Saturday, September 04, 2010

My Warning to All: Don't copy news articles.

I'm not a lawyer. But my warning to all those who use the internet is simple -- RESPECT COPYRIGHT LAWS.

Don't copy entire articles from newspapers, without permission. There are papers going under who will sue you. One paper in particular, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, has come up with a business model which involvese suing their readers for small amounts.

They created a firm called RightHaven, whose sole purpose appears to be to file small suits against bloggers and others without enough money to defend themselves. This firm scours the internet for any references to articles from the LVRJ. If they find one, they will BUY the copyright from the LRVJ, and then sue the person who posted the article, or the host which allowed it to be posted.

Note that the newspaper is "no longer involved". So don't count on public opnion or a reasonable appeal to save you. This company is a lawyer-driven company with ONE PURPOSE IN MIND -- to get you to pay them money for violating copyright.

And to be clear -- it is unlikely that you would be able to justify a cut-and-paste of an entire article, even if you provide a link and a citation. (I wonder if the standard snark attack of quoting an article in little pieces with long responses to each part would be considered fair use?). Worse, even if you COULD win, are you ready to spend $50,000 defending yourself against a suit that apparently you can settle for $5000 or so?

The lawsuits all appear to be about the same: $75,000, plus surrender of your domain name. That appears to be a ploy, as the settlements seem much less, and the largest that has been reported publicly is $5000.

If you are a political candidate, don't think you are immune. RightHaven has gone after campaign web sites, which sometimes think they can simply cut-and-paste articles if those articles are about the candidate. They have gone after both democrats and republicans.

And for you blogger-user sites, they have gone after both left and right-wing aggregation sites like DU and FR. They've gone after indifivual bloggers. They sued a doctor for copying an article of interest to his patients. They sued a PR FIRM that does PR for the paper, for publishing an article about an event that they provided publicity for.

So, DON'T cut-and-paste articles. Purge your sites of any you have. THink hard about fair use, excerpt judiciously, include links and citations. I AM NOT A LAWYER, so don't think that I'm saying that if you do this, you will be OK. I can't say, but it is clear that you will be targeted if you just copy an article to your web site.

The days where a blogger can steal news stories, and get money from blog pimping advertisements, is over.

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