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A copyright lesson for scholastic online media? (and maybe those not online)

Posted by on Nov 5, 2010 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

An editor created a firestorm of comment Nov.4, according to multiple sources, by claiming material on the Internet is public domain.

Time to go back to basic law … and ethics.

According to multiple sources, including Romenesko and Gawker, the editor of Cooks Source magazine told Monica Gaudio an article she wrote five years ago was in the public domain and therefore was fair game for reprinting. The editor did not stop there, but also said the article was not well written and the author should be happy it now was better.

Here are the author’s blog comments.

A related blog, How Publishing Really Works focuses on copyright issues. At the time the SPRC blog was written, Cooks Source Facebook page had a long list of comments flaming the magazine. Cooks Source  website no longer had story content related to Gaudio or her story.

Cooks Source Twitter site reported early in the evening, Wednesday, Nov. 4,”To the detractors: measures have been put in place to prevent this from happening again. From now on, we will no longer respond to e-mails.”

JEA listservians have discussed similar questions asking about the copyright issues. Concerns  – and instances – never seem to end.

Maybe now we have solid ammunition to handle the copyright question: Just because something is on the Internet does not mean it is public domain.

Fodder exists in this new incident for plenty of lessons.

Let’s make good use of the incident and the principles involved.

Additional resources:

The Accidental Hedonist: For a detailed discussion of what was in the magazine.

Techland: Cooks Source magazine controversy: Is it copyright infringement?

The Guardian: Cooks Source: US copyright complaint sparks Twitter and Facebook storm

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Copyright mistakes, one more time

Posted by on Nov 1, 2010 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

For another good look at what constitutes common copyright errors, look at the latest 10,000 Words by Mark S. Luckie. A tip of the Tweet to Poynter’s Ellyn Angelotti.

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Issues for possible discussion

Posted by on Oct 19, 2010 in Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Journalistically, it is been an interesting week for discussion issues.

Two commercial issues and one scholastic event come to mind.

In Missouri, according to a SPLC News Flash, a school confiscated a student’s photos of an event in which a student was injured, would not allow the photographer to publish in print or online any shots of the fight and have not returned them to the student. According to the report, the school argued privacy issues were involved. In addition to raising excellent ethical and legal issues, the situation might be an excellent discussion starter about developing a staff policy about handling police or administration requests for images, audio or other forms of gathered information.

• In Ohio, a story in the Plain Dealer raises interesting copyright issues. Earlier this year, the paper reported – and photographed – a county official being led away in manacles. The charge was corruption in office. The photo, page one material, since has been used on political ads opposing members of the official’s party who are running for office, trying to tie them to him. Plain Dealer Editor Susan Goldberg said, in the story, “Pulling our photo out of this context and having it stand alone is improper use — even if it is credited. The larger issue here is that our work be portrayed fairly and in the context in which it was presented to the public. In addition, we need to avoid being used by a political campaign as their partisan mouthpiece, which is what we are seeing here.”

• Nationally, the U. S. Supreme Court heard arguments Oct. 6 about Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, a group that protests at funerals and has a history of anti-homosexual activity. The groups claims its First Amendment rights to speak out and opponents urge the Court to rule that funerals should be off-limits to protest. A myriad of First Amendment discussion threads exist.

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How do your students report the Haiti earthquake?

Posted by on Jan 14, 2010 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

News about the Haiti earthquake dominated the media today, and some scholastic journalists are trying to find ways to report the devastation and loss of life.

Questions they should consider include:

• How can we localize and show readers relevance? That should be among the first concerns. What is the best way to bring the impact of the story to the readers’ community? Has anyone been to Haiti? Have family there? Are local groups involved in relief efforts? Has anyone local survived anything similar? What is the most effective way to report the situation? Commentary on the tragedy? A call to action? Reporting the issues so the reality of the situation becomes the focus? Who will become the best sources? The most credible sources? The most timely sources? Who could be primary sources so reporters are not just rehashing or Time magazine? Are there money-raising scams surrounding relief efforts? How can readers recognize and avoid them?

• What legal issues could create problems? How can we avoid using copyrighted images with stories? What would be good resources for images? If the student publication is Web-based, to whom can students link? What are reliable resources? Publications with a subscription to MCT Campus might have a distinct advantage. What about using flash graphics or other multimedia coverage? What is the best way to do the reporting legally?

• Are there ethical considerations about what to show and print? This certainly will become an issue as more commercial media show images of bodies and devastation. What should scholastic media show and why? Assuming you can use such images with permission, will you have discussed the effects of gruesome photos? Why use them? Should your audiences be warned?

We raise these issues not to flash the red light of decision-making restraint but rather to enable the green light of ethical decisions. If your students decide such localized and relevant reporting is justified, we encourage them to do so thoroughly and with compassion.

Whatever steps they take to decide what to publish or broadcast, their decisions need to be rooted in long traditions of journalistic excellence, of publishing a story that affects their community and enables audience involvement.

That’s doing it the right way.

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