Box Turtle Bulletin lays out the details of a very disturbing development:
By providing blockquotes, we let the source material speak for itself without any inadvertent inaccuracies or biases which may creep in if we were to paraphrase it. And by providing links, we allow you, the reader, to click through for more information. Of course, we cannot copy the source material in its entirety, nor can we copy major portions of it. That would violate copyright laws, which is a very serious issue. But copyright laws do allow us to copy small portions of source material for commentary and discussion purposes.
As I said, copyright laws — or more specifically, copyright lawsuits — are serious business. And now, three newspaper chains have discovered that filing copyright lawsuits can become yet another profit center. The problem is, their definition of copyright infringement not only contradicts copyright law, but also poses a serious threat to bloggers and other online outlets everywhere.
Righthaven LLC is a copyright holding company which acquires “rights” to newspaper content after finding the content published on other web sites without permission, and files lawsuits against those web site. Righthaven was created as a partnership with Stephens Media, publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and their business model rests entirely on suing web site owners and operators for extravagant “damages” as a shakedown exercise. (“Rights” are in quotes, because, contrary to what is required under copyright law, Righthaven doesn’t actually acquire any legitimate copyright “rights,” which is yet another problem with their business model.) Two other newspaper chains, WEHCO Media and Media News Group have entered into agreements with Righthaven to split the profits from lawsuits stemming from their respective newspapers’ contents.
The three newspaper chains partnering with Righthaven represent some very important voices in the newspaper industry, including the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Denver Post, Salt Lake Tribune, San Jose Mercury News, Oakland Tribune, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Detroit News, El Paso Times, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and Charleston Daily Mail.
I had already heard that the Las Vegas Review-Journal had some unusual views on quoting from their website, so I’ve avoided using that site for years. I didn’t know that the St. Paul Pioneer Press had also adopted that highly restrictive view of copyright, and they were one of the newspapers I read regularly for Minnesota Vikings information. I’m going to have to avoid quoting from them, however. Here is how Box Turtle Bulletin will be handling the situation in future:
And so to protect ourselves and this web site, we will no longer cite any content from Denver Post, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Salt Lake Tribune, or any of the other news sources listed no linkhere. There will be no links, no blockquotes, nothing. For the most part, it will be as if these sources simply don’t exist.
But if it happens that, for example, the Denver Post has an exclusive story that no one else has, we will do what the Associated Press does whenever the New York Times breaks a story. We will write about the story by paraphrasing the Post’s article, but we will not quote from it or provide a link to it — just like the Associated Press does. There will be however one tweak from standard AP practice: we will provide a link, but it will be to an explanation as to why there is no link. It will look something like this:
“The Denver Post (no link) reports blah, blah, blah…”
H/T to Walter Olson for the link.