Sunday, February 27, 2005

Copywrong?

Yesterday I received an unexpected comment from an anonymous and disgruntled administrator. It said:

Sir,
You realize that you can't just paste code linking to photos on other people's websites on your blog, right? Besides the fact that it is ILLEGAL to use photos owned by another party without permission, it is unacceptable to steal our image and our bandwidth through linking directly to it.
Remove these photos at once, or we will take swift legal action.
Consider yourself warned.

At first I was a bit taken aback. Then I was disgruntled. I don't often like to be told what to do. Especially by unidentified internet marauders. I'm no business major, but I remember what I've been taught to do when someone crosses my legal or moral boundaries.

First, ask them nicely to stop or fix the problem. You'd be surprised how well most rational people respond when you explain to them that they are crossing a line.
If that fails, move on to the next step, explain what action will be taken if they don't comply. Try not to threaten at first. Threatening can sometimes scare people off but occasionally gets people to dig their heels in.
Finally, take whatever action you explained in step two.

Obviously this administrator did not learn these steps. He also failed to mention which picture to remove (I'm not an asshole I would remove them if it really ticks someone off) so I'm at a loss. I'm not about to go through all my linked pictures and delete them all. So now we get to the good legal part.

I'm a mother-fucking journalism major. So what? Well it means that not only have I studied media law, but I've also got a knack for turning up the truth of faulty claims. Lets look at the legal argument.

The claim is that I illegally stole his copyrighted material. The truth is, a lot of discussion is going on over what is legal and illegal on the internet. There's a good article about it from the NYT here. The people over at Bitlaw have a conservative but comprehensive look at internet law. In their section on links they explain the importance of linking. Really, linknig is the heart and soul of the internet. It lets you zip from one set of info to another. One possible argument, that I am passing the picture off as my own or that I am stealing it, are unfounded. That is mainly because it comes from the owners website and the people viewing my blog are technically the ones getting the image directed from the other site. The people at bit law say I might be a fault because my work is a derivative work, or a work that relies on someone else's copyrighted material. I cannot deny on firm ground that it is in fact a derivative work.

A Sticky situation? Well I have an ace up my sleeve. You see, I don't make any money off the truth blog. Not a single penny. And in copyright law there's this awesome little thing called The Fair Use Statute. I won't bore you by breaking it down point for point, but the main idea is, since I am making no profit off of the use of the image and since my link to the picture has no effect of the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work (he is not going to lose readers or $$$ for my use of the photo) then my use of the picture is protected under the fair use doctrine. BUTTTTTT...

There's this nasty little thing called the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act. It's part of this ridiculous Digital Millennium Copyright Act that Clinton signed into law. (You Legal Eagle's can check out the DCMA's Full Text) He might be able to get me with this one. This is some seriously vague legislation. It's really aimed at people stealing music, not hotlinking and using up bandwidth, however, it's quite possible it can be applied here. But in any case, before taking legal action, he would have to tell me exactly what copyrighted material I am infringing upon and request that I remove it.

And finally, his argument about stealing bandwidth, I guess all he said was linking to his picture and using his bandwidth is "unacceptable." It is probably a dick move and a breach of etiquette. But I'm not sure about the illegality. There are millions of people out there claiming it's illegal and not a single one backing that up with any documentation. I'm guessing that since you can protect it from happening if you want, leaving it unprotected means it's fair game. So to my anonymous commenter, I'd recommend going back to my three steps at the top of the post. Then figuring out exactly what picture is yours. And then writing me an e-mail. And Would it kill you to make it a nice one?
I'll add this to my hockey victory earlier to make that two on the day.
Light it up.

1 Comments:

Blogger Pragmatik said...

I don't know, man. I think you're totally right about what a real admin would do, and that person doesn't sound like a real admin to me. Probably just some bored troller messing with you.

Besides, you're probably also right about having done nothing wrong. I've never studied media law or anything like that, but I wouldn't lose sleep over that asshole and his/her anon comment:)

Dig your layout, btw, very clean.

9:57 PM  

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