Thursday, November 16, 2006

Hey, NYT: What about Fair Use?

I was amused at a dialog that just popped up as I read one of David Pogue's columns in the New York Times. (I was going to add, "online," but then a dialog wouldn't have bluudy-well popped up out of the print edition, would it?)

From the NYT and “Powered by Rightslink, the copyright clearance center,” it offered to give me a “Quick Price Estimate for reproducing the article to use in your own materials."

By stating via pull-down menus that I was inquiring about republishing an “excerpt (max. 250 words)” on “a non-profit internet site” for three months, I was invited to pay $200 dollars, or $400 for a year. Oh, sure; I’m eager to pay for a quote that clearly would be covered under Fair Use.

That would be the “Fair use… doctrine in United States copyright law that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders, such as use for scholarship or review. It provides for the legal, non-licensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author's work under a four-factor balancing test.”

(That’s in the words of the faceless, numberless contributors to the Wikipedia’s page on Fair Use.)

This is going to influence me to stop quoting the New York Times, who can perhaps be forgiven for trying to find additional ways to save the newspaper business but are making an unfortunate choice here. What has fueled the nearly universal adoption of the Internet is exactly the reasonable application of appropriating other people's material.

That's assuming, of course, that we're talking logically here, about quoting a small chunk of someone's work with proper linking/attribution. (As we know, unreasonable out-and-out theft of other people's intellectual property has also been rumored to occur; but that's not what we're talking about.)

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