Benny's World

Thursday, September 22, 2005

What Liberties Do Bloggers Have?

This morning I was cruising the OAC blog on the latest thread and noticed that someone had posted a synopsis of the David Brooks piece from the NYT. A few minutes later, someone posted the op-ed piece in its entirety. Some appreciated the FT; my response was inquiring as to where that came from and after an exchange of posts, finally the answer arrived. The link was posted at another site that OAC has blogrolled.

The responder thought I was picking on her personally. I realize my mistake was responding directly to her post instead of starting a separate topic to keep it more neutral as I certainly didn't mean to make it personal. Unfortunately, she took it that way. I have no control over her responses. So be it.

Now, I've skipped some details in the above paragraphs, but the bottom line is that I looked at the "free link" at the blogrolled site and noticed it was to a commercial vendor which distributes NYT content...even same day articles. I was baffled to say the least because it just didn't seem in that blogger's nature to post that link.

Later, I returned to the OAC blog to read at the previous thread and that's when I discovered the free link was provided in a diary at Kos. Then I was horrified. That's when I realized that so many people didn't know that the guy at the DK may have violated an agreement with Newsbank, the vendor that distributes the NYT's digital works. I decided to post a comment on his thread. here's what I wrote:

Topic: Newsbank Links

Most of the time I enjoy your diaries. But the links bothered me, and now people are jumping for joy because they didn't want to pay for the op-eds of the NYT.

I didn't see an attribution saying those links to the full text were granted with the permission of Newsbank.

Unless Kos or you are paying for the viewing rights via Newsbank, you're leading folks to thinking that information is free via a commercial database. It ain't, and no one should believe they can work around the NYT's policies and get it for free.

That's like a teenager whose parents told her/him s/he'd have to pay for her his own treats but instead paying for them, s/he steals them from the store. If they want it for free, wait a couple of days and look in the newspaper.

I like this site a lot. Please don't get Kos in trouble for these possible illegal links, or for that matter, jeopardizing your own or your organization's account with Newsbank. Kos gets enough warranted but also unwarranted attention. Let's not have the latter.

Respectfully, Benny

The OAC blogger's comment made me think a little more about the liberties we take on the blogs. Certainly, I have taken liberties here and on my blog especially because I don't make my livelihood here and JREG doesn't solicit any funding what so ever. I don't summarize the articles as much because I'm a bit lazy and sometimes I just want to get the link to the information with a couple of paragraphs of information. When it comes to posting full text of John Kerry or JRE's stuff, I have every reason to believe they are providing their opinions for free to put on blogs and hope the media will notice them.

But to me, it is grossly misleading to believe that "for fee" content should be free can be provided for free via a link to a commercial database. For example, Consumer Reports doesn't provide specific ratings for free; you have to buy the print copy or pay for it online. The same is true now for the NYT op-eds.

The Times Select's online contract is pretty plain: you cannot post the full text of their paid content unless you get permission first from the NYT. You may post some snippets, as one guy did on Kos, to prove your points, and as long as you make appropriate attribution. My gut reaction is that the unhappy OAC blogger probably didn't take the time to read the agreement carefully, but who knows. I just know from dealing with students and faculty all of the time on these issues, that unless it is their agreement for a mortgage or possibly a car loan, no one bothers to read these agreements because they want to do what is expedient without considering the consequences.

I have reason to believe that latter happened to the Kos diarist and others who may have posted that link. But what they don't understand is that even if you have a subscription to the Times Select, you are paying for the right to read it yourself, not for others to read it digitally, at your convenience. If I post a search results link to a database I have access to via work, I am violating an agreement my workplace has made; I am inadvertently (or advertently, take your pick) doing economic harm to the vendor that provides the content because it is is a conflict of interest. The vendor does have a right to make a profit from businesses or other individuals for that digital content, and it is not fair use, according to the Digital Copyright Millenium Act.

I wish the digital world were simpler; it's not. It's way deep muddy. I hassle with online vendors all of the time over these issues.

The Internet was never intended to be free, just as public libraries in reality can't be free either. Unlike a public library, no one owns the Net, but vendors are now putting the toll booths out because access is ubiquious. My concern about the FT of the Brooks piece is that the blogger violated her contract with the Times Select, and the other bloggers may be doing the same thing in other places. OAC and Kos could be liable because of ignorance or otherwise. NYT has deep pockets for lawsuits; Kos and OAC do not--and both solicit money. I told Chris they need guidelines, just as we do here.

I hope I've not offended anyone by this post, but as a librarian, I have a need to educate people about the uses of information gotten from the Net. I may have not been a blogger for long, but I know where one can take liberties and when one crosses that fine line that can cause some serious bites for blogs. The blogs are the only chance we have to keep our democracy going. Let's keep them out of trouble.


  • I haven't liked the Paper of Record making most of its content pay per view, but I still believe it has the right to legally protect it's content. fwiw, I've seen any number of "libertarian" bloggers, this is one of the few blogistes I've seen that presents a "librarian" point of view. One day I'll find a libertarian librarian from Liberia blog.

    By Blogger Chancelucky, at 10:20 PM  

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