Musings on Photography


Posted in ethics, web issues by Paul Butzi on December 24, 2008


From this article on the Huffington Post’s practice of stealing copyrighted content from blogs:

But Peretti says some 95 percent of The Huffington Post’s traffic goes through the headline links, and that when The Huffington Post does original reporting or adds to a story, it changes a headline link to point to its content.

Otherwise, the Chicago project picks the ‘best’ stories from publications like the Chicago Tribune, the Sun Times and the Chicago Reader.

As for disgruntled publishers, Peretti seems genuinely perplexed and says The Huffington Post links should be good for them — and suggests that upset editors get in touch and build relationships with Huffington Post editors.

Well, now. If there’s one thing that really, and I mean REALLY pisses me off, it’s the smug assurances of people who violate copyrights that the violator’s actions are actually beneficial to the copyright owner.

Here’s a clue for the HuffPo. When someone owns something, THEY get to decide what gets done with it. If you want to use it, they have the right to prevent that, EVEN WHEN LETTING YOU USE IT MIGHT BE IN WHAT YOU THINK IS THEIR BEST INTERESTS. That’s because the owner of the copyright gets to decide what his or her interests are, not you. And the reason for that is that you, being a thief, can be presumed to be a lying, cheating, no-good worthless scoundrel who would sell his own grandmother into slavery and prostitution just so you can buy another venti vanilla latte in that special cup that fits the cup-holder in your Lexus.

If you’re so damn sure that what you’re about to do is in the interests of the copyright holder, why don’t you take the simple step of actually asking for permission, in writing, before you use the material? It’s not like it’s hard to send email, even if you work for the Huffington Post.

I suggest that the people who have had their content appropriated by the the HuffPo ignore the advice of HuffPo cofounder Johan Peretti. Instead of getting in touch with the editors of the HuffPo and building a relationship, I’d suggest that you instead file a big lawsuit and take money out of the pockets of Huffington and Peretti and all the venture capitalists who’ve funded the HuffPo.

Take a lot of their money. Take all of their money, and then take some more. And when you see them begging on the street in abject misery, you might want to lean over, and whisper in their ear “You shouldn’t have violated my copyright. I hope you go hungry forever. I hope your children have to lie about who their parents are to avoid embarrassment at school. I hope that when you go to a party and are introduced, people will look at you with disgust and refuse to shake your hand or talk to you.”

I hope that’s the only sort of relationship the folks at the Huffington Post ever have from this day forward.

7 Responses

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  1. Ed Richards said, on December 25, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    I am sympathetic, but Youtube seems to have established that theft is a business model that can make you a billionaire.

  2. Paul Butzi said, on December 26, 2008 at 9:58 am

    re: youtube.

    Yes, they’re among the worst culprits. That’s not a big surprise, given that they’re owned by Google.

    And Google certainly has made some big IP grabs. Not surprisingly, both youtube and Google make the same disgusting “But it actually works out to the benefit of the copyright holder” argument.

    I would like to own google. I’d be a much better owner than all of the current Google shareholders, so it would be very much to the benefit of Google if they simply transfered ownership to me. 🙂

  3. latoga said, on December 26, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    Seems like everyday there is new occurrence of rights abuse for online content. The fact that publications think it’s OK for them to abuse the rights of others still just boggles my mind. The only downside is that actually taking legal actions to enforce your copyright is usually so financially draining to just get the process in motion that most people don’t do it…

  4. mark a. said, on December 26, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    Odd…..I read something on CNET not too long ago about how certain legal authorities were going after “college students” who downloaded a bunch of copyrighted songs for free.

    I was stunned at the number of comments posted concerned with how abusive/intrusive/unfair/etc. were the authorities or going after these “poor” college kids. All the arguments were pretty much the same: the RIAA and record companies are all greedy SOBs and these college kids weren’t doing anything wrong.

    I had to post a comment. While I may not like the way the recording industry does things, the bottom line is theft is theft. Just because downloading a MP3 file doesn’t feel the same as stashing a CD down your pants at the mall, it doesn’t mean it is any different.

    There is something odd going on in the mindset of an awful lot of people out there. There is this perception that the theft of digitized files is not theft at all. It’s as if they believe that simply because something can be found and/or shared electronically then it isn’t theft.

    It is very odd.

  5. Gordon McGregor said, on December 27, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    mark – that’s probably because theft of physical property (ie depriving someone of access to something they own) is actually quite different from copyright infringement or digital copying of an object (nobody gets stopped from accessing/using the original)

    Legally different, actually different. Just different.

    Not to claim or argue that copyright infringement isn’t a bad thing, but it isn’t actually theft, no matter how much money gets spent by the people who aim to benefit from making you think copyright infringement is the same as theft, or equating the people who do it, with terrorists, murders and people who steal boats and cargo on the high seas.

    It also isn’t murder, dealing in drugs or extortion. It’s copyright infringement. But I agree there is something odd going on in the mindset of an awful lot of people, mainly due to the huge advertising campaign being waged to get people to think it is the same as physical theft.

  6. Paul Butzi said, on December 27, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Be careful, now.

    Theft can be stealing a physical object, sure. Theft can also be stealing something which isn’t a physical object – theft of services, for instance, comes to mind.

    I have little sympathy for anyone except the artists in the whole “music piracy’ debate. The people ripping off music are, in my opinion, doing something wrong. The record labels are, in my opinion, both being stupid and contriving to make less money than they could make with a less draconian position. The artists are getting shafted by both the record companies and the miscreants who steal copies of the music.

    There’s plenty of shame to go around, there. No need to argue about the precise semantics of the words being used.

  7. Travelsonic said, on July 25, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    “Theft can be stealing a physical object, sure. Theft can also be stealing something which isn’t a physical object ”

    Actually, in the most part, no it can’t. I think a title of a crime or bill is not enough. We have the NET act – the No Electronic Theft Act – but that nowhere actually makes copyright infringement theft. As for Theft of Services, I think that is different since most if not all the time it deprives the legal cable users of their quality services.

    And yes, as long as comparisons between two different crimes are being done, yes, there is a need because it does matter. Period.

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