Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Mind NOT Blown

Now wait a second.

Slate’s Matt Yglesias purports to tell the tubes that an Idaho man’s lawsuit against Buzzfeed for using one of his photos in one of their made-for-virality posts without his permission is supposed to “kill my faith” in intellectual property law.
The umbrage is there. But my faith in intellectual property law has come out alive.
Yglesias seems to have trouble with photographer Kai Eiselein’s charges of “contributory infringement” against Buzzfeed, since their lifting of his clearly copyrighted photograph from his Flickr account has now been featured on many other websites without his permission and without remuneration. He says this claim is dubious, without really offering any proof. (To be fair, he also knocks Buzzfeed’s claim that their use of his photo is “transformative” and thus allowed under fair use rules as just as dubious. That dubiousness I understand. The dubiousness of the contributory infringement claim I do not.)

Yglesias theorizes about copyright law, but doesn’t explain his reasoning but seems to think the solution lies in creative commons licensing (which is great for folks like Buzzfeed, who obviously don’t want to pay for the photos they use) but not for Eiselein and his ilk, who might possibly want to be paid for the photos they take.
I don’t see much difference between what Buzzfeed does and what Judith Griggs did, and Griggs got a righteous intertubes whacking for what she did. Where’s the rage? Just because a popular website is lifting content without remuneration (and, as far as I can tell, without even offering credit to the artists whose work they’re stealing) does that make it okay?
Others like Andrew Beaujon at Poynter points to “the common etiquette of the internet” not being reflected in intellectual property law. Huh?
Here’s what Beaujon says about Buzzfeed in general, which makes a bit more sense to me (There’s more on the etiquette of the internet remark here as well):
The thing is, Buzzfeed regularly helps itself to photos from other awesome, creative people for sponsored posts. And that sponsored content [Buzzfeed founder Jonah] Peretti told [Guardian writer Heidi] Moore, accounts for “nearly all the company’s revenues,” she writes.
So Buzzfeed gets eyeballs with their viral posts (they’ve had mine from time to time) yet are just plucking stuff from the internet, whether they have permission to use it or not, and, in some cases, is making money off the stuff. No wonder Eiselein is upset, and litigious. (Why, explains at The Guardian; can someone explain to me why I had to go to a UK website to find a first direct quote from Eiselein.)
I’m just as guilty as the next fat person. Even though I make no money with this blog, I do search the internet for images to go along with my posts and use copious amounts of stuff that’s probably copyrighted somewhere. That’s a violation of copyright law; I don’t have to make money when I steal someone else’s stuff to be guilty. That doesn’t make what Buzzfeed is doing right. And they’re getting paid for stealing.

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