Copyright wally of the week
'Mind if I pinch this then change the name?'
Andrew's Mailbag At El Reg we're happy to license our copy, and if you ask nicely, you might even get use of it for free. But this is the most unusual request I've ever received.
Subject: Sunny Spain article use for local US newspaper
Thanks for the hard hitting and brief article on solar power. I would like to submit it to our local newspaper (Bellefontaine, Ohio - target of wind developers) - as an opinion editorial.
They will print it provided the author shows up and signs a release in person. To get around this, I would like permission to make minor modifications and have a local citizen submit it as their own.
Would be happy to send you the draft first for your approval or advice. Thank you.
-- Tom Stacy
www.savewesternOH.org - executive director
www.wind-watch.org - board of directors
ASME US Energy Policy Committee - member at large
I wrote back:
You're proposing taking work to which you have no rights, and without compensation, passing it off as some one else's?
Unfazed, Tom simply replied:
Clearly, for some people, the concept of ownership and rights is quite an amorphous thing. Maybe that statutory maximum ($150,000 per offence) in the DMCA just isn't high enough. What do you think? ®
Looks like the asker is asking (on behalf of a non-profit organisation) if you don't mind them circumventing their local newspaper's requirement that submissions must be signed over in person - he likes your article and thinks people in his area should read it and this was the best way he could think of to do that.
Mis-conceived, poorly explained but not really worthy of your reaction.
Rather an overreaction?
He was asking permission, to get around an onerous requirement by a local publisher - and, as you say, sometimes you see merit in your content being used without a royalty being paid. He did the right thing - he asked for a licence - and got a pretty shirty, sarcastic response back. If you did not want him to use the article, would a simple "I'm afraid that I would not be willing to license your use of my work in this manner" not have sufficed?
You may be the owner of the copyright in the article at law, but, as the Register so often promotes, copyright law is entirely out of touch - the article was built on the learnings, discoveries and writings of others. A definite case of "standing on the shoulders of giants". The requestor was so keen to get the article republished that he was willing to invest time and effort in modifying it, and seeking your approval of the modifications before going to print.
Perhaps a Creative Commons BY-SA licence grant would have been ideal, allowing him to get the article published, with a few minor amendments to circumvent the restrictive policy of requiring a local author, and still retaining attribution etc. (e.g. "This opinion was based on a piece by Andrew Orlowski, available at http://www.theregister.co.uk."). The Register gets its name further out there, for what appears to be very little cost at all - if the target audiencehad not already seen the Register, the attribution might prompt them to do so; if they had, then, they have already seen your store etc.
Do you read a different website? El Reg's coverage has been about whats happening and any campaigning has been about bringing in sensible reforms where authors/musicians are compensated and users get their stuff easily enough. Never have I seen anywhere on the Reg any condoning of piracy. They have, however, been scathing in the way the music business and other lobbying bodies have reacted.