Copyright Bullies: Beware Older Creative Commons

  • On June 27, 2019 ·
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Fees punching you in the face

Something I’ve been dealing with behind the scenes for several months is a copyright bully. I debated posting about this but decided it’s important other people know the dangers involved. At the beginning of the year I wrote a blog about my plans for 2019. I found an image online that said it was Creative Commons, pasted the info in the WordPress field for credit, and thought that was the end of it.

Couple months later I get an email from a case management address of a site I’d never heard of alerting me to Unauthorized Use of Image. Apparently there was an error in crediting the image creator and this site was claiming I needed to pay a fee. I checked to see how much they were asking for:

$750.

I decided to speak to an attorney before responding. During that time I received a second, third, and fourth notice, saying registration with the US Copyright Office entitled their client to between $750-35,000 should they seek legal escalation. Time was running out for them to negotiate a lower price. After various referrals the lawyer I consulted with told me about what I figured – that I could expect to pay at least $750 for their services and I might still have to pay out in the end.

As an artist I understand the need for creators to get paid for their work. However, this type of intimidation goes against the spirit of Creative Commons. If I found somebody using one of my works without permission I’d contact them myself first. Maybe they aren’t even aware of the mistake. I wouldn’t sick some 3rd party on them. Out of options I responded to the case manager’s email. Was their client aware they were using version 2.0 of the Creative Commons license when the site was recommending 4.0? Perhaps it had something to do with this line,

In the 4.0 licenses, your rights under the license are automatically reinstated if you correct this failure within 30 days of discovering the violation (either on your own or because the licensor or someone else has told you). Under the 3.0 and earlier licenses, there is no automatic reinstatement.

Creative Commons FAQ

I asked what the least their client would accept to resolve the matter was. While I waited for them to get back to me I discovered said client’s account was blacklisted from submitting images to Wikimedia due to sending huge invoices for minor licensing errors. This resulted in a mass deletion of images from a large number of articles. In a discussion log they decided it was best to prevent potential re-users from dealing with charges should they use the images improperly. “It may not be illegal but it’s a scam and we need to protect our users from potentially falling prey to it.”

Case management said I could pay $250. At this point I was going on a trip to Canada for several weeks. My case was forwarded to a new manager who promptly warned me of legal escalation again. Sick of the whole thing I paid their fee and told them any further contact would be considered harassment and forwarded to my representatives.

Happy 2019!

  • On January 16, 2019 ·
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Don't use Creative Commons below 3.0

I hope everybody had a good New Year, or at the least stayed out of trouble.

I’m back in the office organizing everything for the new year, new month, new week, etc. I try to avoid making resolutions. I’m sure most of us have fallen into that trap of thinking January 1st we’re going to be an entirely different person than we were on December 31st, only to beat ourselves over staying the same and concede defeat. Instead I prefer to set goals I want to achieve and figure out the steps I need to accomplish them. As somebody with ADHD it helps to have regular check-ins with myself to see how I’m doing, remind myself what my goals are, and occasionally realize I need to change direction. It’s very easy for me to get hyper focused on a particular task because I’m comfortable carrying it out or excited by what I find. Then I have to switch gears and do something else – something different, potentially new, or just something I’m unsure about doing properly – a thing most people don’t have trouble doing. Consider playing Super Mario Bros.:

Super Mario Bros. World 1-1 via GIPHY

Most of us are probably familiar with this game. You move Mario from one side of the screen to the other as the camera follows him, jumping across platforms, avoiding enemies and pitfalls, collecting coins and power-ups to help you along the way. You can see what’s coming and react accordingly. This is how most people perceive time and tasks for the day. They’re aware of their environment and can judge when they need to respond to things. Now consider Mario’s point of view:

First Person Mario via RocketJump

He has a vague idea of what’s in store for him after his next jump. Probably some blocks, some pipes, and a few enemies to watch out for. It feels disorienting not being able to see things pulled out, especially if you’re used to playing this level in the traditional view. How do you judge when the goomba is in the same place you’re going to land? Are you at the right distance to jump that pipe? It requires a level of awareness about your abilities. You have to internalize how high you can jump and from how far away. This is closer to how I see time, tasks, and appointments. I can zoom out and write dates down, sort them by their various properties, but when I’m in the thick of my day I have trouble concentrating on jumping the flagpole at the end because I’m preoccupied with the ledge underneath me in the moment.

