JibJab’s Year In Review

Last Friday, at the end of my post, I tried to embed JibJab’s Year In Review video.  Sadly, something went wrong and the video didn’t embed.  Oddly, I didn’t notice it until just now (which, as I write this post, would be Wednesday night).  So instead of going back and fixing the old post, I’m going to just embed it here.

Just a fair warning.  The last time I watched this, my brain locked on the song and wouldn’t let go.  I was up half the night with the tune playing over and over.  (Then again, my brain tends to do that sort of thing from time to time so it might just be me.)

And now, baring another embed failure, here is the JibJab Year In Review:

Why I Might Leave Instagram and How They Can Save The Situation

intagram_trashI really like Instagram.  It makes it easy to upload photos on the go, share them with all of my followers, and get social feedback via likes and comments.  Unfortunately, recent events are leading a lot people to close their accounts.  I’ve got to admit, I’m considering closing mine as well.

In a recent change to their Terms of Service, Instagram has declared that:

  1. Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content that you post on or through the Service. Instead, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service, except that you can control who can view certain of your Content and activities on the Service as described in the Service’s Privacy Policy, available here: http://instagram.com/legal/privacy/.
  2. Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata)) on your behalf.

The "non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free" portion of the first part is pretty standard.  This just means that when you upload a photo to Instagram, they can display it without worrying about you suing them.  The next part is a little troubling though.  "Transferable" and "sub-licensable" means that they can take the permission you’ve granted them and give it to someone else.

Alone, this might be worrisome, but wouldn’t lead to a mass exodus.  The second part, however, means that Instagram could take the photos you are posting and the name you are posting under and sell them to a company to use in ads.  Furthermore, the money that Instagram gets from the ads would remain with Instagram.  They wouldn’t share it at all with the people who took and posted the photos.

History Repeats Itself

Two years ago, I was a happy TwitPic user.  I would take photos with my phone and send them to TwitPic to be posted online.  (I didn’t have a smartphone or data plan at this point.)  Then, TwitPic changed their Terms of Service to give them the right to sell posted photos to third parties without sharing the revenues with the users who posted the photos.

Sound familiar?

There was an exodus from TwitPic as people switched to YFrog and other services.  I, on the other hand, took a different route.  I used a combination of WordPress plugins to create my own photo posting area on my blog.

This worked well until I got a smartphone and Instagram came to Android.  These happened at about the same time and I was lured in.  I didn’t play with filters, but I liked the ease of taking a photo and posting it.  I also found that I liked the social feedback.  Comments and likes were easily administered and displayed.  So I began to use Instagram for all of my "on the go" photo postings.

Instagram’s Clarification

Now, Instagram had heard the uproar and has tried to clarify by saying "it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear."  For the moment, I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt.  The new TOS doesn’t take effect until early January so they have until then to change their Terms of Service.

If they don’t change it in a favorable manner, however, I’m going to leave.  I don’t care if they say "we don’t plan on selling your photos" if their Terms of Service says "we can sell your photos any time we decide to do so."

How To Make This Into A Win

Now, I’m not going to begrudge Instagram making a profit.  I know that it costs money to run the service and they need to recoup this somehow.  And selling users’ photos is a clear path to revenue.  But this was the wrong way to go about it.  Were I to implement this, there would have been massive changes.

First of all, the service would be opt-in.  Not a single photo would be sold unless a user first decided that they wanted their photos to be available to be sold.  Secondly, marking your photos to be sold would just mean that you would get offers from companies.  A company would find your posted photo, decide they’d like to use it, and would make an offer to you via a channel Instagram would provide.  When the user and the company came to an agreement, Instagram would handle the payment.  Instagram would take a cut and the user would get the rest.  The company would then get the photo to use for the agreed upon purpose.

This system would allow photos to be monetized while still retaining user control over how their photos are used.  If anything, it would make their system more useful and might lead more people to post there hoping that their photos would lead to an offer.

Has Instagram’s new Terms of Service made you consider closing down your Instagram account?

