If I tell you about this, Chuck Norris will roundhouse kick me into butter! Or court!

Chuck Norris has decided that others making money from the Chuck Norris meme is unacceptable to a man who roundhouse-kicks cows into making butter. His means to shut down these money-making cowards/fans? Not another Mountain Dew ad or a Mike Huckabee endorsement spot, but in a recently-filed lawsuit. Once Justia and PACER have the docket, I’ll post all the documents. (Note how the Huckabee ad has the exact same meme-created pushup/ground “fact” as this one read by Mr. Norris himself)

The meme about Chuck Norris as the ultimate tough guy has been around for awhile, though whether it was done in homage to the man or to make fun of him isn’t clear and either way fits tightly within snark fandom. One snarkish fan, The Hot Librarian, gives a great social history of the meme — and what participating fans got out of the Norris effect. In 2005, THL wrote:

Someone sent me one of those FWD: emails that … had to do with Chuck Norris and roundhouse kicking and beards and such, and I know you’re saying, “Who cares about Chuck Norris and his roundhouse kicks?” to which I say, “EXACTLY. No one. That’s why it’s funny.” People don’t care about Chuck Norris or Amish people anymore. It’s a travesagedy. That’s a travesty and a tragedy combined. It means “something really really bad.” …

“If you ask Chuck Norris what time it is, he always says, “Two seconds ’til.” After you ask, “Two seconds ’til what?” he roundhouse kicks you in the face.”

“Chuck Norris’ tears cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried.”

If you threw an Amish quilt over Chuck’s shoulders as he roundhouse kicked me in the face, I would die from laughing and beard-related injuries. I was explaining this Norris Phenomenon to my very good friend and he told me, probably just to humor me and get me to shut up about Chuck fuckin’ Norris, “Chuck Norris doesn’t churn butter. He roundhouse kicks the cows and the butter comes straight out.”

Many if not all of the Norris “facts” were created by fans and shared openly — such as Mr. Norris’ butter churning ability, yet he then used these facts to help his own image. The Hot Librarian states that

I would just like to point out that my very close personal friend MADE UP THE STARRED CHUCK NORRIS FUN FACT. AND THE FIRST TIME THAT FACT WAS SEEN ANYWHERE ON EARTH WAS ON MY BLOGBLOGBLOG. That website copied our little piece of Chuck-i-trivia (complete with homage to the butterchurning Amish I love so dearly) word for word. Of course, they gave us no credit but the thing is – we know. Immortality? We took it. It is ours.

The Hot Librarian’s butter-churning Chuck Norris “factoid” was used on The Best Sports Show — with Chuck Norris himself reading this fact.

Lest this go without being made clear — Mr. Norris capitalized on this bizarre form of Real Person Fanfic where he could do no wrong (like a modern-era urban-legend Paul Bunyan (sans Blue Ox), making himself $$$ in the process based on fan creativity. Other actors, such as Richard Dean Anderson (in a MasterCard ad “as” MacGyver) and William Shatner (see Boston Legal) have made money from making fun of their fan-created images without suing said fans.

I’ll have more to say after I read the complaint — but at this point, does Mr. Norris really think that his oeuvre is really being critiqued incorrectly by these “facts”? Or is the real fact that Chuck Norris will roundhouse fans into court (soon as look at them) if you complement him wrong? Or that only Chuck Norris is allowed to make fun of Chuck Norris?

The music industry is broken for the BoingBoing, the Wired magazine and the MTV tell me so!

Wired Magazine and MTV have made it official via Boing Boing: the music industry as we know it is dead. And considering that almost all music listeners are thieves, the death knell is not a moment too soon.
And how do we know the music industry is dead?:

Madonna’s now being brought to you by a concert promoter that makes most of its money by getting bums in seats. Every time a Madonna song is copied, it increases the market for her concerts. Talk about a 21st Century business model.

