I don’t often get on a soapbox on the blog, but these guys really ticked me off today.
“D&B Credibility Corporation” is the self-appointed credit bureau of the business world. If you want to get a report on a company, you pay these guys $180+ for the report. Like any other credit bureau, they’re in the data business. That’s fine. But how they get that data is highly questionable.
Today, after sending me numerous unsolicited letters urging me to update my company file, they called me and asked to update the info, saying that there had been inquiries lately (a little googling tells me that’s usually utter BS, and they wouldn’t tell me who, so color me dubious).
Fine, I say, what do you need to know? I get a vague response and it’s starting to sound like a sales pitch. So I cut to the chase and ask these guys if they plan on charging me money for this. The guy on the other end of the line mumbles something about it being $299 but that they would “provide a tax-deductible receipt” (duh, it’s a business expense, of course it’s tax-deductible). I put the brakes on his script.
“Let me get this straight. You sell data about my company to other companies who pay you a couple hundred bucks for that information.”
“Yes, that’s correct”
“So you’re asking me to provide you with information that will improve the quality of the data you sell to someone else”
“And you have the gall to charge ME for the privilege of improving your product? What’s in it for me? Do I get a cut of this?”
“If you don’t update your information, we’ll report your file as incomplete to the requesting companies, and your risk score will indicate that as well”
“Wait, you’re telling me that if I *don’t* pay up, you’re going to give me a lower score?”
*mumbles and tries to get back on his sales script, it’s not going well for him*
“Who else in the industry provides this sort of data?”
“We’re the only ones, 175 years in business, blah, blah”
“So you’re a monopoly, a self-appointed one at that, and you want to charge *me* money to improve *your* product? Sounds like extortion to me. How is this different from a mafia protection racket?”
*mumbles more sales script, implying that my business will fail if I don’t cough up the money*
“You’re making my point for me. If you want to go out and improve the quality and value of your data on your own, knock yourself out, but I sure as hell won’t be paying you for the privilege. Good day.”
If the consumer credit agencies ran this kind of scam, there would be utter hell to pay from Washington regulators. D&B is not subject to the FCRA. They may be a legitimate company, but their data collection tactics stink to high heaven.
If your company is requesting a D&B report on someone else, be aware that the data in it is not impartial. You’re probably getting taken for a ride.
Nope. Not talking about your XBox or Playstation or even your Wii.
A while back, I posted about why Blockbuster is screwed. The scene just got bleaker, and not just for Blockbuster. Now the entire Cable TV industry is facing a major conceptual shift.
Mark Melanson blogged today about Netflix mulling over the idea of ditching the physical media distribution concept that they perfected. Netflix has already induced a lot of insomnia with the senior management at Blockbuster. The cable people need to start worrying for two reasons:
- This is going to clobber Pay-Per-View revenues, especially if Netflix gets major licensing deals on fresh content.
- This is going to clobber the data networks that these same cable operators are selling to their TV customers.
But there’s more. The way we watch content in general, not just movies, is changing dramatically. What the cable companies fail to realize is that they’re not really in the content business. They’re in the business of selling a wire into your house, and they need to provide you with a compelling reason to pay them for that wire, so they piggyback a bunch of TV on it. In many cases, they’ll bundle IP and phone service too.
One of the problems is that when you’re selling a wire as a content delivery mechanism, you either have to produce a lot of compelling content, or acquire it somehow. There’s plenty of that out there to be had, but at a price. And that can lead to the content producers holding their customers hostage as a bargaining chip against the middleman. By the way, Fox and Cablevision, have you noticed that this makes your customers very angry? I bet Major League Baseball is selling a ton of online viewing subscriptions. That was revenue that could have been yours.
Fortunately, consumers have a few options to consume content that isn’t dependent on the company providing the wire into the house. One only has to look at the success of Hulu, Major League Baseball, and Netflix to see that. Of course if your internet access is coming from the same place as your TV, the content provider can quite easily lock you out, as Fox did to their Cablevision consumers.