It’s not necessarily that I’m forgetful. You can know all the steps to a dance but do them in the wrong order and it’s not the Macarena. Often times I’ll be carrying around too much in my head. In school I would use the fact that I couldn’t recall something as a reminder. That works well in the short term, like if you always forget one word on this week’s vocabulary list, for example. The problem comes with maintaining it in long term memory. I can memorize dates long enough to answer them on a test but keeping them straight by the end of a semester is another story.

Rote memorization isn’t always the best indicator of learning something. Boring repetition makes information difficult for me to absorb. I can repeat things back without actually thinking through what they mean. Ever read assembly instructions without illustrations to visualize what they mean? On the other hand, if it feels like I’m engaged in the conversation with an instructor, I can pick up on everything without notes. (I did this in Art History where it felt like we were gossiping about the lives of artists through the ages.)

Plans for 2019

1. Animate!

It’s what I love to do. So why don’t I do it more often? Mostly because I’m worried about spending too much time on the wrong projects. I try to make things perfect and spend months on something I should have shipped off and shared already. This year I want to focus on smaller projects and getting better at putting them out there.

2. Freelance!

I’ve dabbled in freelancing gigs but I get so apprehensive about finding new ones. I spend too much time trying to make new material to customize a demo reel to send out when I should really be building up relationships and getting what work I have ready in front of people. This year I need to be better at how I present myself.

3. Design More Cool Stuff!

I spend a lot of time looking over specs and requirements. What DPI does this file need to be at? What aspect ratios does this site want? There comes a point where you have to get out of the measuring phase and start to cut. This year I want to spend more time drawing, making things, and sharing them online to get feedback.

4. Get Out of My Own Head and Communicate!

This is the biggest hurdle for me. I’m terrified of seeming unprepared so I spend too much time researching and trying to guess what will come up. This year I need to share what I know and what I can do. That includes posting on this site more as well as Twitter, my Facebook Page, and adding content to my Instagram, IGTV channel, and my YouTube channel.

Summer 2018

  • On June 18, 2018 ·
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The last few months have been hectic. My girlfriend was planning a visit but after some unexpected car expenses I decided to fly up instead. I finished my short for my 3rd Quickdraw Animation Society Lockdown, an adaptation of two versions of Little Red Riding Hood I found on Librivox.

It was a fun project – mostly an excuse to see how much work it would be to turn audio books into animations. I’d been itching to see how long a film I could make in the allotted time.

I’m currently trying to wrap up a pitch package to send off. I spent the evening slicing the project file into individual scenes to track my progress and reduce overwhelm.

NewGrounds is running their animation jams again this summer with the first deadline being the 27th. I like the Bad Dream theme but I’m not sure I’ll have time to enter. Right now I need to focus on paying gigs and other proposals I’m working on.

Making Progress

  • On March 12, 2018 ·
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This is my second month of being in the new office. Things have been settling into place as I’ve been developing my daily routine. Currently I’ve been working on a pitch reel for my Bottled Spirits series, adapting the idea from my original short and adding elements from other episodes. I’ve been documenting it on my Instagram.

I’m aiming to finish it by the 21st. After that I’d like to work on pieces for my freelancing reel and other less time-sensitive pitches. I want to divide my time between animating and building up diverse revenue streams. Designing various prints, shirts, and fonts will be a nice mental break from the monotony of bigger projects.

Growing Pains

  • On February 6, 2018 ·
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Moving from my home studio to the new office has not been without it’s hiccups. Aside from my Brother scanner the heavy equipment’s been moved. I needed to install a Wifi card for my computer which turned into an all day adventure, especially after we lost the screws that came with it. I upgraded my RAM to 24GB to replace the two original sticks that went bad. Last night I thought my speakers weren’t working. Turns out powered USB hubs work best when you bother to plug them into the machine they’re supposed to be connected to. The last lingering issue is my second display. It’s an old HDTV I have running through an HDMI/Mini DisplayPort. In my studio I had it on the right side of my Cintiq which often resulted in craning my neck to see. Once I got it in the office the power cable we had needed it to be on the left. It powers on but my computer isn’t seeing it.

growing pains 80s GIF

growing pains 80s GIF. Source: Giphy.

