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I’m sure by now you’ve heard about the big stink being raised over Instagram’s new terms & policies set to go into effect on Jan. 16th. If you haven’t, please familiarize yourself. In short, as the policy is currently written, Instagram would have the right to sell any photos you upload to their service without paying you anything or even letting you know that your photo was being sold or used.

When I first heard about this my initial reaction was utter disgust, and indeed I planned on deleting my account if the policies weren’t changed from what was written. But I also felt pretty confident that it must have been simply some overzealous and greedy lawyers and executives from Facebook writing blanket statements into the policies, and that it wouldn’t be long before they responded by changing the proposed policy. Thankfully, Instagram responded to the outcry today in a blog post titled “Thank you, and we’re listening.” It seems that most if not all of the clauses that pissed everyone off will be removed. The most important thing to take from their statement is this:

Instagram users own their content and Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos. Nothing about this has changed. We respect that there are creative artists and hobbyists alike that pour their heart into creating beautiful photos, and we respect that your photos are your photos. Period.

And this:

Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram. Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.

As a photographer who makes part of my living from photos and licensing their usage, I am hyper-aware of the copyright issues and legalities involved in photography and of how corporations, media, and other establishments are constantly trying to find ways to avoid paying for usage of creative work. I absolutely would not have continued using Instagram if the original policy change had gone into effect. I also had visions of the crumbling Instagram empire, as the backlash would’ve been pretty widespread, whilst other services such as Twitter and Flickr are launching their own photo-sharing apps/features, complete with Instagram-like filters. Hipsters everywhere would have cried a sea of vintage filtered tears until one of the other services (my guess would’ve been Flickr) took over as the king photo filter/sharing app. It remains to be seen what the new version of the policies & terms of use will look like, but I have a feeling it will keep everyone happy, and not rip off the user base. But Instagram/Facebook, be warned- I’ll be looking at the new policies & terms of use very carefully and if you try to pull anything remotely similar to this, SHAME ON YOU and I will be GONE.

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This has got to be one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen. Cincinnati has a group of real-life superheroes. These dudes/dudettes walk around in a mask and cape, just looking for people who need help. They carry tazers, pepper spray, and handcuffs. I don’t really know what to say about this… I guess it’s good, but as the CNN video says, they could face lawsuits if they taze/pepper spray/citizens’ arrest the wrong person. File this one under WTF?!?!? Via io9 and CNN.com.

I just discovered that the White House has a flickr. You’ll find it has a nice variety of fun photos and serious ones from inside meetings/briefings/etc… Most of them are by the official White House photographer Pete Souza.

Speaking of photography, I just stumbled across this amazing archive of NASA images. All of the images are considered public domain and free for any kind of usage. They also have some great video clips. You could spend hours and probably even days going through this massive archive. We’re talking basically every image NASA has ever released. Each photo has a cool flash application which allows your mouse wheel to zoom in and out on the photo.

WARNING: THIS GAME COULD CONSUME YOUR ENTIRE DAY IF YOU’RE NOT CAREFUL!

I present to you- Effing Hail. This flash game is perfect for weather nerds like myself. The goal is to move your mouse around to control where the updraft is located, and the updraft lifts the hailstones over and over until they get so huge they fall and crush the buildings below. Simply destroy/crush as many buildings as possible. Via Kottke.org.

I know I’ve been rather dry on music-related posts these past few days but tomorrow I promise to include more!

So the guy who brought us Muxtape is at it again. This time he’s created a online tool to view anyone’s flickr photostream in a much simpler format. Just enter http://ihardlyknowher.com/ into your browser and type the person’s flickr username at the end. For instance, mine would be http://ihardlyknowher.com/simplysteve and Megan’s would be http://ihardlyknowher.com/mwoolfolk. A good way to just be able to focus on the images without all the clutter. BTW, I suggest reading the story on his Muxtape page via the link above. It tells his story about the legal issues and all that he went through. It’s long… I didn’t get to read it all, but what I did read was pretty interesting. I’m anxious to see how he relaunches it. I never was a part of it in the first place. Maybe I didn’t fully understand the process, but I’m an extreme audiophile… and from what I can understand, people who were members uploaded some mp3s to create a playlist that others could stream (not download, just stream). That was what turned me off- almost all streaming audio is at something like 96 kb/s or 128 kb/s, which is just low enough quality to be irritating to my ears. But maybe he found a way around that… maybe it did in fact stream at a better sound quality, I don’t know. But to me, any mp3 with a bitrate less than 192 kb/s is low quality… and anything less than 128 is utterly unlistenable. At least with music.

How I Became the Bomb have released the 2nd free installment of their digital release series, called “Foremost Sentinel.” I suggest you go get it now.

Some science links of interest:

Space.com’s highlights on what to look for in the night skies in 2009.

Yet another good story on how Obama’s picks for science advisors and the Dept. of Energy are making scientists…. and smart people in general… VERY happy.

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