Friday, September 25, 2015

"Monkey who took grinning 'selfie' should own copyright: U.S. lawsuit"

A follow-up from a previous VAOJ post. This story borrowed from MSN News.

A rare crested macaque monkey who snapped a well-known, grinning "selfie" should be declared the photo's owner and receive damages for copyright infringement after it was used in a wildlife book, animal rights activists argued in a federal lawsuit filed on Tuesday.

Naruto, a six-year-old macaque who lives free in the Tangkoko Reserve on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, took the image and several others about four years ago using a camera left unattended by British photographer David Slater, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said in the suit.

The so-called Monkey Selfies that resulted came from "a series of purposeful and voluntary actions by Naruto, unaided by Slater," said the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

"Naruto has the right to own and benefit from the copyright ... in the same manner and to the same extent as any other author," the suit said. (Link to 'selfie' published by PETA:

Slater told Reuters he felt "rather bemused" and persecuted by the lawsuit, which he said seemed to be a publicity stunt.

He said he was very disappointed not to have been contacted by PETA in advance, and described himself as a low-paid wildlife photographer who has been struggling to earn a living.

"I am sympathetic in my book for animals having rights to property in some circumstances, but in no way do I mean copyrights," Slater said in an e-mail.

"Their focus seems more aimed at making me out to be a criminal than someone who loves and respects and fights for animals. ... I have to wonder what are the true motives behind this attack on me," he wrote.

The lawsuit names Slater, his UK-based company Wildlife Personalities, and Blurb, Inc., a Delaware-based corporation which beginning last year published and sold for profit in the United States a book containing copies of the photos. Naruto's orange-eyed, beaming selfie is its front cover.

PETA said it was bringing the legal action on the monkey's behalf because he could not, "due to inaccessibility and incapacity," and that the court had jurisdiction because of the book sales made in the United States.

The Copyright Act of 1976 was "sufficiently broad ... to extend to any original work, including those created by Naruto," the group's complaint read.

Sulawesi crested macaques are critically endangered, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species.

Between 4,000 to 6,000 live on the island, and PETA said their numbers have decreased by about 90 percent in the last 25 years, mostly due to human encroachment on their rainforest homes.

PETA asked the court to declare Naruto the author and copyright owner of the photos, and to award the monkey damages.

It also sought a court order letting PETA and a noted primatologist, Dr. Antje Engelhardt of Georg-August University, Gottingen, Germany, administer Naruto's rights on condition that all proceeds be used solely for the benefit of him, his family and community, "including the preservation of their habitat."

A spokesman for Blurb, which describes itself as a self-publishing and marketing platform, said the company did not comment on pending litigation.


I wonder where the name Naruto comes from? And it seems David Slater did much to help the monkey - like supply the camera and make the prints...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Another reminder of when it gets on the internet, it's out of your hands... "On Instagram and Other Social Media, Redefining ‘User Engagement’"

See the whole article at The New York Times, 9/20/15.

Selected quotes:

Shereen Way did not think twice about posting a photo on Instagram of her 4-year-old daughter wearing a green dress and pink Crocs sandals.

Crocs, which Ms. Way had identified with a hashtag, pulled the snapshot from Instagram and featured it in a gallery of user-generated photographs on its website. The company had not asked Ms. Way for permission, and she was not aware that Crocs had used the photo until a reporter contacted her on Instagram.

“No one reached out to me,” Ms. Way, 37, of Pearl River, N.Y., said in a phone interview. “I feel a little weirded out.”

Much later, Crocs sought her permission.


But as the practice of promoting user-generated content has intensified, the intersection between brands trying to capitalize on social media activity and people’s expectations of some privacy (even as they post personal photos on public platforms like Instagram) has grown far more murky.


Clothing and retail brands say that featuring user-generated photos on their websites and in their Instagram feeds is an effective way to connect with consumers, who are increasingly skipping commercials, blocking online ads and generally ignoring anything that resembles traditional advertising. Taking photos from social media accounts is also often cheaper and faster than creating a traditional marketing campaign.


A spokeswoman for Olapic said in an email that brands do not always need to ask for permission to use a photo on their websites because users can give implied consent by tagging a company in their posts.

Privacy experts point to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or Coppa, which requires operators of websites and apps aimed at children to get “verifiable parental consent” before collecting information from children under the age of 13. The F.T.C., which enforces the rules, declined to comment.

“When a company obtains information about a child under the age of 13, however it’s obtained, Coppa kicks in,” said Marc Rotenberg, president of the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center. “Then the question is, ‘Did the parent consent to the use of the information by the company?’ ”

Adults also have rights to their photos. The person featured in a photo may own the publicity rights, which may give the individual control over the commercial use of his or her likeness, legal experts say. Broadly speaking, whoever takes a photo holds the copyright.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

More Images Added to East Asia Image Collection

Image borrowed from East Asia Image Collection.

