Tulsa World: February 2005 Archives

Turkey ALA king

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One of the more notable reactions to the Tulsa World's legal threats against BatesLine came from Michael Gorman, the incoming president of the American Library Association (ALA). His response was not a defense of fair use and its role in public discourse, but a knee-jerk reaction, which, as it turns out, reflects a deeper lack of respect for blogs, the Internet, and the electronic availability and searchability of the written word. Karen G. Schneider has documented Gorman's reaction to the World controversy, along with his other controversial statements, on the blog Free Range Librarian.

The "Tulsa World silliness," as Ron Coleman calls the World's legal threats against BatesLine, got more airtime on CNN's Inside Politics on Friday, talking about the Media Bloggers Association coming to my assistance. Bob Cox of the National Debate (and the founder of Media Bloggers Association) has video and a transcript excerpt.

Bob Cox was scheduled to be on MSNBC today to discuss bloggers organizing. He should have video up at some point.

Bob also has a thorough entry on the hard work of being a credentialed blogger at an event like CPAC:

As I attempted to sort out my role at CPAC, I reflected on a point made by Judith Donath of MIT coming out of the Harvard confab, "bloggers tell their readers what they think is interesting or important, but there is no attempt at comprehensiveness." I agree but I don't take that to be a bad thing. Comprehensiveness is not part of the blogger "value proposition". Blog posts are more like points of light, colored onto canvas by George Seurat; sometimes the result is a grand mess while other times the result is La Grande Jatte.

I soon accepted that my role at CPAC was not to determine the news or to fit my reporting into someone else's (an editor, a readership) larger definition of what is important about the event I was covering but rather to write about what I could see that seemed important to me and share that with my readers (and the readers on the CPAC feed aggregator). And so I wrote about what I saw: a heated argument between Michael Medved and Al Franken, a backstage look at a surprise appearance by Matt Drudge during Ann Coulter's speech, John Fund helping himself to laptops in Bloggers Corner because one of them was mine and other little tidbits of information that, taken together with other CPAC coverage by blogger, might bring blog readers a more personal view of the goings-on at CPAC.

MBA general counsel Ron Coleman (wearing his blogger hat) has a couple more comments related to the Tulsa World silliness here (on the perils of deep linking) and here (on the best way to protect your copyright).

Meanwhile, Okiedoke has had visitors from tulsaworld.com looking for passwords.

I was using Technorati to see what bloggers are saying about the Tulsa World's threats against BatesLine. Chellee of Telling Deeds posted an entry calling the World's missive "wonderfully fascist" and praising Joel Helbling's wonderful parody of it.

What caught my attention was this comment from "Apathy Bear":

Yeah, I just checked out this guy's site. His blogroll's got some interesting links. "Club for growth" is not a good sign... Also, the guy's name-dropping people like Hugh Hewitt and Michelle Malkin. Malkin, for example, is an apologist for the Japanese internment of WWII. On the surface, Bate's claims appear legit; I have my reservations, however. I'll look into it some more. Something tells me that we're not getting the whole story from Mr. Bates.

Be sure to check out his take on the Terri Schiavo deal. I'm smelling the unpleasent reek of fundy mindrot here...

For the most part, left-leaning bloggers who've commented on the World's threats have focused on the copyright issue. They recognize that the matter affects every blogger, regardless of your ideology. So this comment shouldn't be taken as typical, but it is revealing of a certain mindset. He appears to have reservations about my credibility, reservations which are based entirely on his finding that I have conservative bloggers and organizations on my blogroll. It's as if he were saying, "I'd believe him if he were a Daily Kos reader, but Club for Growth supporters are shifty and dissembling." It really is another form of the World's blindness -- the idea that anyone with a different perspective must be stupid, unbalanced, or disingenuous.

And what about my "take" on Terri Schiavo is evidence of "fundy mindrot"? If "fundy" means someone who believes in the inerrancy and authority of the Bible, I plead guilty, but it doesn't seem to have eroded my mental ability enough to keep me out of MIT or Phi Beta Kappa or to stop me from writing software for the last 25 years.

Anyway, what's "fundy" about believing that you shouldn't kill a human being by depriving her of food and water? I'd hope every one would agree with that.

Chellee's reply was quite decent:

I saw that the site has definite conservative ties. I'm not one to defend conservatives, except when it comes to constitutional issues. I believe in freedom of speech, and threatening someone in the name of copyright to shut them up doesn't sit well with me.

Hugh Hewitt comments on a Washington Post story on the print media's response to circulation decline. Hewitt says you can't lay all the blame on more hurried lifestyles and the rise of the Internet:

Nowhere in the article is there any discussion of the contempt for most newspapers felt by millions of center-right readers, and the barriers to subscription or even reading put up by pieces like David Shaw's today, discussed below. The newspaper people blame the pace of daily life and the move towards internet consumption of information, and both are factors. But in an age of decline, the indifference to losses in reaction to ideological bias is a testament to the depth of that bias and the accompanying blindess to it.

