Category Archives: Politics

Machinima Settles With the FTC for Deceptive Videos

Machinima_LogoWe’ve written in the past how sites, such as ours, should be disclosing payments and products received for free in our coverage (we do). YouTube network Machinima has been busted, and paid a fine, for not disclosing payments received for positive coverage of the Xbox One. Part of their deal with Microsoft was not to talk about fight club disclose the payments.

That’s pretty sketchy.

The Federal Trade Commission has rules about this. We discuss those in the link above. The FTC launched an investigation into the deal and Machinima’s “deceptive advertising.” The FTC announced today that there has been a settlement.

Writes the FTC:

Under the proposed settlement, Machinima is prohibited from similar deceptive conduct in the future, and the company is required to ensure its influencers clearly disclose when they have been compensated in exchange for their endorsements.

More from the FTC release:

Respondent paid influencer Adam Dahlberg $15,000 for the two video reviews that he uploaded to his YouTube channel “SkyVSGaming.” In his videos, Dahlberg speaks favorably of Microsoft, Xbox One, and Ryse. Dahlberg’s videos appear to be independently produced and give the impression that they reflect his personal views. Nowhere in the videos or in the videos’ descriptions did Dahlberg disclose that Respondent paid him to create and upload them. Dahlberg’s first video received more than 360,000 views, and his second video more than 250,000 views.

Respondent paid influencer Tom Cassell $30,000 for the two video reviews that he uploaded to his YouTube channel “TheSyndicateProject.” In his videos, Cassell speaks favorably of Microsoft, Xbox One, and Ryse. Cassell’s videos appear to be independently produced and give the impression that they reflect his personal views. Nowhere in the videos or in the videos’ descriptions did Cassell disclose that Respondent paid him to create and upload them. Cassell’s first video received more than 730,000 views, and his second video more than 300,000 views.

$30,000!? How do we get some of this cash?

Microsoft didn’t directly cut the deals, their ad agency Starcom did. In the marketing campaign the company recruited YouTube personalities to make specific types of videos about the new Xbox system, and all of them were positive.

That phase one.

Phase two had more people involved and paid based on their traffic. 300 videos were made in the end adding up to over 300 million views.

You can get paid for this stuff!? You also just get a slap on the wrist if caught? Machinima could have been on the hook for $16,000 in fines, netting them a nice profit for the scheme. They won’t have to pay anything.

We just get free stuff (and disclose everything). Knowing this, how does this change your opinion of sites such as ours?

(via Kotaku and Wired)

Wait… Haven’t We Heard That Before?

cb2“You have been the victims of a passively tolerant society! A society where, if you obeyed the law, you were left alone!”

That quotation, taken from the fourth page of Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders comic published by Marvel on the 19th of August, appeared somewhere else before is graced the pages of the Marvel comic.

What other source could have supplied the somewhat oppressive words that were uttered to a group of captive enemy soldiers over a loud speaker?

Why, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, David Cameron, during an address to the national security council back in May. Now, obviously, that quote has been shortened and altered a little (however you can find the original here), but the words have been taken from, and can be attributed too, the British Prime Minister.

Upon reading the original quote, you may find that there is a different context to his words, and whether you agree with that or not is entirely up to you. This post isn’t written as a comment on David Cameron’s policies, but rather to point out the somewhat amusing nature of a comic book using the words of the British Prime Minister when talking to newly arrested enemy combatants.

A scan is posted below.

dc02Source: Conrad Bower, pointed out the original story found at the Independent.

Yvonne Craig Advocates for Equal Pay as Batgirl

The world lost a trailblazer with Yvonne Craig who is most known as Batgirl in the classic Batman television series, but also was featured in Love, American Style, The Many Loves of Dovie Gillis, 77 Sunset Strip, and so much more in a career that spanned 86 acting credits from 1957 to 2011.

Above is a 1974 Public Service Announcement by the U.S. Department of Labor-Wage & Hour Division in which she appeared and advocated for equal pay for women. While that is Burt Ward as Robin, that’s not Adam West as Batman.

