Two Famous Journalism Institutions Shame Themselves By Not Standing Up For Basic Fair Use

from the awful dept

Two of the most respected and forward looking schools for journalism are the Knight Center for Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and the Poynter Institute. I’ve long been a fan of both, but I’m now quite disappointed in both of them too. Last week, we had a few stories concerning a woman named Teri Buhl, who (to put it mildly) had some “unique” (and, by that we mean “totally wrong”) legal theories concerning whether or not someone could quote her public statements on Twitter, as well as basic copyright and fair use rules. By the end of the week, she was threatening to sue us and others as well.

We are familiar with our fair use rights, and we think such rights are an important part of the law. In fact, fair use is frequently cited by courts as one of the key “safety valves” that ensures copyright does not violate the First Amendment. Fair use is of utmost importance in the act of journalism, and historically, news organizations have been some of the most zealous defenders of fair use. Section 107 of the Copyright Act explicitly calls out “news reporting” as one of the key areas where fair use applies. Given that, one would hope that these two giants of journalism education would stand up for fair use.

But last week, both failed to do so.

Both the Knight Center and Poynter wrote stories about the whole Teri Buhl saga. Both of them included the key screenshot of her Twitter profile, where she declares that “no tweets are publishable.”

However, both Knight and Poynter have since modified the image in their own postings, with both admitting that they did so after Buhl told them that the image in her profile was covered by copyright and that they did not have permission to publish it. This is hogwash. The whole point of fair use is that you do not need permission. That’s what fair use means. If you needed permission, you are not making use of your fair use rights. And yet, both the Knight Center and Poynter caved immediately.

This is problematic in a number of different ways. First, many journalists look to both the Knight Center and Poynter for leadership on ways in which journalists should act. Providing this kind of example runs entirely counter to the kinds of things they should do and the kinds of things they should stand for. They are teaching the wrong lesson. They’re teaching a lesson that says “journalists should give up their fair use rights.” Second, they are giving Buhl more ammunition. In various comments around the web, she has been pointing to these moves as some sort of evidence that she is correct and those using the image are violating her copyright. She is wrong. For respected journalism institutions like Knight and Poynter to cave and give her this kind of ammo is simply shameful.

Yes, there may be bigger or more important fights, and lots of organizations decide to cave in the face of bogus legal threats, rather than have to deal with them at all. But, people look to Knight and Poynter for leadership, and this is case where both failed to provide leadership on a key issue that impacts the First Amendment in a very real way. As someone who has had tremendous respect for both organizations, they both have lost a lot of credibility with me. If they’re unwilling to stand up for our basic rights on something like this, what else will they cave on? Perhaps it’s time for other journalism institutes, which actually have some principles, to step up and take the mantle as true leaders on these issues for journalists, because Knight and Poynter have failed to live up to their own principles.

Filed Under: , , , , ,
Companies: knight center, poynter institute

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Two Famous Journalism Institutions Shame Themselves By Not Standing Up For Basic Fair Use”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
84 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Off Topic: CFAA and DMCA

Folks, i’ve just got an idea on how to turn CFAA and DMCA on their heads to promote access to the information instead of restrict it. Something like GPL use copyright law to turn it on it head and grant more liberty.
Suppose somebody let’s call him P makes copies of DVDs for backup purposes
and then publishes a web page with links to these movies.
The links are password protected with WEAK password.
So a potential downloader have to break/guess the password to download a movie.
The potential downloaders will be breaking the law breaking the password and downloading the movies form this site, however they can be confident that P will not sue them.
However to accuse P of copyright violation the accuser will have to break the CFAA and DMCA laws too, and this action will invalidate the evidence against P.

What do you think?

Mark Murphy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Rentn.org, it has come to our attention that you are making illegal use of our trademark, “snarky”. Our trademark application covers its use in “an arrangement of black and white pixels”, and your comment is clearly such an arrangement. We demand that TechDirt immediately take down your unlicensed used of our intellectual property.

