ME and Ophelia

Friday, August 05, 2005

Napster style action against those who breach newspaper copyright

Interesting post entitled Magnate Threatens to Sue Bloggers by Curt at Committee for the Protection of Bloggers who points to a post at Back Seat Drivers about an interview re "Napster-style" action against those who breach newspaper copyright. I am logging it here for future reference. For those of you who link to mainstream media news items, please do the same. You never know when you might need it - or Curt's help and support.

The only time I was asked to cut a post of mine was when the New Statesman emailed me about a copy of a statement by Oxfam I had posted at my blog Sudan Watch. The statement was a rebuttal authored by Barbara Stocking, a director of Oxfam, in response to an outrageous headline by the New Statesman "Why Oxfam is failing Africa" implying that Oxfam has failed Africa. I copied Oxfam's rebuttal in full and credited the author and directly linked to the rebuttal in the New Statesman. In no way could my post be construed as passing it off as my own work, so I did not see it as plagiarism or that I was doing anything wrong. All sorts of blogs act as news aggregators, posting copies of reports in full.

For me, at the time, it was a relief having a blogging journalist like Curt to turn to about an issue that I might have spent days suffering stress while trying to find someone to talk it over with. I am grateful to Curt for his help and rapid response.

When I posted the copy of Oxfam's rebuttal, I had no idea that items at the New Statesman, like the New York Times, slip into archives after a short while and readers have to go through a registration process giving details and email address to read an article in full.

Oxfam's rebuttal, as far as I can tell, is not published elsewhere on the Internet but when you google for the piece, the New Statesman appears at the very top of the first page, and a link to my blog Sudan Watch - leading to a full copy of the rebuttal - is immediately beneath (or it was the last time I checked).

By the way, I did search Oxfam's site for the statement, could not find it and emailed them for a copy but to date I have not received a reply.

For reasons that I am unclear about myself, I still cannot bring myself to cut the majority of Oxfam's rebuttal, as requested by the New Statesman. I don't know why I have been stubborn on this as I am not in the habit of breaking rules. I suppose it makes me feel in my own insignificant way my personal blog is empowering me to get back at the New Statesman for publishing such a disgusting headline about Oxfam, and that by leaving the rebuttal up in defiance I am doing something to point out the error of their ways: ie that they can't expect to have it all their own way, publishing such damaging rubbish and then hiding a rebuttal in their archives after the damage is done. Mud sticks. I don't know what the New Statesman hoped to gain from such a cheapshot at Oxfam: that people stop donating money to help the most vulnerable people in the world? I don't think so. Seems to me they were just being irresponsible and uncaring taking a potshot at Oxfam to score political points and sensationalist headlines to catch the eye of more readers.

P.S. Reports I file in my personal weblogs are for my own use and future reference. Whenever I copy a report in full (which I try to avoid as I prefer excerpt and add my own thoughts, but sometimes I get too tired to concentrate on analysing news and writing original commentary), I liken it to having a real newspaper, clipping the relevant article and pasting it into a scrap book/diary.

If members of my family, friends, etc., pick up my scrapbook/diary and read it - surely the New Statesman could not stop that. If the scrapbook ended up being given away to a doctors surgery reception where many people might pick it up and read it, the New Statesman could not stop that.

Why is it, just because my scrapbook/diary is electronic stored at, the New Statesman thinks it can intervene with my hobby of collecting news clippings? (Ask anyone who knows me over 30 years - they will tell you I have always had the habit of keeping piles of newspaper clippings that took my interest.)

I've always kept news clippings for future reference and posterity but now I do it electronically. I've already found some posts I blogged a year ago, linking to news reports but the posts no longer make sense because the links have broken and lead to pages saying the report is no longer available, the link has broken, the site no longer exists , etc.

News reports that I publish in full are usually for a reason. I want to keep a copy of Oxfam's statement in my weblog so it is searchable in my search bar and I can retrieve it and point to it if I need to in the future.

Having received the email from the New Statesman (I had no idea I needed permission to copy the statement in full - or that there was a copyright on the report) I now see there is a barrier up to reading the report at NS's website. Had I known that at the outset, it would have made me even more keen to publish the report in full at my weblog because registrations do put off readers which means the report will be less widely read. And - if New Statesman ever remove their report from archives, it will never be read and I will never have a copy to refer back to.


I don't mean to be harping on here about the New Statesman issue - my point is, and what I am still pondering is: if the New Statesman wanted to force me to cut the majority of the article, how could they force me? What I mean to say is, how can mainstream media pursue so many bloggers - there are millions of us all over the world - David Sifry on Blog Growth says [and the BBC have picked up on it here: one blog is created 'every second'. [See Dave's posts on State of the Blogosphere Part 2: Posting Volume and Part 3: Tags and Tagging] - people's whereabouts on land would be pretty hard to track down - sounds very costly and a bit barmy. Mainstream media - like the copying of TV movies onto video for personal use - need to get over it, and see that at least on the Internet they are getting a huge amount of free publicity.

Unless someone is copying mainstream media reports to pass off as their own work/make money/for personal gain/not crediting, I really do not see what the problem is. If someone is profiting from copying material, then maybe there ought to be a mechanism for them to pay a cut to the source of the news material. Sort of like the bodies that protect the royalties for songwriters.

But on reflection though, if someone started a weblog that copied verbatim original commentary by top bloggers - and made a profit from it, say by placing ads in the sidebar, charging a sub or whatever - I wonder if the bloggers in question, would mind or complain if they were properly credited by name and linked to? I would like to think most would see it as flattery. Any publicity is good publicity.


Sorry this post is so long winded. Cannot spend any time on editing it down. Must rest. Been posting heavily at Sudan Watch (John Garang was killed in a helicopter crash) and other blogs on Africa - especially Niger Watch. New York Times reports today that in Niger one child in five is dying - the result of a belated response by the outside world to a food crisis predicted nine months ago. Sigh.

Note, the post at Niger Watch Niger's Anguish Is Reflected in Its Dying Children links to the New York Times. I wonder how many readers here would go to the trouble of registering with the NYT in order to read the article - and register with the New Statesman to read Oxfam's rebuttal. The only reason I spend time and energy posting news so regularly on humanitarian crises in Africa is in the hope of someone, somewhere, reading it.

# posted by Ingrid J. Jones @ 8/05/2005
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