Millennial and Zoomer creatives are leading the charge for labor rights in North America–and they’re racking up incredible wins, from video-game developers beginning to organize to #NewDealForAnimation leading to better contracts and newly unionized studios.
Artists have been more effective than anybody of changing the discourse around NFTs, explaining all the exploitative and terrible aspects of blockchain-minting art. Scroll through any working artist’s Twitter feed, and you’ll see screeds against theft of intellectual labor.
Right next to tweets about stealing books:
I hid the name of the professional animator who posted this viral Tweet (over 13,000 retweets and 47,000 likes as of this writing); I could tell she hadn’t done it maliciously. And when I directly told her the book had been uploaded by some rando who also uploaded a bunch of other art books, she realized she’d had a blind spot: she’d always thought the Internet Archive was “generally legit.” She then posted replies encouraging people to buy the (totally affordable!) paperback editions of Michel Lauricella’s Morpho series directly from publisher Rocky Nook.
But why did she (and the thousands of artists squee-ing in her mentions) have a blind spot?
Part of it is that many young adults seem to suffer from the same misunderstanding as older ones: that anyone with their name on the front of a book is rich. Others seem to think of books as products made by companies, so stealing them must be sticking it to The Man and not, you know, the author. Or that, because it’s difficult to prove how much piracy hurts sales, piracy must be fine!
If I uploaded Lauricella’s illustrations to RedBubble and started selling T-shirts of it, the art community would denounce me with one voice as a thief. But when Lauricella himself got a book deal to combine many new illustrations with helpful instructive text, suddenly his art became information that wanted to be free?
Yeah, no; neither Lauricella nor his art wants it to be free. People don’t wanna pay for it do.
A year and a half ago, the Internet Archive announced the “National Emergency Library”: a huge free treasure trove of digital books for everyone to download as much as they wanted. Trouble is, they didn’t pay for those books–they were distributing unlimited copies of unauthorized digital scans. Authors immediately denounced this as mass piracy, which is what it was, and publishers sued the Internet Archive (the case is still ongoing).
In return, a bunch of weirdoes suffering from advanced Linux poisoning started calling authors “idea landlords.”
Now, the Internet Archive does a lot of indisputably awesome things, from cataloging and archiving literally the entire Internet to serving as a cross-library repository for all kinds of rare, old, and public-domain materials. It connects an enormous amount of valuable information to an enormous number of people who’d have no other way to access it. But everything the Internet Archive does is in service of its primary mission, which is “to provide universal access to all knowledge.”
The purpose of the Internet Archive is to destroy the idea of intellectual property.
The idea of intellectual property, on planet Earth in the year 2022, is the only way working creatives can afford to eat. In a world where copyright doesn’t exist, the only people who will be able to make books, movies, music, or visual art will be hobbyists and billionaires.
Speaking of, IA’s founder is Brewster Kahle: an MIT grad and 80s/90s tech entrepreneur who collects interest on his wealth and glowing tech-mag profiles. A new batch of those went up shortly after the lawsuit, decrying how terrible was that authors and publishers would attack Kahle’s noble library. But the IA’s actions were a deliberate IP troll–just like Amazon’s repeated rights grabs are designed to suck as much money out of publishing as possible.
Here’s where the non-creatives who don’t know how any of this works tell me I love to lick the boots of my corporate overlords, or something. Not at all! I love a lot of the neckbeardier Web 1.0 ideals of open-standard, open-source, distributed computing–and as I’ve written before about NFT/crypto/blockchain/Web 3.0 technologies, How Any Of This Works doesn’t work for many people in the industry whose job title isn’t “Publisher.” We should be exploring any and every alternative.
But authors have been looking at the Internet and asking the companies that own all the printing presses what they would say they do here, exactly, for decades. Technology still hasn’t provided writers a way to be both Authors and Eaters that doesn’t involve either licensing the results of our intellectual labor to publishers or doing lots more up-front, unpaid, potentially fruitless labor beyond the actual writing of the books.
Kahle’s passion project, the hobby he sinks millions every year into pursuing, is making either route to a living wage impossible. Until we live in a post-scarcity techno-utopia where artists and their families can live comfortably without trading the fruits of their labor for money, people need to stop going to that dude’s website and assuming whatever they find on there is somehow “legit.”
My two eldest kids are in driving school right now, and an unanticipated side effect of my kids learning All The Proper Rules of Driving is that I now have a backseat full of backseat drivers.
So when, over the holiday break, Spotify sent me a notification that I’d be eligible to buy their new hands-free device–charmingly named “Car Thing”–I thought it was fate:
Cute name, cute box, cute device.
It comes in a cute little box, and the device itself is also little and cute. It’s really well-built, and satisfying to hold (even though you won’t ever hold it). There are multiple mounting options, but the vent mount seemed like the best choice for my Mazda5. I was surprised to find out it’s magnetic:
I remember when we weren't supposed to put magnets by our computery thingies.
