Are newspaper copyright notices worth the (digital) ink on which they are printed?

There are those of us who like to share information that we think will be useful to others, and there are those of us who like to receive information that others share with us.  For example, I follow Richard Florida on Twitter.com.  I am interested in his links to stories about creative communities, etc.

This sharing is all very good for the most part because much of it is sharing of articles in newspapers and other media.  I’m told that newspapers love it because it drives traffic to their websites, and therefore can be useful for commercial purposes.  But when I read the small print on some newspaper websites it becomes very confusing.

For example, today a Google news alert linked to an article in the  Hattiesburg American that is entitled “Achievement gap threatens city, schools’ future.”  I clicked on it and read a very interesting article on a subject that is of interest to me and presumably those who follow my tweets (@philhardwick) on Twitter.com.  It appears that the article is a repost of an article written by Chris Kieffer of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, and reprinted in USA Today.  I was just about to tweet it when I read this copyright notice at the bottom of the page:

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Uh, oh.  Being a writer myself I am sensitive to copyright issues so I immediately moved the pointer away from the Tweet logo hyperlink at the bottom of the page.  I wondered whether the newspaper wanted me to retweet, but that AP did not – and wait, wasn’t this from USA Today?  Obviously, there is a trail here, and at some twists and turns along the way the copyright notice got amended, discombobulated or simply not reposted.

I clicked on the home page of the Hattiesburg American to determine what a story written by one of its own reporters revealed about copyright and tweets.  The article I viewed was entitled “Auditor: USM has 3 weeks to gather tablets.”  At the top of the article were the usual tweet, facebook, email, and share icons.  Hmm.  I decided to check out the newspaper’s copyright notice found in the “terms of service” section of the website. Here’s what it said:

Your Limited Right to Use Site Materials. This Site and all the materials available on the Site are the property of us and/or our affiliates or licensors, and are protected by copyright, trademark, and other intellectual property laws. The Site is provided solely for your personal noncommercial use. You may not use the Site or the materials available on the Site in a manner that constitutes an infringement of our rights or that has not been authorized by us. More specifically, unless explicitly authorized in these Terms of Service or by the owner of the materials, you may not modify, copy, reproduce, republish, upload, post, transmit, (emphasis added) translate, sell, create derivative works, exploit, or distribute in any manner or medium (including by email or other electronic means) any material from the Site. You may, however, from time to time, download and/or print one copy of individual pages of the Site for your personal, non-commercial use, provided that you keep intact all copyright and other proprietary notices. For information about requesting permission to reproduce or distribute materials from the Site, please contact us.

In short, it appears that one the one hand the newspaper encourages redistribution while on the other prohibits it. Back to the original article about “Achievement gaps…”.  I would love to share it with you, but I don’t know whether I can do that or not.

Obviously, the practice of sharing articles via social media is immensely widespread and encouraged by media websites.  That is a good thing.  It just appears that the copyright notices have not caught up with the practice.

By the way, feel free to share this blog post.  Just attribute it to the writer in accordance with the copyright notice on the left column of this page.

One response to “Are newspaper copyright notices worth the (digital) ink on which they are printed?

  1. Pingback: Copyright Notice from Love Letters Central dot com — Love Letters Central.com

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