Are “Let’s Play” Videos Fair Use?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is…it’s complicated.

A “Let’s Play” video is a video where a content creator plays a video game while commenting on the experience. Most of these videos function as game walkthroughs, showing the viewer how to do a puzzle they’re stuck on in a Zelda game, or showing them a new shortcut in Mario Kart. These videos are typically informative and funny, adding something to the game that simply isn’t there when a person buys it at the store.

A lot of famous YouTubers are known for their hilarious gameplay videos. The job isn’t ALL fun though, and I’m not talking about sore thumbs. Let’s Play videos are sometimes tagged by YouTube’s automatic system as copyright infringement. Whether a video is considered fair use is then often up to the company that the original content belongs to, and they don’t always play nice. As stated in this article from Wired, Nintendo is known for striking at videos such as Let’s Plays, and not backing down. As the article mentions, this causes undue stress and financial hardship to the content creator, as the videos are often taken down or ad revenue from them suddenly gets directed to Nintendo with YouTube hardly batting an eyelash.

According to the Wired article, Fair Use has four parts, one of which states that “the purpose and character of the use” must be taken into account. Though copyright law is difficult to understand, I think this portion of the Fair Use guidelines is asking ‘Is what you’re creating different from the copyrighted material you used?’. There is a very large difference between actually playing a game and watching someone else play it. Why do people play video games? Most of them enjoy mastering the gameplay mechanics, or the mental challenge that certain stages pose to a player. Compare that to watching a video: I watch Let’s Play videos because the people making them are funny, helpful, or both. This idea is also hit in the reading RW, Revived, where the author claims “the critical point to recognize is that the RW creativity does not compete with or weaken the market for the creative work that gets remixed”, and I agree with that statement.

Take, for example, this Let’s Play below. The creator and his colleagues have clearly done a lot of work given the intro sequence credits in the first video of the series. In this video they compare the mechanics and art style to old games of the same storyline. Later videos in this series show how to navigate the more difficult and confusing areas of the game, keeping the fun alive even if the player gets stumped by a locked door in a dark dungeon. This is clearly something new remixed from old.

Let’s Play videos, as most people know, are not the only game-related content uploaded on the Internet. Game reviews, speedruns, and gaming competitions are all present on the Web too. So are modded versions of games (games with something changed, such as character or building design), pirated copies of games, and games available for purchase through legitimate sources like Steam. So where do we draw the line on copyright? Surely pirated copies are not covered, but what about modded games? What if the only thing the modder did was change the color of the sky? How about add one or two vehicles to the game and a new character to the already extensive lineup? Where do you think the line should be drawn in the vague world of copyright law?

Video source:

chuggaaconroy. (2009, December 5). The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker – Episode 2. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PlDhTqyuQc

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A New Way to Donate to Nonprofits

What if it was as easy to donate to a non-profit organization as it is to like them on Facebook? Would donations increase?

Facebook decided to try this out. As this TechCrunch post details, in 2013 allowed 19 nonprofit companies to add a “donate now” button to their Facebook profile and posts. The icon is extremely visible, right by the like button, and other main buttons. In even further support for nonprofits, Facebook pays the credit card processing fees so that 100% of donation money actually goes to the nonprofits.

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Facebook has added a new feature to nonprofit pages: a “Donate Now” button. They have put it in a very visible, easy to access place. This will help it reach the most possible people because it will attract the attention of those who are not specifically looking for a way to donate.
(Image courtesy of techmbob.com)

Fast forward to 2015, and Facebook has opened up this feature to all nonprofits, allowing administratiors of those pages to add a “Donate Now” button in “less than a minute” according to this Nonprofit Tech For Good article. The article details how to add one of these buttons to a page, and points out that “a “Donate Now” button does not in and of itself result in online donations”, but remains optimistic, saying “storytelling via Facebook status updates merged with a Facebook “Donate Now” button could be a winning combination.”. The author of the article is basically saying what we’ve been talking about in class: this new feature won’t automatically spread the nonprofit, but can allow it to be spread easier, if people chose to do so.

