The Bright Line

Once again I find myself branded a hypocrite by the columnists and editors at the Recorder. In fact, I’m deemed to practice a  “hypocrisy of the worst kind”.
Just so we’re all clear on the charge, this is the definition of ‘hypocrisy’:

1.a pretense of having a virtuous character, moral or religious beliefs or principles, etc., that one does not really possess.
2.a pretense of having some desirable or publicly approved attitude.
3.an act or instance of hypocrisy.

Their traditional narrative supporting this charge goes something like this: I am an anonymous blogger–> I allow anonymous posters to post to my anonymous blog–> I am a hypocrite and a coward.
The narrative has since been refined recently given my Sunday Muddy Sunday post  to: I am an anonymous blogger–> I allow anonymous posters to post to my anonymous blog–> I allow a poster named ‘Michael Lazorro’ to post on this blog–> I allow Michael Lazorro to parody Recorder columnist Michael Lazarou’s tag line–> I defend myself in response to Michael Lazarou’s recent Recorder column–>Ergo, I am a coward and a hypocrite.
That is their narrative. Let me now offer mine.
First, a few events of note:
1) ‘Michael Lazorro’  first posted on September 19, 2009. Importantly Michael Lazorro’s avatar — his blog image– is that of a female diver seemingly hitting her head into a diving board; the same image used by a previous poster ‘PK Dick’.  Naturally the avatar remains present on all of Michael Lazorro’s posts. As of today, the avatar belongs to ‘Jennifer Eric’ so a reader of the blog is well aware that this is quite likely the same person as ‘Michael Lazorro’ and ‘PK Dick’. And a casual Google search shows PK Dick to be a well known sci-fi author.  The alias looks highly suspect not only in that he never lived here but that the real PK Dick is long dead; 27 years dead.
2) I assert my copyright to this blog in response to the continued violation of my copyright by the Recorder by their reprinting my posts in their entirety in the AmsterdamExpress weekly publication. I make this clear on my posts of July 21, September 16, September 18, October 2. On September 16, I even add a Copyright Notice page and Copyright to the About page of this blog. I make it crystal clear on each post that I do not want any content from my blog published. Period.
3) On October 2, the Recorder prints in its entirety my post and related comments of the post Knock Them Down Economics. The published post printed in the AmsterdamExpress and widely available on your local newsstands contained 4 comments from the poster in question, Michael Lazorro.
4) On November 13, the Recorder once again prints my post in its entirety including anonymous content. In total, the Recorder has published this anonymous blog and its anonymous posts 11 times: March 20, April 24, May 22, June 12, June 19, July 3, July 10, July 17, July 24 (bonus edition whereby editors mock my copyright!), October 3, November 13.
5) On November 15, The Recorder publishes Michael Lazarou’s column. I publish my rebuttal.
So let me recap the events: the Recorder steals my content and publishes it — and more importantly monetizes it — in violation of my copyright. By publishing content from this blog, the Recorder not only violates my copyright but then propagates digital content from an anonymous blog and anonymous posters into print form. Even worse, what had been a digital fingerprint of posters– their avatar– is stripped from their published version of the post. So a reader of the printed version of the  AmsterdamExpress looking at the name Michael Lazorro would not see the image of a female diver used as the avatar nor would they see the connection to PK Dick, the long dead author, nor would they necessarily realize that aliases are prevalent on blogs. In other words, the Recorder creates the very confusion and controversy that they and Mr Lazarou so rail against through their own print media. Think about their argument: as editors and publishers, they publish anonymous comments in print form and then criticize me for doing the very same thing in online media even though the identity of the poster on this blog is more than clear.  And to make it more laughable,  the online version of the AmsterdamExpress contains the very posts from Michael Lazorro ostensibly at the heart of this ‘controversy’.
What I just described are the actions of the Recorder as publishers and editors, not my actions. I have stated it clearly and in no uncertain terms that I do not want my content published. Period. Yet the Recorder publishes it anyway. But according to the editors above it is I who am the hypocrite and the coward. I think not: they steal the content; they monetize  the content; they publish anonymous blogs and anonymous comments week after week from this blog and others and then the very same editors rail against the anonymity of blogs and bloggers which they publish  in their very own media properties in print and online.
I would be fine countering charges of hypocrisy, cowardice, girly-man,  whatever  in this ongoing saga of anonymity going forward. However I find it wholly unacceptable that my blog posts get copied and published without my permission and against my explicit request for the Recorder to stop publishing. Yet again on November 13 however, the Recorder publishes one of my posts. I simply cannot stomach this going forward. I can no longer be an unwilling business partner to the Recorder for them to monetize my content while simultaneously staking an imagined high ground of integrity and principle against anonymity all the while deriving financial gain from my content. Let me put it this way: someone breaks into your house, steals the clothes out of your closet and then shows up on your doorstep in your suit and tie  irate that the cut and finish of the suit does not suit their taste.   WTF indeed!
I’ll gladly accept that I practice a hypocrisy of the worst kind.  I simply pale in comparison to the very best practitioners of  hypocrisy.
I have invested a lot of time , thought and even emotion into advocating what I felt are the right things for our city– that is what this blog has always been about. I have chosen to remain anonymous largely to make a point on local media , namely, why am I held to a standard to which no other local media entity is held? You have anonymous callers on the radio; anonymous editorials in the newspaper; anonymous posts on other blogs and even anonymous posts in other newspapers– the TU, the Daily Gazette and the Leader Herald. And of course, anonymous posts in the Recorder’s very own media properties. Yet each of these is not held to the standard expected of me. They get a waiver, yet I do not. What I find most ironic is that they claim it is not what is said, it is who says it that matters. So the Recorder can publish an op-ed letter stating that gangs are pulling people out of cars intimating of a possible coverup by the police department  or a column stating that blogs are no longer fashionable — both easily refuted and demonstrably not true– but as they have a name, well it must be so.  Off to the presses! And the same holds true on the radio of course. But my blog, well, now that is a problem.
But the bottom line remains: you do not get to steal my stuff and monetize it. That will simply not do, that is the bright line that I will not allow you to keep crossing. Of my options, the most expedient and economically practical for me is to simply not post. Let me blunt: this is a battle that requires more resources than I can bring to bear. And the more I battle the more it will monetize the Recorder. I find that utterly unpalatable.
A sincere thanks for stopping by.
Cheers