And, to those who are thinking about replying, pointing out their patents on pixels (or the colors black and white, or on the English language), please be advised that we possess significant second-strike capability.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

But I own the concept of “first-strike capability, by being the last remaining member of the founding of the FBI, thus you owe me (inflation-adjusted) $3.3trn. Please pay this by the end of the current tax period, as I feel generous, and also need a massive pay-raise form working in Wal-mart.

Watchit (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I’m afraid that I own a patent on all litigation, ever. Fortunatly my licensing fee for the right to sue is a mere $40k per law suit, as well as $10k per working hour by all lawyers under your hire. And let’s of course not forget the licencing fee for my patent on procedures and methods for commencing and holding court proceedings, that will require a small number of payments equal to $1million per day(s) of hearings.

FritzMuffknuckle (user link) says:

Quotes from her blog post yesterday:

TreiBuhl idea of the day:
“I think we need some case law to define when online bloggers or journalist can lift other people?s reporting, ideas, photos.”

A cry for help:
“I could also file a federal copyright infringement suit and sue for thousands in damages. If I have any readers who are copyright lawyers and want to take the case on contingency I?ll gladly you offer 70 percent of what you can collect.”

We are so mean:
“What these tech bloggers have done this week is more than report a story ? they?ve taken my product, tried to dirty it up just because they didn?t agree with my notion of how anything I do on twitter can or can?t be used, and tried to limit a revenue stream.”
Never mind the huge gap between her notion and the law…

Her blog post. Any bets on how quick she turns comments off?:
http://www.teribuhl.com/2013/02/10/about-that-twitter-thing-i-did-that-has-tons-of-techies-mad-at-me/

Oops… I stole some of her words. Lawsuit in 3, 2, 1…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Quotes from her blog post yesterday:

Dissocial Personality Disorder, it is characterized by at least 3 of the following:
? Callous unconcern for the feelings of others;
? Gross and persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social norms, rules, and obligations;
? Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, though having no difficulty in establishing them;
? Very low tolerance to frustration and a low threshold for discharge of aggression, including violence;
? Incapacity to experience guilt or to profit from experience, particularly punishment;
? Markedly prone to blame others or to offer plausible rationalizations for the behavior that has brought the person into conflict with society.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Quotes from her blog post yesterday:

Any bets on how quick she turns comments off?

She does’t have to. I just put a comment up about how absolutely horrendous her writing skills are (subject-verb agreement throughout the article is non-existent) and it comes back with “Comment awaiting moderation”.

So my guess is she’s moderating out anything that’s even remotely criticial of her, as I’m sure she will my own comment, and that leaves her with no comments at all.

Anonymous Coward says:

two points cometo mind

a) would Buhl respect the rights of others, on their say so over copyright, or would she use whatever she wanted in a story? i suspect the latter,

b)the only way i can see this ending is if either she carries through with her threat and sues someone (Techdirt?) or someone (again, Techdirt?) call s her bluff and sues her for bogus claims or whatever they could sue her for.

as for Knight and Poynter, perhaps the best thing for them to do is reexamine what they did and if they still think they have done right, take back seats now as far as standing up for journalists and fair use, before someone calls them to task!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

a) Her entire perspective on copyright law is from a running court case where she is being prosecuted for copyright infringement. She likely is upset about it and has swung from the pragmatic laissez-faire copyright we treasure here to a very strict censorship right which lack any grip on reality. So I would guess she is self-censuring a lot after having been found guilty in first instance of the court and thus is likely to overburden copyright holders with pleas for use.

b) I think the running case she is part of, will be just as important. Let the claims fly and let the courts rule on the validity of the claims. You will no matter what have a judge shape her perception of copyright. For better or worse? It all depends on the judge and how she reads it.

As for the universities, they treasure another value higher than who is right or wrong in the eyes of the law. That value is the respect for the opinions of the people in the news-story: If you treat your sources or potential sources like crap you loose the possibility of getting exclusives and first reportings in a case. The less of the controversial subject you leak in an article, the more likely it is that both sides will be willing to try and influence the story!
It is horrible for the reader, but it will give the scent of journalistic integrity to the parts in the story.

