The Internet content economy is like the candy rack when you were a kid. You know what I mean. You covet that bag of Skittles but you’re caught a little short on funds that day. So to feed your candy habit you sneak a bag out of the store. You know you broke the law but it seemed so innocent and what the heck, every kid deserves a bag of Skittles now and then right?
Well, for all of the folks out there looking through the content that exists out on the Internet and then ‘borrow’ it for their own sites or blogs there may be more retribution than you are used to. The NY Times does a great job of sorting through this increasingly complex subject. Seems like one of the interesting offshoots of a crappy economy is that everyone suddenly gets protective and starts to clamp down so nothing can be done for free anymore. I believe this is good thing for people to protect their efforts but the reality it is also near impossible to do.
The old theory was that an excerpt of content with a link would be enough ‘payment’ for the use of that article. After all, links rule the day. Well, seems that some publishers feel that they are producing content for others who then swipe large portions of the content with no intention of re-working it. These ‘creative borrower’ types just put it up on their site and call it news.
The law does little to help with defining what is stealing content and what is just using it appropriately thus frustrating publishers of true original content. As the NYT records,
Courts have not provided much of an answer. In the United States, the copyright law provides a four-point definition of fair use, which takes into consideration the purpose (commercial vs. educational) and the substantiality of the excerpt.
But editors in search of a legal word limit are sorely disappointed. Even before the Internet, lawyers lamented that the fair use factors “didn’t map well onto real life,” said Mr. Ardia, whose Citizen Media Law Project is part of the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School. “New modes of creation, reuse, mixing and mash-ups made possible by digital technologies and the Internet have made it even more clear that Congress’s attempt to define fair use is woefully inadequate.”
There is an example where the Silicon Alley quoted one quarter of a piece by Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal. Now I admit that I liberally borrow from sources but I try to limit to quotes like the one above. Taking one quarter of an original work and then thinking a link is good payment is a bit ridiculous. Apparently the Huffington Post likes to consider the publishing world as their oyster by regularly swiping content which even has been done for full articles.
I think it comes down to the fact that at its core the Internet is perceived as an open medium where sharing is expected and encouraged. Trouble is that when you try to do something that depends on common decency to survive without abuse you will ALWAYS be disappointed. Dark view of humanity? Well, it is just my point of view but let’s hear yours.