[FRC Blog] Team Avatars – A Reprise

I too love DESTINATION: DEEP SPACE Presented By The Boeing Company! DESTINATION: DEEP SPACE Presented By The Boeing Company Is one of the greatest games that have ever come from FIRST! Make sure to Submit your DESTINATION: DEEP SPACE Presented By The Boeing Company Avatars, seriously submit one its not required but seeing blanks is boring.

I’m a little disappointed they didn’t migrate over last year’s avatars. So many of them were team focused, with no season-specific component… undoubtedly some of those teams will fail to resubmit it this year and miss out on having one.

It would be simple to reset the submitted counter to 2, allowing teams with one from last year to submit a new one plus 1 revision, and new teams/teams without one to submit a new one plus 1 revision… so I can’t imagine that would be the holdup. I can only guess that they’re trying to get teams to be more create and more season-specific with their avatars, instead of creating one and reusing it for the next 20 years.

I am genuinely curious if anyone else had a logo that was flagged for copyright reasons last year. If you did then please let me know.

We did. We modified a generic bulldog logo (used by dozens of US schools) to look robotic. Denied twice (after appeal). Then ended up drawing a new less aggressive and robotic bulldog from scratch. It is what it is. In my experience, their copyright filter is very aggressive.

Happy to see the avatars return though! Will we see 148 be all black everything again? :smiley: (Probably)

Ours was never denied but they made me provide proof that we had the right to use a freely available stock image (we own the rights to it, aside from the fact that the artist who was commissioned to work on our logo also quite literally owned the rights to it).

I’m curious if the screening procedures actually open any issues due to how safe harbor laws work for the DMCA but I’m not sure. I meant to run this by some of the folks over at Duke’s IP Law group but I forgot about it until now. I guess I’m sending some emails.

Either way, I’ve got the PDFs for the rights now safely in hand.

I was just about to post a thread on this. My team did not make an avatar during our rookie year. Is there a specific program that I can use or can I draw one and make it fit the criteria and then send it?

GIMP, Paint.net (free), Photoshop, and Illustrator (Adobe Products, $) are good products to use. A common tactic is drawing it by hand, scanning it onto a computer, then polishing it there. Make sure to pay close attention to the canvas size (40 pixels by 40 pixels) which will severely limit you to how much depth your art can have.

Probably because its just a recoloring of Gonzaga Bulldog’s logo. IIRC 4980 had a very similar logo, but it looks like they did some changes to it to make it orginal.

2220 did ours on pixlr, a free web app. I think it turned out okay. Unless someone wants to change it this year we’ll probably keep it.

Gonzaga seems to use a different style of it, if you look carefully you can tell it’s not “just a recoloring”.

Seems to me that if you “have to look carefully” at the image in order to discern whether or not it’s similar, you’ve already failed the check. Our logo was also rejected, and when I asked why they pointed me to other versions of the logo elsewhere. Sure enough, there it was in a NOT freely available stock image, and the former student admitted that’s where they got the basis for the logo. We redid the logo, and it was accepted. My hat’s off to their filter, I looked using Google reverse-image finder and never found what they found.


We used piskel https://www.piskelapp.com
The students had fun creating several different options for the team to look over. Very easy to use!

I had the same thought. Exercising editorial control can be troublesome if you want to claim OCILLA safe harbour protections.

And since these avatars might be used internationally, there’s at least a theoretical possibility of different implementations in different countries (like Australia, where the safe harbour for online publication of intellectual property is drastically more limited).

I’m not sure what they are using to find “violations” but I found what they were talking about using https://tineye.com.

I actually think part of the problem is that we are being asked to all shrink our logos much smaller so even though they are all fairly unique looking (even basing them on other art) they all start to look the same and look even more like the originals at the smaller size.

My Duke law IP friends pointed me to a ruling from the 9th Circuit which could make FIRST more liable because they are manually curating content and checking it (this is evidently a gray area still).

A decent summary of the case here: https://blogs.findlaw.com/ninth_circuit/2017/04/court-ruling-makes-dmca-safe-harbor-less-safe.html

I have no clue if you talked to a lawyer at all Agent ID #3, but you should… also, put a name in your emails so I know who I’m talking to. You aren’t some massive faceless corporation, you’re a tiny non-profit with a small number of employees! :wink:

This is going to sound like a terribly stupid question, but here it goes. I looked for the way to submit an avatar last year, but only after the season had started since I hadn’t seen anything about it beforehand. I never did find it. We had a great image we worked up for the team logo last year to go with the PowerUp! theme but couldn’t use it for this since we didn’t know where it had to go. Where, exactly, do you submit your avatar? The blog post provides a link to the rules and to the events page, but no link at all to the place where you submit the avatar. Help!

