Where is the damn morning going so damn fast, anyway? I’ll tell you where: Into wrestling with the CMS — that’s content management system, to you civilians — at my other site, which ate a story I was working on juuuust as I got to the last paragraph. And let that be (another) lesson to me: Don’t trust Drupal. Just when I think I’ve learned its quirks, it grows a few more. Drupal is a high-maintenance girlfriend given to plate-throwing and slapping. WordPress is your stable, dependable wife who gets dinner on the table without having to be begged.
This site is WordPress. So let’s hop to it, knowing we’ll probably not lose this one. (Bless you, autosave.)
I’m reading around this morning, and I find this L.A. Times column about the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which is starting to file lawsuits over stolen content. Roughly three dozen of them so far, the story says, against bloggers and others who have lifted their stories or photos, either whole or in large enough chunks to make the reader hardly need to click back to the original. The blogosphere is said to be “whirring and sputtering” over it, and I’m not surprised, as when it comes to getting a big hate-on for the evil MSM, you can’t really beat the blogosphere. But here’s the nut graf:
A certain generosity of spirit seldom gets traction in these new media/old media grudge matches. Still, I wonder if we can’t find a bit of middle ground. Can’t we acknowledge that copyright law has a righteous purpose, to protect original content and encourage creators to create even more? Can’t we also admit that a little creative reuse, far from thievery, can drive new attention to good work?
Dude, this is where I live. Come on in, the water’s fine.
You don’t have to be reading me for very long to know that in this fight, I’m going to be closer to the Las Vegas Review-Journal side than the other side. I guess that would include Jeff Jarvis, who is quoted later in the story “bristling” at what he calls “the bogus meme that news stories are being copied wholesale everywhere by copyright thieves.” Hmm. Well. Copied wholesale? Maybe not. But every day I see stories that are quoted at huge, huge length, yes with a link back but one that hardly matters, because the nine paragraphs quoted are all you really need to know. For a while, I was dropping e-mails or comments at some of these sites, reminding them of the concept of fair use. The response was almost always the same — fury, or at least an indignant reply that their quoting was “legal” because they’d credited the story to its original author/source. Many of these bloggers appear to be non-morons, so the only conclusion I can draw from this is that understanding basic copyright principles is simply not in most bloggers’ tool kits.
I have something of an advantage here, because the part-time job I do at night is for an aggregator service. We compile clipsheets for corporate clients, basically one-topic news roundups pertaining to their industry and published to their own intranets at dawn’s early light. My bosses, besides being the nicest people in the world (smooch, smooch), are also very well-versed on copyright law, and are scrupulous about obtaining rights and licenses to the material we republish for our clients. Our clients pay for both our service and those licenses, which ain’t cheap.
A few months ago, searching for a story for this blog, I ran across the “newsroom” section of Michael Moore’s website. I was stunned to find Wall Street Journal A-column stories reproduced in their entirety, down to their identical headlines and photos, on that site, along with the work of many other newspapers and wire services. I sent three polite e-mails asking the webmaster the nature of their licensing arrangements, and received no reply. There’s no advertising on Moore’s site (other than a store selling his own merch), so either he’s carrying the considerable cost of his newsroom out of pocket or risking the fury of people with even better lawyers than the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s.
In the past I have been a sinner, yes. A couple years ago I took a “no copyright violations” pledge here, and I’ve found it amazingly easy to keep. The rule of thumb is elsewhere in the LAT story, and it’s the one I follow, too: No more than three paragraphs, always attribute, always link back.
The punchline of that story is that one of the sued sites was a small-time cat blogger with no advertising. Sometimes a cease-and-desist letter will do just fine. Don’t bring a grenade launcher to a slap fight.
Good bloggage today:
Thanks to MMJeff, who Facebook’d this: How Thomas Kinkade sold the soul of his talent, by a First Things — i.e., Christian — blogger. Contains instructive illustrations of early v. late Kinkade, with this very droll takedown:
The first street scene was painted to capture a very specific place, San Francisco; the second scene was painted to capture a very different place, the consumer’s living room wall.
And thanks to Dexter, who Facebook’d this: Toddler caught on video, sipping a brewski at a Phillies’ game. Longsuffering Phillies fan Joe Queenan would have a very droll takedown line here, but my baseball knowledge falls short. Write your own.
So much for drinking responsibly: Is Smirnoff virally marketing binge drinking, or are there just a bunch of drunk dumbasses on the internet?
Off to study Russian.