Sunday, August 22, 2010

Interesting Twist on the Notion of Implicit License To Copy

This August 19, 2010 TechDirt article points out that there is a somewhat similar case involving a Las Vegas lawyer who put up some articles, encouraged Google to cache those articles, registered the copyright--then sued Google for copyright infringement.  Apparently, one of the other defendants in the Righthaven suits is pointing out that
the LVRJ gave an implicit license for a similar cache-with-link by putting the content up for free and by failing to limit the ability to copy & paste the text via technical means. On top of that, they point out that the LVRJ explicitly encourages people to "share" the articles on its site (something the LVRJ still does -- including quick links to share it with 19 different services).
This August 18, 2010 Las Vegas Sun article provides more detail on the motions that defendants a bit higher up the queue are making with respect to the 2006 suit by Blake A. Fields v. Google. Not only did Google win the suit, but Fields was ordered to pay $25,000 in attorney fees to Google.

It is an interesting point--if you encourage people to copy and paste your stuff--but then file suit if someone copies and pastes too much--isn't this a bit like the civil equivalent of entrapment: encouraging you to do something, then suing when you do it?  Obviously, there's a line between "that's okay" and "that's too much," but you can see how there is a likelihood of confusion about exactly where that line might be, and such mixed messages add to the confusion.

In a great many states, there are "no trespassing" signs on private property that really mean, "If you enter our land, and get hurt, we aren't responsible for your injuries."  They don't mean, "We are going to call the cops if you hike through our land."  Putting up a web page that encourages you to copy and paste their articles on social networking web sites while also asserting copyright just adds to the confusion.

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