Friday, January 11, 2008

Blog, Blog, Blog it All: The Travails of the Richter Scales

I've been scrounging voraciously for reading material ever since I quit TV and started this blog six days ago. In my foraging sessions, I managed to find an old Newsweek from December 17 that had gotten trapped under all the pre-holiday stuff. To my surprise, they had a brief write-up of a viral video by a local acapella group, The Richter Scales. I went to school with two of these guys (one of whom introduced me to my husband), took a computer science class from another, and did a crude website for the guy listed as their recording guy. However, I totally missed this very cool news last month!

Now the whole blogosphere knows about them. For those of you who haven't seen it, here is version 1.1 of "Here Comes Another Bubble," sung to the tune of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire." I just watched it and, wow, they are just spot-on--and hilarious! (Favorite Funny/Sad/True line: "Make yourself a million bucks, partly skill mostly luck, now you can afford a payment on a small house; if you want a bigger one--Hillsborough, Atherton--better hope the same thing happened to your spouse.").

But why version 1.1? Version 1.0 went up on YouTube Tuesday, December 4th and got 600,000 hits by Saturday the 8th, the same day it was featured in the San Jose Mercury News. By Monday, they were getting an overwhelmingly positive response, but also some questions over credit for the photos used. The following day, a week from the original posting, YouTube pulled the video following a DMCA take-down notice; a photographer had filed a complaint.

Reading their blog, I thought they handled the fallout like the decent guys they are. They were humble and apologetic and relaunched version 1.1 a week after the takedown, this time with credits for all the photographs, which was a pretty painstaking thing to do. They also made pains to mention that they didn't make any money off of the video.

Ever since I started this blog, I've been really tempted to insert videos into this blog using the embed tags you see all over YouTube and similar sites, but got completely paranoid and didn't go through with it. I work in educational media publishing and we are used to seeking credit and permission for all photos and videos we use; we are also used to some confusion on the part of our customers as to what is fair use.

Working in an industry that creates content, I am especially sensitive to copyright issues and want to learn more about it before inserting videos into my blog; I know what we have to do at work, but this is new territory for me. For instance, I have to guess that if a user posts a video they own to YouTube and makes no money doing so (there are no ads there), that they are cool with you inserting their video in your site. In fact, if the video contains a link to their advert-driven site or is a teaser for their full-length show or content, I would think they want you embed it.

But until I figure that out, all you will see are links to videos, not embedded videos, in my blog. If anyone wants to point out helpful articles on this point, I would appreciate the feedback.

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