The Old Man in The Sea says:

Teri Buhl - writes wubbish and gets no comments

Title of entry:

About That Twitter Thing I Did That Has Tons of People Mad at Me

Followed by lots of waffle but the interesting thing is that it ends with

No Responses to ? About That Twitter Thing I Did That Has Tons of People Mad at Me “

I couldn’t even get up the energy to read past first paragraph as it was so “woe is me” and “I am so misunderstood”. My eyes just started glazing over.

Even the jackasses here are more interesting in their trolling than she is in her writing. My grandchildren appear to have more interesting and intelligent speech patterns and they are only two and four.

Note to self, don’t read any more of her stuff, it kills the mind and leaves your eyes bleeding.

The above is an opinion, my opinion.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Teri Buhl - writes wubbish and gets no comments

No Responses to ? About That Twitter Thing I Did That Has Tons of People Mad at Me “

I went to that site and I found these gems:

Mark?s little post caught the attention of a tech blog I?d never heard of, called TechDirt, and they took the idea of suing over copying people?s words/ideas or photos people put on twitter as a complete affront to their way of blogging.

I make money as a journalist off words and facts that I creatively put together to report and educate readers. This is my work product found here at teribuhl.com, any of the other publications I write for or on twitter. I don?t think it?s ok for bloggers to take my ideas/news analysis and copy them onto their sites with out a link and credit back to my work regardless of if it?s 140 characters or a whole paragraph

And there a bunch more of these semi-derogatory references to “blogs” and “bloggers” on her blog post.

Not sure about anyone else, but I consider an unemployed self-proclaimed “journalist” whose most recent writings seemingly only appear to be on a blog site to be a blogger.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re:

But sometimes it’s about honoring other people’s wishes.

She is the subject of the story, using bogus legal threats to have a story about her censored.

Like it or not, this is a news story, and she doesn’t get veto rights over it. Her tweets are an accurate account of what she said/did. They are an important part of the story.

Mr. Applegate says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“But copying an image of her twitter page isn’t really critical to the story.”

How do you figure that? The image shows her claim that she ‘No tweets are publishable”. That seems pretty critical to the story to me, especially when it could be changed at any time.

Because if you don’t post the proof I can tell you the next complaint: “I never posted that”.

Anonymous Coward says:

On record or off record?

In various comments around the web, she has been pointing to these moves as some sort of evidence that she is correct and those using the image are violating her copyright.

I wonder if she got clearance to go “on record” and report their moves on various other blog and comment sites?

This woman is a prize plonker.

Mr. Applegate says:

Yes, there may be bigger or more important fights, and lots of organizations decide to cave in the face of bogus legal threats, rather than have to deal with them at all. But, people look to Knight and Poynter for leadership, and this is case where both failed to provide leadership on a key issue that impacts the First Amendment in a very real way. As someone who has had tremendous respect for both organizations, they both have lost a lot of credibility with me.

I can’t see much that is more important to a journalist than fair use.

I mean without fair use imagine Microsoft yanking a story put out by a reviewer about Windows 8 because it wasn’t flattering. “Sorry, we didn’t authorize the use of “Microsoft” or “Windows 8” or “Redmond”.”

What if a journalist couldn’t report on an interview with Tim Cook, until Tim Cook authorized the story. “We insist that you take down the story of your interview with Tim Cook, it was an “Off the Record” interview and we now assert our rights and insist that you retract your story.”

In order to publish that movie review better get it cleared with the producers of the movie.

Where would TechDirt be if it had to clear the latest Prenda story with John Steele before publishing. “Dear Mr. Steele, we are publishing a story on you and your business interests Prenda Law et al. We would like your permission to use your name, business names and publicly stated positions and opinions in our article. Do we have your permission to do so?”

Quite frankly it is bad enough when you have suits at CBS dictating what stories can be published on CNET, so now you not only need to get it by the bosses, but by the subjects as well!