Speaking of all day adventures, I needed to replace the battery in my car again. I was worried when it wouldn’t start this morning but fortunately after my dad came by we deduced I’d simply tripped the security feature. Once it started we looked for the ice scraper I’d used last night only to find it wasn’t there. Seeing snow on the passenger seat we figured my mom took it. I originally considered working in the home studio this morning but, upon seeing the weather forecast for more snow the rest of the week, I decided to make use of a clear day for an Ohio winter. It’s supposed to be in the 20s this week, which I can’t complain about because it’s been zero or below where my girlfriend lives.

All in all, though, having an office to work out of is proving to be a good thing. I’ve met a few of my neighbors who seem pretty nice. It’s fairly close to home. It’s quiet. I just need to bring some more of my studio trappings over in small loads so I’m not constantly feeling like I forgot something.

Moving House

  • On January 29, 2018 ·
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My home studio has been a real asset to me over the years. Having designated space for projects has helped keep home and work life somewhat separated. When marathoning sessions and crunching to get things finished it’s nice to be able to stay in pajamas. Next month, however, I’m moving most of my equipment to a new location where I’ll be sharing office space. I’ll keep a bare bones setup here but I’m looking forward to the new opportunities that will open up. There’s an energy you get from having others around. After college the closest I’ve come to capturing that sort of environment was my yearly trip to Calgary for the QuickDraw Animation Lockdown. “Networking” and “making connections” are buzzwords I’d like to abstain from but I am hoping to get to know new people, maybe make a few friends. That might result in future collaborations, finding somebody who can make use of what I bring to the table, or perhaps I’ll find someone who can help me out somehow.

via GIPHY

In my previous post I said I wanted to blog on Monday, Wednesday, Friday leaving Tuesday and Thursday for posting videos on my YouTube channel. I was hoping announcing plans would kick my butt into gear. Like all New Years mistakes it was overly hopeful, presupposing I was actually ready to start sharing content regularly. Since we’re nearing the end of January it’s time for a check in to see where I’m at and where things are headed based on what’s actually in front of me and not, like, holiday season fairy dust and magic, or whatever causes us all to expect ourselves to be somebody different after midnight.

YouTube Ad-Pocalypse: Partner Program Edition

For those not keeping score, YouTube have recently changed requirements for membership of their Partner Program. In order to be a monetized partner channels must now have 4,000 hours of watch time within the past 12 months and 1,000 subscribers by February 20th. This means a lot of smaller channels, such as mine, are going to lose the ability to monetize through YouTube’s AdSense system. I’m not exactly heart broken over this news as even the most successful channels cite AdSense as their lowest source of revenue. Ads only really make serious revenue with large audiences, being on the Internet causes ads to be worth significantly less than they are on traditional media, and honestly I’m conflicted about advertising in general.

Advertising is a reality of life and business. In order for cool things to run creators need to get paid. This usually means running ads. Except ads today are a pain. They take us away from the content we came to see. Advertisers that pay the best often have the most generic ads aimed at the widest audience possible which results in a race to the middle. It also leaves creators beholden to their advertisers. YouTube’s ad money is very fickle. Back in 2012 Reply Girls exploited the algorithm and YouTube moved from favoring views to favoring watch time, making animators’ channels plummet in revenue. There’s also the broken content ID system, false flags, and a myriad of other problems with the platform. Still the fact remains the site is too big to leave.

I agree with Hank Green that no real competition for YouTube currently exists. If it did it would be dealing with the same issues any site of that size would. Services like Patreon and the recently relaunched Drip are going to be crucial if creators are ever going to move away from relying on ads for revenue.

Circling the conversation back, the partner changes impact me personally again in relation to Multichannel Networks, specifically my MCN the Channel Frederator Network. CFN found out about the changes at the same time the rest of us did. This left them scrambling to get things sorted for all of their members. If I’m unable to monetize my channel by the 20th, what’s my status with CFN and the tools/community it provides?

We are extremely proud to announce that although YouTube is disabling their partnership with some of you, we here at Channel Frederator consider you members in good standing. You will not be disabled from your partnership with us, you will still have access to our tools/platforms, and opportunities for growth to reach that threshold for monetization. This was decided on day one of this big change, a unanimous decision from all levels of management here at Frederator. We just needed to do some tweaking under the hood, and make sure that our dreams of still having you all with us can come true.

