Using and Abusing Copyright Law

(via shlep: the Self-Help Law ExPress)

In accordance with Fair Use of Copyright: WE FORBID ANY REPRODUCTION in part or in whole of The North Country Gazette. For complete reproduction privileges, please  contact the publishers.

The North Country Gazette has a notice (highlighted above in the image) that invokes “Fair Use of Copyright” to forbid the reproduction of their publication. They’ve been called to task by David Giacalone of shlep for trying to void the Fair Use rights that all of us have. Copyright holders have exactly zero authority to void these rights and any claims to the contrary should rightly be smacked down with impunity.

The wording of the statement is so unclear and ambiguous as to imply that they are not so much try to alter copyright law as just grossly ignorant of it. The wording implies that Fair Use of Copyright would prohibit others from using their content when in fact it is exactly the opposite. I fear that they may have simply heard the terms Fair Use and Copyright and assumed that it is only “fair” that nobody be able to copy their writing. This is sadly the best case scenario here. The editor’s correspondence with Mr. Giacalone is also startling in its belligerence and willful ignorance of the law.

My own attempt, by email, to suggest to the offending editor the error of her ways (by quoting the statute and referring her to two resources), resulted in an angry rebuff, in which I was accused of practicing law without a license [actually, I’m a retired member of the NY and DC Bars], told that my email would therefore be forwarded to the Attorney General and the paper’s lawyer (who it was implied had okayed their statement denying Fair Use rights), and threatened with hearing from said lawyer, should I take any of their materials. [She also sent two additional emails with the following messages: “you’re an ass and not worth bothering with” and “Watch NCG—you’re going to have some publicity too.”] I agree with this assessment of the damage the incorrect statement of the Fair Use doctrine does to the newspaper’s credibility when it analyzes other issues. I’m not explicitly naming the publication in this posting, because I’d rather not give it direct publicity.

It’s sad that a newspaper editor should be so out of touch with the reality of Copyright law. It truly does call into question their credentials as a journalist. Newspapers rely on Fair Use rights every day to report on written and recorded media produced by others. It is fundamental to the practice of journalism and to our educational system that Fair Use rights are fiercely protected and celebrated. People running a web publication should know better, and shame on them for their willful ignorance and unwillingness to be corrected.

Kevin Hall
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