Monthly Archives: March 2007

Best Campaign Website: Presidential Candidate Susie Flynn


Surfing the late night Tube last evening, I paused at Tavis Smiley, who was in the midst of an onscreen interview with one of my favorite Americans, the inimitable  and articulate Marian Wright Edelman,  head of the Children’s Defense Fund, or as I like to call her, “the smartest woman in Washington”.   Not only is the CDF behind the children’s health insurance initiative, I discovered they are running their own candidate for President.  Her name is Susie Flynn, a bright young woman who is running on the issue of universal health care for children.  However, her name will never make it to the ballot. Presidential candidate Susie Flynn is 10-years-old. 

This doesn’t stop me from giving her my vote–for the Best Campaign Website and, most importantly, Best Use of New Media in the 2008 presidential campaign, so far.  Candidates, take notes.

I don’t know who is responsible for the creation and execution of this brilliant idea, but you have to hand it to the CDF team for getting it all right.  At this point, it is clear that the 2008 campaign will be made on the Internet, and may the best web developers win.  Political TV commercials are so last century.

Here’s what they’re up to on the electsusie.com website:

HOME page:
As they say in their campaign slogan, there are 9 million uninsured children in this country, so they are trying to collect 9 million signatures on their petition. The platform is laid out simply on the Home page, where you  sign and click your name onto the petition.  The petition counter is right there, so you see that your name has been added and counted. The left hand column is a blog where you can leave a comment, and you also see Susie’s latest campaign videos, posted on YouTube.

Click on “GET INVOLVED” and you see a map with icon push pins of how many have signed the petition where.  On “Supporter Pics”  you get two options:  1) download the PDF of Susie’s campaign yard sign and 2) upload photos of you and your clan with your campaign yard sign to Susie’s–you guessed it–Flickr page.  “My Banners” gives you the html code to paste the campaign banners on your website or blog. “Tell A Friend” sends a message to your contacts with all the appropriate links.  And that’s just the beginning.

LINKS” is where the real fun begins.  Not only will you find, finally, the links to CDF’s fund and issue topics, you are also linked to Susie’s MySpace page, Facebook page, and Care2 page.

See below my favorite campaign video called “My attempt to get a Susie Flynn yard sign at the White House”.  Then directly after that watch part two in that series called, “Susie Flynn takes her campaign to the White House”.

The mystery remains, who is this charming gap-toothed girl. Talk about fresh faces in Washington. Finally, candidates might also be wise to take some cues from Hollywood:  cute kids will always upstage you.

Susie Flynn on YouTube:


My attempt to get a Susie Flynn yard sign in the white house

Re: Greetings From Brazil


I was pleasantly surprised to get a comment from my post on The Brazilian Solution from Jose Murilo Junior of the Brazilian Ministry of Culture. [See Comment on Pirates of the Millennium Part II: The Brazilian Solution].  He is also spearheading one of the Ministry’s innovative cultural programs, which uses web technology to reach low-income youths called “Hotspots“.  According to the description on Murilo’s eco-rama blog: “A hotspot is established with a broadband connection, infrastructure made with recycled equipments and, most of all, technical workshops of open-source software, allowing anyone to digitalize their creativity.”

I’d love to see programs like this in the U.S.  Also, I like the implications for these youths to be able to connect with people outside of their immediate environment.  Instead of sister cities, we could have brother/sister Hotspots.

The Brazilian kids already have a blog, flickr page and a video on YouTube. Unfortunately, for us, they are all in Portuguese. But the body language is loud and clear. These kids have something to tell us. And lots of creativity. Check out their flickr photos. However you say it in your language, you go, Brazil!  Greetings from America!

Pirates of the Millennium Part II: The Brazilian Solution


As promised, here is the second part of the Pirates 2007 saga.  Our story continues as a new hero of digital downloading emerges in the guise of international musical artist Gilberto Gil and now, Brazil’s new Minister of Culture.

As I’ve been absorbing the myriad media stories about piracy and such, a mantra has been repeating itself in my head: “the real problem is that we have an antique model for copyrights law, and we need a totally new system to address all the new technology and forms of distribution in the digital age of the 21st century.  I say just scrap the system and start over”.  

