Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Have you been ripped off?

OK - this is the scenario.

A friend tells you they've seen a chunk of your blog reproduced in a national paper.

Do you:

a) Jump up and down in glee at the unexpected publicity
b) Wonder why they didn't have the decency to at least inform you
c) Rant because they should have asked for your permission before using your words
d) Immediately bung an invoice in the post demanding payment?

I have a confession to make here.
When I found out last year that the Guardian had quoted my blog post re Hay, I was really pleased.
It never occurred to me that the way this happened was out of order.

Well, never let it be said that I don't have the courage to admit when I'm in the wrong.

This articulate post by Zoe Margolis on Comment is Free is what persuaded me.

25 comments:

Kath T said...

Being the sort of person I am, think I'd take and do all of the options Debi - he, he.

Debi said...

That's cheating, Kath! Hope you're well and enjoying the sunshine.

SueG said...

This is actually a huge issue for us all, although I know if someone reprinted my blog (especially a national) I'd be thrilled. But I'm sure I'd be wrong to be so. I think I'm still too used to working for nothing.

Debi said...

That's part of the problem, isn't it, Sue? We're so grateful for scraps we forget there's an important principle involved here ...

Absolute Vanilla (& Atyllah) said...

This is an interesting point. During world bloggers day, or whatever it was, last year or earlier this year, Shameless left a comment to say he'd seen something one of the media sites quoting my blog. Trouble was he couldn't remember where he'd seen it and I couldn't track it down.
I think Sue sums it up perfectly in what she says. We need to be more vigilant and a bit tougher about this, I think.

leslie said...

I have often run into people wishing to "pay" me for my art by giving me "exposure" that they feel I need.
I need things like chocolate and coffee and...oh...how about clothes? Talk about "exposure"!

Debi said...

Wouldn't exposure mean a LACK of clothes, Leslie?

crimeficreader said...

The column has since been ditched by the MoS. I wonder if that's anything to do with the payment issue?

crimeficreader said...

I'm having a bad-memory day today. I've finally remembered the other thing I wanted to add here...

It's also interesting that the papers will claim to enhance "exposure" for the bloggers, where neither the Guardian's column nor the MoS column are published online. Thus the papers promise one thing and then deliver it in the least effective way possible. Hmm...

maxine said...

If you write a blog post and don't copyright or licence it, then it is fine for anyone else to reproduce it. The newspapers you mention have cited the blog which is not even a legal requirement, but it is certainly an ethical one.

Crime Fic Reader has commented above me: her blog is an example of one written under creative commons licence (see her site). Peter at Detectives Beyond Borders, for example, copyrights all his posts. I think it is up to the blogger to decide how she or he feels about the content he or she is producing, and to licence or copyright it accordingly. If you do nothing, then nothing that the Guardian or the Daily Mail has done here is wrong, legally.

I did read the Guardian blog post you link to here, Debi, but I can't agree with it. I have been picked up by the Guardian a few times in the way you describe, but they've cited me as their source and I am fine with that. And I have no legal reason not to be.

If the Guardian wanted to do something similar with a formal publication, well -- there is a grey area but if they reproduced a paragraph or two with a citation, that would be well within acceptable practice, industry-wide.

leslie said...

I have found this site to be useful for copyright issues.
copyright myths

Debi said...

Thanks all.

Maxine, I always like it when the debate widens out to give different perspectives. I agree that we have to be proactive ourselves and ensure we have the legal bases covered if we feel this to be an issue.

I'll file this in the part of my brain marked 'pending' before deciding whether I should follow up the copyrighting issue for my blog.

soubriquet said...

Debi, I pinch stuff for my blog all over the place, often forgetting where I found it, so I'm not on firm ground defending my copyright.
I read Jonnyb's blogpost about his content being used in the Mail on Sunday, and his response of demanding a writer's fee, which I think was a correct response. They've used it, then let them pay for it. And the paper, wishing to avoid any sort of legal entanglement pays up at their word rate, without a fight.
Do we have copyright over our blogs? Probably.
Do I reference stuff I've read in the media? pinch their pics? Yes, I do.
My readership, of course, is very tiny. So if the Grauniad with a readership of 1,231,000 (NRS figures)pinches my words, then my words are definitely due a share of their income from that edition.
If they think I've pinched theirs, then the same duty would devolve upon me. I'd be happy to pay them or anyone else the pro-rata equivalent.. Lets see, daily readers? about 45, net income fom publishing is a minus number, because my blog costs me in internet access, electricity, time, tea, heating, portion of my housing costs, depreciation on my computer... So they'd be in for an assist with my costs. Seems equable to me.