The problem is, in the current environment, TV is still very much something tied to time and place. What content you get over cable or broadcast is subject to the scheduling whims and programming choices made by the stations, networks, and cable operators.
We as consumers have tried to work around this with DVRs (timeshifting) and devices like SlingBox (placeshifting) in order to consume content on our terms.
This works, but to a point. It also provides unecessary stress on the last mile of the networks. It’s also ridiculously expensive for the consumer. I no longer have cable. Or a TV, for that matter. Most everything I watch is picked up over-the-air by my Windows Media Center DVR and watched via another machine on my network, or online via Hulu or the content provider’s website.
The downside to this arrangement is that when watching online, there’s still a delay from the original airtime to when it’s actually made available on the web. This generally doesn’t bother me as I’m not a slave to TV schedules, but I do miss out somewhat on the shared experience of millions of others watching (and tweeting about) a show at the same time.
Then there are other shows that aren’t available in either format. I can’t watch Mythbusters on the web very easily without violating copyright law. There’s always Netflix and TV Show DVDs (which have been hugely successful) for that, but it’s not convenient.
Here’s what most of the content companies are failing to realize: Consumers will find a way to watch the content they want to watch, when they want to, on the device they want to, and generally care little about intellectual property laws meant to preserve originality.
If you’re a content company that’s not making your full content available via streaming, you’re missing out on a potential audience. It also has to be easier to consume legally than illegally.
Hulu is a great example of making it easy to consume content. Netflix is doing a great job of adapting.
The other great challenge with cable providers is that there’s a finite amount of content that can be stuffed down the wire. The current model involves sending everything down the wire at once and having the machine at the consumer’s end of the wire display a given one. Some great technological progress has been made to increase that capacity, but it’s still finite. Wouldn’t it be a lot simpler to send only the content actively being consumed down the wire?
Better still, give me a virtual DVR in the cloud and let me pick from a whole host of content. I still want to watch my favourite shows when I’m on the road. I can’t do that with cable. I may have eclectic tastes that don’t line up with what makes money for the cable operator. If I like to watch Curling and Cricket, I’m out of luck, because there may be 3 of us in the whole area who care about those sports.
Say you’re the Discovery Channel, or Fox. Instead of selling your content wholesale to the cable operators, stream your content directly to the consumer, in HD. I still think you can make money doing this, either with advertising or paywalls.
Imagine a virtual “cable” operator. Not bound by geography or cable plants, but rather open to the entire planet, and you offer a menu of content. Charge by the channel. Or by the show. (We’re talking micropayments here, but if most people are willing to shell out 60-100 bucks a month for a buffet of channels, and ultimately go back to the same 10 channels, there should be money to be made). You don’t even have to provide the streaming infrastructure, let the content providers worry about that. Just sell/broker access to it. The distribution is handled by the major CDNs anyway.You can even offer obscure content that doesn’t have a lot of demand. Stop being a slave to schedules. Sure, release new content every week, but let people watch it on their schedule. If you’re not sure how to make that work for you, go ask Felicia Day. She’s got it figured out.
The 2010 Winter Olympics were a good step in that direction. Even so, geographical restrictions on content (imposed mainly due to licensing issues) really got in the way. Many people found ways around it with proxies. Here’s a clue to content providers: Consumers don’t really care about geography. Why should I be disallowed from watching a show or event on the CBC or the BBC simply because of where I happen to live? Your content is compelling to me! I’m even willing to pay for it, either with real money or by watching your ads (just don’t get too crazy with the ads or I’ll go somewhere else). You’re missing out on a revenue opportunity when you should be going after every one of those you can get.
Suddenly, the guys in the business who are charging for a wire to the house should be getting nervous. The current cable paradigm is tantamount to charging $100 for a chinese buffet with only one steam table. The value proposition simply isn’t there. That fact that you’re still in business at all is a testament to the power of monopolies and heavy-handed legal action.