In the book Spreadable Media, the author states “Despite critics who dismiss…“slactivism,” research by Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication and Ogilvy Worldwide in 2010 suggests that the small investments in time and effort required to pass along such messages (or to link to causes via our social network site profles) may make participants more likely to take more substantive action later”. This book was published in early 2013, when the Donate now button was first being experimented with. In “Take the ‘No Ice Bucket’ Challenge“, the author somewhat snarkily comments “Be warned, though, the #noicebucketchallenge is not for the faint of heart. It requires real fortitude to give away your hard-earned cash without the promise of receiving piles of Facebook likes in return”. Now that it is a feature on so many nonprofit pages, Facebook users can actively show that have donated to a cause and encourage their Facebook Friends to do so as well. This means that instead of people getting likes for altruistically dumping a bucket of ice on their heads, they can get likes for altruistically donating $20 to ALS. With that aspect taken care of, as well as the ease of donation, do you think that donations may start rolling in for nonprofits or will the act of donating through Facebook not spread enough to make a difference?

Fandoms and Technology, 114 B.T. (Before Tumblr)

Some say that modern fans on tumblr are crazy. But how have fans interacted with the content they love in the past? (Image: https://moz.com/blog/how-to-use-tumblr-for-seo-and-social-media-marketing)
Some say that modern fans on tumblr are crazy. But how have fans interacted with the content they love in the past?
(Image: https://moz.com/blog/how-to-use-tumblr-for-seo-and-social-media-marketing)

With the advent of new technology, fandom culture is becoming more and more active. There are more platforms for sharing ideas, reactions, and theories than anyone living a hundred years ago could have ever dreamed. Given the ongoing class discussion regarding the spectrum of how we interact with technology, I think it would be useful to look at the ways in which fan culture uses technology to affect content, and how it accomplishes that.

I would like to look at the Sherlock fandom specifically. The Sir Arthur Conan Doyle work has been remade several times over, including both a British and American radio show, and several TV shows. Needless to say, it has a rather large fanbase and a long history, as the first book was published nearly 123 years ago to the day: October 31st, 1892.

A piece titled “The Affair of the Black Armbands” discusses, among other things, that Doyle didn’t think much of his fictional creation at first, and instead put a lot of work and passion into his historical novels. He kept writing the Holmes stories in part because of his wife’s large medical bills, and in part because people kept writing letters begging for more stories. The latter grew to annoy him greatly, especially when the letters were addressed to Holmes rather than Doyle himself. He eventually despised his most famous and most lucrative creation so much that he decided to kill off the famous detective. Internet sites like Tumblr exploded when the BBC show aired the episode containing this plot point, but what about fans in December of 1893 when “The Final Problem” was originally published?

“The public responded [to Sherlock’s death] with a massive uproar that amazed everybody, especially Doyle. Twenty thousand people canceled their subscriptions to the Strand. Hate mail arrived at the magazine’s editorial offices by the sackload. Thousands of people wrote Doyle directly, begging him to reverse Holmes’s death. Many people took to wearing black armbands in the street, in mourning for Sherlock Holmes.”

This is in line with something mentioned in a reading this past week, from a book called Spreadable Media:

“As early as the mid-nineteenth century, amateur publishers began to print newsletters about shared interests and to circulate them across the country” (30).

People didn’t need advanced technology to gather and discuss things from media that they love, and they didn’t need those technologies to affect that media either. Just writing letters and pamphlets got this effect:

“Doyle resisted the pressure as best he could…[b]ut it was unrelenting, continuing for years: his creation had already become more powerful than he could possibly have imagined. In 1903…Doyle finally relented and wrote “The Empty House”, in which the Final Problem was revealed not to be as final as previously thought.”

114 years before Tumblr was launched, in a time when having a phone in your home wasn’t even common, fans banded together to change something that they loved in a way that they wanted. Though new technology opened up a lot of doors, such as self-publication, fans have shown that they are fully capable of discussing and affecting their favorite content with very simple technology. I believe that this puts their actions around ‘technological co-construction’ in the spectrum. Fans are using the technology available to spread their ideas, and influence creators of the original content, in the most effective way. What do you think about the placement? Can you think of any other fandom that’s done something similar?

Bittersweet Posts

Startling statistic, right? What happens to those accounts? Now Facebook is giving that choice to its users-while they're still alive of course. (Image: http://www.funnyjunk.com/Facebook+facts+comp+2/funny-pictures/5440997/)
Startling statistic, right? What happens to those accounts?
Now, Facebook is giving that decision option to its users (while they’re still alive of course).
(Image: http://www.funnyjunk.com/Facebook+facts+comp+2/funny-pictures/5440997/)

“Remembering Madeline Jewell”

Though it’s sad to think about death in any aspect, it’s important to plan for what will happen after we die. Possessions and bank accounts are the things that most people think about, as well as houses and other properties. But what about a person’s Facebook account? According to one source, about 20% of people on Earth have a Facebook account that they access at least once a month, which is roughly 1.39 billion people. What happens when those people die, as all humans do? There are a two options: they can choose to have their account deleted, or they can have their account memorialized, in which case “Remembering” will be shown before the name. This Facebook help screen has more information on the subject.

