Five Steps for Avoiding Copyright Conflicts

It is a blogger’s worst nightmare.

Your site is done completely. You have no FTP access and your Web host is not reporting a problem with the server. You call tech support and find that your account has been locked and you’re told to check your email. There, you find a notice from your host’s abuse team informing you that your account was disabled for a copyright violation.

What follows is often an exercise in frustration. A torrent of emails and phone calls result in some progress, but the clock is always ticking. It can take hours, even days, for a downed site to come back online, if it is possible at all. Many times the best alternative is to obtain backups and move elsewhere.

As frightening as this is for anyone who cares about their site, it is the frequent outcome of copyright conflicts on the Web. Though many bloggers that experience this scenario deserve the of treatment for their actions, some well-intended bloggers go through the same ordeal only because they didn’t take necessary precautions to avoid trouble.

However, these situations are both avoidable and easily mitigated against, all one has to do is take a few reasonable precautions and the nightmare threat fades away.

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Three Steps to Building Your Own Conspiracy Theory

To complete this series on conspiracy theories and blogs, I’ve invited one of my dearest friends, Nancy Bixler, a public speaking teacher and doctoral candidate in Rhetoric, to help you learn how to develop your own conspiracy theory, or keep one going, on your blog. I chose her because she abhors bad reasoning, but enjoys explaining the inner workings of a good conspiracy theory. Nancy offers a three step plan for building your own conspiracy theory on your blog.

By Nancy Bixler

Do you want to put forward a conspiracy theory of your own on your blog? Perhaps you suspect that the CIA and U.S. government, in an unholy union with Muammar al-Qaddafi, are, for nefarious reasons of their own, raising the taxes of middle class U.S. citizens to fund AIDS research in Libya. Or that the Catholic Church, environmentalists, the PLO, or [fill in the blank] are working underground to [fill in the blank] put hallucinogens into the local water supply, make burping in public a capitol offense, or suppress a cure for warts. No doubt they have their methods and motives.

It’s your job, as a buddying conspiracy theorist, to find some troubling elements of life that, so far (in your opinion) lack an explanation and point out the ways the hidden conspirators plan to achieve their aim. With tongue firmly in cheek, let’s look at how to create a conspiracy theory, and if all else fails, you can make your own conspiracy theory with a conspiracy theory online.
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Finding Conspiracy Blogs… and The Truth

Snopes and Urban Legends are specialists who debunk the urban legends, myths, and conspiracies that plague us worldwide. I highly recommend anyone with email or a blog check the facts before forwarding or blogging.

Snopes offers a constantly updated Hottest 25 Legends (with a feed) page, which currently features the most popular myths, urban legends, and conspiracy theories like Barack Obama and the National Anthem, The Golden Compass (anti-religon), ‘Life Is Beautiful’ Virus, Strawberry Quick (drug-filled candy), and Vicks VapoRub on children’s feet stops coughs.
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The Economics of Conspiracies

Last year, Sam Vaknin Ph.D. wrote in “The Economics of Conspiracy Theories” on the American Chronicle that many are profiting from conspiracy theories, writing books, selling magazines and television shows, even movies, becoming a celebrity for their conspiracy plots as the source or participant. In and of itself, the business of making money with conspiracies might be a conspiracy in itself:
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There is Nothing Like a Good Conspiracy

While many bloggers can spout a conspiracy theory once in a while, there are some blogs that specialize in conspiracy theories, from making them up (okay, to be fair, investigating and proving them) to debunking them. The top post on one such conspiracy theory blog, Above Top Secret, is The Coming Revolution:

Back in the 1940s the governing forces on this planet were warned by certain parties not from this planet, to change the course of the direction they were headed in, so that the peoples of Earth could unanimously have a better and positive future. Not only did the governing forces of this planet ignore the issues that they were warned about, they irrationally reacted by interpreting this warning as a declaration of war. They then diverted all their attention to developing interstellar weapons and systems to prepare for an interstellar war. They also systematically developed highly advanced technology that would control the populations of the world in every area of life. The governing forces were helped by certain extra-terrestrial intelligences that supplied them with the specifics of technology that this civilization was in no way prepared for.

This technology was used with the specific intent of controlling the minds of every individual on the planet…

You may laugh, but some take this very seriously, finding evidence all around them to support their positions. Read their evidence long enough, and you may start to see pieces of the puzzle clicking together as the irrational and disconnected are brought together in a way that makes sense.

As part of this ongoing series on Blogs and Conspiracy Theories, let’s look at how conspiracy theories get started and developed. They begin by trying to make sense of the puzzle pieces.
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I Want To Start a Controversy

Graphic copyrighted by Lorelle VanFossen - the truth is out there

Stirring the pot. Mixing it up. Making noise. Creating controversy. Attracting attention. Driving traffic stats up.

If you want to get a lot of attention, create a controversy. This has been true for thousand – maybe millions of years – of human history. It started the moment language developed into the art of storytelling. Along with stories came gossip, and rumors, and then conspiracies.

Having spent a long time living in the Middle East, I learned a lot about conspiracy theories, and the truths and lies that lie behind their creation. After all, a good conspiracy isn’t worth much unless it has a measure of truth, or at least believable fiction, within the lies and falsehoods. It helped that I’ve long been a fan of some of the best conspiracy theory fiction authors, especially authors who specialize in taking current events and exposing the dark bellies underneath the events. True or not, who cares! It makes for great reading late at night when the mind keeps asking “Why do these things happen?”, “Why me?”, or telling yourself, “They’re out to get me!”

This week, I’ll look at some of the famous conspiracy theories, on and off blogs, and how many bloggers are using conspiracy theories to attract attention and traffic, the economics of conspiracies, blog-specific conspiracies and hoaxes, and offer tips you need to know if you are going to start your own conspiracy theory on your blog.

