The Discerning Texan

All that is necessary for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing.
-- Edmund Burke
Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Left's Two-Pronged Attack on Bloggers and Talk Radio; Plus discussion of how I wrestle with Fair Use

Anyone who reads this blog often knows that it can sometimes stretch the limits of "Fair Use", at least as I understand that term to apply to the printed media (it is a bit more "fuzzy" IMO on the Web, as we will see). But in any case my particular compulsion works like this:
It is harder than it sounds though; it isn't like I have no conscience at all: I know other people work hard on their own words and blogs and I also know that people with blogs appreciate it when people go to their sites and help their link counts to go up.

But my opinion is that if you are quoting someone's material on your site, probably the best way to get the reader to visit the original author's site is to put enough of the quote on your site to really "hook" the reader--enough to be compelled to link to the other site. This especially applies if you yourself do not have either the time nor the eloquence to make the "hook" on your own. We all have our bad nights. And I have a lot of short ones.

Glenn Reynolds has a great formula, and it works perfectly for him: One or two sentences, a link, and maybe a very short money quote. I often contemplate adopting this for my own method. I'll try it for a few days or weeks, then I will revert back to old habits. Insta-posting does allow you to get to many more important stories every day--assuming they exist. Or it alternatively allows you to spend very little time on your own blog on those days when you have very little time to spend: just a few short words, a few short sentences. Done. So it does have its attractions.

But a big difference between Reynolds and I is that Glenn gets about 2 million hits a day and I get around 200 (unless of course someone like Glenn links back to me, which happens occasionally..). And--like most people with a full time job--I do not have the time to be writing and editing mistakes out of long essays on every topic I would otherwise want to post about on a given evening. Nor do I have the time to read and link to 20 different stories. There are usually only a few stories on a given day that get me riled up anyway...

So why blog at all? Why not just read and let it all go? It's tempting, because keeping this thing going for four years this coming July is tremendously time consuming. So why do it? Why only cater to those with your point of view? I get asked these kinds of questions a lot.

Here is my answer: I blog because I believe we are fighting an uphill battle for our country, and because I can't stand that thought. I do it because I feel we are in great danger economically and existentially. And so I feel it is almost a duty for all of us who are awake enough to understand what is going on to try and do something about it.

Before 2004, my form of "trying" used to involve spamming a lot of friends and family with my "finds". But too much spam can be a nuisance, even to friends and loved ones, and even to the ones who already agree with you. Besides, most of my lib friends (i.e. the ones who most need to wake up and understand what is going on...)--in all likelihood were just hitting the Delete key anyway a soon as they saw it was another of my political spams. So: one reason I started to blog is because it seemed a less intrusive means of communicating to people--I told my friends I was doing it, gave them the link, and if they or anyone else on the planet wanted to know what I thinking about, they knew where to go to read it.

But back to the why: I see blogging as an outlet for my distress about how so many of my fellow citizens could be so clueless about what was being done to them by their government; and blogging has at least given me a sense that--however small it may be--at least I am doing something to try and help to wake people up--but in a way that wouldn't irritate friends who already get over 200 emails a day, without my additional spam.

And what of "Fair Use"? Some of the readers who come here come here every day trust my judgment and would probably follow my links no matter how I described them. But for everyone else, their initial trip to the site might be the only chance I will ever have to make an impression on them; and if a post conveys a thought or impression that is powerful enough--even if the words are not my own--then maybe that person might want to come seek an opinion here another time. I would prefer to find someone else's words which clearly are persuasive and to have those register on people who need that "light bulb" to go on. I would rather be known as the place to come where you could always find good writing and good illustrations of the points underlying conservatism. But being the author of those points is not that big of a deal to me. For me it is the ability for the site to persuade effectively, not who is doing the persuading, that is more important.

So: if the reason I do this is ultimately the "persuasion" of the unwashed, and if the idea is to expose as many people as possible to well expressed ideas which (quite often) are written far more effectively by others than I could have done--then what to do?

If I just throw a couple of sentences words together, a la the Instapundit method, and if I link that short sentence to say, a great writer like Mark Steyn, a new visitor may or may not go there, based only on that one sentence. Flip a coin. On the other hand if someone begins to read Steyn's words, the power of that is much more potent. To me anyway. And traffic numbers are a factor in making this decision.