2. Many listeners, from big-name-fans on down, are interested in being part of a community, as shown by the success of Radiohead’s In Rainbows, rather than getting mainstreamed by the music industry. (No, Trent T. Rez didn’t do it first). Thom Yorke says:

[traditional release means] does us no good, because we don’t cross over [to other fan bases].

Byrne: So this bypasses [the middlemen] and goes straight to the fans.
Yorke: In a way, yeah. And it was a thrill. We mastered it, and two days later it was on the site being, you know, preordered. That was just a really exciting few weeks to have that direct connection.

Byrne: … What is music, what does music do for people? What do people get from it? What’s it for? That’s the thing that’s being exchanged. Not all the other stuff. The other stuff is the shopping cart that holds some of it.
Yorke: It’s a delivery service.
Byrne: But people will still pay to have that experience. [link added to Online Fandom] You create a community with music, not just at concerts but by talking about it with your friends. By making a copy and handing it to your friends, you’ve established a relationship. The implication is that they’re now obligated to give you something back.

3. Often the music industry hinders artists, rather than serving as an effective distribution stream. Think about how when artists made it big in TV and movies in the past, they were signed to a label — these days, MySpace is where its at. David Byrne suggests several possible models (see above), preferably structured around retaining copyright in songs, rather than the present quasi work-for-hire model:

Mega pop artists will still need that mighty push and marketing effort for a new release that only traditional record companies can provide. For others, what we now call a record label could be replaced by a small company that funnels income and invoices from the various entities and keeps the accounts in order. A consortium of midlevel artists could make this model work. …

I would personally advise artists to hold on to their publishing rights (well, as much of them as they can). Publishing royalties are how you get paid if someone covers, samples, or licenses your song for a movie or commercial. This, for a songwriter, is your pension plan. (emphasis added).

4. Do I need to remind you that according to the music industry, all of your mixtapes and even your Itunes playlist is illegal? Treating all of your consumers like crooks is not a good strategic plan. As shown by Radiohead and ITunes DRM-free music and (perhaps not as effectively by T.T.R. and Saul Williams), listeners/fans are willing to pay — they mostly want more ways of using what they have purchased. As K says,

At the end of the day, though, it’s the media companies that will need to readjust their thinking about the industry in order for these initiatives to have a life of their own.

And if they don’t readjust — the industry may just die around them.
(No, there is not a grammar error in the title)

Organization for Transformative Works is new fan organization

Somehow I haven’t yet posted about The Organization for Transformative Works, a new non-profit

established by fans to serve the interests of fans by providing access to and preserving the history of fanworks and fan culture in its myriad forms. We believe that fanworks are transformative and that transformative works are legitimate.

As shown by the first Board of Directors including such heavy-hitters as Naomi Novik, Rebecca Tushnet, and Francesca Coppa, OTW is aware of the gender issues involved in fandom and “The OTW represents a practice of transformative fanwork historically rooted in a primarily female culture.” Yet interestingly enough, Henry Jenkins, “Sir Convergence Culture” is the only person interviewed for the Chronicle‘s story for the importance of this organization:

“…a series of conflicts this year which raised awareness within the fan community of the need to take action to protect the integrity of their own traditions and to maintain control over their own cultural practices,” said Mr. Jenkins today. “Fans are pooling their knowledge and skills to push their community to the next level.”

This sounds like a very exciting and needed new organization! To get involved, volunteer here. And to read a critique of OTW’s view of transformative works, look here.

MIT Comparative Media Studies Conference Discusses Fan Labor and More

Unfortunately, I can’t make it to every great conference held at MIT by the cutting-edge Comparative Media Studies program (run by the godfather of fan studies, Henry Jenkins, “Sir Convergence Culture”). Hopefully, we’ll be presenting at Media in Transition 6 because participating in Media in Transition 5 was so great!

