Boing Boing 

Insane English copyright ruling creates ownership in the idea of a photo's composition

In a bizarre ruling, an English court has ruled that in favor of a commercial poster company that argued that a photo that showed a similar (but different) scene taken by a different person in a different place nevertheless infringed the copyright of a poster. What the judge ruled was that photographing a scene that is "substantially similar" to a scene someone else has already photographed infringes the first shooter's copyright.

It's impossible to understand how this will play out in real life. If a Reuters and an AP photographer are standing next to each other shooting the Prime Minister as he walks out of a summit with the US President, their photos will be nearly identical. Will the slightly faster shutter on the AP shooter's camera give him the exclusive right to publish a photo of the scene from the press-scrum?

The judge here ruled that the idea of the image was the copyright, not the image itself. Ideas have always been exempt from copyright, because courts and lawmakers have recognized the danger of awarding ownership over ideas. Indeed, the "idea/expression split" is pretty much the first thing you learn in any copyright class.

Amateur Photographer quotes "photographic copyright expert Charles Swan" who warns, "The Temple Island case is likely to herald more claims of this kind."

Yeah, no shit. This creates a situation where anyone who owns a large library of photos -- a stock photography outfit -- can go through its catalog and start suing anyone with deep pockets: "We own the copyright to 'two guys drinking beer with the bottoms of the mugs aimed skyward!'" It's an apocalyptically bad ruling, and an utter disaster in the making.

Swan warned: 'The Temple Island case is likely to herald more claims of this kind. The judgement should be studied by anyone imitating an existing photograph or commissioning a photograph based on a similar photograph.

'“Inspiration' and “reference” are fine in themselves, but there is a line between copying ideas and copying the original expression of ideas which is often a difficult one to draw.'

Though, in the past, the cost of such court actions has made them 'uneconomic to pursue' this is all about to change, added Swan. 'The UK government has accepted a recommendation in the Hargreaves Report that the Patents County Court… should operate a small claims procedure for intellectual property claims under £5,000.'

Photographers face copyright threat after shock ruling (update3)

(Images: Left, "Red Bus Image," Temple Island; Right, packaging label, New English Teas. Taken from this PDF)

10 digital albums for $15, including Sophie Madeleine

[Video Link] The Sound Supply is selling 10 digital albums for $15, including Sophie Madeleine's The Rhythm You Started. 10 albums for $15

Time lapse of LA's Walt Disney Concert Hall getting prepped for "Mahler Project"

[Video Link] Shayna of LA magazine says:

We have this time-lapse video of the Walt Disney Concert Hall being set up for a rehearsal of Mahler’s Symphony no. 8, which will be performed by the LA Phil, the Simon Bolivar Orchestra, and 16 choirs at the Shrine next month. It’s a mesmerizing video and quite the production, and thought you might be interested in sharing with your readers.

Disney store offers, then pulls, Mickey t-shirt based on iconic Joy Division album cover

On The Madeleine Brand Show (a radio program on which I'm a regular guest), Luke Burbank points to two strange Disney-related updates: first, Disneyland has finally relaxed their extreme rules banning all facial hair for staff/contractors—employees are now allowed to grow beards.

And in even odder news, the Disney Store is now offering was, until today, selling a new t-shirt design based on the iconic Joy Division "Unknown Pleasures" album cover, with Mickey Mouse's face inserted in those wavy lines. From Manchester to Mousechester!

There was backlash, and it looks like the item is no longer available in the online store. But Joy Division/New Order bassist Peter Hook liked it.

Related news coverage: NME, Gothamist, Washington Post, Stereogum (where commenter Michael Robenalt 'shooped up what may be next: Donald Duck on the Joy Division album cover for "Closer.")

Update: The now-yanked Mickey Joy Division t-shirt is now on eBay! One of them, anyway. (thanks, Pesco)

Fritz Goro's science photography

Goro1 Stephen Jay Gould once said that LIFE photographer Fritz Goro, who died in 1986, was "the most influential photographer that science journalism (and science in general) has ever known." has posted a gallery of his truly wonderful photos. Above, Goro's 1962 shot of inventor Allyn Hazard testing his "moon suit mock-up" that contained oxygen and a food supply. "Fritz Goro's Photos: The Art of Science"

The adorable snoring dormouse (video)

[Video Link]

Things I did not know before viewing this adorable video shot by Surrey Wildlife Trust Mammal Project Officer Dave Williams:

1) The dormouse, a little rodent species you'll find in Britain, hibernate in the winter in nests they hide on the ground.