Below are some important notes we want to mention:

All members affected by Youtube’s new policy will still have access to the forums, all our tools, and opportunities while you’re still in contract with us.

After your contract ends, we will limit some of the services we offer until you’re able to monetize again.

For those who are interested, we’re dedicated to continue to help you reach the required 1K subs and 4K threshold. Then you’re more than welcome to be fully linked with us, and have access to everything!

I might not be the most active member of the community but I full-heartedly appreciate when they prove that “Frederator Loves You!” is more than a marketing slogan. I’ll be going into more details about plans and projects in future posts but I really want to take a moment and commend Channel Frederator on this. I planned on using their resources as I relaunch my channel with more regular content in 2018 and CFN have made me very proud to be partnered with them.

2018 – New Year, New Plans

  • On January 1, 2018 ·
  • By ·
I hope everybody had a happy holiday season. The New Year is traditionally a time of reflection, making resolutions, and then giving up on them by mid February when we’ve slid back into bad habits. I’m not much of a traditionalist but I do like the idea of setting markers for yourself. This is a good time to look back, figure out what went wrong over the course of 12 months, and to set goals for improving on the next dozen.

2017 in Review

What Went Right
Without a doubt the best thing to happen to me in 2017 was meeting my girlfriend. She’s been there to listen, to encourage, and to be a reminder that life is pretty awesome sometimes.
What Went Wrong
Nothing frustrates quite like wasted potential. As is common with ADHD I had a lot of good ideas but I enacted few of them. Some of it was lack of direction but a lot of it was insecurity. The perfect time to do something rarely ever makes itself available on its own accord. Instead it is up to us to shape our lives, to make opportunities happen, and to try our damnedest.

2018 Goals

Deadlines
Deadlines are something of a double-edged sword. They can bring on stress in a crunch. At the same time they’re a necessity when it comes to routine and staying on task. That’s why I’ve decided to start a Monday/Wednesday/Friday blogging regiment. I’m also relaunching my YouTube channel with a Tuesday/Thursday schedule where I’ll share each update on the blog, effectively posting five times a week.
Working Blocks
My plan for achieving this is to produce multiple chunks at a time. Rather than write one blog post I’ll write all three. Instead of one video I’ll make two or four at a time. This system is actually preferable for me because front loading frees up more room for working later. I get less burnt out when I’m bouncing between projects. It also makes it easier to plan things when I can see them in a week by week format.

I Didn’t Die

  • On November 20, 2017 ·
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A problem I often have is falling into loops. These are important to distinguish from routines. Loops are cyclical and keep you in a rut instead of progressing forward. A loop I regularly fall into is researching. You’ve probably heard “Perfect is the enemy of good” before, meaning it’s better to get a project out the door in an acceptable state than to toil on it perpetually without ever actually releasing it. When I was younger I was more likely to start something on a whim. Of course many of those never got completed as I didn’t fit them into my schedule. As I got older I sought to plan things out in advance, to weigh my options better before getting started. Unfortunately this also led to not getting started at all.

The thing about loops is they’re comforting. They’re familiar. When you don’t look up from the wheel as long as it’s turning you think you’re going somewhere. I realized in school that talking about subjects you don’t fully understand is a quick way to show your ignorance. This got me in the habit of researching and learning everything I can on a topic if I expect to be working with it in any real capacity. Partly because my undiagnosed ADHD would make it hard to concentrate in class so I knew I’d have to study on my own and partly because of the anxiety and fear I had of embarrassment from looking stupid. ADHD isn’t simply a lack of focus, either. Sometimes I would hyperfocus on things to the point of obsession. Other times I’d see something new to learn about and be unable to fulfill my responsibilities to an older subject. Repeating the cycle of studying is safe. I know what to expect and there aren’t any repercussions for it. Eventually, however, you need to stop doing what’s comfortable in order to progress.

The unknown can be scary. If you don’t have somebody to reassure you things will be fine it can be downright petrifying. I’ve found plenty of people in life who stay in their comfort zones. And you know what? I don’t judge them for it. It’s very easy to play armchair quarterback and tell others what they should do with their lives. But are you willing to go with them to do all the things they need to do to get there? Will you help them wade through confusing paperwork and legal jargon? Will you show them healthy habits and how to prepare themselves for a better life? Or is it easier and more comfortable to sit back and point out everybody else’s problems so nobody notices yours?

