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Archive for the ‘legalities’ Category

Media portals (legal) vs. “Feed scraping” (illegal)

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Fluid content

Chalk it up to ignorance, disinterest, or media illiteracy, but I’m just now opening my eyes to all the different ways a piece of content gets sliced and diced for distribution to different outlets.

For example, a documentary can stand alone as a film, but can also be edited for airing on broadcast TV, or sold in bits and pieces to educational institutions, like schools or museums.

Media portals

Online content can appear on several sites at once, for example an article on can actually be a shorter, edited version of a full-length piece originally on OPRAH magazine’s website, and the CNN article drives the traffic back to Oprah’s website.

For a better walk-through of media portals, check out this interview with Chris Johnson, VP Hearst Digital: “We are very aware that you can’t just create a magazine website and expect people to simply show up… you want to find the right strategic partners who can help you distribute your content and drive traffic back to your site.”

In essence, media portals are sites that use other sites to get their own traffic, and in turn drive traffic to their strategic partners.

Feed scraping

But what if you took content and placed it on your own site so that it appears the content is your own, thus driving traffic to your site? This is a concept called “Feed scraping” and it’s a form of content theft has seems to blur the lines of plagiarism.

Merlin Mann of 43 Folders defines feed scraping as “Republishing online work without consent and wrapping it in ads.” Blogger Jason Kottke calls it “Extreme borrowing in the blogosphere”, also the name of his post on the subject.

Recently, blogger Joshua Schachter had a story of his linked to All Things Digital, a blog owned by Dow Jones and run by writers from The Wall Street Journal. All things Digital correctly attributed the blog post to Joshua and made it clear who the author was. However, a big hullabaloo ensued when some folks thought there an implied affiliation between Joshua and Dow Jones, and that Joshua worked for Dow Jones, or had his material copyrighted by them.

artist's rendition

artist's rendition

The conversation it started was about affiliation, attribution, and transparency of online works. Is it right for a media company to “reblog” your content, without your permission, and make money form the ad sales generated by the traffic?

Metafilter creator Matt Haughey had an article of his also excerpted on the All Things Digital website. His thoughts on it:

“This is weird, apparently the Wall Street Journal’s All Things Digital does a reblogging thing. I sure wish they asked me first though. That’s a hell of a lot of ads on my ‘excerpt.’ If they’re just trying to drive traffic to articles, why have comments on excerpts? That makes no sense to me.”


Written by @hellopanelo

April 27, 2009 at 11:28 am

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The stock market has day traders, real estate has house flippers, and the internet has domain flippers. The concept is the same across these industries: invest in something for the short-term, run it up to the highest price, and sell at a profit.

Any short-term investing takes on the air of “easy money” and “get rich quick” schemes. More often than not, you’ll see these business schemes in a bad light, with shady characters and scheming con men, from reckless day traders to house-flipping slumlords to “Fast Domain Riches: How to make easy money for life!!”

On the opposite end of the spectrum though, you see very legitimate forms of business, with responsible day traders encouraged by online sites like eTrade, or responsible house flipping such as those featured on shows from A&E’s Flip This Houseto TLC’s Flip That House.

Even the domain name business has some interesting business models emerging. There are a few strategies involved in running up the value of the domain name you purchase. Obviously you have to pick a name that you perceive will have some future value or use in the marketplace, so that your purchase of it today will return a high profit upon selling. (Anecdote: my friend’s boss purchased the domain name and sold it for a cool $20,000 to a buyer turning it into a 24/7 internet jazz radio station.)

Another strategy also predicts reading into the future a bit when choosing a domain name, but also educating a prospective buyer in the future “hotness” of that domain. That’s the premise of Lean Hollywood, a domain name for sale to potential filmmakers or creatives who identify with the “lean” process of maximizing efficient production.

From the Lean Hollywood website:

I think the name lean hollywood, is sticky and would be a cool name to brand a new blog, a new product, or a new service. Lean has positive connotations: being lean, lean manufacturing, lean thinking, lean meat, etc. For this reason I have bought the domain name My purpose is not to develop the name but to flip the name.

According to the Hollywood Creators Collective, the folks behind this business proposal, the open pricing model is part of their belief in transparency and efficiency. True to their word, they list a 2009 price table timeline for purchase of the domain name:

April 2009 $299
May 2009 $400
June 2009 $600
July 2009 $800
August 2009 $1000
September 2009 $1600
After September 2009 200 dollar monthly increments until price is a flat 5000 dollars.

