Google, Viacom, DMCA, STFU

You might remember that $1,000,000,000 lawsuit Viacom filed against YouTube a few years ago because people were uploading clips of TV shows and movies that Viacom owned. The reason they could put a billion-dollar price tag on that suit is that Viacom owns stuff like MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures, Comedy Central and VH1, and they used to own CBS and Showtime when they filed the suit.

You might also know that last week, a judge sided with YouTube owner Google.

This shouldn't surprise anyone. You know why? The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) says, essentially, if a website allows users to upload information, the site is not responsible for verifying the copyright on it. Instead, the website tells users they can only upload stuff they own the copyright on, and if the copyright holder asks the site to take something down, they'll take it down.

So that's what they do.

You know why it works that way? Because if YouTube, or Flickr, or Facebook, or any other site had to filter everything that was posted and check the copyright on it, those services wouldn't exist.

What Viacom should have done was play by the rules YouTube had in place: Tell us what you own the copyright on, and we'll take it down.

The ruling does not mean that media companies should be any more concerned about their content. The judge didn't say that copyrighted material could remain on YouTube, he said YouTube didn't have to pre-screen it, essentially upholding the DMCA.

Traditional media companies like Viacom really need to learn the rules of the new playground, rather than trying to make the new playground conform to the old playground's standards. Wouldn't the legal fees they put into the case be better served developing a way forward in a new media world?

The social media bill of rights

The good people at the annual Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference this year put together something of a "Bill of Rights" for users of social networking sites. I'm going to go ahead and call it a cute idea, because mostly the "rights" assume that the point of putting together a social networking site is to let users do whatever they want.

In case you've been living in a socialist economy since the advent of the Internet, the truth is that social networking sites exist to sell highly targeted advertising and provide companies with very specific information about users.

No, really – that's the truth.

I can get on board with some of the 14 ideas the conference put forth, but not all of them. Not even most of them. Here we go:

1. Honesty: Honor your privacy policy and terms of service.

This, for me, is a no-brainer. The only agreement you (as the owner of a social networking site) and I make when I sign up for your service is that I accept your privacy policy and terms of service. If you don't stick to it, you've broken our agreement.

2. Clarity: Make sure that policies, terms of service, and settings are easy to find and understand.

When I first got started on Twitter, the Terms of Service was short and easy to understand. And it probably wouldn't have done them a lick of good if they had wound up in court for any reason. It's not like we're a litigious society or anything.

So now it looks like this. At least they have tips in there so you can understand it, unlike Facebook's (scroll to the bottom of that and look at how long the list of associated documents is!).

I have to be on the side of social media companies on this, though. If you don't like the terms, don't sign up. If you can't understand them, don't sign up. When you check that box, you're agreeing to those terms. If you don't understand your mortgage and you sign it anyway, you're still responsible for everything in it. Which is why you hire a real estate lawyer. If you really want to be part of Facebook's community but you don't understand the contract you're signing, hire a lawyer to explain it to you. Seriously.

3. Freedom of speech: Do not delete or modify my data without a clear policy and justification.

Let's be clear on this: The U.S. Constitution gives us freedom of speech. That means we can say whatever we want (with a few exceptions). As someone who used to deal with feedback from a large website with a social media component, your right to say whatever you want does not mean someone has to publish it. When the terms of service say, "We have a right to remove whatever we want, with or without cause or explanation," that's what it means. The network can just take something down because it wants to. Deal. You signed the contract, remember?

4. Empowerment: Support assistive technologies and universal accessibility.

This is just a smart move for networks. If you can make your network easy for people to use, they'll use it. That means that if someone with a disability can't use your site, she's not going to use it. If you want everybody to use your site, make it so everybody can use it.

That's not a users' rights thing, that's a smart business decision. If you run a dry cleaner and you have three steps leading up to your door and the dry cleaner next door has a ramp, who's going to get the business from anybody who can't walk steps?

5. Self-protection: Support privacy-enhancing technologies.

This runs entirely counter to why social networks exist. If you as a user need privacy, stay off of social networks.

