Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Three Celebs and a Baby

I recently swore off home reno shows after a friend pointed out to me that they are the worst thing you can possibly watch when you’re looking to improve your own living space because the key to their miraculous design transformations is the removal of all trappings of human existence.

Prior to quitting cold turkey, though, I watched lots of such programs, which is why I’m amazed I’d never encountered the “Scots design gurus” Colin Lewis McAllister and Justin Patrick Ryan, the interior designer partners (and real life couple) who, Wikipedia informs me, “have been credited for introducing laminate flooring to British households.”

Colin and Justin have hosted shows including “The Million Pound Property Experiment,” “Twenty Ways to Make Money on Your Property,” “Trading Up,” “Housecall,” “How Not to Decorate,” “The Farm,” “Wedding Belles,” “Hogmanay Stories,” “Colin and Justin on the Estate,” “Colin and Justin’s Home Heist,” “Colin and Justin’s Home Show” and “Colin and Justin’s Music Makeover” in addition to appearing as regular guests on a whole swath of other programs and as “celebrities” on shows like “Celebrity MasterChef,” “Celebrity Coach Trip” and, the only one I’m even tempted to watch, “Three Celebs and a Baby” which Wikipedia describes as:

A British TV first, Colin and Justin, along with model Caprice, attempted to raise a £150,000 animatronic ‘baby’. The show charted the three celebrities as they experienced the highs and lows of parenthood. Caprice infamously dropped her ‘baby’ while Colin and Justin later said in interviews that it made them realise they would indeed make good parents.

I found photographic evidence of this relic of 2005 on the website of Artem, the company that created the “baby,” who seems to be sporting a Donald Trump-esque toupee:

Colin and Justin an animatronic baby

Two men and a “baby.”


The photo of Caprice and her “baby” suggests the entire program may have been designed to discourage B-List celebrities from reproducing:

Caprice and animatronic baby.

Caprice and animatronic baby. (Source: Artem)

Here’s what Artem had to say about the “baby boy” it was given two months to create:

Never one to turn down a challenge, Artem embarked on a brief that included producing a self-contained animatronic baby with happy, sad, chuckling and sleeping facial movements, a vocabulary of gurgles, shrieks and endless crying sounds and three fully working bodily functions; peeing, pooing and vomiting…a specialist odour manufacturer (yes, they exist!) was commissioned to brew up safe, but authentically repellent liquids, which were then coloured and thickened as per the clients requirements.

According to the Sunday Mail:

On the second day of the trial, the duo [Colin and Justin] made the baby sick by giving him curdled milk.

However, the couple, who want to adopt in real life, cried when they had to give back the doll they had named Damien. [emphasis mine]

On their Colin & Justin blog, they explained that the “three-part documentary” was intended to answer a question I cannot actually imagine anyone posing:

…who made better parents – us, a gay couple with absolutely no parenting experience whatsoever, or Caprice, the American model and underwear queen.

I laugh, but the show, according to its producer, was apparently adapted successfully in other countries.


“Like the Shining”

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, on to the local angle: Colin and Justin bought the Point of View Suites in Louisbourg, which they’ve renovated, renamed the North Star and are preparing to open officially this summer.

They are publicity hounds par excellence who apparently see themselves less like hoteliers, more like the monks of the Great St. Bernard Hospice. Here they are on Instagram explaining that they’d ended up opening in the summer of 2021, pre-renos, because:

…as people’s entitlement to travel started to open up, our conscience got the better of us… and we felt a responsibility to host.

The Scottish tabloid the Daily Record seems fascinated by the pair, and has been turning their Instagram posts into articles with headlines like:

Scots interior designers Colin and Justin red faced after being locked out of home in PJs in which the two apparently decided to put out the garbage and were locked out when “freak weather conditions ended up freezing their door lock within seconds.” Fans, we’re told “found the news of the duo’s predicament hilarious and others said it was a common occurrence in Nova Scotia.”

Scots design gurus Colin and Justin spend night in freezing van after power cut at Canadian hotel” in which the two lost power at the hotel and had to take shelter in their Ford F-150 in -14 degree weather, giving them an opportunity to shout-out @colbourne_ford  who had told them their “grey toned big guy would be a problem solver.”

And the latest, and my personal favorite:

Inside Colin and Justin’s stunning new Nova Scotia hotel which looks like ‘The Shining’ in which the two unload about the “years of blood, sweat and tears” they have put into the project:

“Mother Nature? Go stick this up your chilly, ice cold ass: we were NOT beaten. We’ve endured what felt like re living The Shining. Secluded and lost to the elements: our sub zero reno has been our toughest challenge to date.”

The designers said they had been “undermined daily” by “hellish” ice storms and the bitter, windswept winds of Atlantic Canada had “tried their best to ruin us”.

You remember The Shining, right? The Stanley Kubrick film based on the Stephen King novel in which Jack Nicholson buys an isolated hotel and slowly loses his sanity when the furniture he’s ordered from IKEA fails to materialize?