Note: The trash can icon above is by hrum and is available from OpenClipArt.org.  I added the Instagram logo to it.

Copyright and Google

500px-Control_copyright_icon.svgGoogle is a great tool.  With it, you can look up virtually any information and find it rapidly.  Thanks to Google Image Search, you can easily look through millions of photos, drawings, and more.  Unfortunately, this also means that copyright infringement is all too easy and people get confused as to what constitutes fair use.

You might not know the story of Cora.  Cora was only five days old when she died in her mother’s arms.  Cora’s mother, Kristine, has tirelessly worked to raise awareness of congenital heart disease.  There are many children alive today because of Kristine’s efforts.

In another corner of the Internet, there was a person who wanted to bring to light stories of babies who died due to child abuse.  A laudable goal, I must admit.  However, this person couldn’t find photos of all of the babies.  Instead of making a generic "no photo available" image, she took some photos of babies from the Internet and used those.  One of those photos was Cora’s.

Obviously, when Kristine found out she was upset.  She asked the page owner to take the images down, pointing out that they are copyrighted.  The page owner replied that images that appear in Google listings are free for anyone to use.  While, she took Cora’s image down, she is still using other babies’ photos.  In addition, she is calling Kristine and her supporters (including parents whose babies’ photos appear on the page) trolls for pressuring her to take down the photos..

Sadly, this isn’t the first time and likely won’t be the last time that someone mistakes "uploaded to the Internet" with "free for anyone to use."  Unless otherwise noted, items uploaded to the Internet are copyrighted.  This includes results from Google Images.  Google indexes the images (unless the site specifies for Google not to) and presents them in an easy to find manner, but it doesn’t grant permission to use them.  This is similar to how Google can let you search for a blog post, but it doesn’t grant you the right to take the text and put it on your website.

Now, there are some exceptions.  There are some times when you can use an image and be safe from copyright infringement.  The first of these is news reporting.  If I was putting together a news report about Cora, I could legitimately use an image from the site.  It would be better to ask for permission first, of course, but it wouldn’t be required.  The other instance is parody.  When Weird Al Yankovic takes a song and makes his own version, he doesn’t need to ask permission.  He does (just like with news reporting, asking is nicer), but he isn’t required to.

However, using an image from a site just because that happens to match up with a blog post you’re making or because the website you’re putting together would look a little nicer if you grabbed that graphic?  Not allowed.  That’s copyright infringement.

Perhaps you are thinking that copyright infringement isn’t that big of a deal.  After all, you can just grab the image, use it, and take it down if someone complains.  The problem with this is that the penalties for copyright infringement are $750 to $150,000 per infringement.  Taking the image down isn’t a protection.  You still infringed when you used the image without permission.

I don’t know how many times Cora’s image was used on the infringing site.  Kristina used the term "several", so let’s say it was used five times.  In that case, the page owner could be sued for anywhere from $3,750 to $750,000.  Add in time and money spent defending a court case and you need to ask yourself if grabbing that image worth a few thousand dollars’ risk.

So where should you get images if not from Google?  After all, you can’t be expected to go out and photograph every possible scenario, right?  Well, photographing your own is the best option, of course.  Failing that, there are plenty of outlets, such as ShutterStock.com, where you can buy images to use on your websites.  (NOTE: I have no relationship with ShutterStock.  They were merely the first listing in my Google search for "Royalty Free Stock Images.")

If your budget is $0, though, there are still options.  You might have noticed that my blog posts often credit OpenClipArt or Wikimedia Commons.  Both provide public domain images that you can use or copyrighted images that grant you the right to reuse them freely.  With these, though, make sure you credit the author/source.  Even if it isn’t required, it is nice.  In the case of the page owner who used Cora’s image, this image of a crying baby by labc and available for free from OpenClipArt.com would have been appropriate and free of any copyright entanglements.

