not to mention the 20 minutes where I was sitting there wondering if this was the quickest response they could possibly muster for calls coming in to tell them about stolen credit cards.

So my short fuse bottomed out and I asked for a supervisor. Another 10 minutes on hold and I got a pleasant woman – who now wanted to REVERIFY my personal information. [I’ve written before about the problem I have with call processing systems and the fact that they should EASILY pass along my “personal information” to the rep… and even if they have to verify it once, they shouldn’t have to do it again.]

But I gave them the info and then explained that I had six charges that weren’t ours. I said I knew approximately where and when the card numbers were swiped based on the locations of the charges. So we systematically went through them all. Then we canceled the current card and had a new set express shipped.

Next up? Calling the police in the location where the cards were used. Long story short, I have a feeling that the thief is getting a visit from the local PD tonight. Serves them right – for being so stupid as to use the credit cards to pay their bills – charges that have their name associated with each charge. Phone, electricity, cable, insurance, and the obligatory Rent-A-Center charge. What a dumbass.

But hey, at least the credit card company has already credited our account. And yes, for those of you paying attention, Apple now knows to bill another account so that I still get my MBP on time. 😉

However, all of this is a real pain. I still have at least 2 other recurring charges I have to manage to track down and change. I still have to follow up with the po-po in the next few days… and I have to research the civil laws of the state where the fraud actually happened to see if I have any recourse other than to assist their prosecutor in a criminal case.

What a waste of a Friday night.


In my lifetime, there are few things I remember more clearly than the first time I saw the full Thriller video. I remember convincing my dad to let me stay up late (it was a midnight show) telling him that it was only a 4 minute song or so (but then having to block him from turning off the TV as the mini-movie approached the 15 minute mark).

Vincent Price’s monologue “the foulest stench is in the air… the funk of 40,000 years…” rings in my head even today.

So here’s something that I never thought I would see. An awesome reinactment of the dance sequence – as performed by a 100% male group of Filipino prisoners.

Tina pointed out some things to consider:

1. It takes an amazing amount of leadership and coordination to have put this together… and probably not something you’d ever see in a US prison.

2. All of the visible performers seemed to be of average build (ie: not emaciated, but definitely NOT overweight). A quick look to any slice of american life would not yield a similar perspective.

3. It also requires a lot of creativity – again not something you tend to think of when you think of jail.

Tina thinks that Donald Trump should contact the person who led this group and invite them to be on the next Apprentice. I agree.

April’s Fools

I monitor/read about 100 blogs. Many are either technology or law-related – and these days, entire blogs consist of posting links to other posts on other interesting blogs. Of course, RSS has made this almost too easy – firing up one application that systematically checks them all for new posts. And, as one would expect, there are several posts that I see on a regular basis that “make” the rounds of a particular type of blog (for example, the Apple iPhone announcements are always seen on a dozen or more blogs, after each individual whisper from Cupertino).

I figured that most, if not all, would include some form of April Fool’s joke. Us geeks tend to like creative humor. A silly comment, a made up something-or-other.

What I didn’t guess is that several of them would report Google’s AF joke as a post on their own site. At least 6 have now commented on TiSP. Why?

Another 2 have commented on Crunchgear. Again, why? Do you think that we only read your blog to the exclusion of all of the others? Were RSS not available, I suppose that might happen. But really.

To Google and Crunchgear, good show. To the others – well, um, ah….