Judge Talks Justice League in Her Opinion

The New 52 Justice League Action Figure 7-Pack Boxed SetIt looks like discussing superheroes is the new hotness when it comes to opinions issued by judges. Following the Supreme Court’s lead, D.C. Circuit Judge Patricia Millett decided to discuss Batman, Wonder Woman, and the Justice League in her opinion in PETA v. Dep’t of Agriculture.

The case concerned the USDA extending the Animal Welfare Act to birds. They’ve taken ten years to figure out how to do so, so PETA sued them.

Here’s what the judge said in the opinion.

The same principles that prevent any individual caped crusader from using the courts to vindicate his or her views as to the proper enforcement of the laws should preclude the same gambit by a group of likeminded individuals. As for Batman or Wonder Woman, so too for the Justice League.

There’s a law that says as an individual you can’t sue an agency to enact your opinion. Since individuals can’t do it, then a group can’t. That’s the above in a nutshell.

This is the second high-profile time a justice has cited comics. Justice Kagan talked Spider-Man in her opinion Kimble v. Marvel Enterprises. Maybe Judge Millett with the Justice League consider the Circuit Court she’s in?

(via Above the Law)

Don’t Believe the Hyperbole, There’s No Orphan Works Law Before Congress (Updated)

United_States_Capitol_-_west_frontI’ve been seeing scare tactics going around various comic artists over the past couple of days concerning an “update” to US Copyright law as a new act, and the reintroduction of legislation known as the Orphan Works Act. According to the misinformed postings (the original posting has been taken down, I am looking for another example) and on a YouTube video, the legislation would:

  • The Next Great Copyright Act” would replace all existing copyright law.
  • It would void our Constitutional right to the exclusive control of our work.
  • It would “privilege” the public’s right to use our work.
  • It would “pressure” you to register your work with commercial registries.
  • It would “orphan” unregistered work.
  • It would make orphaned work available for commercial infringement by “good faith” infringers.
  • It would allow others to alter your work and copyright these “derivative works” in their own names.
  • It would affect all visual art: drawings, paintings, sketches, photos, etc.; past, present and future; published and unpublished; domestic and foreign.

Well, I’m here to dump so cold hard truth in front of you. The above? That’s all bullshit, not true at all. Not even close.

The first sign to me that the above was crap was the fact the post references that this is a law before Congress, but has you contact the US Copyright Office, instead of Congress. The video referenced admits there’s actually no legislation before Congress, there’s no text to actually see. The Copyright Office is doing their job, writing a report, and they are asking for input from individuals. There is no legislation, this is akin to a brainstorming project. This happens every day in government, there’s nothing unusual here and also nothing to get whipped up about. Reports go nowhere every day.

Here are the facts.

On June 4, 2015 the United States Copyright Office released a report on orphan works and mass digitization. The report:

…documents the legal and business challenges faced by good faith users who seek to use orphan works and/or engage in mass digitization projects.   It provides a series of legislative recommendations that offer users a way forward out of gridlock, but also take into account the legitimate concerns and exclusive rights of authors and other copyright owners.

The report also:

With respect to orphan works, the Report provides draft legislation that draws upon the Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act passed by the Senate seven years ago, albeit with some updates and changes that reflect intervening developments and public discussions.

You can read the full report here. Before getting riled up, actually read the report and see for yourself what it does. The report looks at the 2006 and 2008 Orphan Works proposed legislation (I’ll get to that in a bit). It also discusses Fair Use, Google Books litigation, and various experiences with the issues of copyright around the world. The executive summary sums it all up nicely:

As the Supreme Court reaffirmed in 2012, facilitating the dissemination of creative expression is an important means of fulfilling the constitutional mandate to “promote the Progress of Science” through the copyright system. This Report addresses two circumstances in which the accomplishment of that goal may be hindered under the current law due to practical obstacles preventing good faith actors from securing permission to make productive uses of copyrighted works. First, with respect to orphan works, referred to as “perhaps the single greatest impediment to creating new works,” a user’s ability to seek permission or to negotiate licensing terms is compromised by the fact that, despite his or her diligent efforts, the user cannot identify or locate the copyright owner. Second, in the case of mass digitization – which involves making reproductions of many works, as well as possible efforts to make the works publicly accessible – obtaining permission is essentially impossible, not necessarily because of a lack of identifying information or the inability to contact the copyright owner, but because of the sheer number of individual permissions required.

