It’s just copyright infringement

I was reading an article online by Jean-François Lisée, about the whole Denise Bombardier/Pierre Foglia brouhaha, when I came across this:

Denise Bombardier a dégainé dans Le Devoir de samedi le 17 octobre. Le texte L’intouchable (pas en accès libre sur le site du Devoir mais repris ici), vaut le détour et se conclut comme suit:

Le Devoir is one of the few remaining newspapers that still keeps its online articles restricted to subscribers, which is quite annoying to bloggers but nevertheless their choice. Though there are many articles published by the paper that talk about Quebec media (without the awkwardness of being owned by a huge megacorporation like Gesca, Quebecor, CTV or Canwest), I can’t share them because others don’t have access.

In this case, an anonymous member posted the complete text of the article on the public forums of the Cowboys Fringants website, allowing others to read it without subscribing. That forum post was passed around through social media, in lieu of a proper Le Devoir link.

The post is blatant copyright infringement, and Lisée clearly knows that. But he links to it anyway in his blog.

What’s surprising is that this is something I see a lot of from professional journalists online. Maybe it’s a YouTube video of the latest Tout le monde en parle segment that’s getting everyone talking, or some photo they found on the Internet that they want to use to illustrate a blog post. They’ll link to or duplicate something that they either know or should know is infringing on someone else’s copyright.

You’d think professional writers, of all people, would know better.

40 thoughts on “It’s just copyright infringement

  1. Nicolas

    Sorry to say that but, by linking to Lisée’s article, and the link to the cowboys fringants website which hosts Denise Bombardier’s article, are you not doing the same thing he did?

    Reply
  2. Singlestar

    Copyright law (and enforcement) has taken on a life of its own, quite detached from the original intention.
    How much cpyright law is enforced (or threatened) by corporations, as supposed to the creator?

    Reply
  3. Paul

    There are provisions in the copyright laws for “fair use” of material, that can include quotations etc. Depends on the amount used and the context, but it’s hard to say definitively that the examples you cite are actually in violation.

    Reply
  4. Jean Naimard

    To be off-topic, it should be said that for the Bombardier, pedophilia seems to be THE hot-button topic par excellence
    Recall some 20 years ago, she was invited to Bernard Pivot’s (OC, CQ) “Apostrophes” (RBO parody here), where authors discuss their books. Along them was Gabriel Matzneff, who has been accused of being an apologist for pedophilia, who was boasting about his underage conquests of both sexes, and also hinted he even had sex with François Mitterand.
    Denise Bombardier then made a scandal by accusing him of being a pedophile, while making the point that “over [here], people like that are jailed”.
    For her troubles, she was rewarded with an invitation to the Élysée palace

    Reply
  5. Tux

    Fagstein, illegal or not, it’s just common sense, if you don’t want something copied and passed around, don’t release a digital copy of it. When it’s digital, copying is inevitable. The content industries should grow up and accept that as a reality. It’s never going to change.

    Once the information is out, it’s out, there’s no fixing it or getting it back, so we may as well all benefit. I agree the initial infringement is wrong, but asking the internet to not pass links around is stupid. If people are reading it anyway, what exactly is the point of making it harder for some people to find content that others are already reading?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Just because something is inevitable doesn’t make it right. There’s always going to be child porn on the Internet too, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to stop it.

      Reply
      1. Jim J.

        I’m going to assume that you weren’t intending to equate, or draw a parallel between, copyright infringement with child porn.

        Not a very strong analogy, there.

        Reply
          1. Jim J.

            I suppose it goes without saying that the harm created by one far outpaces the harm created by the other, and the resources committed to addressing those respective problems should be apportioned accordingly. Far be it from me to be silly, but I’m just trying to not needless hyperbole and clumsy analogies intrude on what is ordinarly a highly intelligent blog.

            And I’m curious how one squares the circle in which content created by authors or, in this case newspapers, must be jealously and zealously protected from copyright infringement, but in a previous post you were decrying the (admittedly, occasionally overstrenuous) effort that the International Olympic Committee puts into protecting their “brand” and “trademark.”