Sails into our harbor, Mr. Gil who recently spoke at the SXSW Music conference in Austin, TX.  As reported by Larry Rohter in The New York Times [sorry it’s a Times Select story, for those of you who aren’t subscribers to this service], Gil and Brazil’s Creative Commons movement, have done just that:  devised a new system of ownership and copyrights protection that looks like a real working model for the digital dilemmas we are now facing.

More elegantly put by Mr. Gil as quoted in the article: “I think we are moving rapidly toward the obsolescence and eventual disappearance of a single traditional model and its replacement by others that are hybrids…My personal view is that digital culture brings with it a new idea of intellectual property, and that this new culture of sharing can and should inform government policies.”

As the copyrights controversy heats up, I am now noticing other commentaries expressing similar thoughts. 

Here’s the Brazilian solution:

As Minister of Culture, Gil is working with the Creative Commons  movement, which has come up with a new system of ownership.  Creative Commons was started in 2001 to address the issue of all rights reserved copyright ownership. The movement is comprised of disparate groups, from “scientists and artists to lawyers and consumers” who believe that the “all rights reserved” system “impeded creativity and the sharing of knowledge in the Internet age”.

The Creative Commons movement has devised a three-tiered structure that retains some rights, shares some and gives some away.

For example, in the new system called “Copyleft” a musical artist would own all the rights on some songs, share the rights with a publisher on others and then have another group of songs with “no rights reserved”.  Those songs would be free and clear, to download, remix, copy, whatever.  One for me, one for you, one for everyone else.  The Copyleft system is already operating in Brazil with a huge database of registered properties.

The other thing Copyleft does is give all the rights back to the artist or creator.  Using this model, artists don’t have to give away all of their rights to studios or record companies. They get to choose which rights they want to keep and which rights they want to share.

This model makes so much sense.  You can control the mix and also the distribution.  Put watermarks on the copyrighted properties and none on the free properties.  

Let’s stop litigating and start creating copyright systems that work. For everyone.

Since the word “left” in America is so loaded, I propose that we call our new system “No Rights Left Behind”.

See my next post for why I think the U.S. should have a Minister of Culture.

To watch a few minutes of Gilberto Gil talking about music at SXSW go here (scroll down almost to the bottom of the page).

Does Viacom Suck or Rock?


Sucks, evidently, according to the people’s Internet, Yahoo Search API search engine and an amusing new website called sucks-rocks.com

As noted in my previous post on piracy, the Viacom v. YouTube controversy is doing a lot to damage the public image of both companies in the eyes of its customers and audience. When you take a boardroom fight to the streets, this is what you can expect. 

Sucks-rocks.com allows you to search any number of keywords to see how much they “suck” or “rock”.  The website gets its results from a formula worked out from the occurrence of negative and positive phrases regarding each keyword and reduces the results to a scale of 10-1, in which 10 Rocks and 1 Sucks.

According to info on the website, the phrases they measure by are: 
Negative:  “X sucks, X is lame, X is crap, I hate X”.
Positive:    “X rocks, X is sweet, X is awesome, I love X”.

Seems clear enough. So, I couldn’t resist applying this to the Viacom/YouTube controversy.  In my own personal campaign to prove that there really is such a thing as bad publicity, here are my search results for the following keywords:

My Search Term:

10 -1  rating 
Illegal Download 9.0 (Rocks)
Pirates 8.7  
Google 7.2  
YouTube 6.4  
Piracy 4.2  
MySpace 4.1  
Viacom 1.2  
GooTube 0.5 (Sucks)

                                           
 

Pirates of the Millennium I


Pirates of the Millennium I: IPR vs. CRM vs. DRM …vs. CPR (Oops, sorry, that’s about people. But we’ll get to them…eventually.)

Last year we loved “Pirates” — global blockbuster film franchise. Yay. This year we hate “pirates” — antichrist of the entertainment business. Boo.

We’re talking Intellectual Property Rights, baby. Yeah, sexy. Wink. Just want to hear Mike Meyers say that once. Oh, please, just once to make me laugh and lift me out of the mucky digital intellectual property drama that I’m currently watching.

