How to Be (Properly) Offensive
December 18, 2006
Background: I once wore a funny t-shirt for a photo that appeared in the New York Times, and a bunch of people thought it was kind of amusing, albeit juvenile. It's a reference to Goatse.cx, an extremely offensive shock site. As a result, I get sent virtually all Goatse-related news by my friends, colleagues, and readers.
- A few months ago, Giant ran This Week in Goatse, featuring Johnny Knoxville's cover image in Out. Of course, if Time really meant it when they named web geeks as the Person of the Year, they would have slipped in a hidden Goatse as they did in their infamous immigration cover two years ago.
- Then, two weeks ago, Niall Kennedy replaced an image on a Microsoft blog which had hot-linked to one of his Flickr photos. This one's not as open-and-shut (sorry!) a case to me. One, Niall used to work at Microsoft, which means these folks may well have been his coworkers just a few months ago, and it's not very cool to leave people you work with hanging out to dry.
More relevant, Niall's nominal justification for the image-swap was that the Microsoft team that was using the image in their blog wasn't respecting intellectual property rights. Now, I don't know exactly what percentage of the original Goatse image was used in Niall's modified version, but it was likely too much to be considered fair use. The original image isn't in the public domain. This means one minor intellectual property violation was likely converted into a second one, and the educational point of the image swap was likely lost. The parallels to Microsoft's (admittedly odious) anti-piracy campaigns seem like, well... a stretch.