            How is one thing “property” (in the intellectual sense) and the other is not? In what way is a registered trademark any different than intellectual property? If an author or news media outlet should be able to control what happens to their “product,” shouldn’t the Olympics be afforded that same deference?

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              The IOC/VANOC issue is an example of excess control. They’re trying to prevent their brands from being in other people’s pictures, and to prevent parodies or free expression using their trademarks (which, arguably, shouldn’t be trademarks at all).

              Reposting someone’s complete article on a website is not parody or fair comment. It’s stealing. When people steal the content of bloggers and repost it elsewhere, everyone is outraged at the theft. When it happens to professionals, people side with the stealers. I’m not quite sure why that is.

              Reply
              1. Jim J.

                Explain the rationale that links your two assertions:

                (1) VANOC/IOC is an example of excess control; and

                (2) A content creator (e.g., journalist, newspaper, musician) should be able to exercise, if I read you correctly, total copyright control (aside from fair use, parody, etc.), of their product.

                How is a business trademark any different than a musician’s song?

                Or, to use a more specific analogy, let’s hypothesize that I am a hotel operator in Vancouver, and I start using the Olympic rings in connection with promoting my business in anticipation of the 2010 games. Yet I am not licensed or authorized to do so by VANOC/IOC. I have not entered into any commercial agreement with them, and I am not compensating them for the use of their trademark.

                How am I any different than, for example, a newspaper or magazine that uses someone’s photograph on Page 1 without any attribution and without any compensation? Or let’s say that I am a car manufacturer, and I use a song in my commercial without entering into any agreement with the artist? Or, to use a really good analogy, I am a foaming-at-the-mouth, right-wing, red-meat conservative politician, who regularly uses a song at my campaign rallies by an musician who is typically known for supporting liberal and left-wing causes, but am not authorized to do so? (This happens with some amount of regularity down here in the Excited States of America.)

              2. Fagstein Post author

                How is a business trademark any different than a musician’s song?

                One is a trademark and the other is a creative work. Trademark and copyright law are two different things.

                Or, to use a more specific analogy, let’s hypothesize that I am a hotel operator in Vancouver, and I start using the Olympic rings in connection with promoting my business in anticipation of the 2010 games. Yet I am not licensed or authorized to do so by VANOC/IOC. I have not entered into any commercial agreement with them, and I am not compensating them for the use of their trademark.

                This case really depends, but if you’re trying to make a profit by falsely implying a connection to the Games and using their logos without permission, then that’s wrong.

                I’m not talking about total control here, I’m talking about reasonable control.

              3. Jim J.

                It really depends on what, exactly?

                Your arguments are, at best, a little hard to pin down here. Granted, there may be some legal niceties and specifics that differentiate trademark and copyright law.

                Let’s say that I want to use that nice gothic script “The Gazette” masthead logo. I’m going to appropriate that, and put it right at the top of my Montreal-centric news, current events and commentary blog. I don’t use any other text or graphic to imply that there is any connection whatsoever between my blog and CanWest or The Gazette.

                I’m going to go out on a limb and surmise that you will find this objectionable, somehow. Yet if I’m the hotel operator in Vancouver, and use the Olympic rings logo in connection with my business, despite a lack of any kind of agreement between my business and VANOC/IOC, somehow that’s OK.

              4. Fagstein Post author

                The Gazette is sort of a bad example here, since there are many papers by that name, and many use that gothic script font.

                I didn’t say it was ok for a hotel operator to use the Olympic rings to drive up business. I’m saying it’s okay for a photographer to take pictures of an Olympic venue that features those rings. It’s about reasonable use of the intellectual property.

              5. Jim J.

                OK, so now we’re getting somewhere.

                It’s not reasonable to use the Olympic rings to, for example, attempt to increase profit at my hotel. I didn’t obtain proper licensing from VANOC to do this.

