Phantom The Pirate Purring Moggy

I’ve had a small, self-imposed hiatus from blogging recently. Nothing untoward. Just pursuing other equally important stuff. But there is nothing like coming across a piece of total absurdity to shake off lethargy and get you hitting the keyboard again.

There is a small moggy called Phantom to thank for getting me out of the blocks. And I thank his owner. I will try my best to keep any puns to a minimum. Now, I know online piracy of copyrighted material is a big issue, and big companies don’t like it. There’s been a significant court case in Australia recently on internet piracy that initially delivered a judgment going one way and then, on appeal, another judgment that went the other way. But that is another story. What I am talking about here, in the case of Phantom, should be called online piracy of the ridiculous.

This story began about a year ago when Phantom’s owner, a YouTube user called Digihaven tried to do us all a favour. He wanted to acknowledge the calming, soothing, not to mention meditative qualities of cat purring. So Digihaven uploaded an hour long looped video of Phantom, his cat, doing just that. Purring. Softly. The video was called “Cat Purr 1 Hour Relax, Study,Sleep.”

So I guess you are wondering how in the name of Christ could this find its way to being a case of copyright infringement? Me too. But wait. There’s more.

Digihaven’s video did modest business compared to some cat videos. It amassed around 25 hundred hits but it was monetized so potentially it could earn revenue for Digihaven under YouTube’s Content ID system.

For those who might not be aware of the YouTube Content ID system, this is how it works. Anyone who uploads a video can potentially leverage it to make money by ticking the monetizing tab. But you have to own the copyright on all of the material in the video, including any music or sound used. It’s designed to keep everyone honest. YouTube’s system is built to look for evidence of copyright infringement, and stop people making money from uploading other people’s songs and films. The automated program scans videos and matches their soundtracks to existing songs — if they’re too similar to something on its database, it stops uploaders from making money from the posts.

Week in, week out, automated bots detect and report millions of alleged copyright infringements, which are then processed by the receiving site without a human ever looking at them.

Unfortunately this process is far from flawless, resulting in many false and inaccurate copyright infringement claims. Just to give you more of an idea, the system is similar to what YouTube installed to detect pornographic videos which went horribly wrong when it was revealed that uploaders were by passing the system by using Gaelic Irish language titles for porn films. Is it just me who finds this particularly hilarious? Talk about an Irish joke.

So, getting back to the story of Phantom, the purring moggy. Almost a year after Phantom’s video was posted by Digihaven, the cat’s owner was informed by YouTube that Phantom is a “pirate” purring moggy. No I am not joking. Apparently, it was claimed that part of the video belongs to EMI Music Publishing and PRS, who happen to be two of the world’s biggest music publishing companies.

In its copyright notice sent to Digihaven, YouTube says the cat purring was flagged by its Content ID system as infringing a copy of a musical composition called “Focus.”

The video was not removed by the false claim, but according to Digihaven, monetization was disabled. I am happy to report he won’t be forced into bankruptcy due to the loss of income.

“I’m sure EMI/PRS made Phantom a sad kitty,” Dighaven was heard to say.

But the story doesn’t end here. Not on your life. Or in this case all nine of them. Digihaven was just sharpening Phantom’s claws for a catfight with YouTube and the two music publishing giants who seemingly have nothing better to do.

Hoping to clear his cat’s name, Digihaven filed a dispute. I am also happy to say sanity prevailed with EMI agreeing to lift its claim of copyright infringement.

And while we all might contemplate how it even got this far, Phantom, meanwhile, is reportedly considering a career in the music business and looking for compensation.

“Phantom is currently independent, but looking to sign on with an indie label,” his owner Digihaven says. “ Phantom’s lawyer is looking for 4 kilos of catnip in damages.”

And so he should.

Karma Chameleon With A Happy Ending

I firmly believe there is such a thing as Karma. Maybe it doesn’t happen as often as it should or, as often as I would like, but it happens often enough. And when it does the results can be exquisite.

Social media had a big role to play in the Karma that I am talking about. I personally feel the jury is decidedly out on whether social media is a good thing, and a step in the right direction, from the point of view of the world we live in.. But in fairness, it can be a powerful force for doing good, when, and if, it makes that choice.