6. Data minimization: Minimize the information I am required to provide and share with others.

Again, this is not why social networks exist. If you don't want to share information, don't share it. If you want to share it with some people but not others, don't accept those others' friend requests. It's not brain surgery.

7. Control: Let me control my data, and don't facilitate sharing it unless I agree first.

I'm in conditional support of this one. If the terms of service or privacy policy tells me what I can control and what is automatically shared, it's up to me to decide whether I'm comfortable enough to join your network. If you change the rules of the game in the middle, though, I take big issue with it – this is what Facebook did, and it's why my profile is nearly empty and you can't write on my wall.

8. Predictability: Obtain my prior consent before significantly changing who can see my data.

This is essentially what I said above in #7. If you're going to change the rules significantly, give me an opportunity to decide whether I want to play by them before you force me into it.

9. Data portability: Make it easy for me to obtain a copy of my data.

Let's get this straight: Social networks are not your personal thumb drive. No joke. If you want a copy of your information, make a copy. If Flickr went away tomorrow, would you lose all your family photos? If the answer is yes, back them up yourself. Flickr should not have to play nice with your hard drive, or with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or any other business it isn't partnered with. Otherwise, what's the point of competition?

10. Protection: Treat my data as securely as your own confidential data unless I choose to share it, and notify me if it is compromised.

Emm, no. If you don't want to share something, don't share it. It's easy not to join a network: just don't sign up. See how easy that was?

11. Right to know: Show me how you are using my data and allow me to see who and what has access to it.

Every social networking site already does this. If you read the user agreement, privacy policy, and terms of service, you should know this information. If you didn't, you shouldn't have agreed to them when you signed up for the site.

12. Right to self-define: Let me create more than one identity and use pseudonyms. Do not link them without my permission.

I disagree here, for the protection of the social networks, who are held responsible if they allow, say, a sex offender to contact a minor. The terms of service of most sites basically say, "You agree that the information you provide is truthful." If it's not, they have a good reason to refuse service to you as a customer.

13. Right to appeal: Allow me to appeal punitive actions.

This would be reasonable business sense, and many sites do allow users to appeal punitive actions. Twitter and LinkedIn do, for sure.

14. Right to withdraw: Allow me to delete my account, and remove my data.

You shouldn't join any social network that doesn't allow you to remove your data. Before iMeem was picked up by MySpace, it didn't let you delete your account, and they made that very clear in the terms of service and also on the help page, in case you didn't read the terms of service before you agreed to them. But they did let you delete the data. Same with Blue Goose News – while I couldn't delete my account there, I was able to delete my blog posts, my name, my email address and anything else that identified me. That was in their terms and I knew it when I signed up.

It all comes down to smart consumerism. If you don't like the way a business operates, don't patronize it.

Guest Post: Could mixed martial arts save the New York State budget?

This is a guest post from Alexia Krause at MMA Industries. Obviously, she's got an angle on this, so take it at face value. Personally, I'm open to any reasonable suggestion to help this state dig out of its budget crisis.

With the New York state deficit hitting $8 billion, steps need to be taken in order to right the ship that is the state's budget. Recently New York Gov. David Paterson stated that the projected deficit for the upcoming fiscal year has grown an additional $750 million. There's no doubting that the Empire State is in dire straits trying to fix their deficit. It is extremely difficult trying to balance a state budget at a time when the country as a whole is going through some of its most difficult economic hurdles in recent history. This forces us to take a fresh look at which programs will continue to receive funding. As a result, the state has been forced to cut, reject, and outright shut down many state programs and projects in order to make some type of movement out of the red and back into the black. Many of these budget cuts (like closing down state parks and cutting funding to public schools) were rampant and have cast an unfavorable light on politicians in Albany in the eyes of many New Yorkers. However, something must be done in order to fight the ailing state economy. As coincidence has it, a good fight might just be the answer to the budget problems.

