When The NY Times Builds On Other's Work, I Guess That's Journalism [Updated]

from the but-when-others-do-it...-it's-piracy? dept

Over the last few years, the NY Times has been whining about blogs and sites like HuffPo that it feels "pirates" its stories. Former executive editor Bill Keller trashed such things a few times over the past year.
Too often it amounts to taking words written by other people, packaging them on your own Web site and harvesting revenue that might otherwise be directed to the originators of the material. In Somalia this would be called piracy. In the mediasphere, it is a respected business model.
Now, as I said at the time, this is a pretty silly way to look at things. But it struck me as especially interesting since last week, we broke the news about the feds censoring Dajaz1.com for a year, before giving back the domain name. That was Thursday morning. Friday evening, the NY Times wrote its own version of the story... with nary a mention of our story. Their story didn't add anything beyond reporting what we and some others had done previously.

Now, let me be absolutely clear: I actually don't think crediting whoever scooped a story is really that big a deal. I tend to think it's a nice and neighborly thing to do, but hardly required, and I think some people put too much emphasis on it. However, I think it's kind of amusing that a newspaper like the NY Times, whose bosses have complained about others doing this kind of thing, would so regularly do this themselves. And, yes, the NY Times does this all the time. And, for what it's worth, people definitely noticed.

My point is not to complain about not getting a mention. My point is to highlight how the NY Times' looking down on other publications for supposedly just taking their stories and how that's "piracy," might deserve a pretty big rethink. News travels around in a lot of ways. Sometimes the NY Times gets there first, and sometimes they don't. Attacking others for reporting on the same thing they've reported on is going to make them look foolish when they do the same thing, as happened here.

Update: This morning both the editor and the reporter emailed to apologize and say that the original story did, in fact, mention Techdirt, but it got edited out by accident. To be honest, it's for reasons like this that I noted above that many people focus too much on the whole "credit" issue. The point of this post was never to demand credit, but to point out how when you always demand credit, it can come back to bite you. Either way, I appreciate the NY Times' quick response and the apology.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Sarah, Dec 13th, 2011 @ 4:22pm

    Iiiiiinteresting.

    I'm glad people noticed and have commented on it -- you don't get to enforce strict rules on everyone else and disobey them yourself, no matter how big your are. Good on Techdirt!

     

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    gorehound (profile), Dec 13th, 2011 @ 4:23pm

    After SOPA/PIPA

    I guess I wonder now if the SOPA/PIPA passes would not a lot of blogs be taken down and Censored ?

     

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      PlagueSD (profile), Dec 13th, 2011 @ 4:51pm

      Re: After SOPA/PIPA

      I'm all for foxnews.com getting censored. If that happens I'd die laughing...

      Fair and balanced my ass

       

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        Kevin H (profile), Dec 13th, 2011 @ 4:58pm

        Re: Re: After SOPA/PIPA

        If we take them down, its only fair that we kill CNN too. They seem to float the other side of it rather well.

        I quite reading either. I agrigrate my news from reddit.

         

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          abc gum, Dec 13th, 2011 @ 8:28pm

          Re: Re: Re: After SOPA/PIPA

          You mean Conservative News Network ?

           

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            Greg G, Dec 13th, 2011 @ 9:01pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: After SOPA/PIPA

            Conservative News Network? Now THAT made me click on the 'funny' button for being so obviously wrong it's funny.

             

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              abc gum, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 5:22am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: After SOPA/PIPA

              Yes, I also find it hilarious.

              btw - If CNN is liberal, like so many espouse, then in what part of the political spectrum do you put the likes of Mother Jones, Rolling Stone, etc?

              I already suspect the answer will be "crack pot". LOL

               

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          Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 5:53am

          Re: Re: Re: After SOPA/PIPA

          CNN is the liberal equivalent of Fox News?? Seriously? How far has the "middle" shifted if CNN now falls on the "liberal" side?

          It seems like Fox News being so extreme (for mainstream media) has shifted the center in some peoples minds and things that used to be fairly close to the "middle" are now all considered "liberal" even though networks like CNN push the corporate/conservative agenda as much as any other network. I also wonder if these people who would call CNN a "left of center" network have ever read the news coming out of European countries that have actual liberals.

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 6:38am

          Re: Re: Re: After SOPA/PIPA

          If it's part of the mainstream media - i.e., that stuff on the TV - then it's, at best, center-right, corporate muppetry.