2) The dormouse spends up to one-third of its life in hibernation, and typically begin that winter "sleep" when the first frost hits, and their food sources are gone.

3) They lose about a quarter of their body weight during hibernation.

4) The word "dormouse" comes from the Anglo-Norman dormeus, which means "sleepy (one)"

You can donate to support the Surrey Wildlife Trust's nature conservation work here.

(via @joeljohnson, photo: Dave Williams, Surrey Wildlife Trust)

Newt threatens Russia, China with cyberwar

“I think that we have to treat state-based covert activities as the equivalent of acts of war. And I think that we have to respond to that and create a level of pain which teaches people not to do it.” US presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, responding to a question about countries that target U.S. corporate and government information systems.

Popeye meets Wilco in hand-drawn cartoon music video

[Video Link] The Wilco track "Dawned On Me" re-imagined as a classic, early-era Popeye cartoon. The song is from the band's Grammy-nominated 2011 album, "The Whole Love." They're on tour now, and should not be missed, as they are one of the greatest live acts on the planet. The animation is a collaboration with King Features, and is "the first hand-drawn Popeye cartoon in more than 30 years." Directed by Darren Romanelli. Best url ever:

A little more about how the video came to be, below, from Wilco and Romanelli...

Read the rest

Julian Assange to host Wikileaks TV show on Kremlin-funded Russian cable network

Wikileaks announced this week that house-arrested frontman Julian Assange would host a new television interview series with "in-depth conversations with key political players, thinkers and revolutionaries from around the world." The theme, according to the announcement: "the world tomorrow."

Today, news that the network involved is none other than RT, the Russian cable television outlet founded by the Kremlin in 2005, which remains funded by and effectively under the editorial control of the Russian state. If you thought Assange's story already read like a pulp spy novel, none of this should be particularly shocking.

In a hyperbolic news release at, the network today revealed that the program will be filmed at the rural British manse where Assange has been residing under house arrest for more than a year while he fights extradition to Sweden on charges of sexual assault. The first episode will be shot "just a week before Assange's Supreme Court hearing in the UK."

And at the end of that RT announcement: “Details of the episodes and the guests featured are secret for now.” Secret. LOL.

More: NYT Media Decoder blog, Moscow Times, LA Times.

(Original Images: REUTERS)

Academic database "imprisons" research

Laura McKenna excoriates JSTOR, the online database of academic journals that has universities and the public paying thousands of dollars to read their own taxpayer-funded research. [The Atlantic]

The Mind of a Sniper

Among others, the BBC interviewed two snipers. Both have killed many people, but they are very different men. One affirms the humanity of his targets, and worries at how ideology sends them into battle. One considers them subhuman, and worries about himself.

Here's Chris Kyle:

"You're running everything through your mind. This is a woman, first of all. Second of all, am I clear to do this, is this right, is it justified? And after I do this, am I going to be fried back home? Are the lawyers going to come after me saying, 'You killed a woman, you're going to prison'?"

Married with two children, he has now retired from the military and has published a book in which he claims to have no regrets, referring to the people he killed as "savages".

Here's Anon:

Snipers almost never referred to the men they killed as targets, or used animal or machine metaphors. Some interviewees even said that their victims were legitimate warriors.

"Here is someone whose friends love him and I am sure he is a good person because he does this out of ideology," said one sniper who watched through his scope as a family mourned the man he had just shot. "But we from our side have prevented the killing of innocents, so we are not sorry about it."

Guess which of these two men tallies more than a hundred kills whose circumstances are unaccounted for by the military.

What goes on in the mind of a sniper? [BBC]

Shrooms may open the doors of perception, seriously


New research suggests that taking psilocybin, the hallucinogen in magic mushrooms, may actually lead to a decrease in the amount of blood flow in certain parts of your brain. Scientists at Imperial College London injected subjects with psilocybin and scanned their brains. Turns out, they observed a reduction in neuronal activity and blood flow in core regions of the brain like the thalamus and cingulate cortex. From Science News:

“Decreasing the activity in certain hubs in the network may allow for a more unconstrained conscious experience,” says Matthew Johnson, an experimental psychologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore who studies psilocybin and other hallucinogens. “These drugs may lift the filters that are at play in terms of limiting our perception of reality.”