On June 16th, the New York State Senate passed a bill to legalize MMA in the state in an effort to help amend the state's financial problems. Opening the floodgates for MMA in New York would be more of a benefit to the state than it would to the MMA Industry. For years, promoters have happily held venues in nearby New Jersey. Mixed martial arts competitions like UFC among others have been banned in the state because many lawmakers felt it was too brutal of a sport (even though other legal sports like football and hockey can be just as- if not more- brutal). With the passing of this new bill, fans will finally be able to support their home state and local venues. MMA events would potentially have access to one of the most active metropolises in the world- New York City. There are dozens of great venues surrounding the state who have been capitalizing on this opportunity for years. At the UFC's most recent event held in New Jersey, there were more New York residents in attendance than NJ natives. Fortunately state legislators have finally come to the realization that legalizing MMA will open access to a new revenue stream that it gravely needs.

By welcoming MMA in the state, as much as $11 million in economic activity could be generated for each event held. This activity ranges from salaries paid to venue workers, to an increased interest in martial arts training academies and dojos, to tourism dollars spent in the surrounding area. At every step of the way, tax revenue is generated. The MMA organization UFC (who would play a large role in scheduling events in the state) is broadcasted in over 170 countries, made 5.1 million in Pay-Per-View sales in 2007 alone, and averaged 30.6 million viewers in that same year. This type of outreach is bound to benefit the state and bring thousands to events, thus helping the economies of struggling New York state cities.

Holding events isn't the only way that this bill will help bring money to the state of New York. In fact, the broad reach of allowing MMA to be legalized is something that will affect participants in the sport from top to bottom. For example, people who run mixed martial training gyms and programs will see a huge revenue generating boost in enrollment that will give many the chance to train and compete in their home state. This bill may even have the effect of preventing violence instead of causing it (which opponents of the bill argue) because it will allow many kids to go someplace safe after school. Studies have shown that when at-risk children are trained by mentors in a disciplined sport such as MMA, they are less likely to become involved in criminal activities. This is one of the most important aspects of the bill from a human perspective, and one of the greatest reasons why this bill needs to be passed.

Every once in a while, a sport can transcend its origins and become a true cultural phenomenon. This is what MMA could be for the state of New York and that is precisely why this bill needs to be passed. The New York budget is going through one of its worst economic times ever, but by legalizing MMA, it can help to fight back against the deficit and make a difference in the lives of millions of New Yorkers.

Alexia is a lifelong fan of sports and fitness. Recently, she's been obsessed with MMA. As a result, she has joined forces with MMA Industries, purveyors of widely popular MMA shirts and gloves. Alexia has been writing about the latest developments in MMA training equipment for the past few years, and continues to bring you the latest news in the mixed martial arts world.


I wanted to tell you about LiveIntent for a minute. It's a company with a pretty cool ad-driven product. I met a couple of members of their team at the 140 Character Conference back in April.

Check out the "Follow Me on Twitter" button on the right side of the page. You'll notice LiveIntent's logo next to the large lower-case t. So it's fairly unobtrusive, for sure.

If you roll your mouse over that button, you'll see recommended Twitter feeds to follow, including their following and follower counts, their Klout score, their timeline, and a button to follow them. You get to pick which Twitter accounts show up here, which means if you have a group-written blog, say, or a publication with several writers, you can recommend their Twitter accounts for follows.

I've only seen an ad on my button a couple of times, but then I'm a little guy. When an ad does appear, you'll see a yellow background on the account. As a publisher, you get to choose which advertisers don't show up there (you know, in case you don't want to recommend people follow your competition. It's a revenue share proposition; if they make money from the ads on your site (basically, the more people who follow the advertised account), they cut you in.

It's a pretty easy setup (they've made it easier since I started the sign-up process), and their sales staff is friendly. I'd highly recommend checking them out, even if their business cards are 3-inch squares that don't fit in your wallet.

Some free advice about working on the Web

I received an email from an intern asking for SEO advice specific to backlinking. Obviously, I didn't give away the farm (I charge for this stuff, after all), but I did have one piece of advice anyone trying to figure out why a competitor is doing better than you are in search.