          There is no non-conservative voice in the mainstream media...liberalism has been so lambasted and ridiculed, it's socially not acceptable to be non-conservative. It's been this way, since...oh, I don't know, the 60s...

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 7:48am

          Re: Re: Re: After SOPA/PIPA

          "If we take them down, its only fair that we kill CNN too. They seem to float the other side of it rather well."

          Actually, CNN is fairly middle-of-the-road.
          The Democratic counterpart to Republican Fox is MSNBC.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 9:32am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: After SOPA/PIPA

            well accept for FOX ignoring or making up their own facts...sure

             

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            abc gum, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 5:50pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: After SOPA/PIPA

            I may have missed it, but I do not recall MSNBC displaying the same level of ineptitude as seen on Fox.

             

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2011 @ 7:32pm

      Re: After SOPA/PIPA

      It could be used to take down the NY Times and censor them.

       

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    Vic, Dec 13th, 2011 @ 4:35pm

    Interesting bits and pieces.

    The one person there in discussion who actually provides a link to a relevant TechDirt's article, goes on and on lamenting about piracy and how much of the infringing material was in reality posted on DaJaz1.com and how it's a theft from the rightful owners, and if Feds make one little mistake so what... But at least she reads TechDirt. 8^)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2011 @ 4:59pm

    It's called the high court vs low court treatment

     

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      Hephaestus (profile), Dec 14th, 2011 @ 7:09am

      Re:

      "It's called the high court vs low court treatment"

      I think that is one of the things OWS should be fighting against. Instead of "pay off my student loans", etc. It would make them more of a movement and less of bunch of smelly hippies wanting stuff for free.

       

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    identicon
    PRMan, Dec 13th, 2011 @ 5:02pm

    "If you copy from one source without credit, it's called plagiarism. If you copy from lots of sources without credit, it's called research."

    I paraphrased this from many sources...

     

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      Frankz (profile), Dec 13th, 2011 @ 5:14pm

      Re:

      "If you copy from one source without credit, it's called plagiarism. If you copy from lots of sources without credit, it's called research."
      Does that mean the NYT plagiarizes their research? or researches their plagiarism?

       

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    BentFranklin (profile), Dec 13th, 2011 @ 5:08pm

    And when you're a tool of the propaganda machine, you're Judith Miller.

    Judith Miller NY Times Judith Miller NY Times
    Judith Miller NY Times Judith Miller NY Times
    Judith Miller NY Times Judith Miller NY Times
    Judith Miller NY Times Judith Miller NY Times
    Judith Miller NY Times Judith Miller NY Times
    Judith Miller NY Times Judith Miller NY Times
    Judith Miller NY Times Judith Miller NY Times
    Judith Miller NY Times Judith Miller NY Times
    Judith Miller NY Times Judith Miller NY Times

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2011 @ 5:15pm

    Let me see if I have this right. You wrote an article. The NYT wrote an article. Yours is original to you. Theirs is original to them.

    I do not see your point.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2011 @ 5:21pm

      Re:

      yah cause that is what it is

       

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      Frankz (profile), Dec 13th, 2011 @ 5:26pm

      Re:

      The point is the majority of info came from the original article, meaning that's where NYT got it from.
      The point is if the NYT writes an article first, and anyone else then writes an article using much of the same info, NYT screams plagiarism. But let the NYT be the ones writing the article second and using info from another article, like they just did in this case, they don't mention it at all and don't credit anyone else, making them HUGE hypocrites.

       

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      TtfnJohn (profile), Dec 13th, 2011 @ 6:10pm

      Re:

      It's exactly what the NY Times complains about when they complain about HuffPo.

      The observation isn't that the Times really did anything wrong but that it does what all other news outlets do. Cut, copy, rewrite, remix for their audience. So the Times article, while it contains the same facts the one on Techdirt did it is written in the style of the Times and for the Times audience.

      It would have been wrong, VERY wrong had the Times and Associated Press among others had been successful in reviving an interwar concept called Breaking News which would have meant the the story on Techdirt couldn't be remixed like this. In effect, though never pitched that way, a special form of copyright. It would have prevented the Times from writing it's own copy around the same facts that make up Techdirt's story. Basically making facts subject to copyright though facts can't be copyrighted.