Very short sided in my opinion.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“I mean without fair use imagine Microsoft yanking a story put out by a reviewer about Windows 8 because it wasn’t flattering. “Sorry, we didn’t authorize the use of “Microsoft” or “Windows 8” or “Redmond”.””

You mean like how some labels were caught using DMCA takedowns to removed blog posts calling some musical work crap and such? It is already happening and not being challenged because everything is weighted to the copyright holders.

jameshogg says:

Look up any history whatsoever, and you will see that nobody is ever good enough to police free expression or even appoint somebody who can police free expression without falling into corruption.

Yet, copyright believers seem to think that they can? What good is the fair use doctrine – assuming people are aware of what it allows them to do – if people still suffer chilling effects due to being unsure of their protection from such a doctrine?

Steve R. (profile) says:

Media Cognitive Dissonance

The media, depends on fair use and the free flow of information, yet they display a poor understanding of copyright law and attempt to privatize their content.

For example, when SOPA/ACTA was running “hot” as a National issue, FOX News had a panel of so-called pundits discuss the copyright law. What floored me, was the call for compromise. Not once was it mentioned that copyright has grown ever “strong”. But piracy has. So the obvious implication by the word compromise was the continued trend towards an ever stronger version of copyright. The logical approach of comprise; to restore copyright to its original intent was never raised.

Davey says:

Re: Media Cognitive Dissonance

Not to sound like an old fogey, but we basically don’t have news media anymore. We have overpaid corporate hacks doing the bidding of their masters, who are 99% as corrupt and irresponsible as any Wall Street hedge fund manager. Just the universal media of the term “piracy” is all the evidence you need.

bobb (profile) says:

Hogwash? Ask Ashley Brilliant

He’s been successfully copyrighting very, very short works for a long time. The courts have stood by him.

What is amazing is how little you understand about fair use. It’s not a right to reproduce anything you like, even if you keep the amount small. It’s designed to encourage discussion. So you can reprint snippets FOR DISCUSSION as long as you don’t damage the market for the original.

But reprinting everything removes the need for anyone to go to the original.

Quit getting your legal theories from the department of wishful thinking at Big Search and start looking at the actual case law. It’s bad enough that blogs like this egg on people like Aaron Swartz and Jammie Thomas to get into legal binds with horrible consequences. At least spend some time looking at reality.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashleigh_Brilliant

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Hogwash? Ask Ashley Brilliant

So you can reprint snippets FOR DISCUSSION as long as you don’t damage the market for the original.

So than you agree that Techdirt’s reprinting the screenshot of Ms. Buhl’s silly claims on her Twitter profile for the purpose of DISCUSSION was entirely Fair Use and Ms. Buhl’s attempts to quash the stories with claims of copyright on the background picture are completely bogus.

It’s nice to know you can agree with Techdirt now and than and that your bias hasn’t totally blinded you, bob.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Hogwash? Ask Ashley Brilliant

“He’s been successfully copyrighting very, very short works for a long time.”

Notice the difference? Short works. Tweets are NOT short works. They are literally a sentence, if that. In no way is that a short work.

“The courts have stood by him.”

All well and good for Ashley Brilliant, the same does not apply to Teri Buhl or any of her made up on the fly legal ramblings/theories regarding her tweets.

“What is amazing is how little you understand about fair use.”

What is amazing how little you understand about the article or the situation in question. Not too mention life or reality in general. But that’s par for the course with you bob.

“It’s not a right to reproduce anything you like, even if you keep the amount small.”

Actually, that is very much what fair use is. the right to reproduce anything you like, as long as its usage isn’t just limited to reproduction. You can reproduce it and then discuss said reproduction and the reason for reproduction (like showing a scene of a movie, then discussing the director’s usage of certain camera angles or music in the scene, etc.)

“It’s designed to encourage discussion.”

No, it designed to ALSO encourage discussion, but fair use has numerous uses besides encouraging discussion. It can be used for teaching purposes, parody purposes, etc.

“So you can reprint snippets FOR DISCUSSION as long as you don’t damage the market for the original.”

