Friday, February 6, 2009

The curious case of the 44-minute 'clip'

Techdirt reports on a new copyright kerfuffle in England, where a blog called "Bad Science" (it's pro-good-science) apparently received a letter from a radio station called LBC ("London's Biggest Conversation"), demanding that the blog remove a 44-minute portion of the station's broadcast that it had posted. The original Bad Science post contained a small bit of commentary and apparently the entirety of a 44-minute LBC discussion of the alleged dangers of certain childhood vaccinations. ("Bad Science" believes that the vaccine critics are promoting...bad science, and from what I know, I agree.)

I am no expert on British "fair dealing" (that's their version of fair use) doctrine, and so I won't hazard a guess as to whether Bad Science violated LBC's rights under applicable law; it's possible Bad Science's actions were entirely permissible (Bad Science says it posted the whole thing to avoid accusations that it was "quoting [the LBC host] out of context, cherrypicking only the ridiculous moments from an otherwise sensible, proportionate and responsible piece of public rhetoric," which may or may not be a winning argument under British law). And I have serious doubts whether LBC's tactics here were smart, or will be effective (Bad Science removed its own posting of the audio after getting LBC's lawyer letter, but others reposted the same).

But let's get one thing straight: 44 minutes is not -- as both Bad Science and Techdirt describe it -- a "clip." A few seconds, maybe a few minutes: that's a "clip." To use the word "clip" here seriously distorts what happened, implying that this a classic, indisputable case of fair use, such as the quoting of a short passage from a book in a review. Again, I don't claim to know British law, but at least in the US, posting an entire piece of journalism -- even when the purpose is to spark discussion -- is usually not a smart legal move. Just ask Free Republic.

1 comment:

  1. Given UK's jurisprudence on fair dealing, I would not be surprised if this use were not considered fair dealing.

    That said, that is perhaps a problem of UK copyright jurisprudence (or the statute itself): where a long exerpt is necessery to be able to properly critique or review (and I am giving Bad Science the benefit of the doubt here), copyright may serve to stifle effective communication.

    So it could be the case that their actions are an infringement of copyright, but based on a problematic law(and corresponding jurisprudence): one that requires modification to permit *effective* communication of ideas.


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