Monday, August 31, 2009

The Streisand Effect

In the late 1990s, an officer in the REO Speedwagon fan club got into a legal scuffle with the band.

Like other bands and performers, REO took to the Internet to meet their fans, and sometimes didn't like what they saw and heard. Just as fans and other strangers got into conflicts, so did the performers themselves. According to a number of sources (some of which I saw with my own eyes at the time) members of the band posted comments in open forums that this lady considered derogatory.

When most fans are confronted by the artists they admire - and "confronted" can mean anything from an insulting joke to legal action - they usually run and hide. They either drop out of sight altogether, or find another safe place to vent their frustration over the event.

This lady didn't run or hide.

She sued. She got a lawyer and filed suit claiming defamation of character.

After they got up off the ground, REO Speedwagon and their representatives quickly moved to settle.

They blinked. They caved. In practical terms, the plaintiff WON! Without so much as a deposition, let alone a trial!

(Sources that are still available on the internet:
Many more details were available on fan boards run by AOL but are now gone.)

In the 1980s, lawsuits intended to "just shut someone up and make them go away" by burying them in paperwork and legal fees became so common they got their own name: SLAPP suits. They were originally conceived to silence critics of local government but, as usual with the legal system, private entities got involved in the fun. With the explosion of the Internet, legal wrangling became the norm as information could fly faster and do more damage (or benefit, based your POV) if it wasn't squashed quickly.

But it stopped working. People like the lady described above stopped accepting what they and their attorneys deemed strong-arm tactics. Since it was silence the plaintiff valued most, the target gave them the opposite: publicize the complaint or issue even more - let it go viral. Then all of the legal action in the world couldn't take it back. Then legislation came along (antiSLAPP) to prevent the suits or punish them.

One of the most famous in the USA was Streisand v. Adelman et al., in California Superior Court; Case SC077257. In short, a photographer documenting coastal erosion in California captured some property belonging to Barbara Streisand. She called every lawyer she knew and slammed the company with as much legal power as she could muster. She had good reason to be concerned: for performers of that level of visibility privacy = security. But the photographer and his company had a genuine interest in the photos and they fought back. The legal firefight generated so much publicity that the photos were more widely viewed than if Babs had kept her mouth shut and put velvet mittens on the attorneys' paws. Hence, a failed attempt to use legal action to suppress information is called, "The Streisand Effect".

Artists' representatives have a difficult row to hoe when deciding how to protect their clients' interests.

The traditional legal threats usually work, but you can screw yourself royally if you run across that ONE fan or other person who is not only not intimidated by such action, but they consider a threat a clarion call to defend themselves and they just happen to have a salivating attorney warming up in the bullpen.

Then you also have the speed of the Internet. Information almost moves faster than thought. If someone feels wronged, they will find support somewhere. Whether their actions are legally defensible or not is immaterial to the public learning of the conflict. Even the most hated person in the world can find friends on the Internet to come to their aid. Lawyers can't stop that. If they try, their actions will only spread what they want silenced to a broader audience.

Worst of all, the loudest voice wins and the public loves an underdog. If the public perceives the poor, widdle fan is being bullied by the big, nastybad lawyers, they will get public sympathy. Even if the lawyers have the more defensible position. God help the complainant if a judge thinks they're going the SLAPP route.

Artists or any party with a legitimate beef with someone are going to have to get more creative in protecting copyrights if they want material to disappear. First, if you have to get legal assistance, make sure you're in the right. For example, if you want someone to take videos or photos off of a public website claiming copyright infringement, you have to say so the nanosecond you become aware of it. If the respondent can show that you tolerated the content being posted for any length of time, they can claim that your consent is implied and your case is a house of cards in a hurricane.

Second, approach counts for a lot. Nuclear blasts have to be a last resort. Otherwise, your target will blast that content all over creation. So much for privacy and other "rights". Part of the "cease and desist" demand has to be persuasion. Force will backfire. The attorney has to be subtle enough to bring your target around to your way of thinking. Then your privacy and intellectual/creative rights will be worth something.

Only the parties involved know for sure who is in the right in their conflict. But being right doesn't amount to a hill of beans if care isn't taken in solving it. Or in the damage control if all attempts at care fail. If your reputation for being a bully precedes you, there's more damage to control.

I'll bet there's a lot more people looking at photos and videos wherever they can find them these days.... Bet somebody didn't want that to happen....

