Copyright... copyleft...who's right? whomever's left!
January 6, 2004 8:57 AM   Subscribe

"You can't copyright anything on the Internet" Retrocrush posted an article written by thier own, to point out the "Worst Sex Scenes Ever" in the movies. Less than 30days later, the british tabloid "The Daily Star" printed an article that seems to have come directly from the site, attributing the source to a (seemingly fictitous) american magazine called "Film". Not only did the Star's news editor make the above quote, but the story was picked up by a wire service, and has seen print in several other online and print publications... Obviously it's not Fair Use. What would happen if reporters came here looking for ideas?
posted by niteHawk (27 comments total)
Easy answer: simply get a bot to rip the Daily Star site, replace all instances of their name with "Retrocrush" and post the site.

...I'm sure the editors and publisher of the Daily Star wouldn't mind -- after all, they're already on record as saying copyright is meaningless.
posted by aramaic at 9:07 AM on January 6, 2004

Reporters have quoted from Metafilter many times in the past, and at least one book has used Metafilter entries in it. the book author asked us individually for use of our quotes, and credited us in the book, as well as (at least me) sent us all free copies of the first run.
posted by rich at 9:26 AM on January 6, 2004

The Daily Star has a news editor?
posted by brettski at 9:31 AM on January 6, 2004

As a reporter myself, the notion that reporters wouldn't or shouldn't come to MeFi for "ideas" is absurd. I come here, I post, I read, occasionally my articles get posted here by someone else, people read, we all exchange ideas, and meeting places like MeFi make us all smarter.

Stealing quotes is something else, of course.
posted by digaman at 9:36 AM on January 6, 2004

Or your post gets reposted by some one: The Annotated Blond On Blonde, for example. I helped Sheila Lennon pad out her blog. Well, Metafilter did, according to her.

Like Metafilter wrote it...
posted by y2karl at 9:44 AM on January 6, 2004

The Daily Star has news?
posted by Grangousier at 9:52 AM on January 6, 2004

Any newspaper or magazine may quote freely from my collected works of MetaFilter commentary, which, taken together, comprise a distinguished compendium of wit, perspicacity and learning rivaled only by the works of La Rochefoucauld, Goethe and Montaigne.
posted by Faze at 9:52 AM on January 6, 2004

Considering they've had fictitious reporters this isn't much of a surprise. (apologies if the link doesn't work - had to register as metafilter at metafilter dot com, password metafilter to get the story.) Sounds like quite a row going on in the UK papers lately.

Two questions: has he called the Star's legal department (as requested), and has he contacted all the papers reprinting a plagiarized story?
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:54 AM on January 6, 2004

I'm shocked, shocked, that this made it into print in so many places. It's as if you can't trust the entertainment news wires. Does anyone have the email address for the ombudsman at the Erie Times-News?

...rivaled only by the works of La Rochefoucauld, Goethe and Montaigne.

You might add Ray "Golden Age of the Arts" Romano and that pudgy guy from the King of Queens program.

posted by eatitlive at 11:19 AM on January 6, 2004

"What would happen if reporters came here looking for ideas?"

Well, ideas aren't copywritable. If someone came to Metafilter and found an interesting link, and then wrote an original story about what s/he found at the link, s/he would not be necessarily obliged to note where she took the idea. With the Retrocrush story, the issue is not that they nicked the idea but that they ripped off the text and the structure, which as has been noted probably isn't exactly fair use. And of course the Star's assertion that copyright doesn't mean anything on the Internet is complete crap.

Reporters and writers use Web sites as sources all the time, although usually not to such a plagiaristic extent as the Star. Speaking personally, I nicked an idea from Metafilter just today for my AOL gig (it was the thing), although aside from the link, the material I wrote was original, and I referenced Metafilter as the place from which I found the link. But I'd note again that linking back to Metafilter is not required, merely polite.

I also rather extensively used as a primary resource for my most recent book, Book of the Dumb, because it is an excellent site on which to find stories about people doing stupid things. Having used Fark as extensively as I did, I made sure to acknowledge the site and its proprietor in my acknowledgements, and also plugged the site when I did interviews for the book. The publishers also ran ads for the book on the site. It was a fair exhange of value for everyone involved.
posted by jscalzi at 11:25 AM on January 6, 2004

I think my last line was phrased wrong... Im not against anyone using the net or mefi in particular for ideas. I should have ended with if "...reporters plagurized the comments of a contributer".
posted by niteHawk at 11:33 AM on January 6, 2004

I love aramaic's solution. Wouldn't stand up in court, of course, but it's appropriate rough justice.