                But, let’s say that I want to Free Tibet. Is it OK to use the Olympic rings as a logo associated with my protest movement, even though the IOC, presumably, isn’t in favor of shaking up the status quo associated with that issue? Does the IOC have the ability to control its brand image, and its trademarks? If so, who gets to determine what is “reasonable use” of intellectual property?

                Are you saying that, in the case of someone who creates content, it’s the content creator, but in the case of something a little more corporate (e.g., VANOC/IOC), it’s not up to the trademark holder?

              6. Fagstein Post author

                It all depends on usage. I didn’t see the Free Tibet video, but if it used the rings in a way that implied the IOC supported or endorsed their campaign, then yes it would be wrong. If they replace the rings by handcuffs in an obvious parody and comment, then that would be a reasonable use of their trademark. The standard used in the courts is “confusingly similar” – in other words, could someone reasonably mistake the use in question for an official one? If the answer is yes, then it is infringement.

              7. Jean Naimard

                The IOC/VANOC issue is an example of excess control. They’re trying to prevent their brands from being in other people’s pictures, and to prevent parodies or free expression using their trademarks (which, arguably, shouldn’t be trademarks at all).

                That’s a good example of copyright douchebaggery brought about by absolute control freaks. Don’t forget that the IOC is headed by a nazi who was a prominent minister in Franco’s fascist “government”. And having lots of money in their pockets also tends to make people both control freaks and douchebags.
                The recent municipal bylaw that allows police to barge in your appartment to take down a sign on your balcony that they don’t like is a good example of such douchebaggery brought about by lots of money (and being a fascist).

              8. Jim J.

                Actually, the IOC is presently, and has been for the past 8 years, headed by a Belgian orthopaedic surgeon.

                Let’s not confuse “is” and “was” here.

              9. Jean Naimard

                Actually, the IOC is presently, and has been for the past 8 years, headed by a Belgian orthopaedic surgeon.
                Let’s not confuse "is" and "was" here.

                So it is. But it does not change the fact that it is a very corrupt, occult, stealthy organization that has an immense love for money and power, and will go to extreme lengths to have it’s way.

      2. Tux

        I happen to think something being inevitable means we shouldn’t waste our resources fighting it. Did the hundreds of people ruined financially by file sharing lawsuits in the U.S do anything to curb music piracy? Nope. CDs are still going the way of the dodo, even though the way the record companies do business is protected by law. Fact is, you can’t suppress the tech, and you can’t stop digital copying. It isn’t, and never will be, possible. Get used to it. We don’t need to update our behaviour, we need to update our laws.

        Taking a moral stance on the issue is basically just refusing to get with the times. It isn’t wrong for a human to hear a song, read a story, or watch a movie. It might be wrong to steal these things from hardworking artists, but when you copy something, you don’t deprive anyone else of it. One download does not equal one lost sale. Stealing a physical CD is wrong. Pirating stuff and selling it, that’s wrong. Piracy for personal use… that’s not wrong (do you believe mixtapes are theft Fagstein?), and it’s never going to stop, so we may as well figure out how to use it to our advantage (Like Cory Doctorow has — he gives his books away for free, still turns a profit) instead of sticking our heads in the sand and refusing to adapt to the face that times have changed.

        Jack Valenti said VCRs would ruin the movie business, newspapers say the internet will ruin theirs… new tech is scary, I get it, but you can’t turn back the clock.

        I’m not even gonna respond to the child porn thing.

        Reply
  6. Tux

    While I’m on my soapbox, let me also say that’s it’s patently ridiculous for any company to expect compensation for every song heard, every article read, every movie and TV show watched. If 5 people sit down and read the article that one of them paid for, are the four additional people stealing?

    Certainly, things get a little sketchier when one person pays for the content a 30,000 people download it for free but hey, that’s the way the technology works. You either accept it, or give up the countless benefits digital technology has given the human race. There are ways to make money by *gasp* giving content away for free. If a company is not smart enough to figure one out, they have no place in the information economy and deserve whatever they get.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I find people’s opinions on this change depending on whether they’re a content creator or content user. The users all want everything for free. The creators get mad when other people steal their content.