Lean Hollywood tries to sell you on the concept of “lean” first, then tries to sell you the URL/domain name. Now if Detroit could only sell itself to you first as an awesome city to live in, then you could flip houses there easier, where the median home price was $7,500 as of December 2008.

Written by @hellopanelo

April 27, 2009 at 10:44 am

Like-Minded Studio presents… Amanda Conley

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Logo from creative firm Like Minded Studio (TM)

Logo from creative firm Like Minded Studio (TM)

At last month’s Creative Commons salon, I met Amanda Conley — self-professed radical feminist and lawyer-to-be at NYU Law. Amanda brings an interesting legal perspective to the “free culture” debates. After all, the very notion of “property” — physical or intellectual — is grounded in complex histories of common law. Amanda is also a privacy law researcher for an NSF-funded grant on digitized court documents.

We sat down for $3 pints at Commonwealth Bar in Park Slope and talked about culture, copyright, and — dun-dun! — the law.


Me: Good puppy! What’s your dog’s name?

Amanda: This is Gus. He’s a Tibetan terrier. It’s a misnomer though, they’re not truly terriers. I’ll let him explore. [Gus wanders, unleashed.]

Me: So you’re a rebellious lawyer!

Amanda: Well, I recently attended Reblaw 2009 at Yale, a conference for rebellious lawyers and social change. It made me realize I don’t want to be an activist. I want to be the person asking different questions about using the legal system to achieve different ends. What you learn in law school is that the way you frame your question is everything.

Me: I internet-stalked you and saw you were a fan of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

Amanda: It’s not stalking if I post the information publicly to the internet. Yes, the EFF attracts laywers who aren’t in a corporate gig. It’s law for the people. There is this annoying dichotomy in law school that you are either corporate or public interest. I prefer to sidestep the binary.

Me: You were at an event at NYU’s Public Interest Law Center, where you got a chance to hear Fred von Lohmann speak — the senior staff attorney at EFF, specializing in intellectual property matters.

Amanda: Yes, Fred went from women’s interests to IP law, back in the 90’s when the internet was young. He’s interested in both gender and the law. There are more women lawyers now and they’re more into theory. Fred talked to us about his conversion moment, when he decided “I want to be a public interest copyright lawyer.”

[Ed. note: Fred attributes this moment to reading the 1994 Wired article “The Economy of Ideas”, by John Perry Barlow, the Thomas Jefferson of cyberspace.]

Me: Why do you think feminist scholars are attracted to intellectual property law?

Amanda: IP law is all about theory, and theoretical questions. In IP law, the questions are like “What is a person’s identity?”

Me: It’s like an intellectual challenge, or philosophy.

Amanda: There was this interesting case where the International News Service was taking news from the AP wire and publishing it first. The questions that come from that are “Is news copyrightable? When does news have value?” News is something that has value the moment it is shared and, upon sharing, loses value.

Me: How else do you intersect with copyright or privacy issues in law school?

Amanda: I’m also doing research in privacy law and court documents that are public on the internet.

Me: Like the sex offenders registry maps online?

Amanda: Right. For example, divorce documents are becoming more public in higher courts. Nothing’s redacted. But there’s a big difference between looking up something on the internet, versus physically walking down to the courthouse. The internet is creating in-depth profiles of people. But people are supposed to know the law and have access to judicial information. In that sense, we should make things available to the public.

Me: What was your favorite part of the Creative Commons salon?

Amanda: I really liked Thingiverse. I loved the idea of “What if every object was shareable?”

[Ed. note: Thingiverse is a website where people can upload digital designs for physical objects — kind of like architect blueprints for buildings. Anyone can upload a design, and anyone else can create the object, or modify it and make it better. In an ideal Thingiverse universe, every physical object — like the chair you are sitting on — would have a URL, and anyone could look up the design of that chair, and create it, or improve on the design so others could have a better chair.]

Amanda: Sometimes it’s easy to poo-poo the internet and say “Why would anyone want to build a plastic rocket? We want to build things for a useful future!” But what Thingiverse does is make more concrete the value of building on other’s work, instead of starting fresh. The internet shows there are lots of smart people out there. It illustrates the power of working together.

Written by @hellopanelo

March 24, 2009 at 6:30 pm