Blogs and Intellectual Property Rights
April 6, 2005 4:24 PM   Subscribe

What are the Intellectual Property Rights boundaries for revenue-generating blogs that recycle others' work?

What's the legality of sites like the new (discussed today here, with my regrettably too harsh comments about the post) a for-profit website that basically, besides having a splashy front-page, just links to other websites? If Denton blogs really make $75,000 in advertising a year, how can they justify the revenue they make off the content of their site without giving a cut to the sites that they link to? Gawker, Wonkette and Defamer all rely on original content, and should be entitled to what they make, but this just seems like pillaging.
posted by billysumday to Law & Government (7 answers total)
It's not an IP issue unless the site is republishing stories in a way that isn't exempted from copyright law.

Pointing at something and acting as an aggregator is a service, and as such it may be worth paying for. Presumably all of the sites that the aggregator is pointing at are perfectly capable of monetizing their own visitors. In that way, sites that are getting visitors sent their way are being compensated by the aggregator.

I don't expect Google to pay me a portion of their ad revenue when my site shows up in their index. Do you? Because that's the same thing.
posted by willnot at 4:51 PM on April 6, 2005

Drudge Report barely writes any original content, it's mostly just pithy headlines + links. The Daily Show is mostly clips from AP that it makes fun of. Google News merely excerpts and links to news on thousands of sources worldwide, writing not a single line of original text.

All three examples make a lot of money.

In other words, Denton is doing nothing wrong by having a commercial site that merely links to the work of others. He might be in hot water for plucking photos to use on the site, but they're small thumbnails, so it's probably legal too.

Why do you think is doing anything illegal? If so, a great deal of blogs and bloggers could be guilty of the same exact "crime".
posted by mathowie at 5:09 PM on April 6, 2005

Ok, well, I guess if you ask a stupid question, you get answers that makes you feel stupid.

I guess I just felt like it seemed wrong, like those shows on E! where it's just clips of celebrities caught on tape by the paparrazi. And it did seem to me that a lot of blog and bloggers do this, but that in this instance it was more egregious because there was substantially less original input besides just clever headlines (eg, Drudge Report occassionally provides fresh new stories from sources, and the Daily Show provides a lot of commentary, interviews and the like). So I suppose this is more analagous to Google News, as you both have said. Anyway, thanks.
posted by billysumday at 5:23 PM on April 6, 2005

I laughed because you basically describing metafilter.
posted by banished at 5:38 PM on April 6, 2005

I think it's way different. This is a forum where a lot of people can participate and post, and a lot of the fun is in the commentary, the questions, the small little society that is formed. But yes, like mathowie said, linking to other websites describes a lot of the blogosphere, and most people are somewhere on that slope. Some just rely on it more than others, I guess.
posted by billysumday at 5:57 PM on April 6, 2005

I guess I was referring to the fact that the success of metafilter depends on content that the author of this website did not create (specifically the content submitted by its many users), and also depends on linking to external content. After all, we are "The Best of the Web".
posted by banished at 7:22 PM on April 6, 2005

The boundary isn't really near Sploid. Just linking to stuff is OK (with the one exception being providing a link to copyright violations, which opens you to civil liability and can also be fined under the DMCA) -- otherwise MeFi and about 10 million blogs would be in constant trouble. Although there were a few attempts in the web's early days, that battle was pretty well won.

The boundary, right now, is in issues like RSS copyright, placing ads in RSS feeds, and placing ads around RSS feeds. Google News has also had a run-in with Agence France Presse, and as a result now they take pains not to link to AFP wire service stories, even on sites they link to otherwise (e.g. for Reuters or AP stories). So yes -- there are limits to repurposing content, but generally you have to actually publish it yourself in some fashion. Linking, no matter how cheesy, is legal.
posted by dhartung at 9:31 PM on April 6, 2005

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