In the case I am going to tell you about, it chose to do good and for that social media deserves a five star rating.

By any kind of measurement In the cumuppence stakes, this will take some beating.

A group of car dealership workers at F & R auto sales, in the American State of Massachusetts, decided to order pizza. The delivery guy brought them their pizza. Let’s just pause the narrative for a bit of clarification. Most people, in the United States, understand the concept of paying a gratuity for good service. It is also a fact of life that people in service industries, like waiting tables and delivering pizza ,don’t get paid a lot for the job they do. So a few bucks, here and there by way of a tip, is going to help a lot in making ends meet. But someone forget to relay that important information to the employees at F & R auto sales in Westport.

Ok. The trouble began when F&R paid for a $42 pizza order with two $20 bills and two $5 bills. The denomination of the bills is important, and you’ll understand why very shortly. The delivery guy thought the payment was out of character enough to go to the trouble of actually asking if the change was intended to be change and not a tip. I mean why else would you pay $50, if no tip was intended? All they needed to do was give the delivery guy $45 and the intention would be crystal clear. I should point out, that his aspect of the story about the intended tip, is not confirmed by F&R, but the driver said it and F&R did not contradict him, so I think it’s safe to assume the Pizza delivery guy is telling the truth. In any case, after the delivery guy made his delivery, and after he was well on his way back to the pizza shop, F&R called his manager to complain that he’d “stolen” their change. Nice people. The pizza shop of course then told the delivery guy to turn around, drive back, and return their change, which is what he did and that is when the ‘fun’ started.

F & R decided to video the conversation when the Pizza delivery guy returned. They were going to have some fun at his expense and post the video results on social media. I am sure, in their delusional and misguided state of mind, they thought everyone else would see the ‘joke.’ This, was a big, big mistake. In fact, describing it as a big mistake really doesn’t do it justice. In the true spirit of Karma it came back to bite them on the bum, a mouthful the size of a small country.

Just to make it perfectly clear, the contents of the video conversation, posted online,  was confirmed as being accurate by all parties. No one is disputing that this is what happened. But before we go into the detail of what was said and done, there are two possibilities here: Firstly, F&R Auto Sales has a serious vendetta against the Pizza shop, or secondly, they constitute a very large collection of pointy headed individuals, or a combination of both.

It’s important to note that, as the driver says on the video, there was no logical reason to give him that extra $5 bill unless it was intended to be a tip; they owed him $42, gave him $45 in bills to reach that amount, then left an extra $5. But if you are dealing with people whose sole motivation is to bully and humiliate, it makes perfect sense. The extra $5 was a type of honey trap which they could then use as a justification for saying it was never intended to be a gratuity and quite frankly how could  the pizza delivery guy have the temerity to think otherwise?

On the video we see the delivery driver make this point to which one of the F & R employees replies in a typically passive aggressive threat so common among bullies :”So listen: The manager apologised once for you. Do you want him to apologize again for you?”

There’s a little bit more argument, none of it particularly heated, before the Pizza delivery guy finally says, “It’s OK, you got your $7, so the world is right now,” and heads out the door. But of course, in the world of vindictive, small mindedness, it is never right. You can never have enough ritual humiliation.

The F & R employees were not done. One of them, a female says : “Out the door before I put my foot in your ass.” Charming and so respectful. Then, another F&R employee proclaims, “Get the f….ing owner and the manager on the phone, I want that motherf…er’s job. I want him fired.”

To make matters worse, the F&R employee then proceeds to make good on his suggestion, calling the Pizza shop and complaining about the delivery driver. Fortunately, this is where the story starts to take a U turn in a positive way. The Pizza shop manager asked the delivery guy what had happened and ultimately took his side. Apparently, this wasn’t the first time the Pizza shop had issues with F&R auto sales. Why am I not surprised?

Then, F & R did something very, very stupid they have lived to regret. They posted the video online for the world to see. It would be fair to say they did not get the reaction they were expecting. The posts started coming: “The employees at F&R Auto Sales in Westport all deserve to get fired. Such scum I can’t even believe it.”

“How could you treat a Pizza guy like that? Congrats on ruining your business.”

And this: “ You think you have PR problems? Check out F and R Auto in Westport MA.”