The short version? Some times it’s hard to get a hold of the copyright holder, and some times there’s a hell of a lot of people that need to be contacted.

The report has SUGGESTIONS for legislation. On page 8 those are:

  • Permit the Register of Copyrights to authorize CMOs meeting specified criteria to issue licenses on behalf of both members and non-members of the organization to allow the use of copyrighted works implicated by the creation or operation of a digital collection;
  • Apply only to the three categories of works noted above, with possible additional limitations based on works’ commercial availability or date of publication;
  • Give copyright owners the right to limit the grant of licenses with respect to their works or to opt out of the system entirely;
  • Permit the licensed works to be used only for nonprofit educational or research purposes and without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage;
  • Establish eligibility requirements for a CMO seeking ECL authorization, including evidence demonstrating its level of representation among authors in the relevant field, the consent of its membership to the ECL proposal, and its adherence to standards of transparency, accountability, and good governance;
  • Provide for the negotiation of license rates and terms between the CMO and a prospective user, subject to a dispute resolution process;
  • Require the parties to negotiate terms obligating the user, as a condition of its license, to implement and maintain reasonable digital security measures controlling access to the relevant works;
  • Require the CMO to collect and distribute royalties to rightsholders within a specified period and to conduct diligent searches for non-members for whom it has collected payments;
  • Provide for the disposition of royalties remaining unclaimed after a specified period;
  • Include a provision expressly preserving the ability of users to assert fair use in connection with mass digitization projects; and
  • Sunset five years after the legislation’s effective date

1024px-Copyright.svgThe three categories of work mention are: 1) literary works; 2) pictorial or graphic works published as illustrations, diagrams, or similar adjuncts to literary works; and 3) photographs. A CMO is a “collective management organization” which would represent copyright holders in those three categories. Copyright holders would be able to opt-out of it as noted in bullet point three.

The short version. There’d be one group you could go to so that one can figure out who owns what copyright, get permission, and pay whatever fees. Anyone can opt-out of it. It would also be a pilot program, not some permanent thing.

Unlike what the video says, and has been claimed, there is no forcing anyone to participate in some program, and there’s no loss of your copyright unless you register everything and anything. Things remain the same, you can control your own copyright, or you can opt-in to the CMO, under the suggestions made in this report. Keep in mind. THERE IS NO LEGISLATION CURRENTLY BEFORE CONGRESS.

I work in advocacy, and it makes an organization/individuals look foolish when they rail against something, when that something hasn’t been laid out. There is a “notice of inquiry” where the Copyright Office wants to hear from you about their report and suggestions, not some legislation that does not exist, and especially not about a misunderstanding of what those suggestions are.

What is the 2008 Shawn Bently Act S.2913, aka the Orphan Works Act? The legislation was last introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (a staunch supporter of the MPAA and Hollywood) and died when it moved to the House. This is the summary:

Limits the remedies in a civil action brought for infringement of copyright in an orphan work, notwithstanding specified provisions and subject to exceptions, if the infringer meets certain requirements, including proving that: (1) the infringer performed and documented a reasonably diligent search in good faith to locate and identify the copyright owner before using the work, but was unable to locate and identify the owner; and (2) the infringing use of the work provided attribution to the owner of the copyright, if known. Requires a search to include methods that are reasonable and appropriate given the circumstances, including in some circumstances: (1) Copyright Office records that are not available through the Internet; and (2) resources for which a charge or subscription is imposed.

Limits monetary compensation to reasonable compensation for the use of the infringed work. Prohibits such compensation if the infringer is a nonprofit educational institution, museum, library, or archive, or a public broadcasting entity and if the infringer proves that: (1) the infringement is performed without any purpose of commercial advantage and is primarily educational, religious, or charitable in nature;and (2) the infringer ceases the infringement expeditiously after receiving notice of the claim for infringement. Allows injunctive relief to prevent or restrain infringement, subject to exception and limitation.