I highly recommend the following discussion of fan labor at the Future of Entertainment 2 (link to only Fan Labor portion here/ link to entire conference here / liveblogging quasi-transcript here)

Catherine Tosenberger (dissertation on Harry Potter fanfic!) gives a excellent brief history of fandom and the struggles about controlling fanworks starting at about minute 13. This is a great opportunity to be introduced the overall economic issues involved in fandom. And the next speaker talks about how what really motivates fans is about being part of the fandom.

We are going to be writing/presenting more about the relationship between economics and fandom in the future, so it’s great to know that others are also concerned about this area.

Thanks to 43(B)log for the reminder.

Can the RIAA please die now?

Honestly, the recording industry is doing a great job of making itself irrelevant.

From Ars Technica:

After several years of litigation and nearly 30,000 lawsuits, making a copy of a CD you bought for your own personal usage is still a concept that the recording industry is apparently uncomfortable with. During the Jammie Thomas trial this fall, the head of litigation from Sony BMG testified that she believed that ripping your own CDs is stealing.

When asked by the RIAA’s lead counsel whether it was wrong for consumers to make copies of CDs they have purchased, Jennifer Pariser replied in the negative. “When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song,” said Pariser. Making “a copy” of a song you own is just “a nice way of saying ‘steals just one copy’,” according to Pariser.

Yep, that mix CD you made for your last camping trip is a total act of thievery, you thieving thief.

Nobel Prize Winner: Blogging Sucks!

Nobel Prize in Literature winner Doris Lessing thinks that television and the Internet is responsible for the cultural decline of modern society.

From ars technica:
“And just as we never once stopped to ask, How are we, our minds, going to change with the new internet, which has seduced a whole generation into its inanities so that even quite reasonable people will confess that once they are hooked, it is hard to cut free, and they may find a whole day has passed in blogging and blugging etc.” It is now common, she says, for “young men and women who have had years of education, to know nothing about the world, to have read nothing, knowing only some speciality or other, for instance, computers.”

Yeah, she is probably right. And yet, it is not my fancy liberal arts education that is paying my rent, but my knowledge of … computers.

Doris Lessing is also, quite simply, a crotchety woman who courts controversy. Not to take away from the relevance of her remarks, but it’s true. She’s a tough broad, she would probably have no problem with some “blugger” calling her crotchety.

The Whole World is Biting Off of Trent Reznor

So by now, Nine Inch Nails decision to dump its (his?) record label has been well publicized. Trent Reznor has been a pretty vocal opponent of the record industry’s excessive CD pricing for years now.*
What’s been less publicized is NIN’s unusually collaborative relationship with its fans, especially when it comes to remixes. Trent Reznor has been an active supporter of the Nine Inch Nails fan remix community – he’s released original multitracks of his work for fans to do with as they please. As a result, Ninremixes.com has existed as a self-sustaining online fan community for a couple of years now.
A couple of weeks ago, after some legal headaches wirh NIN’s former label, an official NIN remix site was launched (and by “official” I mean it’s being run by Reznor and/or his minions) there is also fan-created remix on the latest NIN CD. This is a pretty huge gesture of tolerance by an artist regarding fanworks. Recently, a collective of musicians have launched a similar project, CASHmusic, which allows fans an opportunity to access original content and to upload fan-created content of their own. Compare this to Prince’s recent legal crackdown on fan websites’ use of images and lyrics.

Slowly, the entertainment industry is coming up with different models that allow fans to express creativity without fear of being hunted down by the legal departments of media companies. More often that not, though, these initiatives seem to be coming from the artists themselves, not the media companies that own or distribute their work. At the end of the day, though, it’s the media companies that will need to readjust their thinking about the industry in order for these initiatives to have a life of their own. Something similar to the anmoku no ryokai model mentioned in the Wired article about dojinshi I mentioned on the blog a few weeks ago. It could happen. Fandoms are collectively becoming more savvy to issues of copyright and intellectual property, it’s not too unheard of to think that a fan-organized campaign could start that would send a message to media companies that fan activity contributes to the bottom line.