[buzzer sound] Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. For someone telling others they don’t understand fair use you sure do an atrocious job of understanding it yourself.

“Quit getting your legal theories from the department of wishful thinking at Big Search and start looking at the actual case law.”

Ah yes, wouldn’t be a bob comment without a shot at Google, which has absolutely nothing to do with the article or situation in question.

But suffice it to say, the legal theories proposed in the article regarding fair use aren’t theory, they’re legal fact. You’d do well to utilize Google search and maybe, but probably not, learn a fucking thing or two before you open your trap again. Which won’t happen, because ignorance is bliss and stupidity is your forte.

“It’s bad enough that blogs like this egg on people like Aaron Swartz and Jammie Thomas to get into legal binds with horrible consequences.”

Also irrelevant to the article, but just fyi, Aaron Schwartz did what he did of his own volition and as a direct result of the actions of you and yours. Namely SOPA is what motivated him to become more active and outspoken against some of the copyright wrongs being done lately.

“At least spend some time looking at reality.”

Wow. Coming from you the hypocrisy/irony of that sentence is so much I’m afraid I’m about to be crushed by the weight of both. Not even sure how you can stand it.

In conclusion, stfu bob. You’re an idiot and you are so wrong in everything you said that I don’t know how you can believe any of it, but I’m sure you misguidedly do. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we so need an extinction level event to cull some of the stupid from the gene pool. That or Lion Day. Oh how I long for Lion Day. Also, don’t EVER breed. For the love of all that is holy or unholy, don’t procreate or attempt to. The world will be a better place if you abstain.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Hogwash? Ask Ashley Brilliant

He’s been successfully copyrighting very, very short works for a long time. The courts have stood by him.

Yes, you can copyright short phrases. But this is not about the copyright on short phrases. So… off topic.

What is amazing is how little you understand about fair use. It’s not a right to reproduce anything you like, even if you keep the amount small. It’s designed to encourage discussion. So you can reprint snippets FOR DISCUSSION as long as you don’t damage the market for the original.

That’s not entirely accurate, but even if what you said was accurate, we DID encourage discussion and we did nothing to damage the market for the original.

But reprinting everything removes the need for anyone to go to the original.

We didn’t.

Quit getting your legal theories from the department of wishful thinking at Big Search and start looking at the actual case law.

The case law supports us. As do a whole bunch of lawyers who have nothing do with “Big Search”. And, since this has nothing to do with search why would we even ask lawyers who work on search stuff?

It’s bad enough that blogs like this egg on people like Aaron Swartz and Jammie Thomas to get into legal binds with horrible consequences.

Yes, this blog, which said that Jammie Thomas should have settled…

Do you only make shit up or do you ever actually have a point?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: This one is rich...

“”How do we expect journalist to do their jobs investigating issue of public interest, such as the parents role in enabling underage drinking and the local cops role in ignoring it, when we see this kind of pressure to first amendment rights.” ”

Maybe we should be investigating how a grown woman was so threatened by her boyfriends child that she needed to destroy the parental bond between them by going public with things that should have been discussed privately.
Has anyone come forward to admit they paid her to do this article she keeps talking about? She claims she was paid to do it and it would be lovely to see her back in jail for having lied to the court.

While her insane ideas about copyright are fun, I think we should investigate her fully. As I said before I would have serious reservations about any media outlet using her, and having learned more about her I’d have to consider them unreliable.

She keeps thrashing and calling attention to the fact she is crazy… and everyone who bends to her will looks that much dumber having kowtowed to her demands that have no legal basis.

Anonymous Coward says:

I hope she does sue

She’ll get her tochus handed to her very quickly if she sues.

At the very least, discovery will reveal some very interesting things from her initial deposition–
–what she hopes to gain from the suit
–her medical records because she’s likely delusional about this going anywhere
–the last time she had a yeast infection
–if she has a “I’m not crazy–my mother had me tested” t-shirt

At the very least, she and Charles Carreon are a match made in heaven. He could take her case.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop ยป

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...