Agents Provocateurs?

Handing the US government further justification for its ongoing crackdown on the Internet: Gizmodo reports that in response to the Feds shutting down the extremely popular file-sharing site MegaUpload, the “Hacktivist” collective “Anonymous” have shut down the websites of the main corporate copyright enforcers, including the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, Universal Music and EMI.

The hackers have also shut down the main U.S. governmental copyright enforcers: the U.S. Copyright Office, the Department of Justice and the FBI.

Federal judge rules bloggers not journalists

A federal judge in Oregon has ruled that a Montana woman sued for defamation was not a journalistwhen she posted online that an Oregon lawyer acted criminally during a bankruptcy case, a decision with implications for bloggers around the country.

Crystal L. Cox, a blogger from Eureka, Mont., was sued for defamation by attorney Kevin Padrick when she posted online that he was a thug and a thief during the handling of bankruptcy proceedings by him and Obsidian Finance Group LLC.

U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez found last week that as a blogger, Cox was not a journalist and cannot claim the protections afforded to mainstream reporters and news outlets.

Although media experts said Wednesday that the ruling would have little effect on the definition of journalism, it casts a shadow on those who work in nontraditional media since it highlights the lack of case law that could protect them and the fact that current state shield laws for journalists are not covering recent developments in online media.

Caveat: I am not only a fourth generation lifelong resident of Bend (Oregon), the focus of this case, but a University of Montana graduate who has lived in Eureka (Montana) and firmly believes we need a wall – from Eureka California to Eureka Montana!. Cascadia, it’s inevitable.

AP to deploy anti-misappropriation technology to stop theft

AP says they aren’t concerned with bloggers copying a passage then adding their own thoughts, but will send cease-and-desist letters to those who, say, copy entire articles with no commentary.

I’ve always made a point of quoting as little as possible, then adding my take on it. Not only is this more obviously fair use, it also makes the story your own. Of course, you can always just stop linking to AP completely. Reuters or someone else will generally have articles about whatever AP covers too.

While there are lots of shades of gray here, copying an entire article with no added value almost surely is not fair use.

AP to monitor internet for violators

computer spy

The Associated Press has always come down hard on internet sites that inappropriately (in its view) reproduce its content. Now, it’s going to go even further.

AP will now actively monitor news sites looking for evildoers and they sure have been grumpy about this.

Look, it’s always best to just copy a paragraph or so anyway, and add your own ideas. Then the blog post becomes your thoughts, not just eight paragraphs from elsewhere with you saying, “what he said.” Another solution is to rephrase what was said with a link back, like I did with the post right before this one about Sen. Stevens. Then there’s no question about it, because you aren’t quoting anything

Given the enormous amount of news out there, there are almost always other news sources besides AP to link to for a given story anyway.

AP is losing customers, their revenue is down, and so rather than innovate, they are choosing to litigate, a timeworn and losing strategy.

Ok, we can link to AP again. Sort of.

AP backed off their threat of a lawsuits against the Drudge Retort (a liberal site) for quoting 40-80 words from their articles. They now say they just want to protect their headlines and the lede from being posted elsewhere. (So does that mean you can quote extensively from the rest of the article without fear of angering grumpy lawyers?)

Several websites with money have promised financial support should this end up in court in a battle over Fair Use. But stakes are high here, a ruling supporting AP could hurt bloggers.

Fair Use doctrine is vague. However too many blogs have the bad habit of quoting large sections of newspaper articles then adding a one sentence response. This is almost certainly not Fair Use and is something I avoid doing here. Besides, why would someone want to read a copy-cat blog with long quotes from elsewhere when they can read the source article instead?

A better alternative is to rephrase what the article said. Then it becomes your post, with your ideas, and Fair Use is no longer an issue.