Paysites: link? copy and paste? ? October 8, 2001 7:54 PM   Subscribe

What's MeFi's ethical position on posting stuff from paysites? (more)
posted by MiguelCardoso to Etiquette/Policy at 7:54 PM (17 comments total)

For instance: I'm an subscriber. So am I treading on any copyrights if I transfer one of their pay-only articles here?

For example, if I cut and paste this:

"BUZZ BOOKS: Suddenly, Mideast Political Science Sells Like Potter

As publishers rush to sign up works on Bin Laden, terrorism and the Taliban, a few titles have the market locked up. A biography on Bin Laden and David Halberstam's War in the Time of Peace had strong sales last week.
by PJ Mark(Monday, October 08, 2001)

Books about the Middle East and particularly about Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban have, not surprisingly, seen an upswing in sales in the past few weeks -- and with retaliatory strikes against Afghanistan continuing on Monday, it is likely more people will seek information about the evolving war.
Chief among the newly popular books is Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia by Ahmed Rashid (Yale University Press). Three weeks ago, the book, published in March 2001, sold 97 copies in Barnes & Noble and B. Dalton stores and This week, the total was 2,011 copies. (These figures are thought to represent about 20 percent of the total trade books sold nationwide, but should be seen as indicators only.)

The aptly titled War in the Time of Peace, David Halberstam's examination of American foreign policy in the post-Cold War era, published by Scribner, has been selling steadily since its September publication. On the strength of a mostly positive New York Times review, the book sold 3,035 copies last week -- 1,000 more than the week before, bringing its year-to-date total to 7,596.

The strongest seller within the Taliban/Terrorism genre was Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America by Yossef Bodansky. The book, published last month by Prima Publishing, has jumped from 277 copies in its first week of publication, to 3,328 copies this week. The less personality driven Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism, by John K. Cooley, published by the independent Pluto Press in November 2000, has sold 455 copies this year, compared with last year's total sales of 10. Last week alone, it sold 164 copies.

Initial reports and fears of biological warfare caused a pickup in sales for Living Terrors: What America Needs to Know to Survive the Coming Bio-terrorist Catastrophe, by Michael Osterholm and John Schwartz. The book, published by Dell last September, peaked at 107 copies last week, dropping to 59 copies this week (456 this year). Another book dealing with fears in a different way, The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times by Pema Chodron, from inspirational house Shambhala Publications, has sold 2,860 copies since its August publication."

P.S. I chose a standard-fare sort of article, in case this full citation is unethical. But what are the standards? What counts as fair quotation? Can I give out my username and password to other members? Or does this make MeFi vulnerable to, God forbid, lawsuits or something?
There's a lot of interesting stuff out there and of course it's tempting to share. Any guidelines?

posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:05 PM on October 8, 2001

Yes, you are violating their copyright if you copy the whole thing, even if you provide a citation. As a general rule, if your quote exceeds perhaps 10% then you're beyond "fair use".

My own opinion is that people should avoid use of stuff from pay sites.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:15 PM on October 8, 2001

I guess cutting and pasting an entire article in MeFi would turn MeFi into Free Republic, where this kind of 'copyright violation' has been going on since day one. They have defined it as 'clip sharing,' similar to people sitting in a small room and passing around paper cuttings from news paper articles they had read.
posted by tamim at 8:47 PM on October 8, 2001

Free Republic is sort of creepy but they do get into a lot of trouble and hire a lot of lawyers. This trouble extends to free sites too. For example, this is on their front page:

Important Legal Notice:
Free Republic has been enjoined from allowing users to post full text articles from the Los Angeles Times (LAT) and Washington Post (WP). Please do not post full text from these sources until and unless we can get this order overturned on appeal. Any full text articles from LAT or WP will be deleted in compliance with this court order

MetaFilter is a lot more benign - and smaller - so the odd 'clip sharing' would probably be well received; as long as it wasn't abused.

Steven: 10% would be more than enough to get the gist of an article. But doesn't that apply to book reviews only?

Also, wouldn't you feel honoured if someone else decided an extended comment of yours was worth reprinting in full?
Even if became a reality and users had to pay to read it?

There's a whole freedom/economic viability argument here - c.f. the discussion - which just leaves me clueless as to what we should defend and how we should proceed.

posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:20 PM on October 8, 2001

What would you be linking to if you just copy/pasted paid articles?

MetaFilter threads have to link to something on the web. Otherwise, people may not believe what was copied was really copied, if it has been tainted or changed.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:31 PM on October 8, 2001

Miguel, you asked for opinions. My opinion is that it is a terrible idea.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:48 PM on October 8, 2001

Thanks, Matt; that makes sense. I guess you could link to a pay-article, paraphrase it and include a fair quotation from it - but that would be frustrating and undemocratic, as common access to the link is obviously essential.
I was going to say people would have to be truly unscrupulous to taint or change texts but, yeah, recent evidence of abuse made me think again. You're quite right, unfortunately. What a pity though.
But, anyway: what about comments in general when some pay site article might make a valuable contribution to the discussion, say by bolstering or counter-acting, with a reliable reference, someone else's front page thread?
Or MetaTalk? What do other users, sitting on information they've paid for and would like to share, think?
It was recently done with paid stuff from, to good effect.
The thing is,Metafilter is so desirably scrupulous some sort of guideline is needed, even if along the lines of those accepted by book publishers and news orgs.

posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:58 PM on October 8, 2001

I think the important point here is intent. If you find something worthwhile on a site you subscribe to and quote from it, taking pains in your citation to point out the source and the fact that it is a pay site, then you are, in effect, promoting the source. It's the sort of thing that helps to generate sales, and nobody could see that as inappropriate.

