Fall off the face of the earth, you old hag!

1 Oct

I admit to being old–particularly when compared to the eternal youth of a recent college graduate embarking on a first job–but I confess that even my usual lack of vanity winced a bit at the “hag” moniker.

Then again, if old inevitably means ugly, and if not giving in to temper tantrums makes me mean, then I guess that hag would apply.

What I’m going on about?

Ah, little grasshoppers, gather around and listen to a story.

(Be Ye Warned, all those who do continue reading: it’s longish, and quite likely not very interesting, as pettiness rarely is)

Once upon a time–long before incomparably beautiful young thing happened upon my personal horizon–I was part of an online forum. First as an early member, for a while as moderator and then as an administrator.

Life happened and I pretty much went off radar as far as that forum was concerned. After a longish hiatus from it, I returned and after a while the new owner asked me to become a moderator again.

Life being what it is, by the time I rejoined the moderating team young thing and others had been part of staff for a while, but our paths rarely crossed  and all was good and beautiful.

Except all wasn’t quite right.

As some of you may have noticed, I have a fairly intense interest on the matter of copyright, what it protects and what it doesn’t. And it so happens that a rather important part of copyright law in the USofA, and the part that makes it possible for people to have conversations of all tenors about copyrighted material (such as say, reviews), is the fair use doctrine¹.

And here’s where the stinky meets the revolving blade: right now, if anyone cares to take the most cursory look at the place, copyright violations abound–and only a percentage of them could be defended as fair use. Furthermore, I would bet–if I were a betting woman–that very few of the violations committed by staff could be defended as fair use².

Given, of course, that the site owner cared to spend hard earned money on defending himself.

As I have seen already a couple of cases this year wherein removal of the offending material still didn’t pacify the copyright holder, so that damages and compensation had to be paid, I have been rather vocal on the topic, trying to get staff to educate and police themselves regarding a) what is protected, and b) whether and how to use protected material so that it’s more likely to fall under fair use.

Remember author Roni Loren, who had to pay an undisclosed sum for the unauthorized use of one image, in one post, in her blog?

The owner of the site–for reasons best known to himself–has decided that, since I have shown that I do give a damn about his potential financial ruin³, he wanted me to do some more research on the topic and write about it (for for staff and the general membership), and then to point out cases where staff is “doing it wrong.”

Now, here’s where things started getting pear-shaped.

Young thing and friends just know that there will never be a claim of copyright infringement filed against the site. After all, there hasn’t been one such claim brought forth since the forums started, right?

They just know that, since fair use is “such a grey area,” the owner would successfully defend the site in the oh-nigh-impossible case of a claim–never mind the fact that it would not be their asses on the sling if such a claim just happened to be filed.

Why should they spend any of their valuable time fixing their own posts?

They just know what’s what, and I’m simply a jealous old hag trying to make herself important by pointing out the very real potential consequences of such careless disregard for someone else’s finances.


(Told you it was boring)


¹ I’m drafting a rather long and link-laden post–probably a page on the blog–but you can get the gist at Citizen Media Law Project fair use page, as well as read more on connected topics.

² One of beautiful young thing’s besties has a habit of lifting entire articles and interviews from all over the intrawebz, without formatting to indicate she’s quoting (though with wholesale copying, what’d be the point), and slapping a link at the end of her post to the source (and forgetting to actually link, or to link to the specific lifted piece, about ¼ of the time)

³ In his words: “one suit, I’m ruined, this site is history”

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