I've written about the Tulsa World's blindness to their own bias. Every day, the World publishes a biased story or ignores a story because their bias blinds them to its significance, and in the process makes a few new enemies, people who decide that they would just as soon never give the Lorton family another penny for their worthless rag. The World demonstrates daily contempt for the conservative perspective on social issues, for evangelical Christianity, and for the notion that government should serve the people (not the other way around). They are losing circulation because they are out of step with the Tulsa market, but it's more comforting to believe that it's because they neglected to put all their content behind their firewall.

Today makes one week since I received a cease-and-desist letter from the Tulsa World, claiming that by linking to their articles and quoting from their articles (for the purpose of comment and criticism), I was infringing on their copyright. I posted their letter and my response, and notified some friends and acquaintances in the blogosphere. The story has received hundreds of links, including from most of the most-visited blogs, and was mentioned two days in a row on CNN's Inside Politics. BatesLine has gone from being about the 2000th most linked blog to, as of yesterday, the 178th most linked blog. This story is getting attention around the world.

So far, most local Tulsa media outlets have ignored the story. Only Talk Radio 1170 KFAQ and KTUL's website (but not the TV station) have covered the issue.

It's possible the other local media outlets just aren't hip to blogs and don't appreciate the broader implications of the World's legal attack. Maybe you, dear reader, can help educate them.

Take a minute today, call a TV station or a radio station, call OETA, call the Daily Oklahoman, and encourage them to cover the story. As more Tulsans know about this story, more Tulsans will be able to see through the Tulsa World's bias, and more Tulsans will know about alternative sources of news and perspective on local politics.

Movable irony


I was amused to see that Sunday's Tulsa World features an Associated Press story about Ben and Mena Trott, the founders of Six Apart and creators of Movable Type, the content management system that powers this and many other blogs.

By the way, you will notice that the link above (and links in other entries today and yesterday) is to a story on the part of the Tulsa World's website which is open to anyone, not just to subscribers.

At least a couple of bloggers are taking a tongue-in-cheek contrarian view of the Tulsa World dispute.

Mike of OkieDoke says I'm too harsh in my criticism of the World's cease-and-desist letter:

Come on, Michael, lighten up. The Tulsa World didn’t get to be the only daily in town through quality, unbiased reporting and openness to criticism. It took a lot of scheming and legal work to gain the extensive influence over local news the World enjoys today. And besides, they already get accused of more serious shenanigans like making up facts in covering elections.

Mike educates us about the World's "Word Witch" and their bizarre backwards-running presidential vote totals. And he helpfully includes contact information: "If you support the right of Tulsa World’s efforts to preserve their professionally crafted opinion dynasty by denying First Amendment rights and criticism from regular folks, contact the paper’s ‘guiding lights’ and give them the support they justly deserve."

Joel Helbling of Chez Joel seems to think that the Tulsa World was too gentle, too timid, too polite in approaching me with their claims of copyright infringement. He has composed a much more impressive form letter that Big Media can use to put bloggers in their place. It begins like this:

Dear Mr. Scumbag Uppity Blogger:

I am writing on behalf of ____________ Publishing Company, publisher of ____________, Main Stream News Media Newspaper, Informer of the Realm, Apostle to the Smug, Mouthpiece of the French. We are perturbed to learn that despite our continuing Magnanimity© in allowing you to publish your insular epithets on the Internet™ at ____________ (your so-called "blog"), you have flouted our beneficence and strained our considerable patience by reproducing. You have also reproduced (in whole or in part or not at all) the wisdom of articles and/or editorials from ____________ newspaper and/or have jury-rigged egregious and nefarious hyper-links™ on your "website" which direct your cretinous so-called "readers" to ____________'s fascinating and irrefutable content.

The tone bears a striking resemblance to Vogon poetry. The icing on the cake is Joel's headline:

"blogger bates behemoth, behemoth blandly blubbers"

Joel's latest entry features a couple of quotes from Robert Louis Stevenson's Travels With A Donkey in the Cevennes about magnanimity in persecution and the value of an honest friend, offered "as a salute to all the bloggers I admire and respect, especially those fighting legal battles today." Thanks, Joel.

Congratulations to the Tulsa World on taking responsibility for protecting access to online material that they claimed they wanted to protect. Now, if you follow a link to a PDF page, such as this one picked at random from a Google search, you get a PDF file that says "PDF permission denied!" with instructions and links to log in for access. Some PDF files, pertaining to special reports, are still accessible, but I assume they correspond to freely avaliable HTML files.

A website owner is within his rights to limit access to his online content, but he is also responsible to take technological measures to enforce those limits. If you put something on the web, you have to assume that anyone can and will get to it, even if you don't make it easy to navigate to the page.

This move contradicts the claim by World publisher Bobby Lorton that the PDF files were premium content, but they had no way to protect them. As I said in reply, they could if they really wanted to. It appears I was right.

This move marks the World's further retreat from Googlespace. Put up enough barriers for people to find out what you have to say, and pretty soon people will cease to care.

