Can artists actually stop a politician using their work?

Posted January 19, 2018 11:57:32

Artists and politicians have always had a fractious relationship.

Sometimes it’s a love-in based on shared ideologies (see: Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen) and sometimes it’s a one-sided attempt at association (see: Donald Trump and Bruce Springsteen).

Cory Bernardi’s creation of a playlist of Australian music yesterday was an example of the latter, with Powderfinger, Hilltop Hoods, Men At Work’s Colin Hays and others publicly asking for their music to be removed.

But what can an artist do if they don’t want a politician to use their work? Let’s take a look.

Can they take legal action?


There is a part of the Copyright Act that deals with what’s called a moral right, which is supposed to protect an artist’s work from “derogatory treatment”.

“It’s the doing of something that results in distortion, mutilation or alternation of a work that’s somehow prejudicial to the creator’s honour or reputation,” said Kimberlee Weatherall, a professor of law at the University of Sydney.

“They are meant to protect that connection that exists between a creator and the work they have created … That really personal, ‘I put my heart and soul into this, it represents in some way a part of me, and I have a right to protect that from incursion’.”

The definition of derogatory is quite broad, experts say.

“Looking at the law, this could be the kind of thing that could be prejudicial to an author’s honour or reputation,” Professor Weatherall said.

Is legal action against Bernardi likely?

Probably not.

Iva Davies, the lead singer of Icehouse, talked about the possibility on ABC Radio Melbourne yesterday. His song Great Southern Land was on the list.

“I went to a great deal of trouble to construct this song to be well above any kind of politics,” he said.

“So to have it associated with any politics at all is, as far as I’m concerned, compromising the integrity of the song.”

He added: “We’ve requested that he takes it down and I’m still waiting for the publishers and the record company to get back to me on how they’ve gone with that.”

Court action would be expensive, and any kind of reputational damage — which you’d need to show to win any money — would be hard to prove, given the artists themselves have publicly said they don’t agree with Mr Bernardi and his politics.

Isn’t Spotify a public thing?

Yes — but it appears there are limits to what you can do there.

Yesterday, Spotify released a statement condemning the playlist.

“We want to make clear we do not endorse this playlist, nor do we have any official ties to the Australian Conservatives party nor any other political party.”

After that, Senator Bernardi said his playlist had been removed from the service because it contained “offensive content”.

The ABC has contacted Spotify for comment.

Has this sort of thing happened before?

Not really.

The moral right of integrity has only been a thing under Australian law since 2000. (It was introduced by the Coalition when Senator Bernardi was a senior figure in that party.)

Since then, there have been accusations, but the law hasn’t really been tested in court in relation to the use of a piece of music.

In 1997, the techno act FCB released a track called Excalibur containing a sample of a 1936 piece of classical music called Carmina Burana.

The owners of that piece claimed the techno remix, 60 years hence, had “debased” their copyrighted work by “altering its quality and integrity”.

“There was a very interesting discussion in that case about whether political associations, with say a terrorist organisation or a racist party, might constitute debasement,” Matthew Rimmer, a professor of intellectual property and innovation at QUT’s law school, said.

What about overseas?

Well, aside from conservative politicians embracing (and seemingly misunderstanding) Springsteen’s anti-war epic Born In The USA, there is one interesting one.

Last year, the illustrator behind Pepe The Frog, the sad-faced cartoon amphibian that came to be associated with the alt-right, issued takedown notices against white nationalists.

He also went after Reddit and Amazon, asking for the image to be removed. He had previously lamented the fact his caricature had become “a hate symbol”.

Also last year, Eminem won a high-profile case against the New Zealand National Party after it ripped off his song Lose Yourself for one of its campaign ads.

In that instance, though, the party had actually commissioned its own version of the song.

Topics: copyright, information-and-communication, music, arts-and-entertainment, political-parties, australia

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It’s in Apple’s interest to curb iPhone use among kids

Updated January 10, 2018 15:49:57

The average teen spends at least six hours a day looking at a screen, with most of it from using a smartphone.

Many parents, naturally, have wondered if so much time spent in front of a screen is safe.

Recent research suggests it’s not. Teens who spend five or more hours a day on electronic devices are 71 per cent more likely to have a risk factor for suicide than those who spend less than an hour a day on a device.

Digital media use is linked with more depression and less happiness, with experiments, natural experiments and longitudinal studies all showing that digital media use leads to unhappiness rather than the other way around.

Steve Jobs might have been onto something when he told a surprised reporter in 2010 that he didn’t let his kids use iPads and he generally restricted their screen time.

Indeed, there’s an increasing consensus that the technology companies who have led us into the digital age have a responsibility to build some safeguards.