But, to be serious for a moment, might I suggest Bloggers troubled by being copied, stick up a copyright notice, asserting their rights as owner/originator of the material in the blog, and giving details of conditions for use.
i.e. "Permission to copy must be sought, here's how to contact me".
Or "No right to copy is given or implied. I'll sue you".

Debi said...

Soub - lovely to see you here. Any friend of the Minxster ...

I love your idea! From each according to their means and all that. And you're right re the serious bit too. Clever clever Soub ...

maxine said...

Er, isn't that what I already suggested? (Putting a copyright or licence statement on your blog/posts?) So why aren't I clever, too, then? ;-)

Debi said...

Oh but you are, Maxine! You've made me rethink my rethink, which is why I was grateful to you for widening the debate.

I (re)think now that I set this blog up initially for self-promo for my writing, but then it broadened out into a space for me to rant and communicate (and even - to my surprise - make new friends!). I now believe I was right to be pleased when the Guardian picked up (and credited) my blog as it did widen my audience.

My feeling is that it's different when there's not an online link (which most bloggers do within posts) and/or no credit. So in the end the only gripe I have re my experience is that I do wish I had been informed. I could easily have missed it.

Debi said...

OTOH - for an example of how bad things can be, check this:
http://www.whenawomansfedup.co.uk/2008/05/daily-mail-tells-everyone-that-i-blog.html

Maxine said...

I think it is fine if a publication quotes you and cites your blog. It is good to get the exposure and unfortunately, people picked up in this way who then demand money mean that newspapers et al. are more reluctant to pick up other bloggers as a result. As I mentioned above, if someone does not want their work reproduced without permission, they need to take the necessary professional steps to protect their copyright.

In the case of the Saturday Guardian, Debi, where I'm told I've been picked up a few times, they don't seem to run the "blogs" column in their online publication, which is strange. If you look, the archive goes from Mon to Fri, but misses the weekend (Sunday is the Observer). So in the specific case of the Guardian "from the blogs" feature, they can only provide a print refrerence. I suspect all this will change in their upcoming fancy new redesign, which will integrate the print and online products properly, instead of having them exist in parallel, as now (for reasons of technical limitation).

Debi said...

Thanks again, clever Maxine! We're singing from the same song sheet.

Did you manage to check that link in my last comment? Now that's a real horror story ...

maxine said...

Have just looked at it, Debi. Not my cup of tea at all, I have to say! Just don't have the time to deonstruct it all, but -- she could do with an editor ;-) What I mean is, maybe she has a point, but I don't have a spare hour to work it all out from her post. She could do with a brief, objective summary paragraph somewhere.....

Debi said...

It is a long post, Maxine. There is a list of blogs at the end that have posted their support and many have summaries. But like you, I don't have enough time to really research the ins and outs.

My impression is that the problem here is not the same as quoting blog posts in newspapers and whether this should be paid for but misrepresenting an author/blogger in an interview.

In which case it's a bit off topic, the only link being a fairly tenuous one re newspapers/bloggers. Apologies!

maxine said...

Well you certainly don't need to apologise to me, Debi. The whole topic of journalistic integrity is a difficult one. One person's complaint about being misrepresented in an interview is another person's insistence on journalistic independence.
Many is the person who has agreed to an interview and then been upset at the end result, because the subject had assumed that "their view" would carry through into the published version. This is why movie stars and the like have contracts, etc, which they make journalists sign in order to agree to the interview, and why self-respecting journalists refuse to sign them! People are coming from such differnet places in all of this.

But I think that if we limit it to copyright law, there is in law quite a lot you are allowed to do in terms of reproducing content straight, so long as you attribute.

If you run an interview or opinion piece instead of a straight "long quote", then a mainstream publication will have got the copy "legalled" if there is anything potentially dodgy in it, so there is probably not much the upset subject can do, apart from get upset on her or his blog and accrue support from online sympathisers. Journalistic freedom has its plus points, in exposing fraud and corruption, but the other side of that is that you can't allow journalistic freedom for one set of circumstances and not another! (ie you can't allow it only when the journalist happens to agree with you, if you are the "subject" of the investigation!)

Debi said...

It certainly is a complex subject, Maxine, and deserving of a lot more attention that I gave it in the initial post. But then just look at what happened. It opened up the debate which is great and one of the great benefits of blogging.

Even if it is only you and me carrying on the debate now!

maxine said...

Agreed, Debi -- yes, sorry, I do get a bit carried away sometimes, don't I? But as you say, great to see all the various views expressed.

Debi said...

Certainly no need to apologise, Maxine. I love your input and appreciate all that you've added. x