UPDATE: One more thought -- this move also demonstrates that a link to website content in no way interferes with the ability of the website owner to control access to that content. I haven't changed a thing on BatesLine -- all of the links to pages on tulsaworld.com are still there -- but now only tulsaworld.com subscribers can read the content.

Meanwhile, the Coalition for Responsible Government, which is pushing to recall Councilors Jim Mautino and Chris Medlock, continues to display the full text of 69 Tulsa World articles on a single page, and the full text of a further seven articles on another, apparently unchallenged by the copyright owner, who claims to be unaware of the infringement.

"I'd be hiring him"


I am highly complimented by this comment from "Sven Haagendaas" in response to Rhetorica's post on the World's attack:

Aside from the stunning ignorance from a newspaper about fair use, what's amazing to me is how the World jumped on the wrong side of a debate about transparency and just keeps digging.

Here's Bates' devastating (and fact-based!) takedown of a World editorial on it's conflict of interest in the airline "scandal." No wonder they don't want him using their own words against them!

If I were the World's owners, I wouldn't be suing Bates, I'd be hiring him. The guy got me interested in Tulsa politics, and I live 1,500 miles away.

If the World's goal were rebuilding credibility and readership, they would hire folks like me to bring some new perspective and energy to the paper. But the folks who run the World are quite happy with the fossilized perspective they already have -- just ask editorial page editor Ken Neal.

The following letter from my attorney is en route to the Tulsa World tonight, in response to their allegations of copyright infringement and threat of legal action against BatesLine. I am represented by Ronald D. Coleman, general counsel of the Media Bloggers Association. Many thanks to Bob Cox of the National Debate (and a founder of the Media Bloggers Association) for contacting me about the organization, and many thanks to Ron Coleman for working with me. If you are a blogger engaged in coverage or criticism of the media, you should join the Media Bloggers Association.

Here is the text -- a PDF of the letter is linked below.

February 17, 2005


Mr. John R. Bair
Vice President
Tulsa World
315 South Boulder
P.O. Box 74103-3423
Tulsa, OK 74102-1770
RE: Batesline.com

Dear Mr. Bair:

I am general counsel of the Media Bloggers Association (www.mediabloggers.org) and write on behalf of Mr. Michael Bates, in connection with your letter of February 11, 2005.

The World's complaint appears to be twofold. Let us dispose of the first issue quickly -- the claim that Mr. Bates's website "has inappropriately linked . . . to Tulsa World content." Why a newspaper with a website would want to prevent Internet users from gaining access to that website, regardless of the referral source, is a question best left to the World Publishing Company's board of directors. But while Mr. Bates's links may be "inappropriate" in the view of your newspaper, Mr. Bair, there is no legal basis whatsoever on which the World may prevent it.

Regarding the World's claim that Mr. Bates is reproducing copyrighted material in whole or in part in violation of the Copyright Act, this accusation must be rejected as well. Not only does the First Amendment protect Mr. Bates's activities, but the Copyright Act itself includes a "fair use" exception, granting parties the ability to use copyrighted material without permission from the owner for purposes of commenting or criticism. Mr. Bates's use of excerpted material from the World is obviously fair use and constitutionally protected speech.

Your organization's attempt to intimidate a small media competitor and a critic with the threat of legal action over his free speech is ironic, but it is unfortunately not unique. The Media Bloggers Association Legal Defense Project was formed expressly for the purpose of providing legal advice and counsel, and if necessary to assist in securing local counsel, for webloggers and others whose freedom of expression is threatened by established institutions who act as if the purpose of the First Amendment were to protect a sort of media monopoly. It is not.

We write therefore to advise the World that Mr. Bates is represented by counsel and by the Association, and that any further attempts to silence him, including the filing of meritless litigation as threatened by your letter, will be vigorously defended, including to the extent appropriate by the seeking of sanctions under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 in connection with the filing of meritless litigation claims.

Very truly yours,

Ronald D. Coleman

You'll find a PDF of the letter here.

The Everlasting Phelps believes that the Tulsa World has gone too far in pressuring the hosting provider for Tulsans for Election Integrity and has opened itself up for legal action:

This sounds to me, as a layperson, as an open and shut case of tortious interference with a contract:
The causing of harm by disrupting something that belongs to someone else -- for example, interfering with a contractual relationship so that one party fails to deliver goods on time.

TFEI had a contract with it's hosting provider. That contract has now been broken because Tulsa World sent a fraudulent and malicious letter to the hosting provider.

Phelps goes on to list the elements of tortious interference under Oklahoma and argues that at least two of the three have been satisfied.

UPDATE: More from Fire Ant Gazette on this topic.

For our mutual convenience, I've set up a new category which contains everything I've posted so far about the legal threats I received from the Tulsa World and the reaction from the blogosphere. As updates are posted, you'll still find them on the home page, but they'll also be here, in a category archive called "Tulsa World", and I encourage other bloggers to link to it.

The number three result on Google for "Tulsa World" is this.

The number four result is this.

