The last Comm Law class I took just about five years ago was severely devoid of any content or case studies on how online journalism and media were impacting long held judicial tests. Like so many other heavily regulated industries, the libel, decency, fair use and journalistic protections have all needed a severe review – not exactly an easy cruise ship to turn into the iceberg.
Recently, it was drawn to my attention that the culture of online media is getting some attention, in the form of an interactive four-week course taught by George Freeman, vice president and assistant general counsel at The New York TimesNow. I’m not sure if the class is going to cover how Downfall parodies impact fair use, but at least it’s a pretty good profile start.
“This Program of Study course is part of the New York Times Knowledge Network, which is open to consumers nationwide. Programs of Study courses, developed and taught by New York Times journalists or professional staff, cover a variety of topics and are delivered online. Students can select any number of these courses: to stand alone, or be taken as a sequence.”
Sounds like fun – especially if you’re not interested in lugging around one of those giant blue comm law books.
Now, the below diagram isn’t a sarcastic Boomtown/Kara Swisher creation. It’s not from TechCrunch. It’s not even from Ezra Klein, the Post‘s king of whimsical and informative charts.
As Cory Doctorow goes into in his post at the BB, “A lot of copyfighters were mystified by the Associated Press’s recent announcement (complete with a bonkers diagram straight off a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s) that they had spent millions of dollars on a DRM system for news that would limit how you could paste the text you copied from your browser window…This is a seeming impossibility…it just seemed too weird to think that no one at the AP had said, ‘Wait, what? This is dumb.'”
Jumping back to that wonderful diagram, here’s my sticking point: it is undeniable, from a usability standpoint, that the more steps that you add to spreading information, it will get to less people. Sure, there’s a chance this model actually may protect some of the AP’s specific original content. But there may be one additional step to getting to the consumer: full buy-in from the editorial universe.
The way I see it, this actually hurts publishers more than the AP (of course, that chart is so confusing, there may be nine extra steps to protect them, however, I’m getting off track). There are still a ridiculous number of derivative placements that stem from each posting. Is the AP planning on holding them hostage to this system? More steps, more checks and, of course, more dollar signs are the last thing the newspaper industry needs – especially those publications that rely on AP to fill out their content on a daily basis.
Information is to be shared, not hoarded and certainly not passed through a series of tubes until it’s potentially rendered useless to that very fact. We’ve been cutting and pasting since we’ve been toddlers. We figured out to make photocopies of news stories, the power of e-mailing and tweeting links; it’s taken millions of dollars to create this system and it will take less than a week for someone to beat it and go back to our blasphemous, pirating, copy-and-pasting ways.
Accept it and change, or keep trying to live in your old paranoid, business model. Your choice.
Now, I’m proud of this post because not only are my friends the kind who would name this blog, they also are the ones who told me [paraphrased], “If you ever went to jail, it’d probably be for a weak crime like copyright infringement.”
Let’s fire up that Comm Law class real quick and remember the following:
To claim copyright, you must have printed material. So, a photo of Barack Obama taken by one of your staff’s photographers is certainly considered your property.
And what can you do with that?
2) Prepare any derived works;
3) Reproduce; or
4) Publically (a) perform or (b) display.
Also, you can sell the rights to do so.
Of course, if you can prove that an individual saw the work, then used it without permission and benefited financially, you can recover and get an injunction in place. That’s the course of action for correcting an infringement.
Some things fall outside of infringement, though. For example. the idea of Fair Use. You know, the one that kind of allows generations of American artists the freedom to take something and artistically reinterpret it. It’s covered by this statement in US Copyright Law [emphasis added by me in this case]:
The fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.
This comes up because the AP is actually trying to take it to Shepard Fairey over that whole poster that includes a similar pose of the original photo:
You want to talk about Social Media? Has there been anything more social in terms of political comment than this image over the last six months (that didn’t include Alaska, Russia or Tina Fey)? So, don’t go changing your Obamaicon yet. I’m looking forward to AP getting raked over the coals on this. (It’s already started at TechCrunch and FamousDC).