Photography Ethics, Richard Prince And NFTs, Whatever The Hell They Are

NFT big

Since late last month, April 25 in fact, I have been periodically researching the topic of NFTs or “nonfungible tokens“. The damn things were back in the news yesterday when a digital-only photograph of supermodel Emily Ratajkowski standing in front of a photograph of herself with a smaller, different photograph of herself in the corner sold at auction at Christie’s for $140,000 ($175,000 after fees). Here’s Yahoo!’s description:

It’s not that the photo can be seen only by the buyer or even that the buyer can physically mount it in a frame (though one supposes the buyer could project it on a wall or screen and put a frame around the projection); it’s that the equivalent of the certificate verifying the authenticity of the digital file of the main photo is unique. It’s really the certificate that cannot be replaced exactly by a copy….NFTs have recently enjoyed a heyday. Nonfungible.com, which tracks such sales, shows massive spikes through the first quarter of 2021 over the last quarter of 2020, with sales volume reportedly in the range of $2 billion already this year.

Right. I can read that over and over, and it still makes no sense. As far as I can tell, these are like digital tulip bulbs from the Dutch tulip craze crossed with cyber-currency, and people who have so much money they don’t know what to do with it are buying what amounts to metadata as investments. But I may be completely wrong. I eventually gave up on trying to understand NFTs when my sock drawer started looking taking to me.

There is are underlying ethics issues, however. Ratajkowski created her NFT in part to troll Richard Prince, a photographer who has exploited the blurry ethics and copyright laws involving photography to make a lot of money and to infuriate many people, especially celebrities like Ratajkowski. Prince is the master of the digital age of Appropriation Art. When Andy Warhol essentially copied the design of a Campbell’s Tomato Soup can and made millions from it, that was the beginning of the trail of metaphorical bread crumbs that led to Prince. Thousands of photographs are placed online every day and appear all over the web, to be copied and re-used in on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and many other cyber-spaces. It is often impossible to track down the original photograph or its source even if one wants to give it attribution or ask permission to use it from the creator—this is something I do know something about, as I deal with it every day. Taking an individual’s image, however, treating it as one’s own and selling it is widely regarded a breach of photography ethics, and arguably a breach of law. “Fine Art,” however, creates a large loophole, and in the loophole dwells the much despised Richard Prince.

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Observations And Questions About The Weirdest Political Photo Ever…

Carters and Bidens

Once again I have to say, “I don’t understand this AT ALL.”

The photo didn’t come from the Babylon Bee, it came from the Carter Center, which was not hacked. The place really did send out this ridiculous photo that makes Joe Biden look like Andre the Giant, Rosalynn Carter look like Lily Tomlin playing “Edith Ann” on “Laugh-in,” Dr. Biden look like she’s remaking “Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman” and the former President look like Dorf.

1. What idiot at the Carter Center didn’t pick up on the fact that the photo made the Center’s scions look like dolls? How hard is that? Is this fool still employed? Does he or she secretly hate the Carters? “We’re pleased to share this wonderful photo from the @POTUS and @FLOTUS visit to see the Carters in Plains, Ga.!” the Center’s tweet said. “Wonderful”? It’s an incompetent photo.

2. What allged photographer took that monstrosity? Who approved and released it? Who are these incompetent employees?

3. No masks? No masks inside within inches of two high risk seniors in their Nineties?

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Pre-Weekend Ethics Prep, 3/5/2021: Obama Disses Pete, John Defends The Redcoats, Harvard Beats Crump, And Zoom Strikes Again

Massacre-jpg

1. Today this post, from two years ago, is suddenly getting a lot of views. The reason: there was a resolution of the long-shot law suit by the descendants of two slaves in photographs owned by Harvard University. The slave’s descendant, Tamara Lanier, had employed Benjamin Crump, legal race-hustler without peer, to sue on the Hail Mary theory that

“the images are the “spoils of theft,” because as slaves Renty and Delia were unable to give consent to being photographed., and that Harvard is illegally profiting from the images by using them for “advertising and commercial purposes.” By keeping the photos, the lawsuit claims, Harvard has perpetuated the hallmarks of slavery that prevented African-Americans from holding, conveying or inheriting personal property.”

