GUTENBERG RIGHTS IN A DIGITAL WORLD
WHAT DOES COPYRIGHT MEAN, ANY MORE?
WHEN EVERYTHING IS AVAILABLE FREE ONLINE, HOW CAN ANYONE CLAIM TO OWN ANYTHING?
Creative Commons And The NY Times Decide Our Fate: Will It Be Love Or Money?
Much as we all love downloading free movies and music, porn and software, and browsing the libraries and newsstands of the planet without paying a dime, we all know that somebody out there deserves to get paid. We also know that, usually, the one who actually gets all the money, or most of it, is some corporate scumbag who rips off the creator of the stuff we buy, if we buy it. Why should we support this?
The corporatista's are farther up our arses than ever before. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the whole Napster debacle should have put us all on notice that we are regarded only as cash-cows for the corp's, with no rights at all as consumers or producers of content. We no longer own music or videos or TV or radio. We only lease them out for a pittance as creators or rent them for ever-bigger bucks as "consumers." Like the electric company, every corporation in media or information, arts and leisure wants fifty, a hundred, two hundred bucks a month or more from each and every one of us, every month for the rest of our natural lives. Great business model. Kinda like sharecropping, or living and working in a company town or a plantation, or outside the walls of a medieval castle, toiling away forever for the Lord, the Master, the Boss, the Landlord, the Utility, or maybe NewsCorp or Time-Warner. Suddenly, we're peasants again, with no rights at all. The artists will go right on getting screwed in this system. Because that's the system.
Creative Commons tried to bring some organization to this, and represent the rights of content creators. It seemed pretty simple at the time: They let you access their creators' work for free, and even republish it, as long as you gave them credit. But only if you weren't trying to make money off of them. Then you would have to pay. So all of us common folk out here got to read their stuff, and websites all over got some free content, while creators got a wider audience.
Then, for some reason, content-factory The New York Times decided to start posting Creative Commons stuff on their websites, including the Boston Globe site. When Creative Commons licenser complained, the Times said, "Oh, but we gave you a byline! And anyway, we're not commercial!" The New York Times and the Boston Globe are not commercial enterprises, now. And their online advertisers don't count. And my ass isn't white. Honest. (Actually, it's mauve, I think.)
So, the question will be, not so much what are the rights of individual creators and consumers, but simply what is commercial, and what is non-commercial, on the Internet? Pettifogging lawyers will be fudging the bejesus out of this, and we'll be lucky if we have any rights at all by the time it's over. If some judge decides that any ads at all make your site commercial, then all the small sites like this one could be lumped in with the Times and CBS, Disney and SONY and all the rest of the Bigs. That would cut us off, cut you off from content that you need and that authors like me want you to have for free. No sharing! The Associated Press is already claiming that even just a link or a headline to them is a violation of their copyright. So we may be left with very little to talk about, depending upon how this case goes.
If it goes the other way, I could lose substantive rights to my own work, such as it is, and so could you and everybody else creating stuff on the 'Net. Stoopit, righ'?
Us little guys are just waiting to get squashed here, one way or the other. The system is rigged against us. We're screwed either way. If we're "commercial," we have to pay for links and quotes. If we're not commercial, they don't have to pay us for whatever they use of ours.
There's no such thing as non-commercial, really. This is a capitalist country, baby. There's just haves and have-nots online and IRL. Believe me, if the small sites could get any money for what they do, they would. Running a website and producing content every day means time and money, or lost opportunities to make money elsewhere. But the "free" Internet model means that only high-traffic sites will attract any ad-dollars. That's the only source of revenue available, and it takes money to generate the traffic required by advertisers. Vicious cycle, much?
If you can't build a successful business online, you're going to go under, even if you never intended to make a business out of your site. Time is money, and you only have so much of either. Trying to keep up a website and a full-time job and/ or a family in real life leads to early burn-out. There will always be another little guy or gal to take your place. But the commercially successful sites will either be schlock, like "Perez Hilton," or heavily funded, like "The Huffington Post." The potential for real online democracy and a new creative explosion are being stifled by this advertising-based model, and the corporations it benefits. The rest of us get lost in the millions of sites out there, and go under one by one, while the corporate sites buy up all the traffic and resell it to advertisers. A potential Renaissance, a new Enlightenment is being busted up and sold to the highest bidder. We need another model that supports small sites and creators while providing free or inexpensive content to consumers.
The big sites are 100% commercial, "free" or not, just like the "free" broadcast TV networks that bombard us with ads. They only exist to make money. The rest of us are otherwise motivated, obviously, since we keep at it with little or no hope of any financial reward. Maybe that should be the criteria. After all, everybody knows the difference between a prostitute and a lover. It's the same as the difference between for-profit and non-profit, between charities and businesses, between amateurs and professionals. Yeah, the line gets a little blurry there these days, sometimes. Just remember that hooker or hustler on the street-corner, compared to your significant other. (Assuming yours isn't a gold-digger... ) Did they do it for love, or money, mostly? That's commercial vs. non.