It all made me interested to see what they’d wrought; I imagined a re-design worth battling the elements to complete would be a hell of a redesign but I have to say, the results are underwhelming. The North Star interiors look like every AirBnB ever:

suite 9, North Star

Source: Daily Record

Suite 9, North Star

Source: Daily Record

Of course, Colin and Justin are probably contractually obligated to ramp up the drama because their project is being filmed for their Great Canadian Escape reality TV series which will air on the BBC’s Channel 5. As the Irish Times explains, the show will:

…follow the couple as they become first-time hoteliers, after buying a tired hotel in a small town in Nova Scotia with the hope of overhauling the dated building.

The four-part series will not only charter the pair’s risky venture and their attempts to renovate the hotel, but will also document their personal journey as they settle into a rural Canadian community.

The show will see McAllister and Ryan trying to get the local town on board and hiring local tradespeople and suppliers, from lumber merchants to blacksmiths and hotel staff.

Viewers will also get an insight into what life is like living in remote Canada.

Ah yes, “remote” Louisbourg, a full 20-minute drive from Sydney.

Colin and Justin claim they are putting their life savings and “pensions” into this venture which I highly doubt but, you know, drama.

I will find a way to view this, I think watching them portray Louisbourg in winter as the frozen tundra will be funny—although it won’t do much for Destination Cape Breton’s winter tourism campaign.

But I really wish they’d incorporated Damien the animatronic baby from 2005 into this new show. He’d now be an animatronic 17-year-old and a guaranteed ratings booster, not to mention an extra pair of robotic hands in the dining room.



I was listening to the Bad Faith podcast this week and the guest, Canadian (British, American) author Cory Doctorow, mentioned, almost as an aside at the end of the conversation (which was about inflation, more specifically, what everyone gets wrong about inflation), the issue of copyright in relation to both Marvel Comics characters and Mickey Mouse. It turns out these are distinct copyright issues, as I discovered when I went in search of further details which I will now share with you as though you were just as ignorant of copyright law as I was (feel free to skip this bit if you’re a copyright lawyer or enthusiast).

Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow (Photo by Dominik Butzmann / re:publica, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

So, first the basics.

Copyright in Canada lasts for the lifetime of the creator plus 50 years but this is set to change under the “new NAFTA”—the Canada-US-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) that (full disclosure) I completely forgot came into force on 1 July 2020. Canada has until 31 December 2022 to change its copyright duration to match that of the US, which is life + 70 years.

The idea behind the extension is to ensure a creator’s (possibly deeply untalented) heirs are able to continue to “monetize” the creator’s work for what amounts to their lifetimes as well. I wrote that sentence before I discovered that Victor Hugo, as he was drafting the 1886 Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (an international copyright treaty which Canada joined “reluctantly” in 1886 and the US in 1988), described the “true heirs” of an author as “the authors that build on their work, whose claims are more important than those of the familial descendants of these authors.”

That is not a view shared by the United States, which also used to set copyright duration at the creator’s life + 50 years but increased this to life + 70 years under the terms of the 1998 “Copyright Term Extension Act,” also known as the “Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act” after the shorter half of Sonny and Cher, who became a Republican Congressman in 1995, lobbied for the change to copyright duration but skied into a tree and died nine months before President Bill Clinton signed the act into law. Wikipedia tells me that Bono’s wife, Mary Bono, who replaced him in Congress, spoke in favor of the bill on the floor of the house saying:

Actually, Sonny wanted the term of copyright protection to last forever. I am informed by staff that such a change would violate the Constitution. … As you know, there is also [then-MPAA president] Jack Valenti’s proposal for term to last forever less one day. Perhaps the Committee may look at that next Congress.

The Sonny Bono Act also extended the copyright on “work for hire” from 75 years to to 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication, whichever end is earlier. According to the law firm of Dunlap, Bennett & Ludwig, the “work for hire” doctrine applies when:

(1) the creator is an employee who created the work within the scope of his employment, or (2) he is an independent contractor and the client specifically commissioned his work for a project. 

At this point, I must mention that the copyright on Walt Disney’s 1928 cartoon Steamboat Willie, which first introduced Mickey Mouse to the world, was set to expire in 1998 and, according to The Hollywood Reporter, Disney led the lobbying effort for copyright extension which is why, in addition to “the Sonny Bono Act,” the legislation is also known as “The Mickey Mouse Protection Act.” Disney is now scheduled to lose its copyright over Steamboat Willie in 2024 (that is, 95 years after publication).

Mind you, the situation with Disney has been complicated by a bill—the Copyright Clause Restoration Act—introduced by Republican US Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri in May 2022. Hawley’s bill, according to The Hill, would put an immediate end to protections on all copyrights exceeding 56 years of age and “apply the new rule retroactively, meaning Disney and other companies could immediately lose some copyright protections if the law were passed.”

It’s all part of a Republican war on Disney for speaking out against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill and even Americans who have argued against “excessive” copyright terms say Hawley’s bill is laughable, probably unconstitutional and “bound to fail.”