Directs the Register of Copyrights to: (1) undertake a process to certify that databases are available that facilitate searching for pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works protected by copyright; (2) report to the House and Senate judiciary committees on the implementation and effects of certain amendments made by this Act, including any recommendations for legislative changes; and (3) report to those committees on remedies for copyright infringement claims by an individual copyright owner or a related group of copyright owners seeking small amounts of monetary relief.

The legislation was opposed by groups on both sides of copyright. Some felt it made infringing easier, others felt that “reasonably diligent search” wasn’t defined well enough. What it didn’t do was rewrite copyright law as we know it. While flawed, the legislation was an attempt to make it easier to contact copyright holders to get permission or pay for permission. You can read the full legislation yourself.

Really in the end. The initial video and posts that started this response are hyperbolic and dangerous in the lack of facts and misrepresentation of the truth. The fact they have been shared thousands of times and the video watched almost 40,000 times is sad in that it uses scare tactics devoid of reality, and misrepresents how government works. The lack of the basic understanding about the legislative process by many is apparent, and appalling.

Below is a refresher of the basics, but the lesson here is, before you get worked up about legislation, do some research and come up with your own conclusion. Don’t take others at their word. Knowledge is power.

Update: For those interested in the issue and want to learn more about the actual problems with the Copyright Office’s proposal, TechDirt has a nice breakdown that shows the general issues. It also reiterates what I wrote above that this does not actually change copyright law as stated by others, and it is not legislation before Congress, etc.

Update 2: Surviving Creativity has a great podcast on the subject that includes folks who work in the comic industry and one is a lawyer.

Marvel Announces Hip-Hop Inspired Variants. Misses Irony of No Black Creators. (Updated)

Sites gushed yesterday as Marvel announced a slate of hip-hop inspired variant covers that riff off some of the greatest rap albums of the last 30 years. With over 50 upcoming variants, the October covers take on classic album art like Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, and A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders.

In the announcement, Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso said:

For years, Marvel Comics and hip-hop culture have been engaged in an ongoing dialogue. Beginning this October, we will shine a spotlight on the seamless relationship between those two unique forces. Indeed, Marvel has already featured hip-hop artists prominently in its pages, most recently with the Run the Jewels variant covers it released for Howard the Duck and Deadpool. Eminem even teamed up with the Punisher back in 2009.

Some noticed that while Marvel is more than happy to make money off of hip-hop, a form of music that grew out of African-American culture (check out Ed Piskor’s Hip Hop Family Tree for an amazing recounting of history), they lack any African-American creators in their initially announced All-New, All-Different Marvel line-up.

When asked about the notable absence and irony, Marvel’s Senior Vice President of Publishing and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort responded:


Well, to answer Mr. Brevoort’s question, I have only two words “cultural appropriation.” For those unaware of the term, here’s a simple explanation:

Cultural appropriation is the adoption of elements of one culture by members of a different cultural group, especially if the adoption is of an oppressed people’s cultural elements by members of the dominant culture.

In this instance, the “white” creative of Marvel are appropriating a style made popular by African-Americans, from which they will not benefit at all. What’s important to keep in mind is that appropriation is a perfect description when the minority culture is subordinated in social, political, economic, or other status, or there’s been a history of conflict. In this case, both descriptions are appropriate. By using this images too, Marvel misses and muddies their deeper meaning, and yes these covers often have deeper meaning than just “looking cool.”

Cultural appropriation also has the air of colonialism about it. A mutual exchange is not present, instead it’s one-sided with the original art being taken out of context and diluted in some ways.

The comic industry is still dealing with race, and the ability of African-American creators of being able to break into the industry. Just this past week Women Write About Comics explored the issues of a white creative team tackling the racist South in BOOM!’s Strange Fruit. San Diego Comic-Con saw a very personal and raw panel focusing on the struggle of black creators in the industry. That was captured in this impressive Storify by Arturo R. Garcia. Again, out of the 45 newly announced series by Marvel for their post Secret Wars initiative, it doesn’t look like one creator is black or African-American. In the series since announced, Blade and Spider-Man/Deadpool, that continues. Maybe further announcements will change that, but even so, the optics aren’t good. This does look like “colonialism” of culture.

