I had a debate with Green Libertarian last night re: lengthy online posting of another’s written work. I hate to admit it. But he was right. Here’s Editor Steve Smith’s verdict:
“Plagiarism, quite simply, is representing someone else’s work as your own. Quoting another individual and properly attributing the passage is not plagiarism. In our newsroom the simple rule is “if you use it, attribute it.” Fair use of attributed material under copyright law is another matter entirely. The law is complex, but I’d suggest that it would be difficult if not impossible to violate copyright law in a simple blog entry. It’s a non-issue. Further, because the blog is an extension of the newspaper, the copyright issue is clouded by free expression, free speech and fair comment standards. And it’s important to remember that copyright protects the specific manner in which information is presented. Information itself cannot be protected by copyright. The facts of a news event cannot be protected though the specific language used by the writer can be protected. In short, using material from another source but properly attributing it will almost never pose a plagiarism or copyright problem.”
Blogmeister Ken Sands: “It’s not a plagiarism issue as much as it is a copyright issue, and that same “fair use” citation seems to crop up all the time. It’s not correct (if it were true, copyright would be unenforceable to the point of being moot). Even academics have to pay for the use of copyright material. One of the main reasons we’re sticklers about the copyright issue is because we write cease and desist letters to anyone we find in violation of our copyright. So it only makes sense that we prohibit abuse of copyright on our site. Anyway, it doesn’t really matter what this person thinks the law says. We set the rules, and we expect people to abide by the rules. If they don’t like it they can go elsewhere. They have no “right” to post anything on our site except by our invitation and with our blsessing. We can delete anything we want. This in no way is censorship. Censorship would be a government trying to prevent the owner of a publication from publishing something.”
Steve Smith re: photos/cartoons: “Photos and cartoons are somewhat different. In that case you’re publishing the entire work. And because the blog is us, it constitutes publication as opposed to sending it to a friend via e-mail. So I would avoid cartoons and photos without permission. Of ocurse, people can post their own cartoons or photos. Exception is AP photos for us because we buy online rights. And any other wirte service photos we purchase.”
Bottom Line: If you’re going to cut-and-paste someone else’s copy, provide attribution. On the other hand, medium to long cut-and-pastes aren’t allowed on the blog anyway.