      Reply
      1. Tux

        I find opinions change based mostly on how informed the person is about how computers work.

        And I know plenty of creators who give their stuff away, but still make good money. These are the people who are going to survive in the information economy. Companies that don’t adapt will die, but since when does any company have “the right to exist”? If technology or culture obsoletes your business model, it’s not up to society to change, it’s up to you. The content industries are currently an oligarchy. A small number of huge companies provide our media. That is now shifting to a more decentralized model. Personally, I find that shift exciting, ripe with possibility for a new era. More opinions, more voices heard. Fewer shenanigans.

        I’m ready to survive and thrive in the new era, if you wanna go down with the sinking ship, that’s up to you. :)

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          I’m not talking about the right to exist here, or the right to a coherent business model. I’m talking about copyright, literally the right to control how your work is copied. No matter the technological advances, that right still exists.

          If you argue that we should abolish copyright completely, then you can have that opinion. But don’t be surprised when nobody writes any books or directs any big-budget feature films in a world where they can’t make any money off it.

          Reply
          1. Tux

            The “right to control how your work is copied”. Sure, it’s the law, but the law doesn’t make sense anymore. The whole point of storing information digitally is the ability to reproduce the content over and over again. I say again, if you don’t want your content copied, don’t post it on the internet.

            I think I can explain your blogger scenario Fagstein, bloggers give away their content for free. When free content is stolen and used to make a profit, we don’t like it. We’re fine with for-profit content getting passed around though, for the betterment of all.

            Personally, I believe copyright should be used to control who makes a profit off intellectual property. Not to control who sees or listens to it. I think it’s arrogant to think any one entity can own or control a human being’s sensory experience.

            Overzealous copyright stifles innovation and competition, and it’s just plain anti-humanitarian.

            Reply
      2. Jean Naimard

        By saying you disapprove of “pirating”, you just parrot the party line of your employer. Don’t worry, once you outlive the utility you give them, they will get rid of you, piracy or not. In the meanwhile, you get your salary, piracy or not. Do not bitch against “piracy” unless you sell your own stuff yourself, you’ll just look like a shill.
        And the intarwebs just **HATE** shills.
        I’m a content creator. I make my dough with writing (very) technical texts describing (very) dour industrial processes that are going to be read by a handful of bureaucrats and croporate drones and hopefully be so much befuddled by the prose that they gonna approve the projects anyways. Last stint I did was for about for $1000/page. That let me live for 4 months this year, which is not bad for about three weeks of work.
        I write well enough to get published whenever I write something to an editor, including in France.
        Lately, I also started to get paid to do photography (because I don’t get to write professionally a lot — I’m good enough to be paid highly enough to be able to do something else in between). I got my last vacation paid by taking one (1) picture that graces the cover of a book. And I do all the photography for a tiny marginal museum I won’t name.
        I also write vitriol and piss vinegar for fun (such as here), and take loads of photographs (to the tune of about 2 DVDs per week); I post my best pictures on amateur forums. Amateurs pass my stuff all over the place; the nice ones link to my pics (if it’s on-topic, I let it go, if not, I replace it with really gross pr0n – usually involving seniors). I don’t know how many blatantly lift my pics, though; that’s the un-nice ones.
        I’ve have had my content blatantly stolen by big media™ (La Grosse Praïsse à Desmarais nicked some artwork from me some 5 years ago and reproduced it to fill half a page on page 3 of their paper; of course I was not credited). Other medias are nice enough to ask for my pictures; when they ask nicely enough (which is most of the time), I give the go ahead. I’ve had pictures in articles or covers of several magazines worldwide.
        Yet I do not pop my panties about that. If I publish stuff, it’s to get noticed and to make a point. Culture has always evolved that way; first with oral tradition, where content that was not lifted was simply lost to prosperity. Copyright is only a recent phenomenon, and it’s absence sure hasn’t prevented **TRUE** creators from creating. Next time you’re in front of the Mona Lisa, look carefully for the “©Leonardo”. I won’t hold my breath on it, you won’t find it.
        Copyright douchebaggery such as wanting to shut down the intarwebs to prevent copying is mostly the act of content shufflers. The big media conglomerate that suck-off the creativity of creators and the change of the masses. They know very well they stand to lose big time when creators do not need intermediaries between them and the consumers.
        The intarwebs is the death of media conglomerates, and this is a **Good Thing™**. They merely want to perpetuate the barriers to entry that give them a monopoly on whatever they do, and keep getting fat doing it. When the RIAA started to get pissed at the number of musicians who would not record music in profesionnal studios, but would do it in their garages, they had cities crack down on those studios because they were not licensed businesses. Or when movies started to be distributed on DVDs, Hymiewood studios have decided to segment the world market to prevent playing discs from one country in another, so they could keep the prices high in rich countries by preventing them from importing them from poorer countries where they have to be cheaper. The newest high-definition disk players “phone home” and tell Hymiewood executives what movies you have been watching, and if they don’t like the fact that you watch too many foreign movies, they can remotely instruct your disk player to kill itself.
        That’s the kind of douchebaggery that cries for a smackdown on the arrogance of content traders, and since croporate douchebaggery is nearly impossible to reform, the best cure for that is the good old death penalty. Death by a thousand copies.
        Having my content “stolen” is gratifying most of the time; if I didn’t want it “stolen”, I would not advertise it’s existence.