Joseph Illidgedolla-dolla-bills-yall-o describes the increased profile of minority characters as a “half-measure” and lays out the issues of raising characters of color without writers of color. As he notes there’s only one person of color as a writer in those 45 comics. By releasing these covers, Marvel proves and reinforces Illidge’s point, that the goal is the perception of diversity and inclusion, without truly fulfilling it.

There’s a gap of African-Americans in comicdom, more than just characters and creators. According to my Facebook demographic research Asian Americans that “like” comics account for 6.84% of the population, in the United States as a whole it’s 5.6%. Hispanics who “like” comics are 17.87%, while the US population is 17%. Both are over represented according to this data. African-Americans who “like” comics is just 11.49%, while the US population is 13.2%. They’re below the general population, there’s clearly a need for outreach and focus.

Judging Alonso’s “ongoing dialogue,” and Brevoort’s response, Marvel’s dialogue is one sided. That dialogue? Dolla, dolla, bill ya’ll.

Update: A few minutes after we posted Brevoort clarified his remarks in a post that reads like it was run through both PR staff and lawyers.


Update 2: Remember, most of the people reposting Brevoort’s original dismissive response don’t even read comics! Seriously Tom, just stop before intelligent PR staff take your mic away.


Bernie Sanders Supporters Descend on San Diego Comic-Con

SDCC15-Bernie-SandersEach year I head to numerous conventions all around the country and I wonder where are the political parties. With tens of thousands of individuals in one area, it’s a perfect opportunity to whip up support, get the word out, and sign up some voters. Well, it seems like at least one set of supporters of a candidate had the same idea and headed to San Diego Comic-Con to do just that.

Supporters of Bernie Sanders 2016 were on hand at the convention to show their support for the Presidential candidate for the Democratic nomination. The group brought along a cardboard cut-out of the candidate, and made a poster of Sanders made up to look like Doc Brown from Back to the Future (though they left it at home). Instead they created a poster with a Mad Max theme that pitted the candidate against the Koch brothers which you can see to the left.

The group handed out 1,500 Bernie stickers and posters as well as a flyer going over Sanders’ 12-point plan. The impact is unknown as most con-goers will grab just about anything handed to them (my luggage back from the convention is a perfect example of this).

While the impact of such activity is unknown, it’s good to see a candidate’s supporters getting out there and trying to raise awareness. Engaging the geek community instead of just using them to score pop culture hits is a nice change of pace. Hopefully others will get a clue and engage.

(via The Daily Beast and Roll Call)


Sen. Leahy’s Batman v. Superman Role Revealed

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy is a huge Batman fan. So much so that he’s appeared in numerous Batman films, and voiced characters. We got word the Senator would be appearing in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but it was unknown as to what he’d be doing.

The latest trailer that has been released has provided some hints. The Senator is present in what looks like a Senate hearing. So looks like the Senator is sticking to a role he’s quite familiar with.

You can check out a screen shot of the scene below. That’s him in the gray suit standing behind the podium towards the middle.


Photos of Congressman John Lewis’ March at Comic-Con

We were one of the first to break the news that not only was Congressman John Lewis cosplaying as himself during Selma 50 years ago, but he also lead a march at San Diego Comic-Con.

Below are more photos courtesy of Mike Bocchini.

SDCC 2015: Rep. John Lewis Cosplays as Himself, at Selma 50 Years Ago

Congressman John Lewis is a legend. Not only is he one of the most respected Congressmen, but also a civil rights leader. His amazing history has led to two graphic novels, March Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, with the third probably coming out some time in 2016.

His graphic novels have taken him to numerous comic conventions, including two San Diego Comic-Cons. The Congressman held a panel today, and did a little cosplay himself wearing his trench coat and backpack from Selma 50 years ago.

He also led his panel for a march at Comic-Con too.

Maybe it’s time we see what he could do in front of Hall H?

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