Ethical and Legal Concerns in a Digital World

What Most Political Scientists Won’t Tell You

Posted in general concerns by digitalprof on January 17, 2006

Straight from The Whore’s Mouth

The liberal journal, Mother Jones, ran a story this issue that is worth spending some electrons on.

In a story on their Diddly Awards , MJ, listed quotes that were winners in the contest. The “heck of a job” badge for political euphemism went to Hillary Clinton.

The Republicans, in my mind, though, won for the best “Diddly” truth.

The “Truth in Politics” award goes to Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.), for her reply when asked after a speech how she would describe what she does in Congress:

“I’m a hooker.”

She elaborated on her trope by explaining just what she believes a congressional representative’s job to be:

“That’s right, I said I’m a hooker,” she insisted to her stunned audience. “I have to go up to total strangers, ask them for money, and get them to expect me to be there when they need me. What does that sound like to you?”

As Joe Friday used to say: “The truth, mam, just the truth.”


The Electronic Frontier Foundation

Posted in general concerns by digitalprof on January 13, 2006

Vital Information for all Blogs/Bloggers

While doing some legal research recently I came across valuable information on the Electronic Frontier Foundation site regarding the rights of bloggers.

Many of you may already know of this group…for those who are newbies to blogging, like the digitalprof, this is a light in the digital ether.

Do yourself a favor…search their files…they provide up-to-date information on many aspects of what we try to do via the digital world.

They fight for our rights!

David and Goliath in the Media World

Posted in ethical issues,general concerns,legal issues by digitalprof on January 6, 2006

A Freelance Photographer Wins A Major Ruling against A Media Giant:Right(s) Win-Out

In light of the current onslaught on author’s rights as evidenced by the GOOGLE Library Project, and the continuing mis-appropriation of photographers work by publications and websites worldwide, a photographer from Tennessee has recently established a groundbreaking precedent in a case against a “flagship” newspaper in Northern California.

Photographer Christopher R. Harris, a professor in the College of Mass Communication at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN filed suit when he discovered that a photo of Southern author Walker Percy, that he had shot originally while on assignment for Esquire Magazine, was used in a book review by the (San Jose) Mercury News. What was most troubling to Harris was that he had never been contacted by the Mercury News for rights to use the image, and was never paid for any such use. Additionally, the Mercury News had removed his copyright notice from his photo credit when they published the “pirated” photo, thus possibly violating an aspect of the Digital Millenieum Copyright Act under Federal Copyright statutes.

Harris, who still leases stock photos from his collection of images shot over a 25-year career, derives part of income from such leases. Professor Harris is well know for his long-term work with the New York Times, TIME, Newsweek and other national and international publications.

He was one of the first photographers to work with GAMMA/Liaison photo agency, with offices in New York and Paris. Due to the agency’s international scope of representation, the distribution of his many stories, and assignments by GAMMA/Liaison led to his work appearing in literally hundreds of publications worldwide.

Confronted with the legal dilemma of someone “pirating” his work Harris then hired the Silicon Valley law firm Tech & Trial Law Group. Robert Spanner and Susan Kalra , known experts in intellectual property, were attorneys in this suit.

At a hearing on this case in mid-Summer 2005 Judge Breyer hinted that this could be an important case in author/photographer rights. Judge Breyer stated for the record that,

“On the one hand, this case looks like a very small case. I don’t know whether the copyright fee would have been 50 bucks or a hundred bucks, or whatever it is. I don’t know, but it’s not a large amount. So I must believe that what is at stake here is the principle of whether a newspaper writer can take a photograph from a book and publish it without permission of the copyright holder, and I guess there’s sort of a further – there’s some further arguments as to in publishing the photograph, the copyright notice was eliminated, cropped.” (emphasis added)

In its later motion for summary judgment the Mercury News introduced evidence that its practice of accompanying book reviews with copyrighted photographs taken from the book being reviewed was common to other metropolitan newspapers (The Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer and others) throughout the country, and that the practice was legal under the “fair use” defense.

That motion was denied in a ruling by, Northern District of California (9ThDistrict) Judge Charles Breyer on January 2, 2006:

“Defendant argues that use of the photo was the equivalent of a pictorial quotation from the book and similarly falls under the fair use exception. Yet the photograph was obviously marked as a copyrighted photograph in the book, both on the page the photograph appeared and then again in the credits in the back of the book. In other words, the photograph was a copyrighted work within a copyrighted work. … As a result, the Court cannot say as a matter of law that use of a copyrighted photograph in a book review, in which the book clearly states that the photograph is copyrighted, constitutes fair use. Accordingly, defendant’s motion for summary judgment is DENIED. (emphasis added)

In plain English, Judge Breyer ruled that no one could successfully claim “fair use” if the claim contained copying copyrighted photographs. The exclusive rights to those copyrighted photographs resides with the copyright holder,i.e., in most cases the photographer.

According to Robert A. Spanner, lead counsel for the plaintiff,

“a photographer’s right to limit distribution and reproduction of his or her copyrighted photographs is a fundamental tenet of copyright law, and the notion that a newspaper can override that right and freely reproduce and distribute – without a license and for free – photographs which the photographer had licensed to a book publisher for a fee, would obviously be a matter of grave concern to the photographers’ profession. Mr. Harris stood up for the rights of his fellow photographers because he believed it was the right thing to do, and we are gratified that his efforts have been vindicated.”

Writer? Do Yourself a Favor for the New Year…Join the TAA

Posted in general concerns by digitalprof on January 1, 2006

All Writers Should Join

As writers, we are often better organized in producing our final product than we are in protecting it.

My suggestion for all writers, in light of the continuing concern over maintaining control over the rights inherent in our writings…especially in the age of the “Digital World”, is simple: join the Text and Academic Authors association. There are many reasons for doing so.

This nationwide group is a leader in the fight for maintaining our author rights. The TAA publishes articles and posts industry information on a regular basis (check out the archive).

Additionally, the annual convention is used for education in all areas related to publishing your writing…legal issues, ethical concerns, contracts, publisher info, writing styles and techniques and more.

This year the convention will be in Orlando, at the Grosvenor Resort…convenient to all the local entertainment areas…so you can bring the family and still attend the educational seminars. Don’t forget, attending such educational venues can be a tax deduction. Check with your accountant, but this makes the convention even more inviting!

Start the New Year off on a positive footing…join this leading authors group.

The Amazing Homeboy

Posted in ethical issues,general concerns by digitalprof on December 29, 2005

I Only Wish I Could Write Like Him

For those who don’t know about Paul (Lester) Elliott, Paul Lester, Carlos, or the Amazing Homeboy, I’m want to introduce you.

Paul is a prolific writer on visual ethics, among other things. In fact I consider him one of the best writers I know. It is because of this appreciation of his work that I want to share it with others.

Here is a link to his “writings” site with links to many of his progeny. Do yourself a favor for the New Year and read some of his observations/musings.