Further work by (Imperial College London) neuropsychopharmacologist David) Nutt’s team showed that the brain hubs responded together, linked by a neural circuit called the default mode network. Some scientists believe this highly interconnected brain superhighway is essential for maintaining a person’s sense of self.

Putting the brakes on this network could help to treat certain psychological conditions by opening the brain to new ways of thinking, researchers hope. Several studies have shown that psilocybin can change people’s attitudes for the better and may be useful for treating depression, a condition linked to too much activity in the default mode network.

“Chemically switching off might have very profound beneficial effects,” says Nutt, who suspects that psilocybin could also be useful for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder. “It may help people completely locked into a mindset that drives their lives.”

"Turn off, tune in, drop out" (Science News)

"Neural correlates of the psychedelic state as determined by fMRI studies with psilocybin" (PNAS)

image: "Mayan 'mushroom stones' of Guatemala"

Company you've never heard of acquires copy and paste clipboard-molesting jerks to create an even bigger pile of shit

Tynt, the company responsible for inserting adverts when you copy text from websites, was bought by another company that specializes in "graphing" brand loyalty. Just imagine how much fun these guys are to hang out with! [TechCrunch via Daring Fireball]

Space is awesome: Astronaut Rex Walheim answers more BoingBoing reader questions

A couple weeks ago, I got a chance to interview Rex Walheim—astronaut, test pilot, and all-around swell guy. He answered five questions BoingBoing readers had about what it takes to be chosen for the space program and what the experience of training to be an astronaut is like.

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Space Adventures planning for lunar tourism

Eric Anderson, 37, is the founder of Space Adventures, a company that acts as the middleman for rich people who want to go to space and the Russian space program that sells the seats on the Soyuz rockets. Air & Space Magazine profiles Anderson and tells what it took to launch the space tourism business. The next space adventure he hopes to offer is a flyby of the moon. Check out the commercial above. Tickets are just $150 million each. From Air & Space:

 Wp-Content Uploads 2012 01 Spaceadv

The mission plan… now calls for a liftoff from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with two passengers paying at least $150 million each, along with a professional cosmonaut as spaceship commander. The crew will ride in a modified version of the Russian workhorse, the Soyuz-TMA.

Another rocket, a Proton, would launch an additional habitat module designed specially for the mission, which will double the living space and carry more supplies, plus a Block-DM upper stage, normally used for boosting communications satellites to higher orbits. These pieces will link together in Earth orbit, and the Block-DM will fire to send the combined Soyuz–habitat module into deep space.

Three and a half days of travel will bring the crew around the far side of the moon, the face that Earthlings never see. The crew will skim the mountaintops without going into orbit, swing back around to the front side, and then head home to Earth—a figure-eight trajectory similar to the one traveled by the crew of Apollo 13. After another three and a half days, the crew’s Soyuz reentry module will hit Earth’s atmosphere and parachute down to the Kazakh steppe.

"Extraterrestrial Outfitter"

Wade Davis's new book about Everest

 Files 2012 01 026 Davi 9780375408892 Art Ins R1B-915X700

Anthropologist Wade Davis is one of my heroes. He's an incredibly talented explorer and explainer of the world's cultural diversity, what he calls the ethnosphere. He's most famous for his 1985 book The Serpent and the Rainbow, about Haitian voodoo and zombies. But he's written a slew of books about the dangers faced by disappearing cultures, and why their knowledge, insights, and outlook on the world must be protected. Davis's new book is something of a topical jog for him. Into The Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest is a recounting of George Mallory and Sandy Irvine's 1924 attempt to reach the top of Mount Everest. Mallory's body was found in 1999. Nobody knows if they reached the summit. National Geographic interviewed Davis, the organization's official explorer-in-residence:

 037 Into-The-Silence-Davis-Wade-9780375408892

Wade Davis realized from the start though, that the mountain was only part of the story for the men on these expeditions. Based on their ages and positions in society, he knew that most of them must have fought in World War I. Telling the full arc of their story, from the war to the mountain, is the heart of his new book “Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest…"

“After the war there was an incredible impulse to go anywhere but home,” explains Wade. Hemingway and other “Lost Generation” writers embarked on artistic and emotional odysseys in the cafes and clubs of Europe. Mallory and other climbers did things much more concretely.

