Whirled threatens linkers

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Councilor Chris Medlock has received a nastygram from John R. Bair, Vice President of the Tulsa Whirled, alleging that Medlock has intentionally infringed the Whirled's copyright by reproducing articles in whole or in part and by linking to Whirled articles without authorization. The Whirled demands that Medlock "cease and desist" immediately; if not, the Whirled will take legal action to enforce its copyright and will seek damages.

This is a blatant effort at intimidation, and the Whirled doesn't have a legal leg to stand on.

Providing a link to content on the web does not constitute a violation of copyright because no copying has taken place. I've been amused (but complimented) to get requests for permission to link to BatesLine. My usual reply is, "That's what it's there for."

Here's a link to a summary of a court case on this topic. The judge concluded that no copyright violation had occurred because there was no copying involved:

[Judge] Hupp went on to describe the process of hypertext linking: "The customer is automatically transferred to the particular genuine Web page of the original author. There is no deception in what is happening. This is analogous to using a library's card index to get reference to particular items, albeit faster and more efficiently."

Such hypertext linking, therefore, does not involve the reproduction, distribution or preparation of copies or derivative works. Nor does such linking constitute a "…display [of] the copyrighted work publicly…," as the web page called up by the user is the original web page created by the author.

Saying, "Go here and read this idiotic editorial by David Averill," does not violate any intellecutal property law, unless the Whirled has trademarked the phrase "idiotic editorial by David Averill."

Quoting from an article for the purpose of commenting on it is within the notion of fair use of copyrighted material. Stanford has extensive information on what constitutes fair use and how the courts have ruled in the past. The fair use exemption exists in the interest of public debate and discourse -- otherwise, a publisher or author could freeze out effective criticism by denying permission to a critic. And that's exactly what the Whirled appears to be attempting.

It's interesting that the letter did not come from the law firm that represents the Whirled, which suggests that they know they haven't a leg to stand on and are simply trying to throw a scare into Medlock. "Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on February 13, 2005 11:49 PM.

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