Cable operators need to get out of the content business. It’s killing them. Might as well get out of the voice business too, since that’s not going to stick around long. But if you’re willing to take that wire and provide me with a transport mechanism for all this content out there (in other words, IP access), I’m all over it. I’m a customer of my cable company. And all I buy from them is data. I’m fortunate enough to have cable competition in my area, but the competitor wants to charge me extra for not having TV content clogging up my wire. Sorry, that doesn’t fly with me.
Why on earth would you want to restrict the size of your audience? There are millions of consumers wanting to consume a ton of available content out there. Don’t get in the way. If you do, the consumers will cut you out of the action and you’ll eventually find yourself off in the booth in the corner with the magazines and newspapers, crying into your beer and wondering why nobody loves you anymore.
Update (10/23/10): CBS, ABC, and NBC demonstrate that they don’t get it. They are shutting out Google TV users from viewing their content. Oh well, they’ll figure it out eventually. If they’re lucky, before they become completely irrelevant.
Update 2 (10/29/10): And now we hear that XBox Live is now bigger than Comcast.
Another school year is upon us, and that means that children are once again subjected to the abuse that is the federally-guided school lunch program.
We decided to allow F one school lunch a week as a treat. After the first school lunch, we’ve put an all-out moratorium on it. You see, F doesn’t react well to high-fructose corn syrup. Her behaviour goes bonkers within a few hours, and it takes her a couple of days to recover, culminating in an ugly, whiny mess of being unable to deal with anyone or anything. F’s lunch on friday consisted of hot dogs (contain HFCS), Cheetos (HFCS), and fruit snacks (HFCS). The whole weekend was downright ugly. Naturally, I’m taking an interest in what they’re serving the kids at school, and what I’m seeing isn’t pretty.
I’ve asked the school district for ingredient statements on their menu, but haven’t heard anything yet.
On Tuesday, she turned 7, and we told her she could buy her lunch (so she wouldn’t pack one) and the rest of the family was going to surprise her with Chick-Fil-A as a treat.
At lunch, I looked around me at what all the other second-graders were eating. It was a sea of brown (although I’ll admit, there wasn’t a whole lot of color in our own lunch, but we eat a lot of fresh veggies at home).
- Whole Wheat Pasta with Marinara Sauce & a “Bosco Stick”
- Grilled Cheese Sandwich
- Mini Corn Dogs
- Bagel with [flavored] cream cheese
- [Flavored] Yogurt with poppyseed muffin
- Peanut Butter & Jelly (actually, an Uncrustable)
- Steamed Edamame
- Steamed Peas & Carrots
- Chilled Fruit Cocktail
Beverage options are:
- Milk (white, chocolate, strawberry)
- Juice (Orange, Grape, Apple, Fruit blend)
According to the school program, Every lunch “Full Meal” includes students’ choice of one entrée and self-serve offering bar including menued sides PLUS a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables with two drink choices.
Notice what the vegetables are: self-server offering bar. Federal guidelines mandate a certain amount of vegetables in the school lunch, but for the kids, it’s strictly optional. And they’re soggy, mushy, and have had the life cooked out of them. The number of trays containing fruit or vegetables could be counted on a single hand, and much of that ended up in the trash. Much of the pasta was devoid of sauce. The steam trays containing the vegetables were virtually untouched (and students eat in grade order, approximately 80-100 students per grade)
So, let’s break this down.
Whole wheat pasta. pretty benign stuff, but nutritionally pretty vapid. Lotta carbs, not a lot else. It may be whole wheat, but it’s still pasta.
Bosco Stick. What the heck is that? It’s some sort of breadstick with cheese in the middle. One stick contains 210 calories, a third of which are from fat.. Key indredients: Sugar and partially hydrogenated soybean and cottonseed oil, and vegetable glycerides. Yummy.
Grilled Cheese. ‘Nuff said. Hunk of bread surrounding pseudo-cheese and fried on the griddle.
Mini Corn Dogs. Hot dogs, ergo, HFCS.Wrapped in corn batter. An Iowa farmer’s dream.
Bagel w/ Cream Cheese. The cream cheese was strawberry flavored and contains sugar. Better than even chance that the bagel contains HFCS as well.
Yogurt w/ Poppyseed muffin. Again with the loads of sugar.
