The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Thursday, June 19, 2003  

I Don’t Even Play One on TV

As a writer by profession, both off the web and on, I have a direct and vested interest in copyrights and copyright law. For a variety of reasons, though, I haven’t paid enough attention to the subject. With that in mind, several months ago I added “Brush up on copyright law” to my long-term “to do” list, and, as it happens, I started working on this very project, admittedly haphazardly, this week.

The internet is, of course, an amazing thing. Google, is, in some ways, even more remarkable. There’s almost no limit to the amount of useful and timely information one can find quickly to address one’s questions and concerns.

On the matter of copyrights, just today I found a very helpful article, “Copyright on the Internet,” excerpted below:

What is Copyright Infringement?

Copyright prevents the copying of all or a substantial part of a work. Whether a portion of a work is “substantial” is a subjective question, which includes a consideration of both the quality and quantity of the portion. There can be copyright infringement where only a small portion of the work is copied but the portion is of great qualitative importance in the original.

There are two main types of copyright infringement. The first is direct infringement, where the defendant has copied the whole or a substantial part of the work. The second is contributory infringement, where the defendant has authorized another to make infringing copies of the work. What amounts to “authorizing” another to make infringing copies will depend on the facts of each case. However, merely making a method of copying available to another person may not amount to contributory infringement.

Cases on Copyright Infringement on the Internet
Posting other people’s material on the Net

One cannot put or keep someone else’s copyright material on the Internet without that person’s permission. A handful of U.S. cases have considered the liability of parties who themselves have placed copyright material belonging to someone else on the Net or who have provided on-line services (or bulletin boards) which allowed others to post copyright material belonging to someone else.

There’s more to it than that, of course, and I recommend bloggers read the entire document. I say that because I’m constantly surprised to see bloggers, most of whom are otherwise very intelligent people, reproducing at their sites, in full and without expressed or implied permission, the complete text of articles from well established newspapers, magazines, and journals.

I’m less surprised, but no less appalled, to see bloggers reproducing the posts of other bloggers -- again, in full and without expressed or implied permission -- at their sites.

Republishing a New York Times article is one thing. I can see how a small mind would think, “Hell, they’ve already made their bucks off that.” That doesn’t excuse it, but that’s how certain people operate.

But republishing a post written by another blogger is an entirely different offense. Sure, it’s a transgression that is less likely to get the offender in trouble. More important, though, it represents not only blatant disregard for federal (and international) law but a brazen admission of the blogger’s own lack of creativity and originality.

This isn’t a lecture. It’s just a word to the wise, or would-be wise, from one who’s still a novice on the subject.

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