The number five result is this.

I'm grateful to ktul.com, the website of Tulsa's ABC affiliate, for taking an interest in the Tulsa World's threats against this blog and other bloggers and websites. I was impressed that they were able to reach World publisher Bobby Lorton and get comment from him for this afternoon's story.

Here's what Lorton said in response to my statement that linking can't violate copyright, because nothing is being copied:

Lorton says Bates is opening a channel to PDF, or Portable Data Files, hosted on the Tulsa World website. Lorton says those files are owned by the Tulsa World and should not be free, but that they cannot lock the files.

"One way to stop it is to pull the PDF files, and I don't want to do that," Lorton said.

The World's website is unlike any other newspaper site with which I'm familiar. Some content -- theater listings, classifieds, and some special sections -- is free, but HTML-formatted versions of the articles from the current week are only accessible to subscribers. The firewall for current stories was added a few years ago; I forget exactly when. Before that, current stories were available without registration of any kind.

The World provides a selection of stories from each section in their wireless edition -- you don't need a subscription to access any of those stories.

Stories older than a week are in an archive which goes all the way back to 1989, and they cost 50 cents each (if bought in bulk). The same archive is available for free at Tulsa City-County Library branches. If you needed to search the World's archive, you could go to the library, do a search, then e-mail every story of interest back to yourself for later review at your leisure.

The World allows Student-Voices.org to publish the full text of a selection of their news stories and some editorials, mostly about local government. They have stories going back about a year. No subscription or registration is required to read these stories.

You also don't need a subscription to access PDF files of every page of every edition of the Tulsa World going back to sometime in early 2003. A Google search for PDF files on tulsaworld.com returned 3,510 results.

Balloon Juice actually phoned the Tulsa World's web editor:

I spoke to Scott Nelson, the Tulsa World Web Editor (They can be reached at (918) 583-2161), and tried to make sense of their policy, and got nowhere. I am even more confused with what they are trying to accomplish than before I called.

According to Mr. Nelson, you need written permission to print the article and must print the article in full. I responded that I didn't want to copy a whole article, just a quote, and he said that was not allowed and would be copyright infringement. When I asked why, he said it was their policy so that things wouldn not be 'taken out of context.' ...

He also said, contrary to the letter to Bates Online, that linking was allowed, which leads me to believe that Mr. Bair, the Vice-President, was perhaps a touch overzealous or using terms he was not familiar with. Who knows.



Here is one of my favorite responses so far to the World's demands. A blog called Christianity and Middle Earth has posted a tongue-in-cheek letter in response to Tulsa World VP John Bair:

I am writing on behalf of batesline.com, a weblog described as Reflections on the News by Michael D. Bates. We have recently learned that you and/or your secretary have reproduced (in whole or in part) Mr. Bates's name, address and the name of his website and have inappropriately typed said name, address and website name on your letterhead.stationery, and presumably, although I do not have the evidence immediately at hand, also typed it onto a first class envelope which was then sent through the mail, which act may be a further violation of federal statutes. ...

Therefore, we hereby demand that you immediately remove any BatesLine material from your files, to include unauthorized URLs for that website, and cease and desist from any further use or dissemination of Mr. Bates’s copyrighted material. If you desire to use (in whole or in part) any of the content of batesline.com or Mr. Bates’s name and address, you must first obtain written permission before that use. If you fail to comply with these demands, Mr. Bates’s vast network of blog-friends will not be amused and will probably make enough of a bloggy fuss to discourage such imbecility in the future.

Read the whole thing.

Bobby Lorton speaks

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Just time to link this: KTUL's website has a new story with comments from World publisher Bobby Lorton and reaction from me.

Funny: He doesn't want me to quote the paper out of context, but he doesn't want me to link to the whole story so people can read it in context.

Whirled threat update

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More nastygram reports:

The Tulsa World sent the same threat of legal action to the hosting provider for www.tulsansforelectionintegrity.com, the website for Tulsans for Election Integrity (TfEI) the opposition to the recall of reform Councilors Jim Mautino and Chris Medlock. TfEI was told they had 24 hours to remove links and quotes or their service would be cut off. They'll be looking for a new provider, one less susceptible to the World's pressure. Chris Medlock writes about it here.

As far as anyone is aware, the World has not sent a similar letter to the Coalition for Responsible Government (CfRG), the campaign to get rid of Medlock and fellow Councilor Jim Mautino, which has, on this web page alone, the full text of 69 articles from the Tulsa World archives.

TulsaNow, the civic organization, has also received the letter, concerning its popular and lively discussion forums. You can read the TulsaNow forum discussion here.

Many, many thanks

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I am overwhelmed with gratitude at the outpouring of support I've received in the 24 hours since I posted the Tulsa World's nastygram and notified friends and acquaintances in the blogosphere. Trackbacks galore (you can find them at the bottom of the original entry), a radio interview with New York talk show host Kevin McCullough (which will run again online at 1:20 a.m., 4:20 a.m., 7:20 a.m., and 10:20 a.m.), a mention on CNN's Inside Politics, many hits on the PayPal tip jar (prompted and led by Michelle Malkin), an Instalanche (size yet to be determined), and many, many supportive e-mails.