The thing is, all of us little wingnuts and moonbats out here really, really do not want our precious Internet to go the way that telephones and movies and radio and TV and cable and the music biz went: Whoredom. We want there to be one goddamned public place where we can congregate, have contact with our fellow citizens, hash things out and share ideas, feelings and experiences, and organize to make our little corners of the world into better places. We paid for this Darpanet thingy without ever knowing it. Now we want it back. The pubs have been DUI'd, the parks have been homeless'd, "downtown" is now a private mall that's only suitable for spending money. The public square is now online, and nowhere else. If we lose this, we're f**ked. That's what's at stake here: Who owns what. Or who is owned by whom. And what rights does any of us have any more.
I fervently hope this all gets settled out of Court. If the judge is much over 40, we're all in serious trouble. It'll take a web-savvy jurist to figure this one out. Look what some judicial dinosaur did in handing the Xerox/Apple GUI over to Microsoft because he prob'ly didn't know what a GUI is, or does, or why it's so important.
Next scary monsters: Taxes on the 'Net. State & local governments are getting awfully hungry. Do they care that e-commerce is hurting too? Will Obama's buddies in Big Media & Hi-Tech stifle further growth of the Internets? And how can bloggers and other independents, who produce the most & the best content on the World Wide Web, get a bigger piece, or any piece of the pie?
Please let's not leave all this up to CEO's, politicians, bureaucrats, lawyers and judges. They could care less about us little guys and creative types in general. Copyright doesn't mean much when you can't sell anything, because the Bigs have sucked up all the money, and may soon control the 'Net the same way they control access to all other media. Maybe it's time for a peasant revolt. Let's eliminate the middlemen, and use our Internet for direct contact between creators and consumers. That's our right, and if we lose it we may lose everything.
From the beginnings of this republic, what copyright was meant for is protection of creators and encouragement of new creations. What it was meant to allow is fair use of copyrighted materials, and full ownership of individual copies by the consumers who purchased them, without unreasonable restriction. Today, what copyright does mean instead is limitation of the rights of consumers and creators, discouragement of new creations, and more money and power for soulless corporation who create nothing. The original intent and functioning of our copyright laws must be restored.
Support your local creators and websites, financially and morally. Let the powers that be know that you don't want big corporations taking over your Internet, or ripping off consumers and creators. Fight for your fair use of copyrighted material, and for the fair compensation of creators, not corporations. We need to break the stranglehold that big corporations have on our public life right now, before they choke off our one remaining medium of expression: This here Internet. Remember the Terminators? They're here, not in the future, they're here right now. And they're not shiny invincible robots. They're soulless, implacable corporations run only for profit, without regard for our humanity. And you're Sarah Connor.
Oh, sh*t! Is that copyrighted material? GAWD!!! My mind is FULL of that stuff! Can I be sued? I'd better shut up.
"Share, Remix, Reuse — Legally"
It seemed like a good idea at the time...
' Creative Commons provides free tools that let authors, scientists, artists, and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry. You can use CC to change your copyright terms from "All Rights Reserved" to "Some Rights Reserved." We're a nonprofit organization. Everything we do — including the software we create — is free. Creative Commons is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright. We provide free licenses and other legal tools to mark creative work with the freedom the creator wants it to carry, so others can share, remix, use commercially, or any combination thereof. '
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
"All Hail Creative Commons"
How it all got started.
' In a boon to the arts and the software industry, Creative Commons will make available flexible, customizable intellectual-property licenses that artists, writers, programmers and others can obtain free of charge to legally define what constitutes acceptable uses of their work. The new forms of licenses will provide an alternative to traditional copyrights by establishing a useful middle ground between full copyright control and the unprotected public domain. Within a few months, artists, writers and others will soon be able to go online, select the options that suit them best and receive a custom-made license they can append to their works without having to pay a dime to a lawyer, let alone the thousands of dollars it typically costs to purchase similar legal services. Unfortunately, over the years concentrated financial interests have convinced Congress to steadily shift that balance. Privatized rights have won favor over the public interests that were once a far more essential aspect of copyright protections. That trend has only accelerated recently, as Congress has caved in to one demand after another from big media firms, Microsoft and others to "strengthen" copyright protections for a variety of high-tech digital goods. '
PRESSTHINK: NYU SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM
"Newspaper Chain Goes Creative Commons: GateHouse Media Rolls CC Over 96 Newspaper Sites"
How it works, in practice.
' Over the weekend, the Watertown TAB of Watertown, Massachusetts, revamped its website. The result is, for now, strikingly bloglike: a wide center column with items in reverse chronological order. And at the very bottom, a small silver badge with a line of text that reads: "Original content available for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons license." That little badge is news. The TAB is owned by GateHouse Media, a newspaper conglomerate that owns 75 daily and 231 weekly newspapers. And the TAB isn’t the only paper that got a silver CC badge this week. Without fanfare, the company is rolling out Creative Commons licenses covering nearly all of the 121 dailies and weeklies they own in Massachusetts. The CC license now covers 96 of the company’s TownOnline sites, which are grouped within a portal for their many Eastern Massachusetts newspapers. “I don’t know of any other newspaper or any MSM site for that matter, publishing under CC,” said Howard Owens, director of digital publishing for Gatehouse, in a comment on the TAB’s blog. “It’s really not a big change from how a lot of newspaper sites handle content — free non-commercial use, but generally only if you ask. This removes the middle man of asking, because now it’s explicitly stated that free non-commercial use is permitted.” GateHouse’s decision to CC license its content may be a response to the cut-and-paste world of weblogs, which frequently quote and point to newspaper stories. Making it easier — and legal — for bloggers to quote stories at length means that bloggers are pointing their audience at the newspaper. Getting a boost in traffic from weblogs may have an impact on online advertising revenue, and links from weblogs also have an impact on how high a site’s pages appear in search results from search engines such as Google. Higher traffic, and higher search engine rankings build a site’s ability to make money on online ads. '
"Welcome to GateHouse Media"
Here's the plaintiff.