Peanut Butter & Jelly. The school can’t even be bothered to make the simplest of sandwiches, they have to use the prefabricated abomination that is the Uncrustable. 38 ingredients, including HFCS (in both the “bread” and the jelly), dextrose, and palm oil, not to mention a whole boatload of preservatives.
Edamame. Pure soy (although to its credit, pretty much unadulterated)
Fruit Cocktail. Let’s take fruit, and then pickle it in sugar water. Brilliant.
Flavored milk (chocolate or strawberry). 30 grams of sugar in a single serving, and the kids usually take two. By comparison, the same amount of Coke contains a mere 26g of sugar. In our school, it’s real sugar, but HFCS is common. 12g of those sugars are from the milk itself.
White Milk. I didn’t see a single kid with this. Otherwise, pretty healthy stuff.
Juice. A serving of this contains 28 grams of sugars, virtually all of it fructose, with no fiber to buffer it (except perhaps in the orange juice)
So, we have a menu loaded with sugars and not-so-complex carbohydrates. The second-graders arrive at 11:30. By 11:45, they’re being herded outside, where they have 10 minutes to run off all that sugar. They technically have the option to stay and finish their meal, but there’s intense pressure from both their peers and from the lunchroom staff for them to get out and play. Net result is that the amount of waste is mind-boggling.
In 15 minutes, these kids will practically inhale well over 100 grams of sugars and starches. They will then have 10 minutes to run it off before it’s even had a chance to hit their system, followed by over three hours in the classroom, punctuated by 15 minutes of recess in the middle. And they wonder why kids get fat and inattentive. Even our school’s nurse cringes at the school’s lunches.
And this is a pretty typical day on the menu. The district swears they’re abiding by federal guidelines. The common thing on this menu is that it’s virtually all made from four of the top five USDA-subsidized crops: wheat, corn, soy, cotton (Tobacco is the 5th).
I think the USDA overseeing the school lunch program (and overall nutritional policy) is not only a massive conflict of interest, but a primary cause behind the obesity epidemic. You can’t have the people setting production policy and subsidies be the same ones overseeing policy related to its consumption. When ketchup (which contains a lot of HFCS) is considered a “vegetable”, there’s a problem.
If the school lunch program and nutrition policy were overseen by health officials (like DHHS or the Surgeon General), I think we’d be a lot better off.
There’s an up-and-coming local business (who shall remain nameless) that hired someone to handle their social media presence. Unfortunately, it seems they hired someone who is a marketer first, and who happens to know that social media tools are out there, but doesn’t have a clue how to use them appropriately.
Today, they posted a special on facebook: “Come by before we close, and will give you <free stuff>”. Since their <free stuff> is mind-blowingly good, I stopped by on the way home from work. The owner himself was a little baffled, and didn’t even know what the special was. He had to call his “social media person” (who didn’t answer the phone), and then resort to looking it up on Facebook. He tried to explain that their new social media person was “going a little crazy”.
Previously, they’d had a twitter special that involved DMing them a certain phrase when you got there, and they would DM you back a coupon code worth 10%. When I tried that, it took 5 days for me to get my coupon code. I’ve frequently received random DMs from them that indicate to me that something is amiss with their twitter auto-responder. Comments to their twitter account pointing this out went ignored. I’ve never had this business respond to anything I’ve posted to Twitter or Facebook about them.
The person handling their social marketing has neglected the crucial element of social media: the SOCIAL aspect. I get wanting to outsource it. But a good social media practitioner absolutely HAS to keep the business owner in the loop. The key aspect of social media is that it’s a conversation with your customers, not a one way communications blast. The owners/staff should know what’s being put out there with their name on it. They should be aware of the people that are conversing with them, who they are, and ideally, when they show up at the business.
Digital distribution is the future of media. Physical media is dead. Yeah, I know, you’ve heard it but don’t believe it.
Today, Penny preached at Resurrection and showed a clip from The Blind Side. Andrea and I had been meaning to see the movie for a while. Since the kids actually went to bed quietly and early, we figured we’d RedBox it and have a nice movie night at home.