Sure, Ben….from the post:

“Harvard and other universities set themselves up for this by caving to historical airbrushing demands by the students they have helped indoctrinate, such as when Georgetown University established a policy giving an edge  in admissions to descendants of slaves who were sold to fund the school. I would say they have this coming and let them sleep on the bed of nails their laziness and cowardice have made, but therein lies a real danger. Harvard, which of late has been devising and defending one bad progressive idea after another (like discriminating against Asian Americans as Harvard’s own way of helping African Americans get admitted to the college), might just decide to be woke rather than responsible, and let Mrs. Lanier take the photos, thus setting a precedent with endless potential to cause havoc.”

Justice Camille F. Sarrouf of Middlesex County Superior Court this week acknowledged that the daguerreotypes had been taken under “horrific circumstances” but said that if the enslaved subjects, Renty and Delia, did not own the images when they were made in 1850, then their descendant who brought the lawsuit, Tamara Lanier, did not own them either.

Duh.

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“What’s Going On Here?”: The Rasmussen “Production Error”

What the hell?

In 2016 around this time I took Ethics Alarms to the woodshed for using unflattering photos of Hillary Clinton, like these.

It’s a dirty trick, essentially. Photos capture a split second of life and falsify it by freezing it forever. The news media has been using this tactic against Donald Trump with wild abandon, having essentially given up any pretense of fairness and objectivity. However, the Rasmussen graphic above wasn’t a photograph, and it was employed by the supposedly conservative-leaning polling service. Yet it could have been designed by the Democratic National Committee at its most nasty, portraying the President as a snarling, vicious threat, and Joe Biden as a calm and professional statesman.

Rasmussen was quick with a retraction that raised more questions that it answered:

  • Why did Rasmussen have the snarling Trump graphic at all?
  • What kind of “production error” would cause that?
  • If the company is so careless with its tweets, what else is it careless about?
  • Was a “rogue employee” the culprit? Again, this does not speak well for the company’s management, trustworthiness or culture.
  • Any organization that sends out tweets without a vetting and review process is incompetent. Yes, that includes the White House. Especially the White House.
  • Is Rasmussen really blaming the social media criticism of its botch? Or Trump supporters who have seen enough flagrant anti-Trump bias for a lifetime, and who expressed their anger at this example? The company needs to apologize, not blame the victims of its own system breakdown  ineptitude.

________________________________

Pointer: Althouse

You Have The Floor In Another Open Forum, With Some Preliminary Opening Observations

I’m going to open up the floor to comments on whatever you want to talk about, ethics-wise. This day looks chaotic for me, beginning with an interment of a dear friend at Arlington National Cemetery. I’ll visit mom and dad while I’m there…

Let me append a footnote. Althouse, who lives in Madison, directs readers to this article: “Two women arrested in beating of state Sen. Tim Carpenter during night of protests in Madison.” I remember the incident and the frightening video. From the article,

Police arrested Samantha R. Hamer, 26, and Kerida E. O’Reilly, 33, on suspicion of being parties to the crimes of substantial battery and robbery with use of force. They were both in custody Monday night, according to online records from the Dane County jail.

He fell to the ground after he was punched and about 10 people hit and kicked him, one witness told police. Stunned, Carpenter told them he was an ally and had long fought for the kinds of policies they were seeking.

Paramedics treated him but he declined to go to the hospital that night. A week later, he said he had surgery in St. Francis for injuries he suffered during the attack.

Observations:

  • I have to believe that sooner or later the cognitive dissonance scale will work its silent magic, to the advantage of Republicans and the detriment of Democrats. These are ugly, scary people who are behind the rioting and statue-toppling, and the classic types that have fueled totalitarian take-overs throughout history (Yesterday was the anniversary of the revolutionaries turning on Robespierre.).

Yet Democratic leaders are fearfully giving them their seals of approval.

  • Not for the first time, I’m wondering if it’s fair to publish mug shots. Professor Turley is addicted to them, but they  encourage people to judge others by their appearances, and publicizing an individual’s appearance at a time when they can’t possibly be at their best seems gratuitously cruel. The photos of the two arrested women…

…prompted lots of mockery among Althouse’s commentariat, most of whom resorted to stereotyping

What the President said, in response to a question about the incident, was, “The person they beat up was a Democrat who happened to be gay and he was probably out there rooting them on or something because Democrats think it’s wonderful they’re destroying our country.”

Typical “fact-check.” This kind of dishonesty has been going on for almost four years, but I’m sure that Washington Post will add it to its “lie list.”  The state senator is gay and is a Democrat. Saying what he was “probably” doing is not a “claim” but an opinion, and based on Carpenter’s own protestation, it’s probably an accurate one. By the basic rules of English, there is no way one can fairly say that the President “falsely claimed” that Carpenter was rooting the statue-topplers on.