I will have a legacy contact for my account, and I’m going to prepare some posts for them to put on my Facebook. This is important because the Facebook help screen mentioned above states that “memorialized accounts that don’t have a legacy contact can’t be changed”, and I want to be able to do things like wish my friends happy birthday and commemorate loved ones’ life events such as weddings, births, and anniversaries.

Another good reason to have a legacy contact is that I don’t want my loved ones to have to deal with bureaucracy as well as grief once I pass away. For many families, being locked out of their dead relative’s Facebook by the company itself just rubs salt in the wound of that loved one’s death. In a blog post, Autumn Leopold talks about how she had to go through all of her dead mother’s social media accounts, and that she has decided to memorialize her mom’s Facebook account. She highly encourages people to put a legacy contact onto their accounts, and wishes her mother had done so, as it would have made at least that pat of her death a little easier. She lists things that happen if you don’t have a legacy contact, and posts a link to help people start setting on up for them. She clearly thinks that having a plan in place for these things is a good idea.

Do you have a plan? If yes, what is it? If not, why not?

Don’t Feed the Trolls!

Om nom nom, the trolls are enjoying dinner! And apparently at this person's (and their SO's) expense...
Om nom nom, the trolls are enjoying dinner! And apparently at this person’s (and their SO’s) expense…
Sometimes you have to follow the advice of a certain Disney queen and let it go.
(Picture from: https://xkcd.com/386/ )

Mean names are hurled out, bad words thrown left and right, and it looks like someone is stomping away in frustration. No, I’m not trying to paint the scene of an ill-run daycare. I’m describing the modern day cesspool: the comments section. Everyone has had that moment where they scroll down and have met the ugly side of humanity. The carnage is even worse when an article or video is about a controversial topic, such as religion or welfare. What should a decent human being do? A lot of these comments make their creator seem like they could use a few lessons in ethics, and maybe some grammar tips thrown in there.

But is it really worth it to reply? Will it even do anything?

Good intentions can make this kind of situation worse, especially if those intentions are taken as insults. Let’s see how this sort of thing plays out in the article Rainbow-Cake Recipe Inspires Comment Apocalypse, which has this comment:

TheBeginningOfTheWar

Is one person politely calling them out going to do much?

MoreWar

OK, sounds like someone has their head on straight (here’s looking at you Pamela Davignon). Let’s check in after a day has passed:

MoreStupid

AAANNNDDD they’re at it again. It goes on from there, getting worse as it goes. I won’t force you to watch people on the internet fight bore you with the details. The point is, the more people that try to make the situation better, the worse the comments seem to get.

This CollegeHumor video agrees with my opinion: it’s usually better to not even look.

(In ColleHumor tradition, this video has profanity in it. If you don’t want to hear it, don’t watch the video.)

As one person in the video states, “It’s a cabaret of crazies, all vying for your attention. It’s not worth it!”.

There are many reasons that this kind of behavior could be happening, with one in particular standing out to me. As the comments in the Cake article show, users get to choose a screen name. Some have chosen their actual name and uploaded a nice photo of themselves, while others use a word or phrase and don’t have a picture for account at all. This anonymity in discussion is something that is unique to the Internet, and it is clearly being abused in some situations. Under the cover of a screen name, these people can take out their anger and frustration of the day on strangers with whom they disagree. Trolls don’t have to be nice, because their own offline reputation won’t suffer even if they’re the rudest person on the forum. They enjoy this, and love feedback. Other kinds of bad comments that beg a response, mostly extremists of any kind voicing their opinion, should often be treated similarly. Trolls love the arguing, and others just want to push their opinions on others because ‘they’re right’. They’re not going to change their minds or their ways because of something a stranger on the Internet told them.

As the old saying goes, you have to pick your battles, and I for one don’t think this is a good one to choose.

Women in Wikipedia

The Technovation Challenge allows girls to get a chance to “work with professional women in technology to develop mobile phone applications to solve a personally relevant problem”. But why should we encourage more women become content creators? There are a lot of reasons, actually. (Source:”Technovation Winning App, I.O.U, now available on Google Play”)

I for one didn’t think much about the editors of Wikipedia until class the other day. Who does? The editors are just people like you and I, with varying degrees of helpfulness and knowledge. But it’s important to question where the knowledge on Wikipedia comes from, even if we don’t always trust it to give the right answer. There’s a lot that we don’t know about the famous free online encyclopedia.