One problem though – when your pastor preaches to a couple thousand people and include a clip, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re going to have a hard time finding said movie anywhere near the church. As a backup plan, I fired up google and searched for a torrent version of it. Within about 30 seconds, it was downloading. I then went to Redbox.com, searched for the movie (got lucky and the local box actually had one!), reserved it online, hopped into the car, drove over to the price chopper and picked up the movie. (in retrospect, it would have been faster to take my bike, but it was warm and VERY humid) . I took less than thirty seconds at the kiosk, and drove home. As I sat down in front of my computer, the download had just completed.
Total time elapsed: 17 minutes. In that time, 700MB had downloaded, and hadn’t even uploaded a complete single block (so don’t worry, MPAA, I didn’t actually share any of it). Since I had the DVD, I watched that instead, and had to confront issues such as cleaning the last renter’s fingerprints off the disc and sitting through commercials on the DVD that I paid to rent. I’ll go on faith that the file I downloaded contained the video, and it was kinda nice having a backup plan in case the disc was unusable. Either way, the content owners did get paid.
The process of reserving and picking up a movie on redbox is insanely easy and quick. And downloading a torrent was even easier. If you’re in the business of physical entertainment media, I hope that you’re trying to figure out your exit from that strategy. Browsing and renting at Blockbuster is a painful and expensive process, and that’s why their days are numbered. Redbox has a good thing going, but looking five to ten years down the line, they should be seeing a world of digitally distributed content, not physical media. Netflix has the right idea, but their streaming catalog could use much improvement.
How can content producers leverage the ease and efficiency of peer-to-peer technologies like BitTorrent? The distributed distribution model is incredibly efficient as several companies have discovered where software distribution is concerned. They need to stop fearing peer-to-peer digital distribution and instead leverage its power.
…to bring you this important public service announcement regarding child car seat safety.
My friend Christine asked our state troopers about carseat safety rules here in Kansas. Here is his reply:
my name is Trooper Tim McCool. I’m the Troop B (Topeka) Public Resource Officer. I’m also a Child Passenger Safety Technician/Instructor. I can appreciate your question, our current law is somewhat confusing. The origins of our current law start back in the 1980′s and the law has been revised several times over the years. Our legislators have tried to keep up with the current recommendations but have not always been successful. As law enforcement officers we try to look at what is recommended nationally and try to apply that to our local law. Our law doesn’t say you have to use a forward facing seat at one year of age it says that you must be using a seat properly, and if you follow the national recommendations then you should be using a rear facing convertible to its upper weight limit rear facing. What also leads to confusion is that the AAP currently recommends that the minimum you should turn a child around forward facing is now at 18 months and 25 pounds in weight. As you see, lots of information. Best rule of thumb, that will keep you out of trouble is to always secure your child in a CPS seat and follow the national recommendations. If you meet a law enforcement officer, most of the officers will defer to one of us that is a CPS Tech. and will support the national recommendations. Again, we law enforcement officers don’t make the laws here in Kansas, we only enforce them. If you or anyone else would like to see our law changed then I would suggest that you contact your local legislator and make your feelings known to them. If they don’t hear from their constituents, they won’t know that there is an issue. Please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions.
Tech. Trooper Timothy I. McCool
Public Resource Officer
Kansas Highway Patrol – Troop B
So, there you have it. 12 months and 20 pounds is now outdated information. Remember that 18 months and 25 lbs is a minimum, the reality is that you should keep them rear-facing as long as they are within height and weight limits of the seat (which for most is 33 lbs). We had to turn F around at 12 months on the dot because she was 34 lbs. C is still under 33 lbs, but she’s a lot taller than a rear-facing seat can handle. We didn’t flip her around until she was about 2.
Naturally, make sure the seat is properly installed in the car, and your child in the seat. If in doubt, get it checked. 95% of all carseats are improperly installed.
… or is that crunchy carbon credits?
