Recently a friend and I were discussing blogs we both read, and it turns out she and I had very different evaluations of one “Integral blog” in particular. She enjoyed it very much, but I had such grave misgivings about it that I have wrestled with whether to even link to the blog or re-tweet its tweets. Nothing personal about the blogger. I just think the blog’s raw piracy.
US copyright law does not allow unlimited latitude when it comes to “fair use” of another writer or artist’s creative work. As a general rule, it is considered unwise to publish anything other than a short excerpt or summary of another article. In the case of shorter articles, republishing even a short excerpt could be legal violation punishable by $50,000 or more per infringement, so bloggers as a rule avoid publishing more than 30% of another source’s content.
Most other bloggers, that is. A few bad apples publish entire articles or journal papers or massive excerpts. Doing so is theft, even if it’s done with an attribution or link. If in doubt, a blogger needs to obtain written permission from the original source. It’s not that difficult, and it helps one sleep well at night. Just because some other bloggers pirate articles and papers doesn’t make it right, and building an “Integral blog” out of pirated material is something of a blemish, I think.
Lest it be said that I’m throwing stones from a glass house, I must say that I’ve had an uneasy conscience about this blog’s use of photographic imagery. Many bloggers have struggled with the same problem. When it comes to photographs, I acknowledge that I haven’t always researched the copyright status of some of the images used. I don’t think I’ve violated the law, but there are steps I will begin to take to make sure that going forward my compliance is unquestionable. I like sleeping well at night and continuing to look at my own shadow despite my own shortcomings is how I can do it.
In some cases such as an image of a movie poster getting written permissions seems excessive. The creative artists WANT to get exposure, and it’s not like a blogger can publish an excerpt of a photograph. Nevertheless, I’m resolving to only use imagery from Creative Commons henceforth unless I can positively identify the copyright status of an image.
I’ll remove any images that I discover violate another party’s copyright, and I’ve added a detailed copyright statement to this blog’s new About This Blog page:
The author retains copyright of the original material published on this blog AND we’re thrilled when readers want to republish their favorite posts. We authorize reproduction of excerpts and summaries without notifying us, but if you want to reproduce an entire article or blog post, please notify the author by e-mail and use this line with a hypertext link to this website:
© Copyright by Joe Perez. Some rights are reserved. Reproduced with permission.
In accordance with US copyright law and out of respect for the intellectual property of other authors, this blog does not reproduce full-length articles and papers available elsewhere on the Internet, but it does reproduce short excerpts or summaries.
Photographic imagery used herein is believed to be a “fair use,” however when images are obtained from the Internet it is often not possible to identify the proper owner in order to obtain proper permissions. When a source is known, attribution for photography is given in the image’s file name, title tag or ALT text, and with a “Photo Credit” line for each article. If you own a copyright on any image inadvertently used without proper permissions, please contact us and we will remove the item.
I think that statement will ensure that I abide by the law and my own ethical principles. Though perhaps it can be improved. Any suggestions?
As for whether or not I continue to link to the blog featuring large quantities of pirated articles, I am conflicted. As a serious writer, I find reading the blog to be an ethical minefield. Once I realize an article is probably pirated, do I immediately click over to the original site so that I don’t have to read something obviously obtained illegally? Do I look away? I resent putting myself in the position of having to choose simply by reading one of the most popular blogs in the “Integral blogosphere.”
If the blog were to contain ONLY pirated material, I would certainly never set foot on it, but the blogger also writes other things that are quality and original. I just wish he would make his excerpts shorter so they don’t violate the law or his Internet service provider’s terms of service. Is that too much to ask? Bloggers who flaunt the law, even if out of ignorance of the law, don’t do anything to boost the professional image of blogging.
Love compels me to speak up. I’m bringing this topic up not to shame the blogger, who I continue to respect warmly even while I disagree strongly with his decision to use illegal material on the blog. But as someone who reads “Integral blogs,” I feel compelled to raise this topic out of the community’s collective shadow into our collective awareness.