The ultimate question for the 200 some-odd reader per day blogger is: would a person unfamiliar with the blog who stumbles upon it be more or less likely to go to the places I link to if I didn't have that powerful "hook" first? You could argue it either way, but the bottom line is that it is difficult work into a one or two sentence link description the power and eloquence of a Steyn, Scalia, Hanson, etc. So my personal answer is: it is more effective to have a great quote included inline.

So then the question becomes: in doing so, have I done something wrong?? That's the hard part, because Fair Use came along way before the Internet. It was about publishing someone else's work and calling it yours. That isn't what bloggers are arguably doing. Because once something is on the Web, arguably that content is owned by the entire planet: anyone can see it, print it, photocopy it, email it, whatever--provided they know where to go to find it. And there is no stopping it (just ask Paris Hilton)...

In this context, one could argue that "fair use" on the web (at least if it is properly linked back to its source) is actually in a way helping to promote the work of a given source. It is also analogous in the printed world to writing a term paper, footnoting each long passage you quote from an external source. If someone likes the quote enough in a book or term paper, the footnote provides the source's book name, author and publisher. In that world, it is the means for the reader to go retrieve more information from the actual source itself. But the Web lends itself to sourcing much more effectively than does footnoting, which is legal: one click and you are already AT the source.

Anyway, that is the context for this Associated Press matter (uh oh, can I use their sacred name???). They appear determined to try and sue any blogger who quotes any of their stories at ALL--preferably small fry (so much for the elites mantra of "evil" corporate America vs. the "little man")... The idea of the suits are to instill enough fear about this that it would in effect shut down blogging as an alternative to the biased lies they've been putting on the news wires every day.

What this is is a declaration of war on blogging in general--especially that blogging which the elites don't like. The AP doesn't like it that bloggers continue to find and expose the gaping errors, lies and shoddy journalism in their reporting. And man, are we ever finding them. So they do what every leftist does, including POWs--they appeal to the trial lawyers and the courts., fortunately, wants to do something about this. They want for the new media to shun completely the leftist prima donnas at al-AP:

Bloggers beware, Associated Press are on the warpath, starting bogus copryright suits against those linking and quoting even the merest fraction of an AP news report. Roger Cadenhead of the Drudge Retort:

I'm currently engaged in a legal disagreement with the Associated Press, which claims that Drudge Retort users linking to its stories are violating its copyright and committing "'hot news' misappropriation under New York state law." An AP attorney filed six Digital Millenium Copyright Act takedown requests this week demanding the removal of blog entries and another for a user comment.

The Retort is a community site comparable in function to Digg, Reddit and Mixx. The 8,500 users of the site contribute blog entries of their own authorship and links to interesting news articles on the web, which appear immediately on the site. None of the six entries challenged by AP, which include two that I posted myself, contains the full text of an AP story or anything close to it. They reproduce short excerpts of the articles -- ranging in length from 33 to 79 words -- and five of the six have a user-created headline.

...In a June 3 letter, AP's Intellectual Property Governance Coordinator Irene Keselman told me:

... you purport that the Drudge Retort's users reproduce and display AP headlines and leads under a fair use defense. Please note that contrary to your assertion, AP considers that the Drudge Retort users' use of AP content does not fall within the parameters of fair use. The use is not fair use simply because the work copied happened to be a news article and that the use is of the headline and the first few sentences only. This is a misunderstanding of the doctrine of "fair use." AP considers taking the headline and lede of a story without a proper license to be an infringement of its copyrights, and additionally constitutes "hot news" misappropriation.

But six of the seven blog entries have their own headlines, not the AP's one. One blog entry quotes 18 words from the story and a 32-word quote by Hillary Clinton under a user-written headline. Another reproduced the last two paragraphs from a linked Fox News article written by AP.

Some AP member sites encourage this kind of reuse. Yahoo News, the source for two disputed stories, invites bloggers to use items from its RSS feeds. USA Today, the source for two others, includes a browser widget alongside articles that facilitates their submission to Digg, Mixx and other sites.