When the Vatican recently announced that being a polluter is now deemed a cardinal sin, I got to thinking about the Holy Mother Church of Global WarmingClimate Change (and its self-appointed pontiff, His Holiness Albert the Gore), the full reality of it hit me:
Carbon credits are nothing more than 21st-century indulgences.
Much like the indulgences the Catholic Church dispensed long ago, they don’t actually change anything. When His Holiness’ mansioncompound in Tennessee consumes the kind of energy in a month that most of us mere mortals do in an entire year (and spews out a commensurate amount of CO2), the amount of CO2 that’s actually in the atmosphere purportedly cranking upfiddling with the global thermostat hasn’t actually changed, regardless of how many creditsindulgences he’s purchased. In this particular case, the pontiff himself is committing the mortal sin, but it’s all good, since he’s paying himself indulgences through the magic of investment trusts.
And much like the indulgences of Rome, the indulgences of Environmentalism go into erecting edifices and monuments to the Holy Mother Church. Now if only we could do something about the sheer quantities of hot air coming out of the myriad pulpits of the Church of Global Climate Change, we’d be making some progress.
Sheesh. Even Dell gives me the option of assuaging my guilt every time I order a computer from them. I can buy not only carbon offsets for my shiny new computer, I even have the option of paying Dell a few bucks to plant a tree for me. Must be nice to pass off their facility landscaping costs directly onto the customers, in the name of cardinal guilt. That’s sheer genius right there.
Flame away. Just make sure you offset your emissions. I’ll be off shredding a tree.
John Tehranian is an intellectual property attorney in SoCal, and recently plublished an article titled “Infringement Nation: Copyright Reform and the Law/Norm Gap”. It’s a little lengthy and filled with legal jargon, but right in the middle is the meat of the article, and it’s definitely an eye-opener:
To illustrate the unwitting infringement that has become quotidian for the average American, take an ordinary day in the life of a hypothetical law professor named John. For the purposes of this Gedankenexperiment, we assume the worst-case scenario of full enforcement of rights by copyright holders and an uncharitable, though perfectly plausible, reading of existing case law and the fair use doctrine. Fair use is, after all, notoriously fickle and the defense offers little ex ante refuge to users of copyrighted works.
In the morning, John checks his email, and, in so doing, begins to tally up the liability. Following common practice, he has set his mail browser to automatically reproduce the text to which he is responding in any email he drafts. Each unauthorized reproduction of someone else’s copyrighted text—their email—represents a separate act of brazen infringement, as does each instance of email forwarding. Within an hour, the twenty reply and forward emails sent by John have exposed him to $3 million in statutory damages.
After spending some time catching up on the latest news, John attends his Constitutional Law class, where he distributes copies of three just-published Internet articles presenting analyses of a Supreme Court decision handed down only hours ago. Unfortunately, despite his concern for his students’ edification, John has just engaged in the unauthorized reproduction of three literary works in violation of the Copyright Act.
Professor John then attends a faculty meeting that fails to capture his full attention. Doodling on his notepad provides an ideal escape. A fan of post-modern architecture, he finds himself thinking of Frank Gehry’s early sketches for the Bilbao Guggenheim as he draws a series of swirling lines that roughly approximate the design of the building. He has created an unauthorized derivative of a copyrighted architectural rendering.
Later that afternoon, John attends his Law and Literature class, where the focus of the day is on morality and duty. He has assigned e.e. cumming’s 1931 poem I sing of Olaf glad and big to the students. As a prelude to class discussion, he reads the poem in its entirety, thereby engaging in an unauthorized public performance of the copyrighted literary work.
Before leaving work, he remembers to email his family five photographs of the Utes football game he attended the previous Saturday. His friend had taken the photographs. And while she had given him the prints, ownership of the physical work and its underlying intellectual property are not tied together. Quite simply, the copyright to the photograph subsists in and remains with its author, John’s friend. As such, by copying, distributing, and publicly displaying the copyrighted photographs, John is once again piling up the infringements.