There's some big news about to break, having to do with some of the cozy Cockroach Caucus ties I mentioned. I hope to have something I can report on it by mid-morning.

In the meantime, for the first time ever, I'm opening this post up for comments. I reserve the right to remove anything that exceeds the bounds of good taste and politeness, but I want to give you all a chance to weigh in.

Welcome new readers

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Welcome to all of you who've come to read about the legal threats made against this blog by the Tulsa World (or Whirled, as I prefer to call it). You'll find that entry at this link, along with a summary of other blog commentary on the matter.

To give you more of a sense of the mindset of the newspaper, here are two of my recent entries -- a partial rebuttal to an editorial about the Tulsa City Council and an account of a speech by the World's editorial page editor Ken Neal.

I hope you'll take a look around -- BatesLine has a focus on local news in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but I also write about world news, national politics, city planning, right-to-life and other cultural issues, and faith, all from a Christian and conservative perspective, with a bit of whimsy thrown in from time to time.

World vs. Whirled?


The BatesLine stylebook, such as it is, decrees that the monopoly daily newspaper in Tulsa be consistently called the Tulsa Whirled. I am bending that rule during the course of the present controversy for the sake of those who may be Googling for information, using the paper's legal name. I will still work in the occasional reference to the Whirled, just so I don't get used to typing it the other way. It's really a better fit. "It's a new Whirled every morning...."

As I mentioned, there's another Tulsa blogger who was targeted with a nastygram by the Tulsa World -- City Councilor Chris Medlock, who is also the target of a recall petition which was filed today. Chris responds to the World's threats here.

The thing that is most interesting isn't that the World has decided to protect what they view to be copyrighted material, but rather the timing of their inquiry. Some of you may still want to cling to your illusions that our paper of record is the unbiased and free press formed by your hours of watching "Lou Grant" rather than doing your homework. However, this paper is locally owned and quite willing to use its influence to make or destroy those in our community the Lorton's like or detest, in that order.

To send this letter right in advance of the deadline for the filing of the recall petitions convinces this public servant (complete with Target logo on the back of all of my suits and sweaters) that our morning paper wants to hamstring our ability to comment on their obvious bias.

He goes on to point out (and link to) evidence that the pro-recall Coalition for Responsible Government is using entire stories and photographs from the World without any indication of permission.

He's got two other new entries up on his blog, about the political situation.

  • His thoughts on the filing of the recall petitions.
  • Chris answers the question, "Are you unemployed?" Nope, he's working full-time as a councilor, a job that pays less than $18,000 a year.

Tulsa is blessed to have a Councilor possessed of such intelligence and good humor, someone who loves the city enough to forgo a higher salary and devote himself to public service.

If you want to contribute or participate in the opposition to the recall, visit the website of Tulsans for Election Integrity, the official recall opposition group.

Today on CNN's Inside Politics with Judy Woodruff, the legal threat to this blog from the Tulsa World made the "Inside Blogs" segment of the show. Here's a link to the show transcript -- the blogs segment is about 1/3 of the way down. The segment featured CNN blog reporter Jacki Schechner and Washington Post media critic Howie Kurtz. Schechner says the story has been "rising all day" in the blogs, and particularly mentions Wizbang's Kevin Aylward, who published the letter he sent to World VP John R. Bair, author of the nastygram.

I liked Howie Kurtz's take on the World's threat:

It sounds like [Bair]'s saying nice little site you got here, it would be a shame if anything happened to it. But, you know, if this blogger is really just picking up bits and pieces from the biggest newspaper in Oklahoma's capital [sic], and putting his own comments on it, everybody does that these days.

I do that every day on WashingtonPost.com. I provide the links. Other news organizations like that because it drives traffic to their sites.

Schechner concluded by saying, "Well, that's what they were saying, that he's linking. And really that's not infringement or anything. So we'll keep an eye on it and see if this gets any bigger."

UPDATE (3/10/2006): CNN.com still has the transcripts to the BatesLine mentions on Inside Politics:

February 15, 2005
February 16, 2005
February 18, 2005

I'll be on the air today at 1:20 p.m. Central Time with New York City radio talk show host (and friend) Kevin McCullough. You can listen live online, or hear the repeats every three hours for the next 24 by clicking on the "Listen" icon on the right-hand side of Kevin's blog.

Kevin writes:

A blog swarm may be necessary to let TULSA WORLD (insert Griswold joke here) know that they may be a relatively unimportant voice in the editorial of the world - but that's no excuse for their shoddy, immoral, and repugnant behavior towards BatesLine or any other blogger. ...

It's possible that TULSA WORLD has had their head in the sand for the last four months while bloggers decapitated CBS and CNN but if this piddly, sad, excuse of a newspaper wants to be next in line for a can of whoop-blog, they are off to a great start...

Be sure to tune in early and keep listening after to hear more of Kevin's show.