For example, did you know that less than 15 percent of Wikipedia contributors are women? (Since the only people reading this are in class with me, you probably did, but it’s still true.) Knowing how many people use and trust Wikipedia, that fact kind of leaves a bad taste in my mouth, for multiple reasons. Both men and women have a lot to contribute to such an eclectic site like Wikipedia. It’s not that women aren’t smart: according to Mensa, 33% of its American members are female, which is more than double the percentage of women contributors to Wikipedia. You don’t even have to be ‘smart’ to edit: a lot of pages are only a paragraph long, so there’s a lot to add. There are definitely more women who can be contributing: they just need to be encouraged.

Getting knowledge from a wide range of people is important. As Sue Gardner says in this New York Times article, “Everyone brings their crumb of information to the table,” she said. “If they are not at the table, we don’t benefit from their crumb”. The ‘crumb’ that she talks about references the little tidbit of knowledge that each Wikipedia editor brings to the website. Crumbs of knowledge, like real crumbs, can come from many different sources. In order to get the best sources of crumbs, the environment should probably be more balanced between the genders. This will allow the cream to rise to the top, and would probably improve Wikipedia’s already pretty good accuracy.

This Forbes article outlines some reasons that it is good to have more women in technology, and since Wikipedia is a technology business, albeit a non-profit working with a lot of volunteers, a lot of the things mentioned easily translate over. The author states that diversity usually is an indicator of a successful company, that it broadens the talent in a company, and that it helps to make environments more welcoming toward women, all of which are good reasons to promote diversity in tech and business. Diversity simply creates an all-around better environment, which benefits both men and women.

Women have a lot of knowledge, and it isn’t all the stereotypical recipes and DIY crafts. They have a lot of knowledge in a variety of subjects from math to Ancient Greece, and I encourage any woman reading this to get on Wikipedia and find a page about something she likes and/or knows a lot about. I want her to look it over, and if it seems like something is wrong or the information is lacking something, to not be afraid to edit the page.

Put your crumb of knowledge into the world. Stamp it as your own and feel proud.

Why “I’m Bored!” Might Be a Good Thing

I have my phone in my pocket right now. Do you? You probably do, and that’s not uncommon. With how much time we all spend on technology, whether it’s answering e-mails, writing texts, or just playing a rousing level of Candy Crush, some people have began to wonder if it would be a good idea to put down their tech for a little while. This has led to a fad of “unplugging”: not using any technology for a certain period of time. This is usually done in an effort to let go of dependence on cell phones and laptops, and to find new ways to entertain ourselves. In contrast, a person doing this challenge could just be bored, letting their mind wander into places it wouldn’t be able to reach if the person was staring at a screen.

A Huff Post Teen article that was put out in 2013 lists a few reasons supporting this boredom idea. It lists a few health problems, such as anxiety and high stress levels, as motivators to doodle instead of play Doodle Jump when you have a few minutes to wait in the line for your morning coffee. This article recognizes tech addiction as a reason to be bored, and points out that letting go of screens can promote mindfulness and creativity, as well as reduce stress. It listed a lot of positive things about being bored, and encouraged people to not try to fill every moment of the day. They aren’t alone in this conclusion either: another article from USA Today also points out the benefits of being bored.

A lot of people have experimented with this idea of spending a day without their phone or laptop, including a student named Emily Skorin. She wrote in her article How a Plugged-In College Student Went 24 Hours Without Tech, “The project showed me just how much I rely on my phone to make connections and fill “empty” time. Instead of talking to people around me or paying attention to the world, I stare at my phone screen”. I myself am guilty of this all the time. While waiting for a meeting with a professor, I’m pretty likely to pull out my phone, either to text a friend or to play a game. If I didn’t have my phone with me, my mind would simply be left to drift off into distant and unknown lands of thought.

As an only child, I’ve learned to embrace those moments, and to cherish them as a brief time to reconnect with myself and to discover new ways of thinking. Especially growing up without really using the Internet, I had those moments a lot, and made worlds for myself to inhabit when the physical one wasn’t being very interesting. Now as a college student, those moments of boredom give me time for me, and allow me to take a figurative breath in a world where I’m often mentally sprinting. After reading those articles, I realize that I’m on the right track.

How about you? Do you do your best to avoid being bored? Do you think you’ll change (even just a little bit) after reading those articles?