“It wasn’t they were cavalier or that they courted death, as much as that death had no mystery for them. They’d seen so much of it that death had no hold on them…life mattered less than the moments of being alive,” says Wade.

"Wade Davis: “Into the Silence”" (National Geographic)

"Into The Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest" by Wade Davis (Amazon)

Pirate Party book

Variable Rush sez, "No Safe Harbor is the first book released by the United States Pirate Party. It was released yesterday and traffic managed to knock it offline. The book is great and features an essay by BB's Cory Doctorow, as well as Lawrence Lessig, danah boyd, Kembrew McLeod, and others."

Disney parks fan vidcast: Communicore weekly

Jeff sez, "Communicore Weekly is a brand new, online VidCast/Podcast with George Taylor and Jeff Heimbuch, exploring Disney news and obscure history. With segments such as the Bathroom Break & The Five Legged Goat, you'll never look at Disney the same way again. You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll have a new favorite online show. Come on and get geeky with Communicore Weekly!"

Communicore Weekly - Week Of Jan 23rd, 2012 - Episode 2

Canada's new SOPA-style copyright bill could shut down YouTube

Michael Geist sez,

Recent revelations that the content industries are demanding that Canada implement SOPA-style provisions into its copyright law have raised concerns the law could be used to target legitimate sites. Industry lawyers say there is no reason for worry, yet an analysis of the proposed law set against the claims made by Viacom against Youtube show that there is a very real possibility that new law could be used to target the Internet's most popular video site.

That would create a huge chill in the investment and technology community in Canada. Online video sites, cloud computing sites, and other online services may look at the Bill C-11 and fear that even a lawsuit could create massive costs, scare away investors, and stifle new innovation. Indeed, a recent study by Booz & Company found this to be a very real problem, with a large majority of the angel investors and venture capitalists saying they will not put their money in digital content intermediaries if governments pass tough new rules allowing websites to be sued or fined for infringing digital content posted by users. The U.S. has dropped for SOPA, but now incredibly Canada may consider the very provisions that causes investors to become skittish.

Would a SOPA Version of the Canadian Copyright Bill Target Youtube?

Star Wars meets Tank Girl

Mashup master James Hance has crossed Tank Girl with Princess Leia to excellent effect. He's selling prints and tees.

Latest Doodle: ‘Falcon Girl’ (Tank Girl / Star Wars) (via The Mary Sue )

Video: Aurora Australis from the Space Station

This absolutely stunning video was created from a series of still images taken on the International Space Station. From NASA's Gateway To Astronaut Photography of Earth page:

The sequence of shots was taken January 3, 2012 from 15:01:30 to 15:08:17 GMT, on a pass from the Indian Ocean, just west of Australia, to south of Australia, west of Tasmania. The pass begins looking eastward toward southern Australia at the Aurora Australis. The crew captures the aurora just before the sun begins to come up in this short video. A few orbiting satellites pass by throughout the video as well.

"Gateway To Astronaut Photography of Earth"

US slumps in press freedom rankings

In this year's Reporters Without Borders international press freedom index, the U.S. slumped to 47th place, a fall of 27 places, largely due to arrests of journalists covering protests. The full report is available in PDF format. [RSF]

Hellboy camp for teens

 Images Slides Hellboy Abe-Sapien

Are you a teenager yearning to join Hellboy in the fight against evil occult, supernatural forces? Now you can, thanks to the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense Training Camp in Portland, Oregon. Operated by Trackers, an outdoor skills training company, BPRD Training Camp (aka Hellboy Camp) actually sounds like a fun way to spend a week over the summer. Unfortunately, is only open to ages 9 to 17. From the Trackers site:

We immerse you in tactical training of all forms, including survival skills in any environment (both earthly and non), martial arts and self-defense specific to preternatural entities, hand to hand weaponry (we train foam swords, bows and more) and forensic investigation. All these key skills that every agent must have, plus you are steeped in the history of our Bureau and legacy of paranormal research.

Recruits get actual field time during the entire camp. Learning is hands-on with essential survival skills such as shelter building, stealth and tactical and martial arts training.

"Official B.P.R.D. Training Camp (AKA, Hellboy Camp)" (via Fortean Times)

TOM THE DANCING BUG: "Lucky Ducky," Featuring Hollingsworth Hound, Who Must Decide Where to Send His Money on Vacation

RECOMMEND: Visit the TOM THE DANCING BUG WEBSITE, follow RUBEN BOLLING on TWITTER, and listen to him as he joins other Boing Boingers in select episodes of GWEEK PODCAST.