That’s enough from me.

“Over to you, Clarence…”

No, Eva Murry’s Icky Story About Joe Biden Doesn’t Make Tara Reade’s Accusation More Credible [UPDATED!]

Cool your jets, conservative media.

Two days ago, Law and Crime, usually a partisan website on the Democratic side, posted the detailed allegation of Eva Murry, a 26-year-old woman who is engaged and has two children. The site treated it as a major scoop (“A woman says she was sexually harassed by presumptive Democratic Party Presidential nominee Joe Biden when she was 14 years old”) and the conservative news media picked up the ball and ran for the metaphorical goal-line. Fox News wrote, “A woman related to a former Republican Senate candidate is accusing former Vice President Joe Biden of sexual harassment…The claim comes as Biden is denying a separate allegation made by former staffer Tara Reade that he sexually assaulted her in 1993.” Further down the food chain—much further— the Trump-boosting blog WS sported the headline, “Report: Another Biden Accuser Comes Forward, Says He Sexually Harassed Her When She Was Only 14-Years-Old,” and began, “Yet another Biden accuser has come forward with a disgusting story of sexual harassment.”

Eva Murry’s account has absolutely no relevance to Tara Reade’s allegations of sexual assault. None. It should not be treated as if it does.

In an earlier post, I listed the three reasons why I am dubious of Reade’s accusation. The first is that she took so long to make her accusation public, a problem she shares with Dr. Blasey Ford and Anita Hill, among others. Second, the accusation looks and feels like a politically-motivated attack, another feature redolent of Hill and Ford. Third, such accusations are always suspect when they are alone.

It’s still alone. Murry’s story is the kind of “this guy is a creep” tale that came from all sides at Donald Trump during the Presidential campaign. We know Biden is a creep, or should; it doesn’t provide any reason to believe he is capable of sexual assault no matter how hard his adversaries try to spin it. Continue reading

Sunday Ethics Hymnal, 2/23/2020: Bernie Freakouts, And Other Amusing And Unsettling Ethics Phenomenon

It’s a glorious Sunday in Alexandria!

I hope you have the same good fortune wherever you are…

1. What a fun season the Astros are facing...Yesterday, in their first Spring Training game, the Houston Astros were booed by their own “home” fans in West Palm Beach, Florida. They will have an overhwelming amount of pressure on them this year in addition to being  pariahs in every ballpark in te American League. If they don’t win their division again, or approach the 100+ wins the team has amassed ever season since 2017,  the narrative will be that tis proves that it was the team’s cheating, not its superior talent, that had made them champions. Of course that will be a false conclusion, since there are many factors that could diminish the Astros in 2020, such as the loss of their best pitcher, Gerrit Cole, to free agency.

There were other ethically dubious moves by the Astros yesterday. Although teams are required by an MLB directive to include at least some team regulars in Spring Training games, since spectators are paying substantial amounts to attend, manager Dusty Baker had only minor leaguers in the line-up, apparently wanting to delay and minimize the fan abuse heaped on his team. Thus a line-up of players who had absolutly nothing to do with the sign-stealing that marred the Astros’ 2017 season and World Series victory absorbed the anger of the fans intended for the no-shows.

Meanwhile, ball park personnel confiscated signs brought by some fans to express their disapproval. The signs weren’t obscene or vulgar, just critical, like “Houston” with an asterisk,  implying that the Astros’ 2017 World Series title would be forever blemished by the team’s cheating. That sign is telling the undeniable truth.

Can’t have that.

2. Now here’s an old tradition that does not need to be revived...

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/4/2020: Meltdown In Iowa Edition [CORRECTED]

Good Morning!

As I write this, there are still no final results from the Iowa Caucuses. The cause seems to be some faulty software and generally poor planning by the Iowa Democrats, resulting in chaos. There is a lot of schadenfreude going on at the conservative websites, and it is unseemly. Much as the Democrats deserve to fall on their faces, this is botched democracy in action, and nobody should be gloating about it.  It’s unfair to all of the campaign workers and supporters of the various candidates—even though the supporters of some candidates should hide their heads under a bag—and chaos in the process serves nobody’s interests. What are the odds President Trump sends out a mocking tweet about it this morning?

Here’s Nate Silver explaining what a catastrophe this is for Democrats.

The bon mot turning up in comment sections and social media over and over again last night was “The Democrats can’t handle a caucus, and they want to run the whole country?”