Announcement from EASIANTH:

The East Asia Image Collection has uploaded 407 new records, bringing its total number of visual records of Imperial Japanese history (and the occupation of Japan) to 5823. This open-access digital archive consists of postcards, photographic negatives, rare books, karuta, and kodachrome slides of Taiwan, Manchukuo, China, Korea, the South Seas Islands, Karafuto and Indonesia.The images are searchable by title, place, name of artist, subject, and other tags. Titles are in Japanese and English, and in Korean or Chinese where appropriate.

Many of these records are commercial reproductions of Japanese paintings and drawings, usually executed in connection with imperial rule or wartime. I have also created a blog with lists of digital repositories, photo collections, bibliographies, and some essays about postcard history.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Abolition of Humanities and Social Sciences at National Universities in Japan

I have been aware of this horrifying development for a while. I recently came across the following post on EASIANTH (and cross-posted in many other sites:) that describes the situation in a clear and concise fashion. I was happy to find out it was written by my colleague, Paul Berry.

The Abe administration is directing the abolition of humanities and social sciences at National Universities in Japan.

Although the new Japanese secrecy laws, encouragement of international arms sales, promotion of international roles for Japanese military, the ianfu problems, and history issues have been getting most of the attention from the international press, equally important moves against aspects of Japanese universities have been little noted. Earlier this year Abe issued a directive that stripped faculty and faculty committees of any decision making powers. By this directive the Presidents of all universities, both public and private, have been given absolute decision making powers with any faculty input being strictly advisory. This was followed on June 8th of 2015 by the minister of education appointed by Abe directing the national university to abolish their undergraduate departments and graduate school programs in the humanities and the social sciences. (See note 1 below). Universities will be reviewed and those that do not comply have been threatened with unspecified cuts to their budgets and other punitive measures. On August 25th the Yomiuri Shinbun published the results of their own survey of Japanese national universities in this regard (see their article in note 2 below). Of the 60 national universities that have humanities and social science programs, 26 responded that they will abolish their programs commencing with not taking any new students in them in the coming year as part of a gradual phase out of the programs. Only 6 universities (including Tokyo Daigaku and Kyoto Daigaku) have openly refused to abolish their programs, while the others are still considering the situation. Art history, will of course, be one of the disciplines being abolished by the universities adopting the government position.

These changes are a part of the Abe administrations efforts to "improve" the state of Japanese education and make it more internationally competitive. These Orwellian measures are chillingly parallel to the relations of the State to the University in the 1930s. Given the massive changes that are being attempted it is almost quibbling to complain about the impact on art history yet this will affect all of us in the field, including our Japanese colleagues. It behooves us as individuals and perhaps in terms of organizations to formulate a response to these draconian changes. (see the editorial form Social Science Space, note 3 below)

I would hope that these events might serve as basis for discussion in JAHF and elsewhere.

Paul Berry, Kyoto


1 Humanities under attack AUG 23, 2015 Japan Times

2 August 25, 2015: 26 natl universities to abolish humanities, social sciences [The Yomiuri Shimbun]

3 Japan’s Education Ministry Says to Axe Social Science and Humanities
By Social Science Space | Published: August 25, 2015

Sunday, September 6, 2015

"京都のあきまへん ~AKIMAHEN of Kyoto~" // Manners for Tourists in Japan

Article from Japan Today, 9/6/15:

Kyoto creates infographic to show tourists how to visit politely

With thousands of temples, beautiful gardens, geisha and maiko (geisha-in-training), and more history than you can shake an encyclopedia at, Kyoto is the place to be when visiting Japan. So with so many tourists from around the world crowding into the city, a few are bound to step out of line.

Thankfully TripAdvisor Japan created a handy infographic showing how to politely visit Kyoto. Kyotoites are understandably protective of their city and its cultural and historical treasures, and some will not hesitate to correct you if you’re doing something rude or wrong. So to be sure that everyone is on the same page, here are a few simple rules to keep in mind when you visit this wonderful city.

A lot of the rules are simply covering the basics, such as no smoking outside designated areas, not bringing your own food or drink into a restaurant, and not taking photos too close to the train tracks.

However there may be some others that surprise you. Each rule has an “akimahen” rating (“akimahen” meaning “don’t!” in Kyoto dialect) which goes on a scale of one disappointed face to three really angry faces. Here we go!

Don’t smoke or litter! The ancient kami (gods) are watching you!

Not smoking or littering is considered a common courtesy around the world, but with so many historical landmarks and UNESCO world heritage sites around, it is especially important to keep the great outdoors of Kyoto as fresh and clean as mother nature made it.

As far as tipping goes, it is usually frowned upon in all parts of Japan. But if you really want to let someone in Kyoto know that you appreciated their service, a simple okini (pronounced like “oaky knee” and meaning thank you in Kyoto dialect) would be a perfectly nice gesture.

Speaking from personal experience, if you are unable to ask an elaborately dressed maiko for a picture, snapping a quick photo in stealth mode from a respectful distance is also an option. But don’t blame us for any finger-wagging that may ensue.