The review pages for F & R auto sales on Yelp and Google were flooded with negative ratings. In fact such was the tirade of abuse, that F&R ultimately stopped answering their phones or responding to any contact requests on social media. Revenge truly is a dish best eaten cold. The owner of F&R (it’s unclear whether he was in the video, although I’m going to guess not) went to the Pizza shop and personally apologised. Like he had a choice. It was either that or kiss goodbye to his business.

It’s not immediately clear what happened to the F & R employees who orchestrated the incident. But if the owners of the used car yard were smart they would have fired the lot of them. It would be a step in the right direction. They might also want to consider making a huge donation to a worthy charity like pet rescue. ( My idea as an animal lover)

See? Thanks to the power of the internet and social media, sometimes these stories do have happy endings. More importantly, it confirms there is a thing called Karma. It may not always happen, but when it does, and you are on the receiving end, it ain’t pretty.

Who Is Bradley Manning?

A newspaper journalist recently wrote a piece with a headline that I thought was extremely thought provoking. It said who is Bradley Manning? and why should we care?

These are two questions that I happen to think are worth taking the time and the trouble to answer here on this blog.

So let me begin with the who question.

Bradley Manning is a private in the U.S. military. He was an intelligence analyst. I say was, because he faced a raft of extremely serious criminal charges for deliberately leaking quite a lot of what he saw and read while doing his job.

Maybe I am understating it just a tad.

In fact he was responsible for the biggest leak of intelligence information in US history.

Manning is a diminutive, nerdy, ordinary looking man with glasses who comes from a town nobody’s ever heard of in Oklahoma.  He has a lot of personal demons but is lucky to have a family that loves him.

He is also in prison for a very, very long time for what he has done.

Which brings me to the next question: Why should we care?

it might help by knowing precisely what Bradley Manning stands accused of in the leaking department.

He admitted to sending more than 470 thousand American Army battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, 250 thousand U.S. State Department diplomatic cables and a lot of other material including a number of battlefield video clips to the whistle-blowing website, Wikileaks, which later published most of them online.

Manning said at one point during a pre-trial hearing that his reason for deciding to leak the material was because he wanted to expose the military’s “bloodlust” and its complete disregard  for human life irrespective of whether they were friend or enemy.

He also wanted to expose what he described as American diplomatic deceit.

Manning said he deliberately chose information he believed would do no harm to the United States but might spark a public debate on foreign policy and the military.

Heavy duty stuff.

Ok.

The next question that needs to be asked: Was Bradley Manning justified in doing all of this?

And here’s where it gets interesting.

Manning is the source of the leak of the so called “Collateral Murder Video.”

This was a video shot in 2007, from a U.S. Apache helicopter that fired on a group of civilians in Baghdad killing nine people including a Reuters photographer and his driver. Apparently the geniuses flying the helicopter mistook cameras for grenade launchers.

And if that isn’t bad enough. The tapes also show soldiers firing on a van that stopped to rescue the injured. The van was carrying two children and their father. All three were killed.

Now this video was released by Manning in 2010 but it was shot in 2007. So why, you might ask, did it take so long to reach the public domain? The answer is because American Army officials tried to suppress it for obvious reasons. In fact the Army claimed to have lost the video.

Manning said he discovered the footage in a judge advocate’s directory. Other documents released by Manning included one concerning a U.S. air strike that killed 147 civilians.

Manning’s revelations included evidence that the U.S. military was paying money to Afghan news services to run stories that favoured the US. and that contractors working for the U.S. Department of Defence hired child prostitutes.

Manning was ultimately betrayed by a convicted computer hacker and then faced a multitude of charges including the extremely serious offence of aiding and abetting the enemy.

He is lucky he wasn’t facing the death penalty.

A judge acquitted him of that charge but Manning was been found guilty of many other charges which means a large portion of the rest of his life will be spent in prison.

Clearly the authorities in the United States want to make an example of him. I suspect partly for revenge but more importantly to act as a deterrent to anyone else who might be tempted to follow in Bradley Manning’s footsteps.

I’d like to throw in a couple of other important questions of my own:  Is he a traitor or a hero? A victim or a criminal? Does Bradley Manning deserve to have the book thrown at him? Well, does he?