Just hook Car Thing up to power, turn on the car, scan the QR code that comes up on the screen, and you’re ready to roll!
It took me a few minutes to realize what Car Thing actually is: a controller for your phone. Though it synchs to your phone via Bluetooth, Car Thing is just telling your phone’s Spotify app what to do. The audio is still going out from your phone to your car, or headphones, or whatever.
The combination of touchscreen and big buttons allows you to navigate through all the usual Spotify functions with relative ease. The vent mount was a little too wobbly for pressing in that big scroll wheel, so I switched to the CD mount.
For searching, the only option is voice-activated…which, okay, I know it’s gotta be hands-free? But computers often don’t understand me very well, especially in loud environments. Car Thing actually performs better for me than most voice-activated assistants, but it’s far from perfect.
That said, I also have big privacy concerns with always-on voice features. If Car Thing is doing all the shady Alexa stuff behind the scenes, it’s going in the trash.
But it might go in the trash anyway.
Car Thing literally only controls Spotify. I’ve been a Spotify Premium subscriber since like 2011, but I don’t usually listen to podcasts with Spotify (and podcasts are a decent chunk of my car listening). Also, since Waze and Spotify have played nicely together for years, I was expecting out-of-the-box Waze integration. Nope–and not only that, since activating Car Thing my Waze voice (Avatar Korra, courtesy of her voice actor Janet Varney) only speaks in metric units. Waze’s unit settings are on English, the display reads in miles/feet, but Korra’s talking about meters and kilometers. No idea why, and all efforts to fix it have failed. Annoying!
I haven’t yet received a voice call while driving, but I’m not expecting anything graceful or intuitive to happen when I do.
So, for Car Thing to do its thing “awesomely,” you need to get everything set up before you take off and hope nothing unexpected happens before you get there. For an $80 device, that is really not what I expected.
I’ll keep messing around with it, if only because I want to respect my kids’ wishes that I never mess with my phone while driving. But unless future software/firmware updates add more functionality and integration, I can’t recommend it.
On last week’s exciting episode of Gimme Schalter, I asked you all for help saving my local science-fiction convention, ConFusion.
I know some of you were among the many who responded to Con Chair Cylithria DuBois’s plea for financial support–and from this update, it seems like the response was very, very positive.
Per this update, the con will issue public financial reports giving full transparency on both the problems and solutions. I’m really excited to see exactly what happened, and exactly how healthy the con will be going forward.
But for right now my focus is on the con–and as you can see on the schedule, my “Worldbuilding Fantastic Sports (And Sportsbuilding Fantastic Worlds)” panel will be at 1:00 pm on Saturday! I’m super pumped that me, Patrick S. Tomlinson, Catherine Stein, and Niamh H. Kendall will get explore how sports makes SFF worldbuilding better, and how to better build future (or fantasy) sports.
Patel is “Undergraduate student at University of Rochester,” according to his Medium profile. His Twitter avatar and banner are captures from “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood,” indicating he is a person of distinction and taste.
This study of the correlation between center play and overall pass- and run-blocking effectiveness is clearly thought-out, engagingly written, and framed well by his personal rooting interest in finding out the answer. Data-driven sports blogging how it ought to (and used to!) be done.
I know the new year can be a rough time for people who don’t like to be exposed to fitness/diet/weight-loss stuff in general. So if that’s you, feel free to skip to the next item.
But after taking steps to address my mental health last March, I felt like getting into better physical shape, as well–and by taking up soccer and yoga, I turned 40 happier with myself than I’d been in literal decades.
Between winter and COVID, though, it’s been hard to make progress. The busy schedule of football season has made it hard for me to make time for yoga, and soccer alone won’t get me much farther (unless I started playing a lot more soccer, again unfeasible in the winter months). I want to do more, but I’m not sure where to go from here.
Suh, a 12-year NFL veteran and three-time first-team All-Pro, comes from a family of fantastic athletes. And despite his old reputation as a violent-even-by-NFL-standards player, I can personally vouch for how kind and thoughtful he is when he’s not trying to separate a quarterback’s soul from their body.
Suh’s been penning a lot of good Twitter threads lately, and this one with a lot of specific-yet-broad advice on how to make your body a healthier, more capable version of itself. It caught me at just the right time.
I’m not sure what possesses so many rich Americans to try and live full-time in a theme-park fantasy of European aristocracy, but dang do the resultant Twitter threads deliver. Thanks to Makkai, a Pulitzer-nominated author and educator. for pointing it out and giving us all a guided tour:
So remember last week, when I thought I’d have a ton of novel-writing time this week? Ah ha ha, well…
I forgot it was finals week for my three teenagers, and getting all the ducks appropriately rowed was no easy feat. That said, this weekend is one of the much-cherished three-day variety, and I don’t have much besides football-watching on the docket.
First and 10, do it again!