' Our business model is to be the preeminent provider of local content and advertising in the small and midsize markets we serve. Our portfolio of products, which includes 518 community publications and more than 265 related websites and seven yellow page directories, serves over 233,000 business advertising accounts and reaches approximately 10 million people on a weekly basis. As of July 31, 2008, our core products included: * 92 daily newspapers with total paid circulation of approximately 834,000; * 291 weekly newspapers (published up to three times per week) with total paid circulation of approximately 673,000 and total free circulation of approximately 936,000; * 130 "shoppers" (generally advertising-only publications) with total circulation of approximately 2.1 million; * over 265 locally focused websites, which extend our franchises onto the internet; and * seven yellow page directories, with a distribution of approximately 758,000, that covers a population of approximately 2.0 million people. '
NIEMAN JOURNALISM LAB: HARVARD UNIVERSITY
"How Creative Commons complicates the GateHouse/NYT Co. linking case "
Background on a lawsuit over copyright infringement on the Web.
' We’ve been looking at the GateHouse/New York Times Co. linking dispute quite a bit recently. (See our previous posts on the case here and here.) To recap: NYT Co.’s Boston Globe is republishing the headline and first graf of some articles and blog posts by GateHouse newspapers on a suite of new hyperlocal news sites on Boston.com. But there’s one other legal angle we haven’t looked yet looked at. GateHouse was hailed as a pioneer among newspaper companies back in 2006 when it began distributing content under a Creative Commons license. While most newspapers put up arduous hurdles to republishing their articles, GateHouse had suddenly made the content of its more than 500 publications available for reproduction at no cost — so long as the work is attributed, unaltered, and used for “non-commercial purposes.” Now that last phrase has become part of the linking dispute. Among other claims, GateHouse argues that the Globe’s use of GateHouse text violates the terms of that CC license, because Boston.com is a commercial website. But is it? What counts as “commercial”? The Globe doesn’t charge for access to its website. It does run advertising, but so do plenty of small blogs that few people would consider “commercial.” It’s a sticky issue that Creative Commons has not yet clarified for its users — although the organization did launch a study in September in the hopes of clarifying what exactly the organization means by “non-commercial use.” '
"GateHouse, New York Times reach settlement"
No judges! That's a plus.
' Boston.com will disconnect its automatic feed from GateHouse Media Web sites but may still manually link to stories posted by its competitor, according to a settlement agreement announced today. GateHouse sued The New York Times [NYT] Co., the parent of Boston.com, in December, claiming its practice of grabbing headlines from its “Wicked Local” sites constituted copyright infringement. The two sides reached a settlement deal over the weekend. A federal trial expected to be closely watched by bloggers and journalists was scheduled to start this morning. Both companies may still link to each other’s Web sites - the area that drew interest because of its potential to set a legal precedent for news aggregation sites. '
"Why you care about GateHouse vs the New York Times"
Here it is from ground zero.
' If you read a paper like the Saugus Advertiser or the Brookline Tab or its Wicked Local website, you’re reading a paper owned by GateHouse Media. And if you’ve heard of the Boston Globe and its website, Boston.com, well, they’re owned by the New York Times. And as you may know, there was a bit of a dispute over practices online, and everybody’s now in agreement on what the best practice is. Here’s Wicked Local’s story, and here’s the story on the case by the Boston Globe. Also, a number of media minds are weighing in. * Local first .. UniversalHub: Dispute settled, with more than a handshake. Huzzah! * Nieman Journalism Lab: This could be bad for the little blogger. And it’s just bad. * Dan Kennedy: Lots of updates. Lots. Even more. * Nieman Lab: My boss’ boss’ boss likes linking. (And we’re not stupid. Whew) * I’ll add more as I find them. And if you’re really a geek there’s lots of documents on the case you can read: * The heavy-duty-legalese on the agreement. '
NIEMAN JOURNALISM LAB: HARVARD UNIVERSITY
"Will media companies use GateHouse settlement as a negotiating hammer?"
Good news, bad news. This just in.
' I imagine there are a number of media companies out there who will see this settlement as a tool to go after people who believe their behavior falls under fair use. Those companies will be able to say: “The New York Times Co. tried that same argument, and they had to back down. And they had better lawyers than you do.” It’ll be really interesting to see how far this deal echoes around the blogging world. '
THE BOSTON GLOBE
All of the Wicked Local content & links appear to be gone as of today.
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