The best thing about SEO is that when you see a site doing it well, there aren't any secrets, ask any SEO specialist. Look at the pages, and look at the source code. See what they're doing, and see what you could be doing better.

That's it. You want to know what someone's doing? Look. In some cases, you may have to dig deeper (Yahoo! Site Explorer, Google Webmaster Tools), but nothing on the Web is a mystery. If you see someone doing something well, you don't have to ask how they're doing it, just use your eyes.

Roller Derby: Assault City vs. Ithaca

Assault City's B Team experienced some of the A Team's defensive problems on Saturday, when they hosted the Ithaca Bluestockings at Baldwinsville. But the offense was a bit better. Ithaca won the bout 202-90.

Assault City A Team coach Crazy Diamond and Hot 107.9's DeafGeoff emceed, and did an awesome job explaining not only the "what" of what was going on, but also the "why."

Favorite parts of the bout:

» The Bluestockings brought cheerleaders – all male, and all in matching jumpsuits.

» I've mentioned before roller derby is a family-friendly, and especially girl-friendly, event. One Assault City skater took a couple of young girls by the hand at halftime and skated them around the track (the girls were running). Awesome.

» Halftime entertainment: Live music by Feast of the Superb Owl, who were loud but still managed to sound good in an ice rink.

I still love all the things I said last time, too. And what Crazy D said. And it's why I'll continue to support derby locally as long as teams are playing.

Assault City's next bout is July 17 at the Baldwinsville Ice Arena. Go seem. And follow them on Twitter, too.

Volunteers needed for event in Oswego this weekend

The H. Lee White Marine Museum in Oswego seeks volunteers for the Festival of Sail June 25-27 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Volunteers are needed to cover the following positions:

• Site Guides - LT-5, Canal Boat, Main Museum Building
• Shop Assistants
• Runners
• Craft assistants, children’s activities, storytellers
• Crowd Control
• Security
• Parking & Traffic Control
• Gate Admissions
• Stage Assistants
• And more!

Call or email the Museum office if you have any questions! 342-0480

A Taste of Philadelphia

If you're in the Syracuse area, you've probably driven past A Taste of Philadelphia a bazillion times and thought, "I really need to try that place."

I've been doing it for seven years.

And then Dan Lovell (blog - Twitter) said I had to try it, and put his money where his mouth was.

He recommends the pizza cheesesteak, but it being my first time there, I had to try the special. And since there will most definitely be a second time, I'll try the pizza next time.

The place is the sort I tend to prefer: dark, lacking pretense, full of stuff on the walls that matches the theme of the place (umm, Philadelphia, why would you even ask?). And good food, for really reasonably prices.

Give it a try, really. There's even a little parking lot next to the building so you don't have to deal with parking on James Street. Do it. Today, even.

Twitter, you and your business

I wrote last week that if social media isn't working for your business, one thing you might want to do is change your expectations.

Let's say you own a coffee shop. How does your Twitter presence compare to your cafe's presence?

Your cafe

1. You open a store front
2. People get to your parking lot
3. People walk in your door
4. You talk to those who walk in the door about your shop and your menu

Your cafe on Twitter

1. You join Twitter
2. People follow you on Twitter
3. People actually read what you post on Twitter
4. You engage your Twitter followers in discussions

You still haven't made a dime in either case. You still have to have a good product, at a good price, and you still have to close the sale.

Doing steps 1-4 in your shop will hopefully lead to conversion, and hopefully after that your product and price point sell themselves.

But how many people these days do this sort of shopping? More than likely, if someone wants a cup of coffee, they go to the cafe they know. So if you introduce yourself on Twitter and bring them in with engagement and maybe a special, you've done your selling to all your followers, not just the one person who has walked in your door.

Twitter is no more a conversion tool than hanging an open sign on your door is. But if you're the sort of person who can sell me coffee when I'm standing in front of you, you can probably sell me coffee on Twitter, too.