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21 Responses

  1. Bill says:

    Truly unfortunate that the scoundrels of Venner Rd. are getting away with a violation that they themselves would howl over.
    But consider that not one of the editorial gang there [those responsible for newspaper policy and foisting their ‘opinions’ on the readership] lives in Amsterdam or even Montgomery County, and thereby have no personal stake in any of the muck they rake, does their chutzpah surprise anyone?.
    Only when Wm. J. Kline & Co. breathes its last [as newspapers continue to die off] will the real hypocrasy and abuse of trust end.

  2. Tim B says:

    Whether one agrees with Flippin’s views or not, this is an issue that should be troubling to anyone who cares about intellectual property rights. I wonder if anyone reading this blog who has any contacts with the Recorder management might question them on it?

  3. w murphy says:

    A shame really, this mini feud that has erupted between flippin & recorder. Both flippin & the recorder editors (C. Kraebel most notably) have actually done a great job of raising the local discourse over the past couple years. Say what you will about the Recorder, but at least it has a set of balls again, jumps into the fray w/its own editorials, and has indeed recruited some excellent young reporters.
    The biggest shame is that flippin & C. Kraebel are both young, talented guys who are an antidote to our typical complaining curmudgeons. I think they both need to find a middle ground, tap back into that unconventional, youthful angst and ditch the grumpy old men routine.
    We live in a little forgotten corner of upstate NY and we’re all just trying to tap into creative solutions to make our area a more progressive, attractive place to raise a young family. Both your efforts are well directed when you write with this in mind. Flailing at anonymous bloggers and the ‘local rag’ is for the old koots in the coffee shop- hardly what your cutting edge approach to local journalism was when it was at its best.
    I’m not dismissing the seriousness or merit of the complaints- just a bit disturbed that posters seemed to have dug in on both sides, and are underestimating both flippin & c. kraebel’s ability to raise the local discourse, when they’re not so trained on each other.

  4. I understand your frustration and although Copyright registration is not mandatory, it is required when filing for Copyright violation. When you file, you must disclose your real name and you must register your work.
    Fair Use under Copyright Law does include news reporting.
    “Title 17 United States Code – Copyright Law
    § 107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use:
    Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include — 
    (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
    (2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
    (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
    (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
    The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.”
    The fact that The Recorder did or did not use your material for commercial purposes is not the only mitigating factor here. Also in consideration is whether or not you sustained any damage by having your blog published in The Recorder. One opinion is that you actually benefit by having your blog publicized for free.
    Your ideas are not subject to Copyright, just the words you write. Your blog is also a collective work from which you only own Copyright to your specific comments, not those of the contributors.
    “The authors of a joint work are co­owners of the copyright in the work, unless there is an agreement to the contrary.
    Copyright in each separate contribution to a periodical or other collective work is distinct from copyright in the col­ lective work as a whole and vests initially with the author of the contribution.”
    While you battle with Charlie Kraebel over anonymity, Copyright should not be a contributing factor.

    • flippinamsterdam says:

      Jerry,
      I do not mean to disrespect your good faith effort here but you are incorrect on most points:
      1) Copying my posts in their entirety is not ‘Fair Use’
      2) Copyright per the Citizen Media Law Project occurs once I publish per their definition:
      copyright is extraordinarily easy to acquire. In fact, you really need do nothing at all – the law provides that copyright springs to life and protects an author’s work from the time the work is “fixed in a tangible medium of expression…from which [it] can be perceived reproduced, or otherwise communicated . . . .” So when words are put on paper, or paint to canvas, or sights to a videotape, digital camera or cellphone, or even when any of the above are stored in a computer’s memory – they’re copyrighted. That’s it. They don’t have to be published. There is no requirement to put a copyright notice on it (though that is often helpful). There is no requirement that it be registered with the Copyright Office in the Library of Congress (though commercial publishers routinely do that, to show up in the database of copyrighted works.) If you are interested in registering your work with the Copyright Office, consult the section on Copyright Registration and Notice.
      3) I don’t accept that I benefit by their publishing my work. That’s like I take one of your images from your Web site, publish it and then tell you “See Jerry, you are actually benefiting by my publishing it for you”. I’m sure you’d be thrilled if I were to do so.
      4) The Recorder publishes the AmsterdamExpress for commercial purposes; that is without question as they sell advertising on each page.
      5) This blog is not a collective work and even if so, I own the copyright to the collective work even if not to individual pieces
      6) This battle not simply about anonymity