It’s not open yet for 2019, but here for reference is the FRC Blog post about submitting them last season.

Only your teams Main Contacts 1 & 2 have access to the password required to submit.
This password is now available in your team Main Contacts Dashboard under “Passwords/Voucher Codes.”

The Avatar portal opened mid-January last season.

Definitely unfortunate that due diligence increases potential liability. After this ruling, the prudent thing to do is to defer diligence (if any) until after the image has been posted by the user. IMO, this is another case of the judiciary undermining the legislature rather than reading the laws. (TBH, the older I get, the more I regret William the Conqueror creating the “wiki” common law system.)

Thanks Mark, this is exactly what I was hoping someone would know.

This does pose an interesting problem, both at a moral level (is it right that gaining more knowledge would subject a party to more liability), and at a legal level (is this what the law actually means)? The right strategy for LiveJournal or FIRST isn’t clear to me, because the risk-averse extreme seems inconsistent with the role of copyrighted material in cultural activity (both within and outside of the bounds of the fair use test), and the indifferent extreme could theoretically result in embarrassment (e.g. due to the symbology on the scoreboard being objectionable to some observers) or a lot of annoying legal action.

The court’s discussion of how certain unpermitted infringements need to be “immediately apparent to a non-expert” and “‘apparent from even a brief and casual viewing’” is interesting as well, as it could serve as a guide to retaining safe harbour protections.1

I just read the appeals court decision (Mavrix Photographs, LLC v. LiveJournal, Inc.). At this preliminary stage (an appeal of a motion for summary judgment), they got it right.

Summary judgment happens independently of having all the evidence laid out at trial, and could only be granted if the district court assumed the most favourable set of facts for the party against whom the judgment would apply, and still, as a matter of law, found that that party can’t win.

Basically, the appeals court noted that there is a legal question about the applicability of safe harbour protections when an actual employee of LiveJournal (as opposed to a volunteer moderator) moderates for content, “and whether their acts may be attributed to LiveJournal”. Summary judgment is not allowed, because Mavrix could win on the basis of that issue. So there has to be a trial in the district court to lay out all the evidence and decide.

This isn’t about an activist judiciary: they’re applying the law exactly as required, and they’re not making anything up as they go. The real decision will happen at trial (if the parties don’t settle the issue beforehand). At that point, the district court will have to decide what the limits of the safe harbor are, by interpreting the statute. And, if appealed on that issue, the appellate legal system rightly exists to patch the parts of the law that don’t work together.

In the recent decision, the appeals court referred to “the common law of vicarious liability” and “of agency”. That’s because there really isn’t a statute to read that articulates the whole applicable body of law in one place. The court says, that OCILLA (part of the DMCA) can’t be read without reference to the common law, presumably because without reference to common law principles, the DMCA would be ambiguous.

1 That seems like a very hard test to implement in practice, because a reasonable person might wonder whether there was a copyright licence agreement in place, or whether there was a fair use case. Perhaps I’ll read some of the case law at some point to see if there’s more to it, or if it’s an unresolved question, and someone needs to write a law review article. Judging by footnote 13 in the case, I think it’s the latter.

Have you been reading my emails? I kid but this is what some of them read like when they involve lawyers.

This is an excellent summary of the summary though.

No. The safe harbor doesn’t really apply. The DMCA’s safe harbor protects service providers against liability for information stored online where the liability arises from the storage. See 17 usc 512©(1).

Here, teams are uploading avatars. So, if First complied with the other requirements of the DMCA (including the requirement to register a DMCA agent and identify the agent on their website, neither of which they do), they’d be protected for liability for that storage. If my team happened to load up an infringing Avatar, First would generally not be liable for copyright infringement when it presented that Avatar to other users of the website.

But, they’re going beyond that storage by publicly displaying those avatars at events. That’s a different infringement that is not covered by the DMCA. YouTube/Google might host infringing videos under the DMCA, but would be in a bit more trouble if it chose and played one at, say, a Google shareholder event.

Further, note that if First was covered by the DMCA, that protection would not extend to others, like the Blue Alliance, that downloaded the avatars from First.

There is a pretty good fair use defense here, however. (Not going into detail there.)

Also, consider that First HAS to screen these things. Some team is going to upload something inappropriate like boobs or something.