A conspiracy theory can be anything, involving any one or any subject. There are conspiracies about war, drugs, politics, governments, health, medicine, science, history, religion, sex, economies and investments, space, animals, and even weather.

Conspiracies in History

Some of the best of Shakespeare’s work dealt with conspiracies. What was Romeo and Juliet all about if not for the underlying conspiracies. What about Hamlet? Othello? Oooh, those were conspiracy theories within conspiracy theories, who-done-its of the highest magnitude. Machiavelli’s “The Prince”, another historical classic, was a mine field of conspiracies in and out of court, still capturing our imagination after all this time.

As a storytelling (and in some cases “newsy”) communications tool, conspiracy theory is typically defined as the bringing together a wide variety of arguments, not necessarily related, and connecting them together as “evidence” to support a theory to justify, or excuse, an event, belief, or action.

In the CBC’s report on recent conspiracy theories, they cited a historical example of how a conspiracy theory was used by Philip IV of France in 1307 to bring about the downfall of the wealthy and popular warrior monk group, the Knights Templar. His accusation that the Knights were guilt of “heresy, ‘homosexual vices’ and idol worship” ensured they were blamed for the loss of Jerusalem in the sacking of the “holy land” in the Crusades, even though blame was spread all around. Hey, in war it’s always better to blame someone else other than the responsible ones, right? A good conspiracy scatters the truth with finger pointing in the wrong directions.

The article questions why conspiracy theories continue to be popular:

Some sociologists describe conspiracy theories as illegitimate and pathological, threats to political stability. Others dismiss them as entertaining narratives, as populist expressions of democratic culture.

Some have pieces of supporting evidence, some can be discredited with only a little digging, yet continue to endure.

While conspiracies are rarely true, they last because we love a good story. A well-told conspiracy makes for a great story. Add some mystery and mayhem and it’s even juicier. And gets better with the retelling.

JFK, Martin Luther King, Elvis, O.J., Princess Diana, 911, Katrina, Watergate, Irangate, Gitmogate, and something about a cigar and a president – we’ve all experienced great conspiracy dramas within our own recent history that fill the news for months and months as everyone tries to guess whose right, and whose wrong, and what’s the real truth behind the truth. These conspiracies are part of our culture.

In the newly released version of the movie Hairspray, dragged to the television to watch something “amazing”, the mother says to her daughter’s best friend, “I read all about it. It’s a big Hollywood set… you want me to actually believe he’s really up there…” referring to the popular conspiracy theory that in its rush to get into outer space and to the moon, NASA faked it. This conspiracy theory is a part of our recent collective memory, so it’s familiar, and funny.

Graphic copyrighted by Lorelle VanFossen - the truth is out thereTelevision shows like The X-Files entertain the world with conspiracy theories every week, even in rerun. What better story-telling device than an ongoing conspiracy which involves governments and aliens. A very popular conspiracy theory movie and book, The Da Vinci Code, continues to incite the imagination with “what if” mixed with “hey, it’s possible”.

Bloggers are not exempt from the need to take two or more disparate facts and bang the drums of conspiracy in order to attract attention to their blogs.

Tomorrow, I’ll cover some examples of some conspiracy theories and why we are so fascinated by them, then later, I’ll cover the economics of conspiracies, how blogs use conspiracies as part of their blogging purpose, and finish with tips on how to write your own conspiracy theory on your blog.

Article Series on Conspiracy Theories and Blogs

Three Lessons That Will Change Your Blog

Lessons in blogging come from many sources. Recently, I attended a concert by our friend, John Doan, a master harp-guitarist and storyteller (see YouTube Video). As he finished his set, he shared a story about his long-time friend, Burl Ives, and a moment they shared not long before the famous singer and songwriter died.

John has graciously allowed me to share some of that story, and its lessons, applied to blogging.

John Doan was among a team of fellow performers paying tribute to Burl Ives through his music, and was asked to perform a child’s song, one with which he had trouble relating. He went to Burl’s bedside and told him of his struggles, including how he could best honor his friend through this silly children’s song.

Burl shared three important lessons that John continues to use today, lessons for all of us, especially for bloggers.
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Blog Writing: You Can Get It Fast, Good, or Cheap

The sign in master luthier Jeff Elliott’s workroom reads “We are slow and we’re expensive.”

A favorite saying of a friend in marketing is “You can get it fast, good, or cheap. Not all three.” You can get it fast and cheap but not good. You can get it good but it won’t be cheap nor fast. If you want good, it takes time to do it well.

The same applies to your blog and its content. It’s easy to deliver fast content, but is it good? Maybe, maybe not, but it is certainly cheap. If you want good, it takes time.

Developing quality content on your blog takes planning. It takes purpose. It takes a commitment. But most of all, it takes intent.
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Bloggers Who Blame Don’t Change Things

In Placing Blame Where Blame Deserves to Be Placed, I wrote about how many bloggers throw blame on the wrong personal or company and how we need to be more responsible when we use our blogs as weapons of blame and guilt.

I recently ran across the following quote:

When you blame others, you give up your power to change.

Douglas Noel Adams

Many bloggers use their blogs to complain, blame, and get a little revenge, but does it make a difference? Sometimes.
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Are You Blogging Through Rose-Colored Glasses?

Twoflower didn’t just look at the world through rose-tinted spectacles, Rincewind knew – he looked at it through a rose-tinted brain, too, and heard it through rose-tinted ears.

Terry Pratchett, The Light Fantastic from the Discworld series.

As you write your blog, you are viewing the world through your lens, your filter, your perspective on the issue. Like Twoflower, is your view so narrow that you are blogging through your ears and brain as well as your eyes?
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