That’s why I helped draft a letter from Apple shareholders spearheaded by Jana Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System that asks the company to take steps to protect its youngest consumers.

Not only is it the right thing to do, but it could also improve the company’s bottom line.

Limitation, not elimination

According to the research, the problem isn’t teens owning smartphones. In fact, teens who don’t use smartphones at all are actually a little less happy than those who use them a limited amount.

It’s only when use goes beyond two hours a day that issues begin to appear, including less sleep and a higher risk of suicide-related outcomes such as depression and making suicide plans.

The solution, then, seems easy: Limit the amount of time the device can be used and how it can be used. This works out fairly well for Apple; most of their profit is locked in once someone buys an iPhone or iPad, regardless of how much the owner uses it.

The problem is that most teens who are handed a smartphone aren’t going to use it for just an hour or two per day.

Research suggests that digital media stimulates the same brain chemicals and regions as other addictive products. Although some teens are able to limit their use, a substantial number end up spending the majority of their leisure time with their devices, which — as noted earlier — could lead to mental health issues.

Some have pointed out that parents can use third-party apps such as Kidslox or Norton Family Premier to limit time spent on the phone or on social media sites. Although some parents might find these apps helpful, others might be overwhelmed by the setup process or find the download fees too expensive. Clever teens might also find ways around these apps.

But what if Apple were to include the ability to limit screen time in the iPhone’s operating system?

For example, when registering and setting up the phone, Apple could include an option to select the age of the user. If you say the phone is for a 12-year-old, it could give parents the option to restrict the apps used, shut down the phone at night, limit the number of hours it can be used and permit communication with a preapproved list of phone numbers.

As the child grows older, these restrictions could be changed or lifted. Making this part of the iOS would seamlessly integrate safety for children and teens into the iPhone — and seamless integration has always been Apple’s calling card.

Better phones for happier kids

This has another benefit for Apple: Parents might be more willing to buy their children smartphones if they were easier to regulate.

Outside of buying an old-school flip phone — which are increasingly difficult to find — there’s currently no easy way to give a child a mobile phone without opening up the world of unlimited internet access, constant social media and endless evenings spent arguing over putting the phone away at dinner.

As the parent of an 11-year-old, I would be much more comfortable giving my daughter a smartphone if I knew she wouldn’t be bullied on it, see things she shouldn’t see or stare at it for six hours a day.

Social media companies like Facebook also have something to answer for here — and they know it. Given links between advertising revenue and time spent on the site, balancing profit and safety will be a tougher task for them.

But for Apple, it’s arguably a win-win: The safer their product is for kids, the more they could sell. So why not make it safer by offering parents more tools and options?

Jean Twenge is professor of psychology at San Diego State University. This article first appeared in The Conversation.

Topics: internet-technology, telecommunications, information-and-communication, television, family-and-children, child-health-and-behaviour, arts-and-entertainment, digital-multimedia, australia, united-states

First posted January 10, 2018 15:10:20

Musician hit with copyright claims over 10 hours of white noise

Updated January 10, 2018 11:26:24

White noise. Static. The wash of ocean waves breaking. They are the soothing sounds you might use to aid sleep or distraction-free work.

But can you copyright them?

It’s a bizarre question that’s emerged in response to the recent experience of an Adelaide musician.

In 2015, Sebastian Tomczak, a sound technologist who teaches at the University of Adelaide, became interested in continuous sound — looping bits of noise that humans could listen to for hours on end.

Around that time, he uploaded some videos to YouTube, one of them a 10-hour track of pure white noise he created on a basic computer program.

“I uploaded it back then, and then forgot about it,” Dr Tomczak told the ABC. “It’s only had about 1,000 views.

“And then on Friday morning, two-and-a-half years later, I noticed that I had a copyright message from YouTube.”

Turns out, YouTube’s algorithm had finally got around to scanning Dr Tomczak’s work, and noticed it sounded pretty similar to videos of white noise — and there are heaps of them — uploaded to YouTube by other users.

With so many videos being uploaded to the Google-owned platform every day, YouTube’s Content ID automated system is how it stays on top of copyright infringement, a problem for which it’s been criticised in the past by the music industry.

There were five claims of copyright infringement related to Dr Tomczak’s 10-hour track.

Two appeared to be experimental musical compositions that included white noise; the other three seemed to be purely the kind of white noise you might use to help you sleep.

All were seeking any ad revenue generated from Dr Tomczak’s track.

“It’s an automated system, and so if someone lays a claim against someone else, then that means that the ad revenue is then diverted to the person that’s making the claim, without any human intervention or proof needed,” Dr Tomczak said.