I think the Interweb needs to set about humiliating educating The Daily Star's Editor Kieran Saunders.

On a more productive note, what jscalzi said.
posted by pmurray63 at 11:33 AM on January 6, 2004

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) in the UK takes a dim view of such obvious plagiarism and removing attribution. You should report this case to them. If the journalist is a member of the NUJ then they will be censured, and the Daily Star itself will be noted as a content thief. Find the branch local to the Daily STar and report them.
posted by meehawl at 11:35 AM on January 6, 2004

Today's Fark thread contains some useful suggestions (apparently Britain has a Press Complaints Commission) and good news (several US publications that picked up the wire story are looking into the matter). Also, Romensko has linked to the Retrocrush page, which should improve awareness among US media.
posted by pmurray63 at 11:51 AM on January 6, 2004

Then there's Leander Kahney, who's job appears to be "monitor daypop and write about what everyone else is writing about."

This isn't plagiarism, but doing it habitually does seem cheesy for a professional journalist.
posted by adamrice at 12:48 PM on January 6, 2004

The Star's news editor should write out the ten myths about copyright on a blackboard a thousand times.
posted by dabitch at 12:49 PM on January 6, 2004

the use of the words "Star", "news" and "editor" together is an abomination in the eyes of truth.
posted by quonsar at 1:20 PM on January 6, 2004

And let's not forget the Argentinian football handbag picture, designed by Carl Baldwin someone at the Mirror found it on the internet and put it on their front page. They won picture of the year for it. Did they thank the guy they stole it off? What do you think.
posted by ciderwoman at 3:24 PM on January 6, 2004

meehawl: SideDish over at MonkeyFilter took up your suggestion:
someone over in mefi suggested seeking help from the NUJ, the national union of journalists in the UK. the husband of a good pal of mine in scotland is the head of that group, so i forwarded the link with a note.

* * *

here's answer from the NUJ...

"The NUJ will only assist people who are members and I reckon your chap isn't. It's a bit like asking an insurance company to reinburse you for a burglary when you haven't been paying any premiums.

"Only thing I would suggest is for the person to write to the Press Complaints Commission in London and sue The Daily Star for breach of copyright, which he would have to fund himself if he isn't a member of a union."
posted by languagehat at 5:51 PM on January 6, 2004

Good point about the NUJ - it's very effective... for members.

I think using the Small Claims Court in the original author's jurisdiction to file suit for monetary compensation against the Wire Service that ran the story would be a good bet. If someone's story gets syndicated then they deserve to get paid for their trouble. The Wire Service will probably then bill the Star for the costs.
posted by meehawl at 6:45 PM on January 6, 2004

Spike uses Metafilter links, but definitely no comments.
posted by emf at 2:02 AM on January 7, 2004

The thread has disappeared from Fark and the page has gone from RetroCrush. Articles are mostly not showing up using Google News and ShortNews has blocked their entry citing breach of terms and conditions.

Anyone know what happened?
posted by krisjohn at 6:02 AM on January 7, 2004

Oh now THAT's interesting...

The original article is still there, but there is no longer any mention of it being swiped...
posted by niteHawk at 8:11 AM on January 7, 2004

That is surely interesting - I've looked around a bit at the citations and am not finding a thing - retro's page for "swipe" leads to the main page, and some other things are MIA also...

Sounds a little fishy to me.
posted by djspicerack at 8:37 AM on January 7, 2004

wh'appen? Not a word in the Guardian (as rumoured at Fark there would be). Someone settle?
posted by dabitch at 11:26 AM on January 7, 2004

In the Retrocrush forum, Robert Berry made a post titled, "That Thread About That Thing," in which he says, "Was removed because I no longer have comments about that thing until some things get resolved. Don't feel bad, hopefully we can talk about that thing at a future time."

Sounds like someone's getting their law on!
posted by elvissinatra at 2:53 PM on January 7, 2004

What would happen if reporters came here looking for ideas?

That’s the excuse I give my wife for why I spend so much time at MeFi: I’m looking for something to write about. And once in a while I do find something that leads to a magazine article. (#11 on this list, for example, came about thanks to this.) I'm here for specific facts, though, not other people’s opinions.

Well, ideas aren't copywritable. If someone came to Metafilter and found an interesting link, and then wrote an original story about what s/he found at the link, s/he would not be necessarily obliged to note where she took the idea.

Stealing quotes is something else, of course.

Both exactly right.
posted by LeLiLo at 8:57 AM on January 9, 2004

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