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quoteblogs, linkblogs and fair use

there's been an interesting discussion on the "fairness" of quoteblogs , which pull whole posts and only "weakly" attribute the source, if at all. the original inluminent post contains several examples of quoteblogs that are causing the concern, including scoble's soon to be continued quoteblog .

i had recently become quite a fan of scoble's quoteblog because it was such a relatively effficient way to find things that i wouldn't have found any other way, except that it was always irritating that it was rough to decipher where the original post came from. i had tended to think of it as a "readibility" issue, since it's clear that scoble's intent was never to "steal" and it was usually easy to determine where the post was coming from after doing a little digging. i'm a bit less comfortable about sites like stargeek that don't make it clear at all that they are swiping content without attribution . it certainly seems like stargeek is playing fast and loose with any reasonable definition of "fair use".

i've actually dealt with similar issues with the other sections of the which aren't quite linkblogs, but aren't quite quoteblogs. years ago when i started, say, conflux i had a simple idea of keeping track of all the little quote snippets that i would collect related to issues that interested me and see how they would evolve over time. conflux is tomalak's realm with a broader scope and "contextual threading". in the naive salad days of yore, i had the vague impression that it probably wouldn't be o.k. to quote whole articles, that i probably shouldn't link to "for fee" content unless it was part of a freely available summary and that i should probably make it obvious where the link was coming from. i didn't think in terms of the legal definition of "fair use", but it seemed to be fair to me and i didn't think anyone would be concerned with the half a dozen readers i might get.

i think it took a year before i got a mildly threatening letter from an editor at a publication asking if i knew that my site was "illegal" and likely to expose me to the whims of the interpretation of "fair use"? i promptly responded that i'd be happy to remove all links to their publication and alert readers as to why i had done so. after a few more emails the editor decided that i was harmless and let the issue go without getting any lawyers involved.

but now it's years later and i found myself with a few more than the original handful of readers and every once in awhile, i wonder what would happen if i placed ads on the site and started collecting some pocket change. is it fair for me to make money off "collecting" other people's content? does it make a difference if money is involved [ the editor said that it did factor in her decision to not pursue the issue further ]? is it "fair" to pull five sentences? how about ten? twenty? does the length of the original article matter?

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4/28/2004 10:03:00 PM 0 comments


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