        Reply
          1. Jean Naimard

            No, I’m against terminal copyright douchebaggery (read: abuse), such as using DMCA takedowns to suppress criticism, or slapping $222,222 fines for sharing 10 songs.

            And I’m against diverting scarce law-enforcement ressources to pursue civil offenses. Granted, someone who copies 50,000 CDs ought to get the full arm of the law against him, but certainly not a kid who downloads 10 songs.

            Reply
    2. Jean Naimard

      While I’m on my soapbox, let me also say that’s it’s patently ridiculous for any company to expect compensation for every song heard, every article read, every movie and TV show watched. If 5 people sit down and read the article that one of them paid for, are the four additional people stealing?

      You can bet your arse that some Hymiewood executive will think so, and with the advances of technology, will try to make it illegal. Wait for the next generation of set-top boxen with a built-in camera that counts the number of people watching a show. Watch cable executives start billing customers per eyeball.
      When PDRs came about, some TV exec said that fast-forwarding over commercials was theft. Following this, many PVRs got crippled by disabling their fast-forward functions.

      Reply
  7. Heather H.

    …and yet you defend the right of cable companies to steal signals that don’t belong to them and for which they don’t have broadcast rights.

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    1. Fagstein Post author

      1. Cable companies are not broadcasters, and hence don’t need broadcast rights.
      2. Cable companies don’t steal signals, they’re required by the government to distribute them because of demands by the broadcasters to get access to larger audiences.

      Reply
    2. Jean Naimard

      …and yet you defend the right of cable companies to steal signals that don’t belong to them and for which they don’t have broadcast rights.

      Canadian law specifically exempts Canadian cable networks from copyright liability when they redistribute US signals on their networks.

      Reply
    3. Marc

      CBFT-2, CBMT-6, CFTM-10, CFCF-12, CIVM-17, CFTU-29, CFJP-35, CKMI-46 and CJNT-62 are all sent out over the air which means I can tune them in with my antenna should I choose to go that route. By your logic, I should pay them for watching it?

      Reply
  8. jean-francois lisee

    You raise a very good point. I wondered about doing this. I surmised that Cowboy Fringant site, not for profit, was covered by the “fair use” principle, and that I was simply piggy backing on their status. Wrigint in a for profit site, I would not reproduce the text myself (or a picture or anything else with copyright). I also happen to know that Le Devoir is tolerant with fair use.
    But thanks for being vigilant.
    jf

    Reply

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