NOTE to those of you who normally skip the Tulsa stuff here: Please read this entry. This is not just about the sordid little world of Tulsa politics. This is the old media trying to intimidate their critics in the new media into silence. It has repercussions for any blogger engaged in media criticism. It strikes at the heart of what blogs do. I'd appreciate your help in putting the blogosphere's spotlight of shame on this legal threat.

Tulsa City Councilor Chris Medlock wasn't the only one to get a special valentine from our friends at the Tulsa Whirled. The Vice-President [sic] of the Tulsa World has threatened legal action against me for "reproduc[ing] (in whole or in part) articles and/or editorials" and for "inappropriately link[ing my] website to Tulsa World content." ("World" is the legal name, although here at BatesLine we call it the Whirled, in the spirit of Private Eye's renaming of the Guardian as the Grauniad.)

Here's the actual letter (click to enlarge):

Here's the text of the letter:

Dear Mr. Bates:

I am writing on behalf of World Publishing Company, publisher of the Tulsa World. We have recently learned that your website, www.Batesline.com, has reproduced (in whole or in part) articles and/or editorials from the Tulsa World newspaper or has inappropriately linked your website to Tulsa World content.

The Tulsa World copyrights its entire newspaper and specifically each of the articles and/or editorials at issue. The reproduction of any articles and/or editorials (in whole or in part) on your website or linking your website to Tulsa World content is without the permission of the Tulsa World and constitutes an intentional infringement of the Tulsa World's copyright and other rights to the exclusive use and distribution of the copyrighted materials.

Therefore, we hereby demand that you immediately remove any Tulsa World material from your website, to include unauthorizedlinks to our website, and cease and desist from any further use or dissemination of our copyrighted content. If you desire to use (in whole or in part) any of the content of our newspaper, you must first obtain written permission before that use. If you fail to comply with his demand, the Tulsa World will take whatever legal action is necessary to assure compliance, Additionally, we will pursue all other legal remedies, including seeking damages that may have resulted as a result of this infringement.

We look forward to your immediate response and cooperation in this matter. Please acknowledge your compliance by signing below and returning to me.


John R. Bair
Vice-President [sic]
Tulsa World

As I wrote regarding the same letter sent to Councilor Medlock, excerpting copyrighted material for the purpose of criticism is covered by the fair use exemption, and linking to content cannot be a copyright violation because nothing is actually copied. The threat is empty, an attempt at using intimidation to silence my criticism of their editorials and news coverage.

Why would a big ol' daily paper, with over 100,000 daily circulation, send a nastygram like this to someone who gets about 1,000 visits a day? And why now? Here's a little background, especially for you out-of-towners:

The Tulsa World has been the only daily newspaper in town since September 30, 1992, when its publisher refused to renew its half-century-old Joint Operating Agreement with the Tulsa Tribune then bought the Tribune and shut it down.

The World is more than just an observer of the local scene. It is an integral part of the tight social network that has run local politics for as long as anyone can remember. This network, which I have dubbed the Cockroach Caucus, has pursued its own selfish interests under the name of civic progress, with disastrous results for the ordinary citizens of Tulsa and its metropolitan area. The World, and the way it wields its influence in the community, bears a strong resemblance to the Dacron Republican-Democrat, the fictional subject of the National Lampoon Sunday Newspaper Parody.

The Cockroach Caucus is most recently infamous for convincing state and local elected officials to pour $47 million in public funds into Great Plains Airlines. This airline promised to provide non-stop jet service between Tulsa and the coasts, but in the end was not much more than the Mrs. Grace L. Ferguson Airline and Storm Door Co. It went bankrupt, leaving local taxpayers liable for millions in loan guarantees. Many leading lights of the Cockroach Caucus, including World Publishing Company, were investors in Great Plains Airlines.

The Cockroach Caucus has wasted tens of millions in public funds on failed economic development strategies, at a time when tens of thousands of Tulsa high-tech workers had lost their jobs, ignored the plight of small business, and has bent and sometimes broken the rules of the land use planning system to favor those with political and financial connections. The same small number of connected insiders circulates from one city authority, board, or commission to another, controlling city policy, but beyond the reach of the democratic process.

Many people in this city are fed up with the World and its allies. For the first time, in Tulsa's March 2004 municipal elections, Tulsa's voters elected a bipartisan majority of councilors who were not endorsed by the newspaper, five councilors committed to reforming city government so that it serves the interests of all Tulsans, not just a favored few. Alternative media outlets played a significant role in helping these reform councilors get their message out and win election -- principally, Talk Radio 1170 KFAQ; the Tulsa Beacon, a conservative weekly newspaper; and this blog. These same sources continue to subject the World's content to critical review on a daily basis. Now all three of us have received some sort of threatening letter from the World.

