November 27, 2010 8:31 PM   Subscribe

Allyson Townsend's YouTube channel ("ASL Ally") carries her popular ASL and SEE interpretations of popular music. It was shut down after complaints from the copyright holders, but after an intervention by the EFF they reconsidered their position and ASL Ally is back online! (source: BoingBoing)
posted by Joe in Australia (15 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Doesn't anyone bother anymore to have PR people around when taking such kind of decisions these days? Doesn't take much to buy themselves some public fuzzies, instead of spending similar effort in appearing like heartless dicks. Of course, it could be that the PR critters are just as incompetent and shortsighted as the copyright holders/You Tube, I really don't know much about how the whole thing is done today.
posted by Iosephus at 8:49 PM on November 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nice! I don't know ASL, but I love ASL music videos.

See also CaptainValor and st0rmfx -- I particularly recommend the former's rendition of "First of May" by Jonathan Coulton, and the latter's rendition of "This Is the New Shit" by Marilyn Manson (both NSFW).
posted by danb at 9:01 PM on November 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

What these freetards don't seem to understand is that theft is a crime. If a bunch of blind people break into your home and steal your CD collection, I don't see why they should be given a free pass just because they are hard of hearing. And this is exactly the same.

It's not just the cats playing on the records who are hurt by this, but all the other cats as well - the cats who produce or engineer or just make tea while waiting to be given permission to plug a mic in, plus the all important cats in A&R, Marketing, Legal and HR, without whom, of course, there would be no music at all.

That's to say nothing of the ancillary cats, such as the drug dealers and the paid-off DJs and journalists, the security guards, caterers, decorators, acoustic foam manufacturers, escorts and so on.

And many of those cats have kittens. Will no-one think of the kittens?

If you don't get that I'm joking, I despair of us both.
posted by motty at 9:05 PM on November 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

The literal glosses in the youtube descriptions are really interesting:

Baby, what are we becoming

What happened to that girl I used to know

I wonder how much one could infer about the structure of ASL from them.
posted by kenko at 9:21 PM on November 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

nthing the suggestion to check out CaptainValor (aka. Stephen Torrence's) YouTube channel. He's an ASL-singing virtuoso.
posted by schmod at 9:28 PM on November 27, 2010

I'm pleasantly surprised to find that Ally ASL (Facebook fan page) lives in Garland, Texas. It's nice to see we have some cool people to help balance out the crazies.
posted by fireoyster at 9:43 PM on November 27, 2010

kenko: I'm currently doing an MA in linguistics, focusing on ASL. (Well. Signed languages in general. But ASL is the signed language I know.) We do in fact use glosses to discuss ASL syntax; but those glosses don't carry all of the information that a signed utterance does. Body positioning, eye gaze, and facial markers (all of which are referred to collectively as "non-manuals") are also important; they could be considered as morphology that acts as one indicator of a given sign's role (or a group of signs' role) in an utterance.

But sure, you could use glosses to note some things - for instance, in "LOOKING BACK, YOU, PROGRESS-TIME YOU CHANGE. HAPPEN WHAT?", the word WHAT comes at the end. This is not terribly common (most languages move that word to the beginning of a sentence or leave it in-situ), and there's a lot of debate as to exactly what that means. You might also be able to find the beginnings of evidence for, say, SOV word order.

I guess the bottom line is that yeah, you can use glosses to discuss the language; but really, you need to be working with the language itself to make much of an in-depth analysis.

Note, however, that most people who do these videos on Youtube are neither native nor fluent signers. (And they don't pretend to be - CaptainValor has an interview on Youtube describing his process in which he makes that quite clear.) Doesn't make the videos any less cool; I certainly enjoy them. But they're not representative samples of ASL as a language.

Then again, using e.e. cummings as source material for a study of English might give you some strange ideas about our writing system. Artistic license is funny that way.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 9:51 PM on November 27, 2010 [7 favorites]

You might also be able to find the beginnings of evidence for, say, SOV word order.

