McMansion Hell, Zillow and Intellectual Property
This past week, I have seen passionate posts online about the issue of the (very funny) McMansion Hell site being served with a Cease & Desist (and threatened lawsuit) by Zillow over using images without permission. First things, first- Zillow dropped the threats in exchange for MMH’s agreement to…well, Cease & Desist using Zillow’s photos in future posts.
The reasons I didn’t get worked up into a “Big Bad Company Threatens Little Blogger” lather over this were many:
- The threats seemed severe, but it is not the first time I have seen a company reacting severely to protect intellectual property. As we saw by the outcome, the C&D was the ask- I can’t imagine the appetite for anyone to go to court over this.
- Was MMH’s use of the photos fair use? Hard to say (and I’m not a lawyer. If you are, comment below). Parody tends to be protected speech, but does that mean you can take anyone’s photos for any parodic intent (meaning: MMH wasn’t making fun of Zillow here. But he, there’s an idea…)
- I am not 100% clear on Zillow’s ownership of the images in the first place. Bad would be if they steal the photos in the first place, but that’s unlikely. More likely is that they use photos from other sources through licensing and partnership agreements- that may limit re-use.
- My recent interactions with a Hollywood production company has given me a renewed respect for the lengths most media properties go to to make sure they have the rights to materials before using them.
I should repeat that what I read in the update is that Zillow got MMH to agree to stop using the photos. Sounds to me like Zillow was in the right here. Still, McMansion Hell is damn funny. You should go there for a laugh when they put the site back up.
*doublechecks Creative Commons licensing for images used in this post*
I Always Knew What Bugged Me About the New Cult of Mary Meeker- Now You Can, Too
For the last several years, Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers has presented an Internet Trends report that is as exhaustive and well-sourced as it is eye-gougingly ugly (it remains my greatest argument against subjecting people to PowerPoint if there is a better option). Witness this year’s:
I tend not to join the salivating packs of tech-savvy marketers in sharing this for several reasons:
- It’s what I do, which is not sharing things that everybody else is already sharing
- I ain’t got time for that
- I have a long memory of the Internet bubble bursting and those who suffered relatively little for it (more in a second)
That all said, “exhaustive” is not merely “exhausting,” but also well-sourced and full of useful information. However, going back to that last bullet, I remember Mary Meeker being one of the folks caught up in pumping Internet stocks that later cratered. OK, most of the stocks did, but people seem to have short memories; I still, when I hear her name, think first not of the trends report, but of the reviled Internet bubble cheerleader.
Leave it to my detail-oriented friend, Tom Webster, to find something in the Internet Trends Report that links the Mary Meeker I remember to the one who has been reborn from the ashes of many destroyed stock portfolios as a visionary. Tom noticed that many of the attributed sources, at least this year, are for Kleiner clients or other, to use a harsh term, compromised points of view. That’s not to say the information is bad, or that disclosure doesn’t exist somewhere in the 355(!!!) slides, but it does behoove us all, as the responsible audience, to consider the source of what you are reading, and adjust your outlook for potential bias.
Is Mary Meeker’s much-praised report a mere cover for client cheerleading? That would be hard to say. Alway be aware is all I am saying (or let Tom do the digging for us- thanks, Tom)
Influencer Marketing Council
Speaking of disclosures: hey, there’s an Influencer Marketing Council! It’s got big brands in it and it is no doubt spurned by a recent, more visible(ish) enforcement of online disclosure by the FTC. Will be interested to see where this goes.
Meanwhile, Instagram Ads Still Not Disclosed
I suspect “ignoring” disclosure rules will become a little less common, if only because we are noticing (and noting) the ignorance more. Is that a sound theory? I think so. I write too much about disclosure for my own taste, so that’s enough for now.
Delete Uber? Shut it Down? It’s Complicated
I have tended to stay away from the “#DeleteUber” activism merely because if I refused to do business with any company run by jerks, I would probably have to live in a cave (plus, I may not have had some of the jobs on my resume – heyooooo! #justkidding, former bosses). Also, I wouldn’t watch sports events put on by the NCAA, the NFL or FIFA, just to name a few other organizations with troubling background. That’s not enough not to have concern about any of those organizations, but we all decide where to draw the line for ourselves.
While the failings of Uber’s leadership are well-documented- from the abuses of privacy (or threatened abuses), to using technology to bamboozle regulators, to the seeming opportunism during the travel ban cab strike to the more disconcerting unearthing of the sexist “bro culture” torn open by a former female employee’s write- there are plenty of places to stop, say “enough!” and move on. I didn’t even get to the point that the no-benefits “gig economy” that has Uber playing poster-child, as well as concerns about driver background checks and the like. In fact, looking at that list, I feel a little shallow at not having joined the #deleteuber movement. Should I? Still, I stop short of boycott for reasons above, right or wrong.
A somewhat baffling call to Uber to “delete your company” is this article from the Harvard Business Review blog (side note: bonus points for this article being an actual HBR post from an actual HBR person, rather than one of the “HBR Yourself” articles where you have to fend for yourself in determining quality). Short version of the article: Uber’s business model (as well as Lyft’s) is based on an illegal premise. Point taken that regulation of cars and drivers is a huge point of concern, and that a lack of quality control can result in some dire consequences. That’s the point of regulatory fights in cities like Austin, and we’ll probably see more compromise from ride-sharing companies in these cases, not less.
The reason I shrug my shoulders at the “shut them down” solution while acknowledging the validity of many of the reason is the reason Uber and Lyft exist in the first place: the taxi system in most cities is broken. The expansiveness of medallions creates an indentured servant (or part-time, dare I say “gig” economy) throughout, and some companies are simply corrupt (is this Boston scenario played out in other cities? Your mileage may vary). This brings me back to the “is the alternative better? Maybe we insist on improvements in the already-better option” argument.
Judging a company. especially when placing its business and services against a larger industry backdrop, is complicated. That’s why I don’t #deleteuber.