It’s big, it’s global and it’s nasty. Everyone is hopping mad. It’s turning into a battle of the pirates vs. the good guys, but a battle in which it’s sometimes hard to know exactly who the good guys are. Was Jack Sparrow the bad guy or the good guy? Quickly–Yes or No. Didn’t we like him? We know that creepy Davy Jones is the real bad guy pirate, and those ghost thieves are, too. OK, got that part. Wait, don’t we feel sorry for them?

Here’s the cast of this year’s saga Pirates of the Millennium I:IPR vs.CRM vs. DRM:

The U.S. ship – a crew of sword brandishing TV, film and radio interests:  Entertainment conglomerate Viacom advances with a major strong arm lawsuit against YouTube (or as Mark Cuban loves to call them GooTube) for $1 billion in losses over copyright infringements. While in Radio, the RIAA [aka big label mouthpiece) finally and successfully explodes small and independent Internet radio stations out of the water by regulation and exorbitant royalty fees. Casualties: thousands of small, local independent internet stations and unsigned independent artists.

The European ship – a disparate but vocal band of music institutions:  The European Parliament, meeting in Brussels, voted on March 14 to regulate the online music market with “binding legislation” and gradual new regulation, trying to keep a straight course and avoid what they deemed an abrupt and unfair disruption of current regional CRMS [Collective Rights Management Societies] agreements. As reported in The Hollywood Reporter by Leo Cendrowicz of Billboard.biz:

The European members of parliament said that a “big bang” opening of online licensing would hurt the wider European music sector, as it would lead to market domination by just a handful of major rights holders.” (See THR article here.)

You mean like in the U.S.? … As I understand the issues, one of the EP’s concerns was about not squeezing out regional [read smaller] cultures and losing whole sections of European music.

Sounds good, right? Not so fast, Jack. As soon as the paper was signed, the English CRMs delivered another round of cannon fire [again from Leo Cendrowiz]:

Rights bodies immediately expressed concern at the Parliament vote. In a joint-statement issued at midday, U.K. trade association British Music Rights, the umbrella body which represents the interests of British music writers and publishers, suggested the adopted report was confused and contradictory…The European Parliament’s document, says BMR’s London-based CEO Emma Pike, represented a “hotchpotch of conflicting provisions that will neither help nor hinder market developments in online music licensing”.

See Jack in the ocean, frantically running away from angry cannibals.  Run, Jack, run!

Wait, who am I rooting for?

So if the IP rights are a complicated issue that the institutions and even the lawyers can’t agree on, it certainly doesn’t look like it’s an issue that will get resolved anytime soon. As if IP wasn’t always a difficult issue, sometimes more or less clear, it’s now sunk into the murky depths of an ever expanding, more complex ocean of digital technology that is changing as quickly as I can type this.  Because, like in the movie, justice will prevail. Right?

Wait, there are more real pirates. No, I mean it. I’m not making light of the situation. Even LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has gotten involved, appointing an anti-piracy task force. A Los Angeles economic study found that entertainment companies lost $5.2 billion in income and 106,000 jobs in 2005 from piracy. I believe that there is real DVD and other bootlegging. Even if the numbers aren’t totally accurate, there is a tangible loss going on. (See original story by Carl DiOrio in The Hollywood Reporter. )

But wait, there’s yet another ship, the swashbuckling maverick Mark Cubanwho subpoenas GooTube to talk to the user pirates [aren’t they the bad guys?] who are uploading the clearly stolen TV shows on the website. Egads! He just wants to know why, as he backs up the ensuing lawsuit with GooTube, crying out “You Go, Viacom!” (See here.)

OK, now I know who to root for: Sir Mark. He’s finally going to try to understand what’s going on with the users without killing anyone. He’s using his head. I like that. I am also starting to agree with his take on the Tuber [my personal nickname for YouTube]. The position of the Tuber ranges between merely specious –“we didn’t do anything wrong, our users did”– and egregiously irresponsible–“we don’t even know who they are”.  Is this simply negligence? If not, then villainous? Felon-is? What are they thinking? Entire TV episodes? No, no, this is not good practice.