[Interestingly enough, Tehranian fails to point out here that the photographs themselves are likely in violation of the team's intellectual property. Check your game ticket sometime regarding photography of the event --IB]
In the late afternoon, John takes his daily swim at the university pool. Before he jumps into the water, he discards his T-shirt, revealing a Captain Caveman tattoo on his right shoulder. Not only did he violate Hanna-Barbera’s copyright when he got the tattoo—after all, it is an unauthorized reproduction of a copyrighted work—he has now engaged in a unauthorized public display of the animated character. More ominously, the Copyright Act allows for the
“impounding” and “destruction or other reasonable disposition” of any infringing work. Sporting the tattoo, John has become the infringing work. At best, therefore, he will have to undergo court-mandated laser tattoo removal. At worst, he faces imminent “destruction.”
That evening, John attends a restaurant dinner celebrating a friend’s birthday. At the end of the evening, he joins the other guests in singing “Happy Birthday.” The moment is captured on his cellphone camera. He has consequently infringed on the copyrighted musical composition by publicly performing the song and reproducing the song in the video recording without authorization. Additionally,his video footage captures not only his friend but clearly documents the art work hanging on the wall behind his friend—Wives with Knives, a print by renowned retro-themed painter Shag. John’s incidental and even accidental use of Wives with
Knives in the video nevertheless constitutes an unauthorized reproduction of Shag’s work.
At the end of the day, John checks his mailbox, where he finds the latest issue of an artsy hipster rag to which he subscribes. The ’zine, named Found, is a nationally distributed quarterly that collects and catalogues curious notes, drawings, and other items of interest that readers find lying in city streets, public transportation, and other random places. In short, John has purchased a magazine containing the unauthorized reproduction, distribution, and public display of fifty copyrighted notes and drawings. His knowing, material contribution to Found’s fifty acts of infringement subjects John to secondary liability in the amount of
By the end of the day, John has infringed the copyrights of twenty emails, three legal articles, an architectural rendering, a poem, five photographs, an animated character, a musical composition, a painting, and fifty notes and drawings. All told, he has committed at least eighty-three acts of infringement and faces liability in the amount of $12.45 million (to say nothing of potential criminal charges). There is nothing particularly extraordinary about John’s activities. Yet if copyright holders were inclined to enforce their rights to the maximum extent allowed by law, barring last minute salvation from the notoriously ambiguous fair
use defense, he would be liable for a mind-boggling $4.544 billion in potential damages each year. And, surprisingly, he has not even committed a single act of infringement through P2P file sharing. Such an outcome flies in the face of our basic sense of justice. Indeed, one must either irrationally conclude that John is a criminal infringer—a veritable grand larcenist—or blithely surmise that copyright law must not mean what it appears to say. Something is clearly amiss. Moreover, the troublesome gap between copyright law and norms has grown only wider in recent years.
I’m probably infringing on Tehranian’s copyright merely by quoting all that. I did attribute and link to the original, though, so I hope I’m covered. (John, if by some random chance you happen across this, I don’t mean it in any sort of infringing way. Please don’t sue. )
A few months back, we had someone come in and present a session on church copyright compliance. I was unable to attend, but it’s enough of an issue that those of us in churches need to be acutely aware of the legal implications of everything we do.
In a sense, it’s like compliance with the tax code, or Microsoft licensing. At the end of the day, you still don’t know if you did it right, and your “best guess” may still land you in hot water. And don’t ask an expert, each one will give you a different opinion.
The most immediate issue we face as church IT people is software licensing. A recent NetworkWorld article mentions that the Business Software Alliance most frequently targets organizations with 10 to 100 employees (this sound familiar to any of you guys?) – They get most of their tips from unhappy former IT workers who will happily turn in their former employer for a cash reward. In many cases, the recently departed employee was himself (or herself!) the person responsible for license compliance.
A company I used to work for (and was the IT guy) was grossly out of compliance, and my efforts to bring them into compliance were met with pushback from my own boss, who was the comptroller for the company. She refused to spend the money required to get us licensed properly. She didn’t even budge when I pointed out the huge liability that they faced. For some time after my departure, I was sorely tempted to turn them into the BSA, but I ended up not doing that, figureing it would some day come back to bite me.