That said, Disney’s copyright over Mickey Mouse, as he appeared in 1928, will expire in 2024 and it seems unlikely it will be extended again. But as then-law student Jesse Kirkland explained in this 2019 blog post: this will not mean you can “distribute your own copies of Fantasia“:

While it is true that Mickey will soon be accessible to all, it is crucial to understand which version of Mickey Mouse will become publicly accessible and which ones will still be under lock and key in the “Disney vault.” It is only the rendition of Mickey Mouse that is in the film Steamboat Willie — and also The Gallopin’ Gaucho, released in the same year — that will be free from copyright protection. While this may seem like a minor technicality, it is important to consider that the iconic Mickey Mouse character design with which we are all familiar today — the one featured in commercials for the Disney theme parks, displayed on Disney-branded backpacks, and at the forefront of classic movies like Fantasia — is not the same version of Mickey featured in his 1928 debut. In the accompanying images, the image on the left is from Steamboat Willie, and the image on the right is the more contemporary permutation of Mickey that is featured, with only minor variations, across many of Disney’s publications and marketing materials today.

Kirkland provided these handy visual aids:

Mickey Mouse


Just Marvel-ous

In the case of the Marvel characters (also owned by Disney), there’s one more relevant piece of copyright law to mention, and that’s Section 304 (c) of the US Copyright Act which, as Aaron Moss explained on copyrightlately, “gives artists and their heirs an opportunity to recapture previously transferred copyrights after 56 years.”

In 2020, according to Moss, the heirs of “some of Marvel’s most well-known Silver Age comic writers and artists served copyright termination notices” under this law to Marvel. In response, Marvel:

…went on the offensive, filing five separate lawsuits seeking declarations that the termination notices are invalid…The lawsuits ask the respective courts to declare that the artists’ and writers’ contributions to such characters as Spider-Man, Iron Man, Black Widow, Falcon and others were created as “works made for hire”—which…aren’t eligible for copyright termination.

Moss’ piece is well worth reading, but the gist of it is that Marvel is unlikely to lose its rights to any of the characters in question—including Iron Man and Spider-Man—because:

Under existing law in the Ninth and Second Circuits (within which all five complaints were filed), the writers’ and artists’ contributions will almost certainly be deemed works made for hire that aren’t eligible for termination. That’s because these circuits both employ the “instance and expense test” with respect to copyrighted works created prior to 1978. Under the instance and expense test, a traditional employer/employee relationship isn’t required for the hired party’s contributions to be considered a work made for hire. Instead, it’s enough that the hiring party is the motivating factor in inducing the creation of the work and has the right to direct and supervise the manner in which the work is carried out.


Copyright Canada

The Canadian government held public consultations on this issue of extending the duration of copyright law (which it agreed to do retroactively) and Doctorow made a submission in which he specifically referenced the Sonny Bono Act:

The 1998 US experiment in retrospective copyright term extension – the Sonny Bono Act – provides an evidentiary basis for evaluating the impact of these extensions. In the 23 years since Act was signed into law, all areas of media production have undergone radical concentration, from film to music to print publishing to news to digital publishing. Much of that concentration is driven by the economics of exploiting the rare elements of back-catalogue that are still commercially viable…

Doctorow argues that the dominant firms in “each entertainment vertical” have used their power not to make better deals for artists, but to make better deals for themselves and their shareholders at the expense of artists. Giving a creator more copyright “to help them get a better deal from their label or publisher,” Doctorow argues, is like:

…giving a bullied schoolkid extra lunch money [emphasis Doctorow’s] in the hopes that the bullies will leave them with the excess so they won’t go hungry. That’s not how bullies operate…

Doctorow notes that the greatest beneficiaries of term extension will likely be “intermediaries,” that is:

…lawyers who evaluate muddy titles to works, negotiate clearances, or fail to negotiate them (and get paid anyway).

In the latter case, he argues, everyone loses: the public, which doesn’t get to enjoy the new work; the new creator, who doesn’t get to make the work; but also the original creator, because the new work might actually have brought the original work back to the public’s attention. As Doctorow says:

I spent my teens working in Toronto libraries and used/new bookstores. Anyone who’s ever worked in those honourable trades knows that the destiny of the vast majority of works and creators – even the most successful examples of both – is utter obscurity. To work in a used bookstore is to discover authors who published a New York Times bestseller every single year for decades, and who are so unread, unregarded and unremembered today that you’ve run out of shelf-space for them and have to turn away people flogging their dead parents’ treasured collections in hopes of finding a good home for them.

Doctorow says Canada granting the term-extension in the CUSMA negotiation is:

…one of the most compelling pieces of evidence in favour of Donald Trump’s otherwise laughable boasts to be a “great negotiator” who gets “the best deals.”

And that’s all I’ve got for today, although this is a fascinating topic deserving of much more discussion so please, feel free to talk amongst yourselves.