So the next time you see an image in a Google Images search and think "that would go great on my blog post or website", please stop and think again.  Don’t use copyrighted images unless you have the permission of the copyright owners.  Use your own photos, paid stock images, or free images from sites like OpenClipArt or Wikimedia Commons that specifically allow usage.  If you absolutely must use the copyrighted photo, ask for permission first.  Depending on the purpose of your usage, the owner may grant permission.  This is one time when it is better to ask permission than to seek forgiveness.

NOTE: The "copyright search" image above was created by Xander and comes from Wikimedia Commons under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Missing Out On Memes… Gangnam Style

There are certain things that suddenly explode online.  They spread like wildfire and pretty soon everyone is talking about them.  Sometimes, I find myself participating in them, but sometimes I remain unaware of what the whole fuss is about.  When it comes to Gangnam Style, it’s a case of the latter.

I’ve seen various references to Gangnam Style and know enough to realize that it is a YouTube sensation video by a South Korean singer.  Beyond that, however, I’m clueless.  (I even had to look up the spelling of the song as I started typing it out as "Gangham Style.")

I have never watched Gangnam Style and don’t really feel the urge to do so.  So while the rest of the Internet laughs together about various Gangnam references, I’ll likely remain Gangnam-in-the-dark for some time to come.  (Part of the reason why I’m not going to YouTube to embed the video here.  If I did so, I’d probably watch it and this whole post would become moot!)

What memes have you participated in and which have you skipped?  Also, have you watched Gangnam Style?

Prime Decisions

Kliponius_Cardboard_box_packageRight now, we’re weighing a decision which could either cost us a bit more or save us some money.  We’re deciding whether or not to sign up for Amazon Prime.

In case you haven’t heard about the program, Amazon Prime gives you free 2 day shipping from Amazon, free instant video streaming, and free Kindle rentals.  Of course, the details are what makes this decision tricky.

First of all, not everything on Amazon’s website qualifies for free Prime shipping.  Many items are left out of the deal which would mean that our Prime savings would be hit or miss depending on what it is that we are ordering.  That being said, Amazon has become a go-to store for us to order items from.  When I examined our last 6 months of orders, I found out that the shipping we had paid (or would have paid in the cases where we took advantage of their slower free super-saver shipping), would have come to more than half of Prime’s cost.  So it might be worthwhile here.

When it comes to the streaming videos, we’re always on the lookout for something that could help us cut the cable cord.  I was very intrigued with Amazon VOD since, unlike Netflix, they tend to have TV programs listed the day after they air.  Unfortunately, as I dug deeper, I found that past seasons (sometimes the previous season, sometimes 2 or 3 seasons back) were free for Prime members, but the latest episodes remained $1.99 each.  This means that a 26 episode season of a show would cost us over $50.  Multiply that by the nineteen shows that we currently DVR and which appear on Amazon VOD, and you get a cost of over $980.  Even spread out over 12 months, this would be pricier than cable.

Of course, the other option would be to just be patient and wait until the shows ended up on Prime.  However, that would mean waiting months, if not years, for shows that could be viewed relatively quickly via cable.  I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m just not that patient.

Now, it’s possible that Prime could save us money by allowing us to cancel Netflix.  Currently, we pay $7.99 a month for Netflix and prime would cost $79 per year.  This would save us just over 2 months’ worth of Netflix.  Still, this might not be the cable slicing possibility that I was hoping for.

Finally, there’s the Kindle Lending Library.  We’ve grown quite fond of our Kindle.  We even went so far as to name "her" Kimberly.  This means that the idea of borrowing books from Amazon without having to pay extra for them is intriguing.  Again, however, the details are a bit of a letdown.  You can only borrow one book per month and you can’t accrue your rental credits.  If real life intervenes and you take one and a half months to read a book, you’ve just lost and entire rental.  In this respect, renting from the library (which actually does some Kindle rentals) makes more sense.

In the end, we’re going to have to weigh the pros and cons carefully before we sign up for Amazon Prime.

Do you use Amazon Prime?  If so, what do you think of it?

Note: The "Cardboard Box / Package" icon was created by Kliponius and is available from OpenClipArt.org.

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