The empire is striking back. Leading a broader Cockroach Caucus effort, the World has engaged in a sustained campaign in its news pages and editorial pages against the reformers, painting them in the worst possible light. Two of the five-member Reform Alliance majority on the Council, Republicans Jim Mautino and Chris Medlock, have been targeted for recall from office by a shadowy group calling itself the Coalition for Responsible Government 2004. No criminal wrongdoing or negligence is alleged -- they are being targeted because they have voted the "wrong way". They have pursued reforms and investigations that the Cockroach Caucus seems to find threatening to its interests. (The Coalition for Responsible Government used copyrighted World photographs and articles in the Tulsa Tribunal, crypto-racist smear tabloids targeting Mautino and Medlock, but have apparently faced no similar threats from the World.)

The deadline for the submission of recall petitions is this week. I believe the World is hoping to silence alternative low-budget media voices as the recall campaign proper gets underway, so as to create a clear channel for the pro-recall campaign, which will continue to have the tacit support of the World alongside a massive paid-media campaign.

I am not concerned for myself. I believe I have respected the World's copyrights within the fair-use exemption. Let the World name the specific articles in which it alleges that I have exceeded fair use. I have violated no law by directing readers to the Tulsa World's own website to read the Tulsa World's own content as the World itself presents it. I am seeking legal advice for dealing with the matter.

The World deserves the scorn and ridicule of the blogosphere for using bullying tactics against its critics. Let's give it to 'em.

TRACKBACKS: Thanks to fellow bloggers who are showing their support. Click on the links to read all that they have to say on the matter.

Joe Carter of evangelical outpost asks "Did someone at the WPC lose their mind? ... It takes a special brand of idiot to bully a guy with a megaphone. But you have to be a world class moron to push someone around who has thousands of compatriots with megaphones."

Ace writes "the next phase in this battle [between new and old media] is nonstop legal harassment. They've had a monopoly for 50 years and they're not giving it up without a fight... or at least without calling in their lawyers."

Kevin of the Primary Main Objective knows the World and says they're worthy of contempt rather than pity.

Matt of Nerf-Coated World provides some guidelines for bloggers on fair use.

Scott Sala of Slant Point asks "Does the paper intend to only sell its news to those who like what it has to say? Will conversations on the street condeming the paper now be monitored, and those individuals barred from buying future copies?"

Dan Lovejoy calls the World a "fossilized fecolith of the dinomedia."

Charles G. Hill gets to the heart of the local political situation and the World's part in it:

If it weren't so pathetic, it would almost be tragic. There are many cities like Tulsa, where a favored few seek to maximize their profits at the expense of everyone else; what makes Tulsa different is the World, which evidently would rather be a conspirator than a crusader. The people of Tulsa are the poorer for it.

Top-ten blogger and columnist Michelle Malkin reacts to the World's attack: "Can you spell U-N-H-I-N-G-E-D?" And she hit my PayPal tip jar! Thanks!

Thanks to all of my "compatriots with megaphones." Watch this space as more bloggers pick up the story.

UPDATE 9:14 AM: Ironically, I didn't link to the Tulsa World's website anywhere in this entry. That was unintentional (subconsciously trying to protect myself?) but I've fixed it with a link up near the top. Wouldn't want anyone thinking I'm scared.

UPDATE: You'll find a quick intro about this site and me via this link.

UPDATE (12/28/2005): Here is the category archive of all entries related to the Tulsa World.

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."

Averill waste of newsprint


Bobby of Tulsa Topics alerted me to David Averill's front-page op-ed in Sunday's Tulsa Whirled.

A full fisking of Averill's nonsense will have to wait, but I have to point this much out: For months, the Whirled has been saying we have to get rid of the Reform Alliance city councilors because elected officials in neighboring cities don't like them and their determination to serve the City of Tulsa's needs first. Now that state legislators representing Tulsa's suburbs have spoken in opposition to the recall and in support of Councilors Medlock and Mautino, Averill is claiming that they are doing so in pursuit of a hidden agenda to keep Tulsa in turmoil and drive growth and development to the suburbs.

It's hard for me to imagine Fred Perry and John Wright, Nancy Riley and Randy Brogdon, Rex Duncan and Scott Pruitt, all sitting around in a dank, smoke-filled room, plotting to destroy Tulsa and boost the suburbs by propping up controversial councilors.

(By the way, Mr. Averill, check your facts: Randy Brogdon was Mayor of Owasso. Rodney Ray is the city manager of Owasso and has been for years.)

So tell me again, Mr. Averill, is it good or is it bad that officials in neighboring towns like our City Councilors?

I can't resist picking one more piece of low-hanging fruit from Averill's screed:

Every time they act to make zoning reclassifications more difficult — as they’ve done with a proposed City Charter change — they limit the chances for redevelopment that is so critical to Tulsa’s future.

The proposed City Charter change, which will be on the ballot in April, doesn't make anything more difficult than it should already be. It restores a protection for property values that is enshrined in the Oklahoma statutes and that was approved, not by our current bunch of "radicals," but years ago under the old city commission form of government. A deliberate misreading of the charter by the City Attorney's office -- saying that the requirement of a majority vote precludes imposing a supermajority in special cases -- has forced the Council to propose a charter change to restore this important safeguard against arbitrary and capricious zoning changes.

