February 10, 2012 · 0 Comments
By Carly Carioli:
Yesterday, I wrote an open letter to former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller, as a response to two smug columns about copyright that he wrote on the same weekend that the Times poached an article from our company’s archives. (“Poached” is my verb — by Keller’s formulation, the more accurate description would be “pirated.”) The day before the first of Keller’s copyright pieces appeared, columnist Joe Nocera wrote an op-ed column and a follow-up post about sportswriter Clark Booth, both of which linked to a Times-hosted PDF of a full article by Booth from a 1976 issue of The Real Paper, a Boston alternative weekly that was later aborbed by the Phoenix.
Less than 24 hours later, someone at the Times has removed the links to that PDF from both of Nocera’s articles. In an email to Business Insider, the Times offered a brief response: “We take copyright very seriously and were not aware of the violation when the story was posted. Once it was brought to our attention, we removed the Boston Phoenix-owned article from our site.”
As it turns out, that’s not entirely true: As I write this, the PDF still resides on theTimes‘s servers — and while the Times has stopped pointing to that file, the PDF of Booth’s article is still discoverable elsewhere on the web. (Including, ironically, from the Business Insider post that the Times was quoted in.) So technically, theTimes is still in violation of our copyright.
It’s also amusing that the New York Times – the same newspaper that publishedthis, and this, and this – claims it was “not aware” that uploading a PDF of another newspaper’s article was a copyright violation.
Also, as it turns out, this isn’t the first time the Times has “pirated” another publication’s article.
After we published our letter to Keller yesterday, I got an email from Simon Waxman, the managing editor of the Boston Review. In September 2011, the same Times columnist — Joe Nocera – wrote this op-ed column, drawing on material from an article that Tennessee Congressman Jim Cooper had written earlier that year for the Boston Review. The Cooper article was freely available on the Boston Review site, but instead of linking to it, the Times instead uploaded a PDF of Cooper’s article to their servers, where it’s been hosted ever since. That PDF included not only Cooper’s piece but contributions from ten other authors. “[The Times] never sought our permission or, as far as I know, the permission of the eleven authors whose work they reproduced,” Waxman says.
Coincidentally, as I was writing this post, Joe Nocera called me to read me the riot act. He’s pissed that my post caused the Times took down the Clark Booth article, a fantastic piece that deserves to be in circulation. But after I confronted him with the Boston Review article, we had a substantive discussion on the current state of copyright, and the challenges it poses to either of us posting Booth’s story. He said, “You’re right. I have not thought about these issues as closely as I could.” He added that he simply hadn’t realized the substantive difference between linking to a PDF of the Boston Review article and linking to the Boston Review site. “I’m a lot more aware of it now.”
For what it’s worth, this isn’t about hanging Joe Nocera out to dry — it’s about theTimes‘s institutional myopia when it comes to intellectual property. How many more examples of this hypocrisy will we have to uncover before the Times begins to acknowledge that the problem isn’t merely piracy — the problem is a copyright law written so stringently that not even a newspaper with the resources of the New York Times can comply with it? As several commenters on our original post have pointed out, under some of the proposed language for SOPA and PIPA, a website that engaged in copyright infringement equivalent to the Times’s hosting of our article could be blocked from the DNS registry.
That was the entire point of my first post: that the copyright fundamentalism advocated by big-media barons like Keller and the Times is counterproductive — even to newspapers like the Times.
After talking with Nocera, I’m committed to getting the Clark Booth piece back online in some form.
As for the Boston Review article: after my conversation with Nocera, the Timessays they’re going to replace the PDF with a link to the article on Boston Review’s site. If only it was so easy to get them to change their tune on copyright.