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Is content theft justified for research?

Is content theft justified for research?

Duncan Riley> I stumbled across, nearly by accident (well, in a Google News feed none the less) a site today that doesn’t even bother with partial quoting, but takes full news stories from the MSM and elsewhere and reprints them on their site: MediaChannel.org

What’s different about this site is that it claims to be a not-for-profit organisation (501c) with tax deductibility for donations that aims to reprint the information for the purposes of eduction and research. And yet at the same time it claims to be an initiative of GlobalVision, a for profit media company which shares the same founder Danny Schechter, and the MediaChannel site has numerous links back to GlobalVision.

According to the standard disclaimer at the bottom of each fully-reposted story:

“This article is copyrighted material, the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.”

Now, I don’t know the motives behind the people running this site, but you’ve got to ask the question: why is it necessary to reprint fully copyrighted works if the site is there for research? Certainly a partial quote and a link to an external page would fully fit the criteria, wouldn’t it. This not-for-profit group provides links to a for profit company that has some commercial value in itself, and certainly the links lead to a site that in one instance provides a similar service and has options for advertising.

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Now there are plenty of sites around with Creative Commons licenses that allow this, but a lot of the site don’t: Wired, Columbia Journalism Review, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal…to name but a few. If this was a blog we’d all be screaming content theft, and rightfully so. The question remains however, is this fair use? Is it also fair that fully-reprinted articles taken from other sites, seemingly without permission, are indexed in Google News?

As always feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

View Comments (7)
  • It’s clearly outside the law of copyright. The excuse is a spurious one framed to fool people it’s a legitimate operation. But then when Google assumes the right to publish authors’ books without specific permission, others are bound to follow.

  • This falls way outside the “fair use” realm and lands smack dab in the middle of “copyright infringement” terrority. You can say fair use all you want, but using ALL of the work is clearly not fair use. However, suing for copyright has to do with damanges and lost revenue so that’s why it’s always a tough thing to fight. Perhaps the only recourse is publicly shaming them, which you’ve taken the first step in doing! Go Duncan!

  • In my mind that’s just straight-up theft. The disclaimer they are using is one that’s meant for situations where the use and dissemination of the copyrighted material is required for the greater good of the people. Looks like they’re using it for the greater good of their pocketbook ; )

    And Google News’ policy makes no sense anyways…

  • Seems to me that if they are guilty of copyright theft that the sources are all clearly credited (and linked) and it will only be a matter of time before they get what they deserve, as they are reproducing articles from some high profile organization, such as NY Times, Guardian UK, BBC etc.

    They do however state in their FAQ that they gather relevant stories from their affiliates, so maybe they have some permission, if not specifically, for the articles published.

    I think this needs a lot more research before a verdict can be made.

  • There’s no question that this is outside the bounds of fair use. The tests of fair use include one to check if the use damages the commercial viability of the original work. Copying the whole text definitely affects ones ability to make money from it, why would you want to read the original work then?

    Anyway, fair use is designed to allow small snippets of a copyrighted work for commentary, education or other public good. It never, to my knowledge, allows for the whole work to be used.

    These people are off their rocker and once someone takes them to court they’ll see how far moved from reality they are.

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