Bicycle laws in Japan have become a lot more strict recently, especially in Kyoto where the streets are very narrow. It’s a very popular city to bicycle in, and they can’t have drunken cyclists leaving their bikes all over the place or there would be chaos.

Not standing in line in an orderly fashion and making chefs sad are problems that are increasingly cropping up in the news in Japan. It takes only a few incidents to ruin things for everybody, and no one likes the taste of chefs’ tears in their food, so let’s be courteous of other people, people.

Many buildings and artifacts in Kyoto are centuries, sometimes thousands of years, old, so it is very important to prolong their life as much as possible. Touching them or taking pictures with the flash on can damage artifacts, so it is essential to pay attention to all signage when sightseeing.

Removing your hat and sunglasses may seem strange at first, but this is one of the etiquette rules that isn’t about preservation, but making sure no one feels uncomfortable. Japan is just coming around on allowing hoodies up during the day, but sunglasses and hats are still signs of shady behavior and can make some people feel uneasy.

So what do you think? Do you agree with Kyoto’s rules of etiquette? Or does it make it seem like too uptight a place that you’d never want to visit?


I would disagree with the article in terms of taking stealth photos of maiko (or anybody/anything else). And removing hats and sunglasses in sacred places and/or when praying isn't so hard to understand (it's not about whether or not Japanese people are uncomfortable about hats and sunglasses!) - would you wear a hat or sunglasses in a church? Looking at the original poster, a lot of the "rules" seem to be "common sense" about being polite in public in Kyoto. I think the photo etiquette warnings are useful. Perhaps tourists without much knowledge of Japanese culture might appreciate such advice, especially regarding broken rules that could end up with fines. But many of the comments by readers at the Japan Today article seemed (overly?) offended by the poster. Check out their comments.

Trip Adviser Japan webpage:

Saturday, September 5, 2015

"Hiroshima eyes tourist boost with cat’s-eye view of city streets"

Photo and text borrowed from The Japan Times, 9/4/15.

Tourism bosses in Hiroshima Prefecture have come up with what they hope will draw more feline-loving visitors: a Google-style street view for cats.

Billed as a world’s first, officials this week launched an online map that explores the streets of the port city of Onomichi from the “purrspective” of a four-pawed visitor.

“We decided to focus on cats because they know everything about the city, including the back streets,” a tourism spokesman at Hiroshima Prefecture said.

He added that the city of about 150,000 people is known for its many felines and has a street known as “Cat Lane.”

The map is based on the perspective of Lala, a fluffy kitty with emerald-colored eyes, who lives with a local hair salon owner.

So far the map covers just two streets but plans to expand its reach are in the works using a camera attached to a stick that hovers 20 cm above the ground.

Viewers can trace what Lala — appointed the head of the prefecture’s “back street tourism” division — sees from her low-level perspective.

The unlikely feline-focused tourism bid is not Japan’s first.

Wakayama Prefecture drew thousands of tourists to a regional train station where a cat served as nominal stationmaster.

Tortoiseshell-colored Tama was credited with single-pawedly saving the provincial Kishigawa Line after being appointed master of tiny Kishi Station.

With the regional railway losing money, the station lost its last human employee in April 2006, passing on the mantle to Tama, who delighted in strolling around her own office wearing the formal uniform cap of Wakayama Electric Railway.

After Tama’s death in June, a new cat took over the position.


Hiroshima Cat Street View:

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Summer Vacation Rajio Taisō (Radio Calisthenics) in My Neighborhood

My neighborhood association sponsored morning calisthenics for a two week period on weekday mornings that coincided with children's school summer holiday. These simple and light exercises are known as rajio taisō (radio calisthenics) and were originally created to pay homage to the emperor and then later as exercises for soldiers. They were banned after WWII and then reintroduced by NHK Radio in the 1950s with the nationalistic/militaristic elements (mostly) stripped down. These days it appears on NHK TV as well as the radio. Sometimes older people gather at parks early in the morning to do them. They are also done at sports festivals and other occasions. It seems as if most Japanese adults know the moves as they did the exercises often when they were children.

Announcement poster on neighborhood bulletin board

Except for the days it rained about 40 people gathered at the local shrine at 7:00 AM for the exercises. Most of the participants were elderly; unfortunately not many children came. This should not be seen as a reflection of the lowering birthrate in Japan, at least in my neighborhood. There are a lot of kids I see playing everyday and who turn up at the summer and fall festivals. Perhaps children don't want to get up early during their vacation? Or maybe they are more interested in video games? Still we had an age range from 2 to 95 years old. The event was also a chance to meet and greet neighbors we haven't seen for a while and build community solidarity. And the children who did come received snacks and candy everyday.

Participants' stamp card indicating which days they participated
 (it rained on the days without stamps), a gift card for all who
 participated and a popsicle treat for kids (the other snacks and 
candy were eaten by the participant before I could photograph them)

See the exercise movements on YouTube: