AOL Threatens Blogger With Copyright Infringement Charge… For Doing The Exact Same Thing AOL Has Done On A Large Scale

from the shameful dept

There have been plenty of accusations made against AOL’s the Huffington Post concerning its habit of “over aggregating” content from other sites. While, personally, I think people who accuse HuffPo of being just an aggregator are overreacting on two separate issues (one: HuffPo does a ton of actual reporting also and two: HuffPo’s aggregating adds value in its own way), it would be pretty damn hypocritical for AOL to then threaten another blogger for doing exactly the same thing that HuffPo does, wouldn’t it?

Enter, Maryland Juice. A local Maryland blog, which recently had a post about some happenings in Montgomery County, which included relatively large excerpts of parts of an article from Patch, another property owned by AOL. It also included an image from the article. The Maryland Juice article included a significant amount of commentary about the article and, in particular, the photo, which was used to illustrate the point (that it was not a representative sample of county residents at the local meeting). And, yet… AOL lawyers sent a cease and desist letter:

As owner of the Content, AOL has the obligation to prevent the improper use of its proprietary material. Before pursuing any additional avenues to remove the Infringing Content, we are demanding that take immediate steps to remove Patch’s image and either 1) display no more than a 1-2 sentence snippet of this Content, with credit explicitly given as well as a link back to the full article available at http://wheatonmd. ; or 2) remove and disable access to all Infringing Content, and agree to never repost or use the Infringing Content or any other AOL Content, absent compliance with the third-party use guidelines identified above.

David, the Maryland Juice blogger, explains how excerpting, discussing and linking is all part of being neighborly online, and tells AOL to shove off, claiming fair use. Of course, you know who should know an awful lot about this kind of thing? Yeah, AOL and HuffPo. You see, a few years ago, when HuffPo tried to do its own “hyper local site,” it was accused of doing more or less the exact same thing (but with less commentary, and more copying):

And seeding HuffPo Chicago is a scheme whereby the publication takes some — in many cases all — of the content from another site, with a link back to the original.

The result is quick and easy traffic for the new Chicago edition, since the publication ends up catching some Google searches for keywords contained in the (Chicago-related) articles it takes. HuffPo already has good Google PageRank, so its own version of the content floats to the top of the results, even though it was not the original source.

HuffPo‘s justification, at least when the publication was pulling this crap with us, taking the entirety of our RSS feeds, was that the reprinted posts were good promotion, since they included (a totally buried) backlink to the original content on our site.

But, apparently, when someone does it to AOL, it’s no longer okay? Now that’s hypocritical.

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Companies: aol, huffington post, patch

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Comments on “AOL Threatens Blogger With Copyright Infringement Charge… For Doing The Exact Same Thing AOL Has Done On A Large Scale”

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bob (profile) says:

Hypocritical? Perhaps

This is going to get messier before it gets better. Techdirt is one of the few blogs I’ve seen that actually adds much to the extensive quotes. Most of them are just plowing through the web, tossing up big block quotes and pretending that they’re doing real work.

As far as I can tell, most of BoingBoing is filled with long blockquotes and a few sentences repeating the core of the article being stolen. They add nothing. They do no original research. And when they do add an opinion, it’s often pretty simple and predictable. (Bush=bad, extensive fair use=great)

Here’s an example.

The folks at BoingBoing didn’t arrange the interview. They didn’t type up anything. They didn’t try to come up with clever or engaging questions. They did zero research. Yet they get nice content to fill their page.

So why should anyone do any work when it’s so much easier to just grab large blocks of someone else’s work and then claim that a little link at the bottom is a fair trade?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Hypocritical? Perhaps

except boingboing doesn’t pretend they setup the interview, and they only post part of the discussion.
They provide links so that people who have interest can follow up on the story. They are things they find while surfing around and share them with a community of like minded people.

You do understand there is a ton of content out there, and it is difficult for people to track every story that might appeal to them. boingboing fills a role or finding things of interest to the people who go there so it can be discovered easier.

boingboing sends them traffic, which can lead to people seeing other stories on the source website. seems like that is a good thing.

but then you most likely think Google is the devil for having 2 line snippets from stories presented in the results.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Hypocritical? Perhaps

Hey, it’s a very long question and a very long answer!