(No, I am not an attorney, however many of my friends, neighbors, relatives, sorority sisters, and business clients are - including entertainment - and they provided the background for tonight's schpiel.)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

And I'm All Out of Bubble Gum

If you collect Barry videos, keep it to yourself. Don't use the Internet. I would even think twice about having fellow fans over to watch the same DVD at one sitting in your own home. Otherwise, this is what may happen. Can you guess who Roddy Piper is in ManiLand context?

Like it or not, artists and their representatives have every right on the planet to restrict distribution of their music, video, or whatever work they create. Unfortunately, some representatives don't know any other form of communication than the stereotypical ham fist.

Do you use a Howitzer to swat a fly?


Do local police drop a nuclear bomb on a guy who gets stopped for speeding?


Do little kids bring The Big E to the local pool when they play Chicken or Marco Polo?


Do fans who are admittedly naive about the grey shades of copyright law get threatened by a team of lawyers within an inch of their lives when a simple email stating, "Please take such-and-such down if you care about Barry" would get the same result without collateral damage?


Artists and representatives have taken pot shots at their own fans even before the Internet hit the fan around 1995. It always amazed me that somehow the minute anyone gets into this industry, the lessons learned at their mothers' knees were forgotten. You know, the one that says "You get more flies with honey than with vinegar"? Here's what happens when you start "making examples" out of fans:

  • Some fans will not buy what you're promoting. Like, say as a purely hypothetical example, a streaming video station on your website.
  • Fans will start fighting. Fighting fans are not happy fans. Unhappy fans don't spend money.
  • The fan base fractures. Broken fan bases don't buy concert tickets. Or plane fare. Or DVDS. Or CDs. Or anything else.

The acts that I know who have followed the above path used to sell out 20,000 seat arenas for days at a time. Now they're reduced to playing state fairs for general admission audiences with a dozen other acts on the docket. And they don't produce any new music anymore. That's what happens when you don't treat your fans with the same respect you would goddamn want for yourself.

You don't have to hold anyone's hand, or baby them. Try the simple approach first. If they tell you to fuck off, then you can crank up the nukes. No one would complain about that. This goes for the Network too. A few words of communication - a brief explanation for changes, even if it's something obvious to you - will go a long way toward good will. And future income.

No one is saying not to protect Barry's copyright interests. The wailing and gnashing of teeth is coming from the method, not the motivation. You may get your way but Barry will be the one to take the worst of the backlash.

Caitrin - it sucks that your site archive had to be removed. TPTB had every right to ask you to remove them. But the way they did it was totally uncalled for. Your intentions were nothing but positive. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

And people wonder why you can't find my name here. Yeesh.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Decisions, Decisions

First, there was talk about Barry moving to the Wynn Resort. Now the scuttlebutt is he's talking to Paris Las Vegas.

No one would blame him for bailing out on the Hilton. (They cancelled a month's worth of shows, the hotel is stuck in the dark ages since Star Trek: The Experience closed, current visitors claim they saw tumbleweeds rolling through the casino at their last visit, etc.)

So where should Barry go next? Take the officially unofficial poll on the right and post your comments here.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

That's Life

I watched Live at the Greek for the..... 20th or so time today, pulling together (more) notes for my retrospective. In my usual overanalyzing, I'm looking at bits that have been resurrected in later shows and tours, what got left behind, what worked, what was typical of a show of the mid/late 1970s and how things have changed. Wondering how many endangered polyesters died to make that blue leisure suit and whether adding the rhinestones was cruel and unusual. (There I said it! Someone had to!) Wondering why a man who is already 6 feet tall needs to wear shoes with heels. (Come on, that's funny! I had a really long day with TNLF and I'm really punchy so the inner smartass is asserting herself.)

And then it dawned on me - I am a very lucky lady to be able to focus my analysis on the music and performances without any bitter aftertaste associated with politics or bad encounters. No baggage at all.

Over the past few months so many fans in ManiLand have been disappointed, pissed off, or just mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. The Hilton cancelling a parade of shows was just the cherry on top of the sundae. The usual bitching and personality conflicts in whatever fan forum or community is usually enough to send anyone over the edge.

I wish all of you in that boat could see and feel how much I understand and how much my heart aches for you. I've been there. Oh, how I remember what that was like. You think you're in a safe place, you think you've made the transition from enjoying the fantasy to living with the reality, to whatever degree. Then all of a sudden you're sitting on a rocking horse drinking from the Firehose of Blunt Reality and all of your good feelings and memories blur into a fog.

Here's the reason: the whole thing is an illusion. Even the tangible bits that we fans have access to - fan clubs, memoribilia, photo ops, an invitation to dance, autographs - it's part of the carnival ride. You don't live on the ferris wheel in a real carnival but the fan experience seems more real than a ferris wheel. So you stay on and forget that the ride will eventually stop.

