Notes from The Heart House

Brainy single-payer blog testing the waters on business, media, art and culture with the occasional critical theory slant.

On Fair Use: Sympathize with the Readers

On Sunday, Washington Post reporter Ian Shapira called out Gawker on its use of one of his articles, questioning at what point it became copyright infringement. Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard turned it into a quick case study.

Imagine for a moment that we had laws in place deeming Gawker’s use of the Washington Post article a copyright infringement, and so their post is never made. What would be the results of this scenario? Fewer people are informed, Gawker makes marginally less money; and there is no measurable increase of success at The Washington Post. So what’s the effect, except to deny the public?

For the most part, readers don’t care who wrote the articles they read and they don’t care where they read it. They like to think of news as objective; to emphasize copyrights on articles is, in effect, the same as reporters claiming ownership on information, and that really rubs readers the wrong way. Ian Shapira and the Washington Post do deserve compensation for their efforts; but a dialogue on copyrights doesn’t seem to be a truly productive way to get there. The business of journalism is a difficult one; easing off the ownership discussion and keeping the focus on ways to monetize will go a longer way with the public.


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About the Author

Stella Tran graduated in the Liberal Arts with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Grinnell College and developed her professional experience in knowledge discovery and new media technology at Yahoo! Inc. (Read more.)