Fear and danger can be managed. Whenever I do something new I can be completely terrified but I always take time to recognize what I’ve done. When I’ve planned and gone on a trip, after I’ve gotten to my destination and rested, I tell myself, “Well, I didn’t die, so that’s good.” Is my brain listing every possible thing that could go wrong the entire time? Yes. Is my family reminding me of all of these while also making a few of their own up? Of course. But I didn’t die. The further out I go and the more relaxed I let myself become the more I see the good in what I’ve done. Then I’m reminded of the line by George Carlin, “So now you can move along to your next embarrassing moment… which is probably scheduled immediately.”

I’m still trying to figure out how I want to use this blog. What to write in it that doesn’t feel like I’m standing on the street with a bullhorn, what I’m trying to say, how to say it most effectively while still actually getting in the habit of doing it regularly. I do know I need to concentrate more on doing things and less on worrying where they go before I do them.

Status of the Blog 6/12/17

  • On June 12, 2017 ·
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YouTube Thumbnail for Moon Over My Monkey

Quickdraw Animation Lockdown 2017

I recently returned from a three week trip to Canada. Part of that was spent in Calgary at Quickdraw Animation Society participating in their annual Animation Lockdown. Over the Victoria Day long weekend teams worked on shorts loosely themed around Brave New Worlds. Here’s my entry, Moon Over My Monkey.

Lockdown is a fun event, even though you’re always under the pressure of a deadline. You learn a lot about yourself over a four day crunch to finish a film. I started attending last year as a getaway from my regular environment. A chance to join like-minded people as we toiled away in our respective studio spaces. As somebody with ADHD I have a love/hate relationship with structure. Left to my own devices I can get overly ambitious and fail to finish anything due to perfectionism. There’s no time for perfection with Lockdown. Even if you spend time beforehand prepping you still only have so long to finesse before the screening.

Retro Animation Website

Inspiration

The recent YouTube Ad-pocalypse has made me think back to earlier days on the Internet. Sites like Homestar Runner and JoeCartoon would feature animated cartoons that were entirely their own thing. Of course that was before Flash was a dead program walking. The Brothers Chaps have tested the waters with a comeback. Cousin Joe Twoshacks has a band now. Jazza did interviews with various Newgrounds animators in his The Tale Teller & Mini Documentary Series, particularly in part three, The RISE of INDEPENDENT ANIMATION.

He also made a video entitled The DEATH of Independent YOUTUBE ANIMATION? joining in the discussion of the future of indie animation on the platform. Can You Make A Career Out of Internet Animation? The Pegbarians Are Definitely Trying also brought about some passionate responses from those in the community. YouTube competitor vidme has been courting frustrated animators with their Original Animation category. I encourage all creators today to put their content everywhere. This increases your chances of being seen, of growing an audience, and hopefully makes it harder for freebooters to gain traction. That said, having your own domain to point back to is very important. At the end of the day you don’t own any of the other platforms you post on. It’s risky running a business on a system that’s out of your control. One change in an algorithm can dramatically impact people’s livelihoods over night. This need for stability and control, coupled with a desire to experiment, is why my next big project is going to be building my own site for my animations.

Laying the Groundwork

After using WordPress for ~10 years I’m eager for a little more flexibility. It’s tempting to just start making pages but I remember early in my webcomics career, after I’d built up something of an archive, “How am I going to change the footer on all these… Oh.” I spent some time researching and comparing various flat file CMS systems and at the moment have settled on Grav. I still need to experiment in my local environment but right now that’s what I’m going with. I’m also going to be testing Animatron to make HTML5 animations with interactivity that should work on mobile devices.

Month in Review – January 2017

  • On January 30, 2017 ·
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January 2017 is almost over. This is where a lot of new year’s resolutions fall apart. Rather than set a bunch of unrealistic arbitrary goals I want to use the calendar to track my progress at improving myself. Weekends are good for looking over the previous week and planning the one ahead. Each month a stretch on the marathon that is the year. I should start doing a proper monthly wrap up post in the future but for now I’ll keep this more informal.

