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[FYI] "Fair use" vs. foul play


"Fair use" vs. foul play

Newspapers win their copyright battle against FreeRepublic.com,
but does the ruling threaten their investigative reporting?

By Mark Gimein 

Nov. 10, 1999 | On Monday a federal court in Los Angeles
enjoined Jim Robinson, the operator of a Web site called
FreeRepublic.com, from posting articles copied from the
Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, the Times reported
on Tuesday. Robinson, a right-wing activist, had set up
FreeRepublic.com as a forum for other conservatives to comment
on the news. To lubricate the discussion, users of his Web site
resorted to the simple expedient of copying articles more or less
wholesale from major publications and putting them on his site
with a request for reader comments.

FreeRepublic.com reprints the stories with a boilerplate
disclaimer that the works are copyrighted and used under the "fair
use" provisions of copyright law.

I wanted to write about Blue Oval News because the site, unlike
FreeRepublic.com, represented what was best about independent
news on the Internet. By developing a powerful network of
contacts inside Ford, Lane has broken a series of important
stories about the automaker -- stories that would make any
reporter proud. Relying in part on internal Ford documents, Lane
showed how Ford sold fancy sports cars with defective engines.
Lane also uncovered documents showing that an upcoming Ford
engine was unlikely to meet government emission standards.

That, however, is exactly the case. The interests of a major
newspaper in protecting its work are real. It is understandable
that the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post should be
concerned when someone copies their work and gives it away on
his Web site. But the very same newspapers also will have an
interest in making sure that the copyright laws are not used as a
club against their own investigative reporting.

It might be worthwhile for us to start thinking about how
copyright law can not only protect legitimate economic interest,
but increase, rather than reduce, the amount of information that
gets into the hands of ordinary readers.

salon.com | Nov. 10, 1999

Kristian Köhntopp, NetUSE Kommunikationstechnologie GmbH
Siemenswall, D-24107 Kiel, Germany, +49 431 386 436 00
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