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DirecTV: click to add channels, call to remove them

JWZ reports some of the sleazy things that DirecTV does to squeeze money out of its customers, of which he is one. In addition to the predictable stuff, like market-obscuring channel bundles and below-the-radar billing extras, there are weird cramming strategies designed to make customer service as inconvenient as possible.

I receive 626 channels, and watch shows from about 14 of them ever.

So here's how evil DirecTV is: The DirecTV web site lets you add programming packages online, but never, ever lets you delete one. If you click the "X" box next to any of them, it just tells you to call the 800 number and waste time in voice jail before talking to a human.

Making content available only as part of a contractual screwing doesn't legitimize piracy, but it does make it a problem largely of the industry's own creation. Everyone understands this: it's why politicians only care about piracy when they're paid to. The naked fact is now so obvious that Hollywood has no qualms about ripping up the checks in public.

What your favorite blog says about you

Nick Douglas explains what your favorite blog says about you. Vote Ron Paul!

RAW Week: 23 Skidoo + 5 -- Robert Anton Wilson Again, By Loren Coleman


It seems appropriate that we all should pause this week to remember Robert Anton Wilson on the 5th anniversary of his death. The world is a little less fun without RAW, and his cosmic humor/insights/insanity.

When I wrote something about his departure from this plane, a remembrance more than an obituary in 2007, I naturally called it "23 Skidoo." That's what he'd done, and there was no two ways about it.

I still think that someplace, Bucky Fuller, Timothy Leary, Charles Fort, and Robert Anton Wilson are deciding whether it's time to play supercheckers or Texas hold 'em.

I corresponded with Robert Anton Wilson (RAW as he sometimes was called) from the 1970s through the early 1990s, until his health and his in-and-out self-exiles moved him near-and-far from many people. In the waning years, like many, I kept in touch via friends of friends, as it were. Wilson had a universe of friends, as was shown by Boing Boing's pre-death appeal that snatched Wilson from falling off the cliff of poverty as he was dying. We all loved the guy. But it was the intellectual part of him that really appealed to me.

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Bhi Bhiman: the "Sri Lankan Woody Guthrie"

Clyde says, "Bhi Bhiman is singer and songwriter that's been labeled a 'Sri Lankan Woody Guthrie.'" His debut solo album titled Bhiman was released today.

Apps for Kids podcast 006: Numbers League

Apps for Kids is Boing Boing's podcast about cool smartphone apps for kids and parents. My co-host is my 8-year-old daughter, Jane Frauenfelder.

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What decryption orders mean for the Fifth Amendment

A federal judge in Colorado recently handed down a ruling that forced a defendant to decrypt her laptop hard-drive, despite the Fifth Amendment's stricture against compelling people to testify against themselves. The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Marcia Hoffman has commentary on the disappointing ruling:

In the order issued yesterday, the court dodged the question of whether requiring Fricosu to type a passphrase into the laptop would violate the Fifth Amendment. Instead, it ordered Fricosu to turn over a decrypted version of the information on the computer. While the court didn't hold that Fricosu has a valid Fifth Amendment privilege not to reveal that data, it seemed to implicitly recognize that possibiity. The court both points out that the government offered Fricosu immunity for the act of production and forbids the government from using the act of production against her. We think Fricosu not only has a valid privilege against self-incrimination, but that the immunity offered by the government isn't broad enough to invalidate it. Under Supreme Court precedent, the government can't use the act of production or any evidence it learns as a result of that act against Fricosu.

The court then found that the Fifth Amendment "is not implicated" by requiring Fricosu to turn over the decrypted contents of the laptop, since the government independently learned facts suggesting that Fricosu had possession and control over the computer. Furthermore, according to the court, "there is little question here but that the government knows of the existence and location of the computer's files. The fact that it does not know the specific content of any specific documents is not a barrier to production." We disagree with this conclusion, too. Neither the government nor the court can say what files the government expects to find on the laptop, so there is testimonial value in revealing the existence, authenticity and control over that specific data. If Fricosu decrypts the data, the government could learn a great deal it didn't know before.

In sum, we think the court got it wrong.

Disappointing Ruling in Compelled Laptop Decryption Case