This month was the soft relaunch of the blog. I spent a lot of time behind the scenes restructuring the site and I still have work to do. I built a local mockup thinking I’d start from scratch and eventually decided time would be better spent fixing what was broken. I declared my intent to blog twice a week and to restart my podcast. While doing this my microphone stopped being recognized and my sleep schedule went off the rails. I’m not making any excuses. I’m merely sharing how I lost control of my time and days in an attempt to stop myself from doing it in the future.

I forget which stand up comic this bit comes from, but when tired his body becomes inhabited by a personality known as Sleepy Dave. He’s not a bad guy but he’s also not a very good employee. When the alarm goes off in the morning, the responsible person gets up. Sleepy Dave goes, “Why get up when you can stay in bed and ski down a mountain of syrup with French toast sticks for skiis?!” I have my own Sleepy Dave. I plan things like a logical grown up. Then when it comes time to actually implement them a scared and sleepy child comes out who really needs an adult. These are both parts of my personality that I express differently at different times. I can tell myself I need to go to bed early if I want to get up at six the next morning. Actually communicating to the people I’m talking to that it’s my bedtime is an entirely different situation. I’ve had whole evenings swallowed up where I haven’t had time to think for myself until I’m in bed ready to fall asleep. The advice of, “Just tell them you’re going to bed,” is about as helpful as, “All you have to do to lose weight is exercise and don’t eat so much.” If it was really that easy we wouldn’t have entire industries devoted to it.

I’m naturally an introverted and non-confrontational person. Once I’ve talked to you for about an hour, I’m maxed out and need to recharge. There’s a range of responses to this depending on how well the person I’m with empathizes with me or picks up on hints. Some shrug it off like I’m joking. A few get bossy or guilt me for not doing what they want. Others try to distract and always seem to have one more thing they want to ask me about. Sometimes I’ll be talking with somebody I really like who I enjoy spending time with, conflicting what I want at the moment with what I should be doing. This creates a cycle where I’m not rested or thinking clearly so I can’t correct myself. When it’s already the season for early dark and you’re waking up after the sun has gone down all you can really do is try to right your ship the next morning.

Some people may think I sound like a coward for not sticking up for myself. It’s very easy to look at moments out of somebody else’s life out of context and blame them for their problems. It’s much harder to actually listen and provide useful advice. The fact is I have stood up for myself on many occasions. But when others don’t listen to you, gaslight your words to make you second guess yourself, and when it happens regularly enough when you’re exhausted you get worn down. I’ve called my dad, agreed to meet him the next day at noon or one for lunch, and he’s shown up at more door at nine in the morning ready to go out. My mom still doesn’t understand that sometimes I’m open to talking and other times I need to have quiet. I’ve taken to wearing my headphones while out, even though I know it can seem rude, because I need to be able to step back before I have a panic attack. This is the reality of my situation right now. I love my family and friends but they don’t always listen to me or pick up on my social cues. To combat this I’m scheduling my devices to be in Do No Disturb mode during work hours. This may make it harder for some folks to contact me but I need to regain control of my own schedule.

Ultimately I need to have time to myself to think. This last month I kept finding myself on the night before something (if I was lucky) trying to even sort out what I wanted to do. That is not how I want to work. I can’t be pulling all nighters every night for everything. I’ve tried setting hard and fast rules only to frustrate myself when I can’t meet them. The key is going to be getting myself enough rest, quiet time, and keeping myself out of situations where others can have power over my decisions. I see confrontations in my future as people wonder where I’ve been, but not answering my phone when I’m unavailable is less awkward than being put on the spot when I do answer.

Plans for February include more regular blogging, new podcasts now that I’ve replaced my mic, and I’m going to try posting animation on Twitter. I’d like to experiment in the 30 second to two minute range and Twitter sounds like the best place to roll that out without fiddling with square aspect ratios, portrait mode, or any silly restraints other sites with video (remember Vine?) impose. I have fan projects I want to work on as well but I can’t share the content from those until they’re done so Twitter video experiments are a nice regular thing to work on and share. I’d really like the month to be more about structure and routine. I didn’t spend much of January drawing at all. Every time I opened an art program I felt out of practice. My therapist and I worked out some affirmations I’m going to be repeating to myself regularly about permitting myself to work, feeling capable in what I can do, and not letting the negative things that have creeped into my head push me around anymore.