We have always been at war with the DMCA.... July 17, 2009 2:59 PM   Subscribe

What is MeFi policy on linking to material that is copyrighted in the US? If we don't have one, did I inadvertently do something that might cause a problem for mathowie?

I linked to a couple of Orwell novels hosted at another site in this post. The books are apparently under current copyright in the US (where MetaFilter's servers are,) and the UK. The FAQ doesn't address the issue.

FWIW, I do know that this has been a hotly debated topic for years, especially since the AP / blogger fiasco. I'm not really looking to rehash whether linking to such materials is morally acceptable.
posted by zarq to Etiquette/Policy at 2:59 PM (14 comments total)

I apologize in advance if this question seems stupidly naive in any way. IANAL. :)
posted by zarq at 3:00 PM on July 17, 2009

You can link to anything. You aren’t duplicating the copyrighted work by publishing a fact about where it is located on the Web.

Admins may delete links to knowingly harmful sites, of course, but that’s something different.
posted by joeclark at 3:12 PM on July 17, 2009

I don't know that linking to something can get you in trouble. Hosting it, yeah sure.
posted by edgeways at 3:13 PM on July 17, 2009

Wait? We can't just post that on the American part?
posted by hippybear at 3:16 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Our policy is don't link to stuff that might make people come after mathowie. So, we prefer if you don't link to torrents of copyrighted material or blatant copyright violations (full scans of comics or books, more because they're likely to go away than we're afraid of the boogeyman) but linking to stuff other places is not necessarily an issue if you have every reason to think that the material/link will stay up [i.e. isn't some fly-by-night scribd thing].
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:19 PM on July 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

That makes perfect sense. Thank you for the clarification, jessamyn.
posted by zarq at 3:36 PM on July 17, 2009

Weirdly enough, I just asked Big Brother, and he says he's fine with you pirating copies of George Orwell novels. He did seem to indicate that he might be upset that you'd be reading Orwell at all, but the pirating thing didn't seem to bother him.

Also, he would like it if you kids would stop leaving your bikes on his lawn, as it's killing the grass.
posted by koeselitz at 6:39 PM on July 17, 2009

edgeways: "I don't know that linking to something can get you in trouble."

It's not really settled law in either direction, and it's certainly not a simple issue.
posted by Plutor at 6:46 PM on July 17, 2009

I made a little link
I didn't even blink
I never stopped to think
that mathowie's ship might sink
they sent him off to jail
so let's all go his bail
I'm collecting it, you see
send donations straight to me!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:22 PM on July 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

Linking to the site shouldn't be an issue - linking to copyrighted material directly probably is.

Right there on the linked site it says, "Don't download this if it violates copyright law in your region". But visiting the site doesn't violate any laws.

posted by Aquaman at 9:59 AM on July 18, 2009

Whether something is copyrighted really isn't the issue- most of the web is copyrighted in one way or another. (If you believe in the somewhat blurry idea that everything you create IS copyrighted, the difference is whether you have asserted that copyright or not)

The bigger issue is whether you are violating the rights of the owner of the work. If the act of linking to something violates that right, it's probably not kosher. The exclusive rights to one's work is more than just the actual publishing of it (electronic or otherwise), it's the USE of it. Linking to something is a use of that thing, and whether it is a violation depends on whether it's a fair use or not.

The morality of it is clearer, to me. You shouldn't use other people's stuff without their permission- whether express or implied. People love to say that illegality doesn't make morality, and that's right. Plenty of illegal things can be moral. But the converse is true as well- plenty of legal things (or things that happen to not be illegal where you live) can be immoral.

I'll never understand the anti-copyright people. Presumably, they like to be paid for their work, why shouldn't creators of intellectual content enjoy the same right? If I start a business selling Acme Better Mousetraps and it is successful, I can continue selling those mousetraps as long as the sun shines and people still want them. When my patent expires, other people can sell similar things, but they can't sell them as Acme Better Mousetraps. But if I start a business where I sell cartoons of Morty the Better Mouse, somehow people think it should be perfectly OK to make their own Morty the Better Mouse cartoons. Go ahead and make all the mouse cartoons you want, but create your own damn mouse. If people like your mouse better, good on ya. But others shouldn't be able to profit off of my work as long as I (or my company/heirs) are still around to profit from it.

Or the music thing. I write a song, and people like it. It is up to me how I choose to profit from that creation. If I want to be a dick and charge exorbitant prices for it, or employ an evil company to be the bad guy for me, that's my right. It's mine to use or squander. If I want to give it away for free, that's my right too.

Why do people think that when they buy a recording of a media creation, that suddenly they have the right to do whatever they want? You can't go out and buy a Ford Fiesta, and then by virtue of owning that copy of the car, be able to build copies of that car and sell your own Ford Fiestas. But somehow, it seems perfectly natural to them that because in the digital media world, new copies of a work aren't tangible, the rights of the creator don't exist. That's like saying that you should only have to pay a doctor for parts- his labor and advice isn't tangible, so he doesn't deserve to be paid for it??

posted by gjc at 5:29 AM on July 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Well, since everything is copyrighted as soon as it's created, we wouldn't have much of a site without linking to copyrighted material.
posted by delmoi at 10:02 PM on July 19, 2009

posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:48 AM on July 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

GJC, a link to an item is not a “use” of that item. The White House is at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Now that I have given you its address, have I just “used” the White House?
posted by joeclark at 8:43 PM on July 30, 2009

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