That was what immediately jumped out at me. One of the glosses for the "First of May" video linked above had the verb at the beginning (of an imperative—"Bring your favorite woman") but this dictionary reassured me that it was actually more like "your favorite woman bring".
posted by kenko at 10:00 PM on November 27, 2010

Word order is tricky; is "bring your favorite woman" more English, and he's using that because he's doing an interpretation and wants to stay close to the original? Or is it still ASL, but using a different sort of construction? Or maybe it is English, but there's a lot of English influence on some uses of ASL (compare, say, Spanglish)? Any of these are possible. (In the general sense. In this case, I suspect it's the first one.) Language is complicated. But yeah, ASL does tend towards SOV word order in its "purest" form. But now we're getting into sociolinguistics, which is not so much my thing :P
posted by spaceman_spiff at 10:10 PM on November 27, 2010

I really liked one hand in my pocket, although it didn't have the glosses the simplicity of the lyrics made it so I could basically follow along, which was fun to do. I like seeing the ways different languages express the same ideas.
posted by amethysts at 12:05 AM on November 28, 2010

I spent a minute or two trying to figure out why I couldn't hear anything on that 'One Hand in my Pocket' ASL videos, fiddling with my speakers, audio settings, etc... I have no idea why I expected there to be a background track.

I am such an idiot.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 7:28 AM on November 28, 2010

I have no idea why I expected there to be a background track.

A lot of them do, though.
posted by kenko at 8:48 AM on November 28, 2010

Iosephus: yeah, they have PR people to stop them from looking like dicks. And they did their job. Unfortunately the lawyers had already initiated the dick move. It's pretty inevitable. If corporate lawyers asked themselves 'is this a dick move' before acting, they wouldn't get much done (and it would be harder to justify their existence).

Once a dick move becomes a PR liability the PR folks are empowered to tell the lawyers to stay away from this one, it isn't worth it (having a good legal argument put forth by a non-profit civil liberties group also impacts the calculus involved with such decisions).

The fact that the PR folks sprung into action so quickly after they got the bad press shows they are doing a good job.

But it would be nice, I have to admit, if lawyers went to PR folks before making dick moves with the question "is this dick move going to make us look bad"?
posted by el io at 8:53 AM on November 28, 2010

But it would be nice, I have to admit, if lawyers went to PR folks before making dick moves with the question "is this dick move going to make us look bad"?

You say this like lawyers don't work for clients. You can't just freelance as a zombie or trained monkey filing takedown notices. The client has to hire you to do that. The lawyers and the PR folks are auxiliaries for the same entities.

That said, the articles don't mention PR folks at all. What seems to have happened is that the grunts working takedown requests are not instructed (or not allowed) to use discretion for fair use:
And while music groups have a vested interest in shutting down use of copyrighted material that could some way infringe upon their ability to market or sell their product, they are not briefing their hired Web-searchers enough on what constitutes proper discretion.
Then a bunch of lawyers for the EFF take the case for free and enter into negotiations with, it seems, other lawyers and resolve it. If Cohen's quote was true, this would be the first time the rightsholders would seriously consider the possibility of fair use. The problem isn't that lawyers don't talk to PR folks enough, but that there are no penalties for issuing takedown notices for fair use, which incentivizes the zombie/trained monkey model.
posted by Marty Marx at 12:24 PM on November 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

there are no penalties for issuing takedown notices for fair use

Not strictly true, section 512.f specifies that damages can be awarded if the filer misrepresents that material is infringing. Wiki lists Online Privacy Group v Diebold as an example. However, I'd agree that this probably doesn't happen often (since most of these cases never go so far as a court).

(The article is pretty misleading when it claims "The problem lies with the fact that any complaint by a copyright holder or the copyright holder's representative is taken very seriously by YouTube, which often removes the content just to be on the safe side." -- actually, the DMCA requires a specific procedure when a copyright holder files a claim, this isn't just "to be on the safe side". The EFF seems to agree.).
posted by wildcrdj at 2:57 PM on November 28, 2010

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