Re: Newsl article re:copyright

Subject: Re: Newsl article re:copyright
From: Lisa Higgins <lisa -at- DRDDO1 -dot- EI -dot- LUCENT -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 11 Mar 1997 10:55:02 +0000

> I plan to respect each person's right to determine what happens to the stuff
> they write.
> However, my personal opinion is that applying copyright laws to something
> like
> electronic written discussion is as silly as trying to apply it to phone
> conversations.

It depends on what you call "discussion."

I had an experience with this sort of thing a year or two ago. I'd
posted a silly little story about going to a Taco Bell near my
house and being served by an off-duty cop to the local general

A local paper in another city picked the story up, reprinted it
almost in its entirety, leaving out the exact location and claiming
that it had happened in that city, then called me "Eli" (my first
name is Elisabeth, and sometimes I shorten it in strange ways, but I
don't claim that my name is "Eli") and referred to me as "he" in
their text.

Following this, I posted a long, tongue-in-cheek diatribe about that
paper, calling upon another local newspaper to publish an expose on
the first paper's journalistic practices.

Imagine my surprise when, a week or so later, I picked up the second
paper and saw my story, this time paraphrased and completely
attributed to this guy I know. Turns out that that guy had told a
reporter from the second paper my story, but they were in a crowded
bar, and the story was garbled in the process. (They even did some
"investigative journalism" and found out the cop's name and even got
some quotes from the store manager!)

Now, this was a pretty funny incident overall, and makes for a good
cocktail party anectdote, but what if it had been something a little
more grave than a stupid recount of an armed officer making me a
burrito at Taco Bell? What if it had been valuable consulting advice
misattributed to someone else? What if it had been an accusation of
some sort? What if it had been something said in jest, then taken
completely out of context?

You're taking a lot of chances when you quote people without their
permission. You could be misattributing the quotations to the wrong
person (it's happened to me quite a bit on this mailing list alone);
you could be taking the quotation out of context, subsequently
slandering them; you could be essentially plagiarizing their work;
or maybe, as in the case above, you could just be making yourself
look really, really stupid.

Laws are still being tested for internet issues. What constitutes a
literary work is up for interpretation. The Fair Use doctrine is up
for interpretation. Copyright overall is frequently up for
interpretation. The fact is that, just about anything could go to
court, and you could end up with just about any result. Ethically,
though, it just seems wrong to me to quote anyone without their
permission (or a compelling journalistic interest--this does not
count Taco Bell stories or technical communications advice).

Did those papers have a right to reproduce my "work" without my
permission? Maybe, maybe not. I don't really care in that case, but
in another case, I might. I can think of all kinds of
arguments--legal, ethical, journalistic--FOR getting permission
first, and precious few against it.

> BTW: What is the meaning of WRT in Mary Jean Fitzgibbons post?

"With Respect To"

Lisa Higgins.
lhiggins -at- lucent -dot- com

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