      The other point is that it illustrates the hypocrisy of organs such as the Times. Not surprising but it's always nice to come up with clear examples.

       

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 13th, 2011 @ 6:14pm

      Re:

      Let me see if I have this right. You wrote an article. The NYT wrote an article. Yours is original to you. Theirs is original to them.

      I do not see your point.


      Really? You might want to try reading what I actually wrote next time.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2011 @ 6:51pm

        Re: Re:

        NYT concerns are directed towards those who engage in copyright infringement of NYT's original work, and not the situation you posit here.

        Yes, I read the article. Suggest that next time you compare apples-to-apples, and not apples-to-oranges as was done here.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2011 @ 8:56pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          What the NYTimes did is even morally (even if not necessarily legally) worse than copy protection infringement, they copied Techdirt's story and didn't even cite them as the source. Yet if someone 'infringes' on their work they won't necessarily be too happy about it.

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2011 @ 10:06pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          mmmmmmmm, obscuring the truth through misdirection. My favorite meal. Can I get some more?

           

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 12:04am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Wow, your paradox crumple zone must be huge!

           

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          Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 14th, 2011 @ 4:54am

          Re: Re: Re:

          NYT concerns are directed towards those who engage in copyright infringement of NYT's original work, and not the situation you posit here.


          No, actually, that's 100% false. Why must you resort to falsehoods? Keller was specifically addressing HuffPo's practice of "rewriting" stories. Same thing they did here.

           

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            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 7:02am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I do not express falsehoods, unless falsehoods are defined by you as anything published later in time that recites some of the facts that may happen to be mentioned in a later article by a third party.

            Last time I looked facts were not covered by Title 17, but only original expression. Are you suggesting that the NYT's article meets the test for copyright infringment? It certainly seems so.

             

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              David Muir (profile), Dec 14th, 2011 @ 7:56am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              I want to try to address this one just in case my own understanding is flawed.

              There is NO SUGGESTION of copyright infringement in the subject post by Mike. He is merely pointing out that the NY Times happily participates in the new media ecosystems but their leadership notoriously complains about people (bloggers and others) taking the NYT original content and repurposing it to get profit. The situation is turned on its head in this case (and many other cases): NYT is repurposing and not crediting their sources. In other words, they continue to participate in the natural ecosystem and should probably think of this example when next complaining about the way "bloggers" operate.

               

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                Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 8:53am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                In the first article concerning the NYT and the Huffington Post, the speaker was expressing concern that in his view there are many in the "world of the internet" who do little more than take someone else's original writing, slip it into their website, and then promote their website as being the go-to place for current news. As is unfortunately all too often the case here, the speaker's words were twisted to try and make the ludicrous point that everything is aggregation since, after all, does not the NYT use the words of persons who are the subject of news articles? Yes, this is called news reporting. Facts are being presented. However, those facts are woven into a news report that is an original work of authorship by the news reporter (keep in mind that reports by the AP are many times presented verbatim, but then that is because of a contractual arrangement permitting such useage).

                Masnick's deep seated antipathy to copyright law leads him to try and turn virtually every comment by companies like the NYT into a screed against what he terms "monopolies" (though, in fairness, there are others who likewise use the same term). Copyright is evil, unnecessary, and is used by holders of such rights to improperly stifle the actions of others.

                He does much the same with patents, using the phrase "standing on the shoulders of giants" (i.e., those who have come before) to denigrate the law and inventors in general.

                In a true apples-to-apples comparison, Masnick would have demonstrated that the NYT engaged in the activity it decries if here it had taken his original article, made only simplistic, minor, non-meaningful alterations and then passed it along as its own original work. Of course, the NYT did no such thing, so to try and use this situation to malign the NYT as not "practicing what it preaches" is disingenuous to a fault.

                This is why I looked to copyright law to see how it relates to this situation. Did the NYT present an article of the type noted immediately above? If so, then it would most certainly be a copyright infringer absent fair use. Hence my question "What is your point?" Masnick wrote an article using his own original expression, and the NYT did likewise. Facts are not subject to copyright, but original expression is (the so-called "idea/expression dichotomy).

                Simply put, I see nothing here that the NYT has engaged in the activity it deems inappropriate, and to state otherwise is nothing more than Masnick trying to craft an argument based upon a truly apples-to-oranges comparison.

                Masnick does with regularity present thought provoking articles here, but this is not one of them.