And we all know that Cory Doctorow is the devil incarnate. After all he’s been part of that silly free software movement forever, defended Linux against SCO and probably uses that pirating “open” source software that’s nothing more than ripping off MS and Apple!


SureleyTim-Berners says:

The same old diseased whore "commercialization" will kill the Internet's usefulness

In many ways, it already has.

The whole design goal of the world-wide-web and most other Internet protocols is to address the mechanics of sharing, transferring electrons and paying zero heed to so-called “copyright” consideration or attribution. As it should be.

That design goal will be destroyed because that same old whore – commercialization – which is he primary driver of Internet/www adoption these days, is about money grabbing, which is the very antithesis of sharing, and thereby the antithesis of the world-wide-web and most other Internet protocols.

As happened with print, radio, television, telephone, etc,. commercial interests will destroy the utility of the internet and turn it into just another commercialized piece of crap that, like the rest, is best switched “off”.

Anonymous Coward says:

THE only thing aol should have a right to when someone uses anything from their owned sites, is recognition and link to original, fair use, if someone refuses to do that when asked, then i dont think they’ll be getting that much traffic, as far as im aware this is an established internet ettiquet, known by veteran users and only ecxusable from those new to the internet, although, tolerance may vary

bob (profile) says:

Hypocritical? Perhaps

Fair use has nothing to do with whether they pretended to set up the interview– although they don’t credit the author by name. Nor do they credit the photographer. They just have some little link to Wired hidden on the bottom.

Fair use is intended to help people quote things that they use as part of a larger work. It’s meant to help scholars and readers, not allow people to assemble a news source without paying for the content or doing any work.

Fair use is meant for people who are adding new information to the world. It’s meant for researchers who are creating something new and want to link it with the past. This is just laziness.

Maybe the original author is overjoyed with BoingBoing putting in a link that people might follow occasionally, but if I were them I would be annoyed.

The sad fact is that the BB version probably got 100 views for every person who clicked through. BB probably made more money in ad revenue than the original author on these eyeballs. That’s just wrong.

Here are two other links:

In both cases, they add no original reporting or even any opinions. They just take, take and take again.

It’s easy to run a business when you don’t pay the reporters or the photographers.

bob (profile) says:

Hypocritical? Perhaps

You’re welcome. And note I included the link in a way that would encourage people to click through to BB. Their standard practice is to quote the meat of the article and give people enough information so they only need to click through if they’re really interested. My linking strategy is to build synergy. Theirs is to keep the eyeballs on their page. Big difference.

MrWilson says:

Hypocritical? Perhaps

Boing Boing isn’t aggregating paid content. Why would you pay to aggregate references to unpaid content?

It sounds like you’re saying that Righthaven was correct and that any amount of quotation is a copyright infringement and mere quotations must be licensed. Spoiler alert: the courts disagreed with that perspective.

MrWilson says:

Hypocritical? Perhaps

This isn’t my experience. I read Boing Boing daily and I usually click through to the source article (if it isn’t down because too many people are also clicking through). If the content they quote is interesting, I click through (and this is also important if you want to participate in the comments because you often need to read the source article to understand it enough to comment). If the content they quote isn’t interesting, I stop reading.

JMT says:

Hypocritical? Perhaps

“Fair use is meant for people who are adding new information to the world.”

As of now, those three posts you linked to have nearly 200 comments between them. Those comments have “added new information” for BoingBoing users, who obviously find the site quite useful.

“The sad fact is that the BB version probably got 100 views for every person who clicked through.”

If that’s the case (and you’re guessing based on nothing), then it’s a sad fact that BoingBoing are doing a much better job at promoting the author’s work than the source websites.

“BB probably made more money in ad revenue than the original author on these eyeballs. That’s just wrong.”

But did BoingBoing make money that would otherwise have been given to the the authors? Highly unlikely, so your point is moot.

real reporter says:

A competing “reporter” for the Patch site that covers a town in my beat just pulled this garbage on me.

I spend three days, attend two meetings, and conduct four interviews to put together a pretty important article with info nobody else had, and this Poach – I mean Patch – hack had the entire thing paraphrased on her site less than an hour after mine hit the web.

And because it’s patch, they have a higher Google ranking and thus jump me in search returns immediately. Also, because I work for a weekly, it essentially ruined a front page story the day before our paper hit a driveway.

But that’s all ok, because she put a tiny, two-word hyperlink in the third graph.

This garbage needs to stop

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