CUT TO

Off-screen, a voice of truth rises above the din.  In his ReelPop blog, Steve Bryant reminds us that “In Viacom v. Google, ignorance is not bliss” and lays out the facts for us in plain English. You can see the info here, but one notable fact is that Viacom’s total revenues in 2006 were $11.5 billion. Viacom’s lawsuit is asking $1 billion of Tuber. Claiming, in essence, that it’s losing 10% of its income to YouTube.  Arrgh.

Welcome to Hollywood, where we sink pirate ships with lawsuits.

Is there a sequel somewhere, anywhere? Can we slay the many tentacled Davy Jones piracy issue and get on with our lives and our entertainments?

My questions are these: Why, at this late date, are content producers still not providing DRM protection for their properties? Why should protection and rights management be the domain of distributors? Besides filters, why can’t YouTube limit the size of uploaded files? Won’t the audience decide ultimately where they will go for content? 

CUT TO

Millions of audience/participants of this adventure swirling in a storm of controversy and bad publicity for all the major players. So now the customers are the bad guys?…Does anyone know CPR?….Please, help, we’re drowning…

See my sequel post Pirates of the Millennium II: The Brazilian Solution.

Meanwhile, read the Glossary below.

GLOSSARY : Pirates of the Millennium, Part I: IPR vs. CRM vs. DRM

IPR – Intellectual Property Rights. An issue that is hard for most people to understand.

CRM-Collective Rights Managers. Europe’s ASCAP/BMI type organizations who can’t agree on much.

DRM – Digital Rights Management. Built-in technology for internal protection of creative content, hardly used by producers.

DMCA – The Digital Millennium Act of 1998. International digital copyright laws that were written in 1996 and passed in 1998, which must be kind of out of date by now, don’t you think. Comments by expert lawyers most welcome.

Viacom– an entertainment conglomerate that wishes in its wildest dreams it was losing 10% of its income to YouTube.

YouTube(aka GooTube, aka Tuber) – a video sharing social networking site that was originally started so kids could have some fun and is now a place where big corporations can fight over how many billions they are going to get out of it.

Millennium– A hoped-for period of joy, serenity, prosperity, and justice (third meaning, source: yourdictionary.com);  also, something we are not going to see anytime too soon.

Nabaztag, not just a silly Rabbit


tagtag2.jpg

Nabaztag/tag — the new Rabbit

The I Want One! Department. About New Stuff.

No, it’s not silly. For sure, this is a very smart Rabbit, and I want one!

The Rabbit, or officially Nabaztag (Armenian for “rabbit”), is a robotic device that connects to your wireless router box and talks to you. Released in Europe in May of 2006, the Rabbit can read aloud your email, tell you today’s weather, the stock market report, read you the online morning paper or your favorite blogs, or send a love letter to your soulmate’s Rabbit, and at the appropriate hour, practice Tai Chi. Did I mention it wiggles its ears?

You don’t just buy a Rabbit, you adopt one. You can then join the Rabbit community like a social network and your account is called your “burrow”. There’s a blog, natch, and even accessories to dress your Rabbit up. The second generation of Rabbits, called Nabaztag/tag, also play podcasts and MP3 WebRadios, and can “hear” voice commands and send voice messages to other rabbits.

Rabbit is the bunny of Violet, a Paris based “smart object company”, which was founded in 2002 by a team of web developers with the mission of creating “products and services based on calm and emotional technologies”. With the use of what they call “Ambient Intelligence”, Violet aims to create “calm technology”, which they define as technologies that “softly bring information or emotions into the user’s environment in a non-intrusive mode (as opposed to telephones for example) and a non-exclusive or time-consuming mode (such as the television or the Web). As these technologies can be placed into any smart object, there may be a whole zoo of them soon.

The main point of the Rabbit and calm technologies is to get us de-connected from and un-beholden to our computer screens. I bless them for that, considering that I have eye strain this week from staring too may hours at my much too bright laptop screen. Having to write everything down becomes rather tedious hundreds of emails later (I’m not exaggerating) and time consuming. I wouldn’t mind dictating a message or two over my wireless bunny. My personal preferences aside, calm technologies looks like an intriguing new trend to watch.

And who wrote that brilliant, catchy electronic music theme song for the website? Is there anything this company is not getting right? Not only are they techie high brows and award-winning designers but marketing geniuses, too. How chic! that?