Until the real vote totals are in  it’s all speculation, but it looks like Joe Biden crashed and burned, with his vote totals missing the 15% threshold required to win any delegates.

1. Pete being Pete. Remember what the Ethics Alarms verdict was on Pete Buttigieg a while back? It stands. Mayor Buttigieg declared himself the winner before any useful vote totals were in. Mediaite: “All this dumpster fire of an Iowa caucus was missing was a candidate who declared victory without a single vote being reported. But shortly after midnight eastern on Tuesday morning, Mayor Pete put the cherry on top of this hideous sundae with a confounding speech in which he seemed to proclaim himself the winner.” He has been sharply criticized by just about everybody, and deserves to be. It’s a jerk move.

Meanwhile, the Sanders camp, remembering the underhanded treatment he received from the DNC in 2016, is suggesting that this may all be a plot by the Democratic Dark lords to rob him of a big victory and the proverbial “Iowa Bounce.” I don’t blame them.

2. Stop making me defend Joe Biden! Biden is getting “Ew!’s and “Ick!”s as a result of this photo..

..taken when he gave his 19-year-old granddaughter s peck on the lips during an Iowa rally. Granted, this wouldn’t be an issue if Joe didn’t have a well-deserved reputation for  inappropriate public behavior with women and girls, but this is one of the best examples I have ever seen of how a photograph, contrary to the old saying, can and do lie. The kiss lasted a nanosecond, but the photo makes it look like Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway in “The Thomas Crown Affair.” Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/4/2019: “Is We Getting Dummer?”* Edition.

The old Simon and Garfunkle song accurately describes when I woke up this morning…

1. I think that settles it. I’m going to flush myself down the toilet...Yesterday, an educated, adult woman of my acquaintance told her Facebook friends about her terrible treatment by Alamo Rental Cars. When a FBF responded with a refeence to Santa Anna, she replied, “???” Yes, she had no idea what “Alamo” referred to. This speaks to a catastrophic failure of the American education system.

On the bright side,  ignorant citizens are the target audience of many of the highest polling Democratic candidates for President.

2. Ethics Hero: Whoopi Goldberg? On ABC’s “The View,” a show that relentlessly lowers the IQ of anyone who watches it for more than 5 minutes, co-host Whoopi Goldberg began the first show of the new season to condemn efforts in actors in Hollywood to  blacklist conservatives and Trump supporters, a practice encouraged by tweets from   “Will and Grace”  stars  Debra Messing and  Eric McCormack over the weekend. After some back and forth with the assorted idiots who share the panel with her, Whoopi said,

Listen, last time people did this, people ended up killing themselves. This is not a good idea, okay? Your idea of who you don’t want to work with is your personal business. Do not encourage people to print out lists because the next list that comes out, your name will be on and then people will be coming after you. No one — nobody — we had something called a blacklist and a lot of really good people were accused of stuff. Nobody cared whether it was true or not. They were accused. And they lost their right to work. You don’t have the right in this country. People can vote for who they want to. That is one of the great rights of this country. You don’t have to like it, but we don’t — we don’t go after people because we don’t like who they voted for. We don’t go after them that way. We can talk about issues and stuff but we don’t print out lists, and I’m sure you guys misspoke when you said that because you — it sounded like a good idea. Think about it. Read about it. Remember what the blacklist actually meant to people, and don’t encourage anyone, anyone to do it!

I wonder how many people who don’t know about the Alamo know about the blacklist? Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/15/2019: Starring Two Of My Favorite Unethical Websites!

WAKE UP!

Oh, great: started this post at 7 am, hell broke lose at ProEthics, and now it’s after noon. Well, the hell with it: I’m not going back to change the headline or the intro, and I like Lenny’s version of the Stars and Stripes at any time of day.

So there.

1. Unprofessional and dangerous stuff from  Above the Law….as usual. The legal gossip and snark online tabloid is run and written by lawyers who are not practicing law, so they feel free to engage in conduct that lawyers are forbidden from engaging in, like misrepresentation.  Lately the cyber rag has been cyber-ragging on Jones Day, a long-time, distinguished D.C. mega firm. Why are they doing that? Come on, it should be obvious.

ATL takes the position—and it has company— that Jones Day is eeeevil and must be shunned because it represents the Trump campaign. Hence you get headlines like “IF YOU HAD TO GUESS WHICH FIRM WOULD DO THIS:New allegations claim Jones Day lightened the skin and narrowed the nose on the picture of one of their lawyers.” Continue reading