      • Tim B says:

        As long as Flippin wants to remain anonymous, he can’t sue, that is clear, however the Recorder’s use of his writing in it’s entirety, in a for-profit publication is clearly a violation of the copyright law. It’s wrong, and the paper, who should be experts in that field, should know better.

      • YR says:

        Fair use entails educational or newsworthy discussion ABOUT the thing being used.
        The Recorder can quote this blog in a news story. The Recorder can not take, and re publish, this blog in its entirety.
        This blog can reproduce part of a Recorder article if the article is being discussed, such as examining the way the story was reported. This blog can not re post the partial or entire content of a news story published in the Recorder, acting like a “copying machine”.
        The Recorder is violating copyright by re publishing the entire content or posts from this blog. If many stories were done about a particular blog entry and if much public discussion was happening about that blog entry then maybe the Recorder would have a valid case for saying “here’s a story about this public discussion and here’s the entire blog entry that sparked it.”
        There are two levels of damages one can seek in copyright violations. Actual and punitive.
        Copyright exists the moment something original is created. Certain damages can only be levied if the material was registered with the copyright office prior to the infringement.
        Regarding the influx of new youth at the Recorder:
        It was done at the expense of many long time (20+ years in some cases) employees. The newsroom lost its only remaining photographer and the editor was replaced with a person with no news experience except a brief tenure at … The Recorder. Advertising layout people, pressroom foreman, reporters and many other people were let go for no reason. Most of them were local residents.
        There are divisions of responsibilities over there which don’t exist in any other newsroom. For example, there’s a director of news operations who oversees the editor. The editor has limited responsibility and oversight. But a layout person used to write editorials.
        Interesting that the friction has developed over Mr Lazarou who is a personal friend of the Director of News Operations.

      • Flippin’,
        Maybe you should re-read my post which is accurate according to Copyright Law.
        1) The Recorder did not copy your entire blog, just one thread, one particular topic of discussion.
        2) I said registering is required IF you intend to pursue a Copyright violation case. This is fact.
        3) You can’t compare taking photos from my website and putting them on your blog with news reporting by an establish newspaper. The later is Fair Use.
        4) There is no charge for the Amsterdam Express it is a free publication.
        5) The Copyright to my responses to your post belongs to me.
        6) It’s not my battle, just clarifying the Copyright issue of which I do have both experience and knowledge.

        • flippinamsterdam says:

          Jerry,
          Your copied content is correct but your interpretation is not:
          1) Awesome! I will copy just one of your images and publish it; it’s not your whole portfolio just one picture …. and then I’ll publish one image every month, it’s not your whole portfolio just one image…
          2) Incorrect– it is a copyright violation
          3) Wholly incorrect — not Fair Use by any standard
          4) Incorrect; it is a commercial use, the newsstand price is irrelevant
          5) Debatable, likely subject to Use Terms under WordPress
          6) Correct, it’s my battle

          • Flippin”
            1) You may publish one of my images per month if the context of the publication is to use the photo to illustrate a particular point or as a image to critique for educational purposes.
            2) Again you missed the point. From US Copyright Office, Circular 1, Copyright Basics:
            “Before an infringement suit may be filed in court, registrationis necessary for works of U. S. origin.

          • flippinamsterdam says:

            Jerry,
            Why do you insist on treating the Recorder as if it is an educational or not-for-profit enterprise when it clearly is not? The Recorder is without question a commercial enterprise who publishes for commercial reasons.

  5. Karin says:

    Dear Flippin,
    I am curious as to your views on the local am radio talk shows?

  6. Karin says:

    Thanks. Thought so.

  7. Diane says:

    The Recorder usually puts any comments in the freebie edition????????

    • flippinamsterdam says:

      You are correct Diane even if your name is Michael Lazorro or loyalsouthsider or madmirth. However only a problem on my site, perfectly cool in their media however.

  8. Flippin’,
    The Fair Use exception applies to NEWS REPORTING, it does not have to be a not for profit or educational institution. Maybe you are too close to this issue to see it with an unbiased eye.
    Determining Fair Use is not an exact science and must be determined by the court on a case to case basis. Past practice has shown that in cases where the content was mostly factual in nature, reproduced as a news story giving credit to the author and having little or no monetary value is Fair Use.

  9. madmirth says:

    At the Social Media Breakfast Tech Valley last Friday, someone brought up copyright issues of blogs, they were referred here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Millennium_Copyright_Act
    I haven’t read the nuts and bolts of it yet, but thought it would interest you.

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