It's disorienting because you think you've been snookered. That your feelings were manipulated. Call me crazy but I don't think that's the case. For TPTB of any artist it never is personal. It's business. Business is not a four-letter word. You can buy into the product or service or not. You can complain about business practices, or take your business elsewhere.

It works when your head is in charge. If your head takes a break and you approach fandom only with your heart, it gets broken. Every time.

Now here's the other half of the dichotomy: the "show" is an illusion. But everything you brought to it is real. Your feelings and the emotions created by the experience are real, they're yours, and they can't be taken away. Whether it was the inconvenience of show changes and the like, or if someone decided to be an asshole to you in a bad moment it doesn't change how the music and past shows made you feel.

For me, recovering those feelings without the aftertaste took time. Some of the consequences, good and bad, were permanent. On the bad side, I don't spend much time on that artist anymore. On the good side, when the time was right I was able to "fall in love" with music and let it take me all kinds of new places again; and this time I had a better idea how to protect myself.

It seems that if you spend any serious amount of time and effort in a fan club or fan community, you're going to get burned. Just the nature of the beast. Enter at your own risk. A little caution (paranoia?) can prevent the worst of those injuries. That caution helps keep your head in charge of your heart, and your expectations managed. I chose to keep my name a secret. I've talked with folks at Stiletto and and none of them had any idea I was YBA. I've decided not to make any effort to meet Barry, ask for an autograph, etc. If the opportunity landed in my lap, I'd take it - I'm not stupid! But I learned long ago that the more effort you put into trying to meet someone, the greater the risk of disappointment. This way, there's no pressure on me or on Barry to be comfortable in an awkward or artificial situation.

Am I missing out on some incredible experiences? Probably. But what I keep is much more valuable - an untarnished love of the music that will last a lifetime. I love riding the ferris wheel but I never forget that the ride ends. That's OK. Just get back in line and take another ride.

To everyone out there who has gotten hurt in some way: I hope that time heals the wounds and in some time, and in some way, you rediscover the music that first swept you off your feet and you fall in love again.

Each time I find myself flat on my face
I pick myself up and get back in the race

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Counting Down to Manilow TV

Psssst. C'mere.

Manilow TV is almost ready to launch.

Wanna know how I know?
(Update 9/22/09: it's working folks! They're taking orders and will start transmitting in less than a week!)

Not taking subscriptions yet, something is definitely loaded but we can't see it yet. (Click some buttons and you'll see how things will work.

YBA bad, very bad.

To TPTB - hey, don't shoot the messenger! It was up, it was easy to find, it's in the search engines, not my fault. BTW, nice brushed metal logo, and very nice use of CSS. Tight code is good code. Way to go!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Live Long and Prosper

Dana Holland wrote another great review. Dana, love to read what you write and I get inspiration for my own reviews. (Like the one for Live at the Greek which I'm still working on. And working, and working, get the idea.)

Pictures included - have fun, and keep it coming, Dana!! MUAH!!

Oh god - he was dealing with the overflow crowds from a Trekkie con. At least he could hold his own with the big names appearing there. SciFi and media conventioneers are a breed and they take some getting used to.
(If you think I'm joking or exaggerating, check it out:
I've done this and other Creation-run cons - ears, TOS miniskirt and all - and the attendees are a performance in and of themselves. Was anyone in costume in the audience?? From Dana's POV it sounds like an easier room than the cement mixer convention he mentioned the last time I was in LV.

And dude - just leave the Vulcan salute alone. It's OK to not be a scifi fan but you can hurt yourself trying to do that finger thing if you're not used to it. ;-)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

One More Time!

I'm just one of those cautious types.
Anything I want the public to know is on the blog. There's too many of these out there.
Be careful out there, kids!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Clarification for those needing directions

The following is a YBA Public Service Announcement:

The post about the "Manilow World" and "Queen Bees" was posted on Sue's Manilow Blog

I did not compose this insightful thought.

Sue and YBA are not the same person.

(I'm good, but I'm not THAT good.)

If I want someone to know my identity, I will tell them. It's really not that interesting anyway. Nor is it useful.

Please continue to enjoy your Internet reading this lovely Sunday.

(To Qwerty Jones - I know you're back, I still think you're nuts, so don't get comfortable on this blog. There's nothing of value for you to find.)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Getting the Train Back on the Tracks

Can't add anything besides what Texas_Fanilow posted.

I hate hearing when audiences are animals or tech gremlins get a mind of their own, but restoring normalcy is always a relief.