It's pretty clear AP is just using its status as a big dog to bark at poor bloggers it believes cannot afford litigation costs. Unfortunately, the onus of proof is on the blogger to prove "fair use".

Well, that's kind of bullying needs some pushback. Effective immediately, Newshoggers is boycotting AP's content, including that from other sites that syndicate their stuff. We will find other sources - Reuters usually has the same stories and syndicates our BlogBurst feed on its websites without a problem - or we simply will find a different story to blog about. We urge you to join us in boycotting these bullies.

Update: Jeff Jarvis: "bloggers, unless the AP recants and apologizes to Cadenhead, I urge you to avoid linking to the AP and to link to reporting at its source."

Done! And (as they say in fair use land): read the whole thing.

The AP has shown itself to be a propaganda arm of our Jihadist enemies, pure and simple. So with that in mind, it is not asking that much to ask me not to quote any AP story. It will be my pleasure not to quote any AP story. Why take a chance that you are posting a blatant lie?

And they think--what? That this will help their reputation, which has already taken so many direct hits that it is analagous to the car Bonnie and Clyde got shot up in?

One wonders if this is one prong of a more general two-pronged stategy of the Left: censor anyone who disagrees with them. After all the Stalinists have once again gotten out their sharp knives for talk radio. Just consider what is happening with the Left's Stealth attempt to take Conservatives off of the talk radio airwaves:
The “Hush Rush” crowd’s dream has been to revive the so-called “Fairness Doctrine,” which once required any radio station airing a conservative program to provide equal time for the liberal view. The doctrine’s advocates have tried using the democratic process, but to no avail whatsoever: In 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives rejected the latest effort 309 to 115.

Yet regulations proposed on January 28 by the Federal Communications Commission would effectively reinstate the Fairness Doctrine via something called “localism.” This is legislation by stealth — most of the Fairness Doctrine’s opponents might not know about it until it’s too late. All opportunity for public comment on FCC’s proposal ceases on June 11, 2008.

Which isn’t to say it was impossible to see this coming. The Left has long sought new ways of bringing back the Fairness Doctrine, and their latest gambit features a sizable dose of political correctness.

In 2007, the Center for American Progress issued a report, “The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio,” that cleverly recasts the Fairness Doctrine as “localism” by stating that “any effort to encourage more responsive and balanced radio programming will first require steps to increase localism.”

The center’s report also urged quotas by race and sex for radio-station ownership, because a survey of all “10,506 licensed commercial radio stations reveals that stations owned by women, minorities, or local owners are statistically less likely to air conservative hosts or shows.”

The FCC has swallowed the center’s diversity rationale whole. The FCC’s proposed regulations claim that radio station “programming — particularly network programming — often is not sufficiently culturally diverse.” There appears to be an assumption at the FCC that each and every radio station, rather than the radio market as a whole, must embody cultural diversity.

What does “cultural diversity” mean in practice? One witness at an FCC localism hearing actually complained that a “population of 60,000 Somali Americans” in Minneapolis-St. Paul were forced to get by with a mere “10 regularly-produced TV series on vocational training, acculturation, health education and other topics of vital importance” accounting for “approximately 20 hours of programming a week . . . because the community is not deemed to be a viable market.”

This cultural diversity is to be enforced by professional ethnic activists and other perpetual malcontents: All “licensees should convene and consult with permanent advisory boards.” These advisory boards “should include representatives of all segments of the community.”
Translation: representatives of all segments of the left-leaning community. Read the whole thing.

If this isn't "two-pronged" what is? I'm not one of these conspiracy theorists, but I have a difficult time believing that this is all merely "coincidental". They want to shut up the blogs and talk radio; not later, but now. Before the elections and before they can get the truth out about Obama. And IF it succeeds, before the election, do not be surprised if it foments violence from both sides of the argument.

Yesterday we had the Court decide that the people no longer get to make their own choices about how to wage war. Today we learn that they are trying to shut down the blogs and talk radio.

Welcome to East Germany?

Helpful Hint: be careful about liking AP photos too! Especially the doctored ones!

UPDATE: Many people are already starting to make their voices heard.
DiscerningTexan, 6/14/2008 07:23:00 PM |