Posting an entire article from a pay site is clearly unethical as it undermines the financial gains of the original source. I certainly understand the frustration of having a fascinating piece that you would like to share, but if you got it from a subscription site, then the most you can do is notify folks as to where they can get the piece, and offer a synopsis of it that helps them decide whether it would be worth their while to subscribe.
posted by Bixby23 at 11:37 PM on October 8, 2001

Free Republic has been enjoined from allowing users to post full text articles from the Los Angeles Times (LAT) and Washington Post (WP). Please do not post full text from these sources until and unless we can get this order overturned on appeal. Any full text articles from LAT or WP will be deleted in compliance with this court order.

[insert joke about illegal takings]

Caution on the following: I am not a lawyer. I don't want to be a lawyer. I run screaming from lawyers. I shot a lawyer once in my pajamas, and how he got into my pajamas, I'll never know.

Not only would a post that contained the entirety of an article be hefty and long, it would potentially expose Matt to lawsuits. You may wish to read this basic guide to fair use (in particular, this section towards the bottom of the page). If you're interested in digging more thoroughly into the fair use debate, there's a Stanford site with links a-go-go (and a memo from Condy Rice, to boot). I've heard the 10% rule Steven alludes to before; the test of brevity seems to be "an excerpt from any prose work of not more than 1,000 words or 10% of the work, whichever is less, but in any event a minimum of 500 words".

Bixby is entirely right that commercial harm is one of the considerations for fair use. It's just not a good idea.
posted by snarkout at 6:16 AM on October 9, 2001

I love hate to muddy the waters, but that's American law. What if the poster is, say, in Portugal, where different standards might (might) apply? Are we only concerned with the responsibilities of the server owner or the site owner, or do we also take the poster into account?
posted by rodii at 7:46 AM on October 9, 2001

I think it's pretty safe to assume that, since the server's physically in New York, it will be under the jurisdiction of American laws, so saying "its in cyberspace!" probably wouldn't be a very good defense.
posted by cCranium at 9:07 AM on October 9, 2001

Thanks, snarkout. Free Republic is a creepy site, for sure, but does that mean that even free sites, like LAT and WP, can bar transcription? I suppose you. Theoretically could the same happen to MeFi? (Though what a relief it would be if the NYT,the Onion, Ananova, CNN et al would forbid us all from even mentioning them) ;-)

cCranium and rodii: I think you're both right. If everything we write here is our copyright then, if we transgress, it's our breach, not the server's. When I cut and paste someone else's article, without their prior permission or paying any fee, and effectively incorporate it into my text, I am breaking the law wherever I "publish" it.

*shivering uncontrollably; understanding it's worse than I thought*
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:32 AM on October 9, 2001

If everything we write here is our copyright then, if we transgress, it's our breach, not the server's.

Yeah, but slashdot went through this a few months (years? God my memory sucks) back with some Microsoft end-user agreement (for the cerebrus implementation?). While slashdot had the legal wherewithall to combat the situation (in which MS had a pretty damn convoluted and shaky legal foot to stand on to begin with) I highly doubt it's something Matt's willing to devote time and money to.

Keeping citations under 10% pretty much guarantees that Matt's not going to catch any legal shit for helping us out.

A possible (and probably gaping with holes) analogy: Even though you're doing the writing, Matt's doing the publishing.

Therefore Matt's responsible, therefore it's a burden he doesn't need.
posted by cCranium at 9:38 AM on October 9, 2001

A possible (and probably gaping with holes) analogy: Even though you're doing the writing, Matt's doing the publishing.

No, it's watertight and true. As an editor(of the Portuguese weekly "O independente") I've been criminally convicted for stuff I never even read, never mind write.
The worse part: most of the times the articles were libelous and malicious. But, as an editor, there was nothing I could do except take the rap and hate the bastards and bastardettes who did me in.
The thing is(all innocent-like)I thought the Internet got rid of all that shit. Practically 50% of what's written here would be curtains for whoever wrote it, if it was published in a European newspaper.

(Libel is far, far nastier than mere copyright infringements)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:27 AM on October 9, 2001

The thing is(all innocent-like)I thought the Internet got rid of all that shit.

Yeah, so did many of the people that got burned in 98 and 99 for reproducing copyrighted materials. Anyway, having gone through it yourself I'm sure you can see why Matt would be likely to kill full copyrighted text.
posted by cCranium at 11:44 AM on October 9, 2001

Why 10%? You can easily claim this if for academic purposes and post the whole thing.

'Academic purposes' aren't exempt from fair use.
posted by rory at 5:03 AM on October 10, 2001

As snarkout hints, the "10%" thing is a rule of thumb, and actually applies more to verbatim reproduction (hello, you fucking right-wing Freeper nutjobs) rather than traditional "fair use", which is inline citation as part of critical analysis and supporting argument. So you'll be allowed to photocopy 10% of a book or a long chapter, but you'll be able to cite, say, a 100-word paragraph of a 600-word column.

I've cited a couple of subscription-only paragraphs as support for comments, just as I've quoted from texts that aren't online. (Not everything in the world is on the Web. Yet.) But I don't think that subscription-only material makes for a useful front-page post, unless the circumstances are extraordinary -- say, Salon using bait-and-switch tactics with its lead-off paragraphs to encourage people to pay their $30...
posted by holgate at 8:40 AM on October 10, 2001

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