The Council voted unanimously in support of placing the proposal on the ballot, although the "Bought and Paid Four" spent a lot of energy arguing that it should not be placed on the same ballot as the bond issue. Brad Colvard of Homeowners for Fair Zoning pointed out to the Council that the charter change proposal will actually help passage of the bond issue, because it represents a promise made and kept by the City Councilors and the Mayor, all of whom expressed a desire to remedy the situation nearly a year ago.

More rebuttal later.

Way back on Monday, I attended the Downtown Kiwanis club luncheon as the guest of my friend John Eagleton. Ken Neal, editorial page editor of the Tulsa Whirled was the speaker of the day. John knew I'd be interested in hearing Ken speak, since I've written about him and the emissions of his editorial board quite frequently.

Ken has a folksy voice and manner. He spoke very briefly about the paper and the editorial section he oversees, and then threw it open for questions, what he called a "horsewhip the editor" session.

I had a pile of questions I could have asked, but narrowed it down to just one. He had just been asked a question about the mix and selection of syndicated columnists on the op-ed pages, and in fact, they now have a decent assortment, including some of my favorite conservative columnists -- writers like Thomas Sowell, James Lileks, and Paul Greenberg.

I commended Mr. Neal on the diversity of his syndicated columnists but asked why there was a lack of diversity of opinion on local issues. He seemed puzzled by my question. I pointed out that you never read Julie DelCour writing that Ken Neal was wrong about something or Ken Neal writing that David Averill was wrong about something. The board is uniformly supportive of any tax increase -- something Neal openly acknowledged a few weeks ago. The board is also uniformly negative about the reform majority on the Tulsa City Council.

His reply was about what I expected: The Whirled is a private company, not a public institution. We have the right to push our opinions and our ideas.

I wasn't questioning the Whirled's right to publish what they wished, just suggesting that the lack of diverse opinion on local issues was a flaw in need of correction. Neal went on to cite the decades of experience of each of the editorial board members, many of them with years of experience covering City Hall. Because they're all so intimate with the way City Hall works, naturally they're all in agreement over how City Hall ought to be run.

The answer to the next question shed further light on the matter. Kiwanis Club president Rick Brinkley very delicately and politely asked a question about the ethics of the Whirled's coverage of Great Plains Airlines, in which World Publishing Company was invested. Brinkley pointed out that as a matter of practice broadcast media disclose potential conflicts of interest: If ABC reports on a new film from Disney, they make mention of the fact that Disney is ABC's parent company. Neal brushed aside the comparison to broadcast media and said that they have all sorts of ethical standards that cover any conflicts of interest they may have as journalists, although he avoided the issue of conflicts of interest involving the newspaper's owners and their other business interests.

Regarding Great Plains Airlines, Neal pooh-poohed the idea that the newspaper abused the readers' trust in order to help anyone get rich. Neal pointed out that the Lortons, owners of the paper, are already rich. (And we all know that all wealthy people are contented with the amount of wealth they have.) Neal said, "Everybody in town thought it [public subsidy of Great Plains] was a great idea. It was a Chamber deal."

That says it all. Neal and company have a huge blindspot when it comes to dissenting opinion. They sit in their bunker on Main Street, with their decades of listening only to the conventional wisdom, and they honestly can't see any other way of running the city. The city's problems are of course not the fault of the powers-that-be and their policies, but the fault of the people who are doing the complaining.

It's cliched to refer to Pauline Kael's quote about Nixon's landslide -- "No one I know voted for him" -- but it fits this bunch.

In fact, there were many voices objecting to the city's financial involvement with Great Plains, including two then-City Councilors, Randi Miller and Clay Bird, who voted against the deal. A story in the Whirled some time back used their no votes as a way to needle Sam Roop and Roscoe Turner, councilors who voted for the deal but are now critical of it and are involved in the investigation of the airport.

To the Whirled editorial writers, and their allies in the Cockroach Caucus, city politics is utter simplicity. If it's a "Chamber deal," it must be good, and of course, "everybody in town" thinks it's a good idea. Anyone who disagrees is by definition a naysayer, an anti-progress crank, and therefore is beneath notice, no matter how well he can argue his position. The result is an inbred intellectual environment with imbecility as a predictable result.

No wonder the Whirled is so mystified and threatened by the presence of a majority of dissenters on the Council. They don't understand that there are tens of thousands of Tulsans unhappy with the way the city is being run and looking for leaders with fresh ideas.

One more interesting quote from the Q&A session: In response to a question about changing Tulsa's form of government, Neal said, "When you don't have a strong mayor, and you have a strong-mayor system, you run into problems." Neal advocates adding three at-large councilors and making the Mayor a member of the Council as well. The purpose behind such a move would be to make it much more difficult for grass-roots leaders to secure a majority on the Council.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa World category from February 2005.

Tulsa World: November 2004 is the previous archive.

Tulsa World: March 2005 is the next archive.

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