Oklahoma Gazette covers the Whirled

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This week's Oklahoma Gazette -- Oklahoma City's alternative weekly -- has a story by Deborah Benjamin about the Tulsa World's legal threats against BatesLine.

For the story, Benjamin spoke to me and to my attorney, Ron Coleman, the general counsel of the Media Bloggers Association.

The story contains the first public comment from an attorney representing the World, Schaad Titus. Titus doesn't address the issue of excerpting (which is what I do) at all, but merely states that it's necessary for those who post articles in full to seek permission first.

Titus explained how, in his opinion, a hyperlink can be a copyright infringement:

He added that direct hyperlinks, which don’t outright copy content but refer to an HTML page where it can be found, also act as a copyright infringement because they “avoid the pay provisions of the Tulsa World’s Web site.” If such links prompted the reader to pay before viewing the content, then the hyperlinks would be acceptable, Titus added.

Note that this differs from the World's earlier assertion: The letter from World VP John Bair said that any link to their content without written permission constituted copyright infringement.

I can't see how a hyperlink can "avoid the pay provisions" of any website. If someone sends me a link to a page on the web, and I can view that page without logging in or being asked for payment, what "pay provisions" were avoided? And how is it avoiding "pay provisions" to pass on that same link to others? If you put something on the World Wide Web and want people to have to pay in order to see it, it's up to you to install the necessary screens. It's a bit like putting elaborate Christmas lights on the outside of your house -- if you put it out there for everyone to see, you hardly have a right to complain when people give directions to your house.

Ron Coleman points out that newspapers could prohibit their registered subscribers from deep-linking as part of the "click-wrap" user agreement. Of course, such an agreement wouldn't be binding on non-subscribers.

I like Ron's comment on how the World is handling this:

“They’re so heavy-handedly telling him, ‘You have no First Amendment rights as regard the Tulsa World: You can’t link to us; you can’t excerpt from us.’ And that’s just not true,” Coleman said. “... It’s just such an incredible emblem of the thick-headedness of old-media monopolies and their own inability to react rationally to a new-media landscape.”

Last October, Deborah Benjamin wrote a Gazette story about blogs as media watchdogs, speaking to me, Charles G. Hill of Dustbury, Mike from OkieDoke, and Alfalfa Bill. That story and this latest piece demonstrate that she understands blogs and their relationship to traditional media. I'm glad at least one newspaper in the state gets it.

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CGHill said:

The Gazette has been paying attention to blogdom at least since December 2002, when they ran their first (to my knowledge) article on the subject. It focused on the national brand-name bloggers, which prompted a complaint from me.

At least the Gazette folks are teachable. Thanks for opening their eyes, Charles.

Dave said:

"If you put something on the World Wide Web and want people to have to pay in order to see it, it's up to you to install the necessary screens."

That's just it...the Tulsa World had not done that, so anyone could, with the right URL, access pdf files of every page. They plugged that hole sometime in the last week or so.

It seems to me that if the World is going to go after someone for that, it ought to be their webmaster.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 3, 2005 11:54 AM.

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