“Which you can imagine is a pretty weird system.”

Can that sort of sound really be copyrighted?

“It’s actually a bit of a grey area,” said Dr Kylie Pappalardo, a lecturer in intellectual property law at QUT.

“Copyright protects expressions that are recorded in material form, but the expressions have to be original.

“What the law means by original is that it has to originate from somebody.

“There’s a chance that [white noise is] not actually original enough to be copyrighted, and if it is original enough, then the protection would be quite a low-level protection.”

Dr Pappalardo likens it to a series of cases involving the yellow and white pages (which, if you’ve never used them, were like an iPhone contact list but for everyone in the country).

Courts were asked to determine whether Telstra could copyright what was essentially just a list of names and phone numbers arranged alphabetically.

“I think a very similar kind of assessment would take place with white noise.”

Dr Pappalardo said YouTube’s automated copyright infringement actually worked really well, and represented Google’s attempt to deal with the internet-era scourge of intellectual property theft.

But there are some issues.

She said there was a particular concern for house or hip-hop musicians who sample, or create collages, or use long stretches of fairly common pieces of sound — e.g. white noise — amid much larger, very original compositions.

In those cases, Dr Pappalardo said, the procedure for allowing the musician to dispute the copyright infringement claim lacked transparency.

These kinds of strange claims are very rare

Google is working to make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen in the future, because white noise is too indistinct to claim as your own.

As YouTube’s website notes, you can’t upload “sound effects, sound beds or production loops” and hope to generate ad revenue.

“We rely on copyright holders to only claim the content they truly own,” the company said in a statement.

“The accuracy of our matching systems can only ever be as good as the accuracy of what copyright holders submit.”

Google said it did have review teams that worked to catch and prevent inaccurate claims and take action against mischievous copyright holders, and called its dispute process “robust”.

Dr Tomczak was not intending to generate any ad revenue when he uploaded his 10 hours of white noise.

If he were, dealing with the infringement notices would have been more frustrating, he said.

After he tweeted about his experience, YouTube stepped in and dismissed the claims.

Ironically, amid the controversy, a two-year-old video that started off with 1,000 views now has nearly 50 times that — almost enough for him to cash in on his copyright.

Topics: music, arts-and-entertainment, copyright, information-and-communication, internet-culture, internet-technology, human-interest, adelaide-5000, australia

First posted January 10, 2018 11:17:18

Dad didn’t get my gaming. Now he’s on my show

When I was 11, my dad returned my Christmas Game Boy because I played it too much. I never imagined we’d bond over video games, writes Paul Verhoeven.

Adelaide twins RackaRacka head to US after huge YouTube success

By Matthew Smith

Updated December 03, 2017 11:49:36

Two Australian brothers behind successful YouTube channel RackaRacka, which now has more than four million subscribers, are about to make the big move from Adelaide to Los Angeles to capitalise on their skyrocketing popularity.

Twins Danny and Michael Philippou, 24, have just released their latest online clip to immediate success, a Star Wars-style battle staged in the stores and car park of an Adelaide suburban shopping centre.

The pair have mixed emotions about the move to the United States.

“It’s easier for Danny — I’m not so excited moving,” Michael said with a laugh.

Danny admitted he was the keener of the two to move abroad.

“I’m sort of forcing him to come along,” he said.

“It could all fail, so we’re going to go over there and try it for a year.”

“When Danny’s eight projects fail, then we’ll come back,” Michael cut in.

The guys already have a manager in LA who is setting up meetings about their latest projects.

Media consumption changing rapidly

Busy with video production and live appearances, the Philippou brothers are part of a rapidly changing media consumption landscape.

They have made it into a top-10 list of Australia’s most influential cultural people, in the Australian Financial Review, and been named in Variety magazine’s list of top “Famechangers”.

It was their Harry Potter versus Star Wars clip on YouTube that shot them to fame in 2014, a clip which has been viewed more than 21 million times.

RackaRacka’s early YouTube clips were made at their father’s house at suburban Pooraka, from where their online name is derived, and they moved out after causing lots of wall and ceiling damage with their antics there.

They admitted their move to another house helped ease their father’s anguish.

“We had to give our dad a break … he didn’t kick us out, we left,” they explained, finishing each other’s sentences as twins sometimes do.

There are firm plans for the twins to be back in Adelaide next year to shoot their first movie, Concrete Kings, with locally based Triptych Pictures.

Topics: arts-and-entertainment, short-film, human-interest, internet-culture, information-and-communication, internet-technology, media, pooraka-5095, adelaide-5000, sa, australia, united-states

First posted December 03, 2017 11:12:15