                 

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                  Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 14th, 2011 @ 9:46am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Masnick's deep seated antipathy to copyright law leads him to try and turn virtually every comment by companies like the NYT into a screed against what he terms "monopolies" (though, in fairness, there are others who likewise use the same term). Copyright is evil, unnecessary, and is used by holders of such rights to improperly stifle the actions of others.

                  You really can't read, can you? This story HAD NOTHING to do with copyright or monopolies.

                  I think your deep-seated antipathy towards anything I write leads you to try to turn virtually every story into something for you to be an absolute idiot over. Seriously, LEARN TO READ.

                   

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                    identicon
                    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 11:36am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    To the best of my recollection, the NYT has not decried others writing news articles on subjects that they may have first learned about from a NYT news article. Moreover, I do not recall the NYT having whined because they were not credited in the other news article.

                    What they have decried are those who basically regurgitate a NYT article with little, if any, effort to create a news article that represents truly original expression from that of the the NYT article.

                    That said, it is nice to know that your article is being mentioned in association with the NYT article (or at least they have apologized for not extending the courtesy). Some measure of recognition is always nice to receive, even if it is not necessary.

                     

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              Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 14th, 2011 @ 9:43am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:


              Last time I looked facts were not covered by Title 17, but only original expression. Are you suggesting that the NYT's article meets the test for copyright infringment? It certainly seems so.


              Are you that dense and unable to comprehend basic English?

              My complaint was NEVER about not getting credit or about them copying. It was about the NYT whining about this exact thing and then doing it themselves.

              Let me give you an example: if a politician says that gambling is evil... and then is caught gambling, most people will think that's hypocritical. But calling it hypocritical is not the same thing as saying gambling is evil.

              You seem totally unable to understand this basic concept. I do not know why.

               

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                identicon
                Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 11:49am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                The tenor of your article here is basically observance of the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

                The comments you recite from the editor of the NYT has nothing to do with the Golden Rule, so why you say they are being hypocritical does not measure up to the facts.

                Now, if you can show me a comment attributed to the NYT editor where he spoke indignantly that another news service wrote an article about a subject associated with a NYT article then I will certainly give it fair consideration.

                BTW, I regularly upload my photographs to websites that make them available for free to commercial and other users (e.g., SXC). I feel the same way as you do about attribution, and make this quite clear in my profile where I state that attribution is not at all necessary (but a mention if circumstances permit is always appreciated). I have seen my photographs in national ads without attribution, and this is perfectly fine by me. I have also seen attribution. This is nice as well, but again absolutely not necessary. I am simply pleased that someone thought enough of a photograph to put it to use for their benefit...and this includes those who may wish to make copies and sell them.

                 

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      identicon
      Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Dec 13th, 2011 @ 6:39pm

      Re: Yours is original to you. Theirs is original to them.

      THAT’s IT! We now have the ultimate defence against any claim of copyright infringement, plagiarism, patent violation or any such! Just say “your copy is original to you, theirs is original to them”. And you get off scot-free!

      Oh, and GFY.

       

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    identicon
    fb39ca4, Dec 13th, 2011 @ 5:42pm

    Higher Priorities

    Hey NYTimes, I think somalians are more worried about actual piracy rather than some guy copying some other guys news story.

     

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    identicon
    Steve Myers, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 8:46am

    Update from NYT

    I contacted the Times for a post on Poynter.org; he says the writer credited Techdirt but it was edited out, and they're going to fix that. My post:

    journ.us/talMOq

    Steve Myers

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 9:36am

      Re: Update from NYT

      NYT Article has been updated with full credit to Techdirt.

      --
      The news of the return of Dajaz1.com was first reported on Thursday by Techdirt, a technology news blog.
      --

      and a note at the bottom

      ---
      This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

      Correction: December 14, 2011

      Due to an editing error, and earlier version of this post failed to credit Techdirt with first reporting the news of the return of Dajaz1.com.
      ---

       

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 14th, 2011 @ 9:40am

    Update

    As some have noted above, and I've now added to the story, the NYT has apologized and updated their story. Both the reporter and editor reached out and said that it was in the story originally, but accidentally was edited out.

    Once again, the point here was never about credit, but just about how it seemed silly for the NYT's to get upset about this kind of thing when it does, in fact, happen all the time, even by the NYT at points.

     

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