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Of Catty Rants and Copyrights

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the you-are-not-a-lawyer dept.

Social Networks 339

Frequent Slashdot contributor Bennett Haselton writes "A newspaper copies a rant from a girl's MySpace page and reprints it as a 'Letter to the Editor' without her permission. Could the girl sue for copyright violation? This question provoked much more disagreement among legal experts than I expected." Read on for the details.
In 2005, a college student published a rant on her hometown on her MySpace page, beginning with, "The older I get, the more I realize how much I despise Coalinga." Her former high school principal found the rant while browsing her MySpace page (what?), and forwarded it to the town newspaper, which published the "rant" without the girl's permission, signed with her full name, as a letter to the editor (what?). The resulting fallout included death threats against the family and the closure of the 20-year-old business owned by the girl's father. Four years later, a judge ruled that the girl could not sue for "public disclosure of private facts" because the MySpace post was not private. But what about a copyright claim?

Normally the "damages" for unauthorized copying of a MySpace post would be so close to zero, that a moral victory in court is all you could get. But if her father's business lost so much money that it had to close, could the family sue for those losses resulting from the copyright infringement?

It is perhaps indicative of the mathematician/programmer mindset, that after reading about a school principal downloading a rant form a former student's MySpace page and arranging with a friend to "out" her in the town newspaper, the first thing that popped into my head was: "copyright infringement." But copyright law has a nice binary, one-or-zero, they-did-it-or-they-didn't quality that resonates with left-brainers. As several lawyers said to me while I was asking them questions for this story, the girl would probably have a better claim for "intentional infliction of emotional distress" and for "false light publicity" — but those rights of action are more nebulous concepts in law, and the trial outcome would depend more on the judge's personal opinions and on the history of similar rulings in the state. Copyright law is, at least in theory, standardized in federal law and laid out in black and white, so that even non-lawyers have a chance of understanding it. But I still wanted to ask some lawyers for their opinions.

This started for me as an investigation of copyright law as it applied to these situations. (I personally know a few people whose content has been reused on other people's websites or e-mail lists with varying degrees of legality, and I'd like to be better informed about what to tell them.) But it ended up becoming a case study in how to interpret conflicting opinions from different lawyers.

There were some notions that I had completely wrong about copyright law, and the lawyers that I queried pointed those out unanimously. On the other hand, there are some questions where the legal community is divided on the correct answer, and you might pick one answer and a lawyer with the opposite point of view would tell you you were "wrong," when a different lawyer might tell you that you were "right." Whenever lawyers tell me something, and especially if they tell me that I should listen to them because they're a lawyer and I'm not, I always ask the same thing: If I were to ask this question of 10 different lawyers, would at least 8 out of them of them agree? If the answer is No, then — while each lawyer is still be entitled to their opinion, it is just an opinion, not a settled fact within the profession. In fact, I wouldn't even trust the results if I asked 10 lawyers who were all in the same room; my general impression is that when I ask lawyers a question who are in the room together, they agree more frequently than if I ask them a similar question separately, perhaps consciously or subconsciously out of a desire to make it look as if the "expert consensus" is stronger than it really is. The fairest test would be to ask 10 lawyers separately and compare their answers.

So, I posted a notice to Peter Shankman's Help A Reporter Out service, asking for legal experts to comment on the copyright issue. HARO is a nifty way to get your name in print once in a while if you're an expert on any subject; you can sign up for the mailing list as a "source," and then reporters send queries to HARO that are redistributed to the mailing list asking for experts on a particular subject. (The very first day after I signed up last September, I got featured as a "web filtering expert" in an article in an adult industry trade magazine, whereupon I'm sure my mother sent the link to all of her friends right away.) But I was interested in using it in a different way from most reporters. Usually, reporters posting a query are looking for multiple expert opinions that they can synthesize into a consensus answer for their story. I was posting my query to find out whether any consensus even existed.

The questions I put to the HARO list were: Could the girl bring a lawsuit against the paper for violating her copyright? Is it something she could even do in Small claims court to save time and money? And as for damages, I knew that in cases of copyright violations for works not registered with the Copyright Office, plaintiffs were usually limited to actual damages. But could she claim the losses to her family's business as "actual damages," since the harm was caused as a result of the copyright violation?

Before reading any further, you might want to consider how you would answer these questions. Then you can see whether your answers agree with those given by the experts.

Pencils down. First, the things that all lawyers agreed I got completely wrong:

  • Virtually every lawyer who responded said that you could only bring copyright claims in federal court. This advice passed the 8-out-of-10 test, as well it might, since this rule is laid out in the U.S. Code.
  • Second, to bring a copyright claim at all, you first have to register your work with the Copyright Office by mailing it to them with a $35 fee. (There was some inconsistency in the answers here, but the consensus seems to be: You own the copyright on something as soon as you create it, but you can't file a copyright lawsuit until after you've registered your work. However, once you've registered, you can then go back and sue for copyright violations that took place before the registration date. If you register more than 90 days after the date of first publication, you can only sue for actual damages — your monetary losses, or the infringer's ill-gotten gains — for violations that took place before you registered the work. But if you register within 90 days of first publication, you can sue for statutory damages and attorney's fees, even for violations that took place before you registered.)
  • Third: Suppose the court did find that the girl's copyright was violated. Can the harm to her father's business be counted under actual damages? Well, first there is the issue of whether she can consider these as damages at all, since they were to her father's business, not to her. As I put it to Paul MacArthur, Professor of Journalism and Public Relations at Utica College: If X violates the rights of Y but the bulk of the harm is done to Z, can Y sue, even though they weren't the main victim? Professor MacArthur, said: "Generally, no. But, perhaps, because it impacts her family's income, she can claim a loss."

    But the real difference is that harm indirectly resulting from the copyright infringement is not legally the same as actual damages, and here's where the different experts agreed. Said one legal expert who asked not to be identified by name:

    "In the fact pattern for this case, you have to know that the damage to the family is considered 'consequential' or 'indirect' damages - not actual damages. In a copyright suit, actual damages are the financial losses incurred as a result of lost profit from your work."

    Joshua King, an attorney with Avvo.com, a site that provides attorney ratings and other services to help consumers navigate the legal profession, agreed: "Even if a court were to consider the father's lost business, those damages would be considered consequential damages." Three other lawyers who responded all said essentially the same thing.

So those were the points where the lawyers agreed. But what about a fair use defense? From years of reading Copyright FAQs, you probably know that the fair use doctrine allows third parties to use portions of a copyrighted work without the copyright owner's permission under some circumstances. As Mike Plumleigh, an intellectual property lawyer in California summarized it for me, the four factors that determine whether a use qualifies as fair use are:

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. amount and substantially of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Although, whenever I read a law or legal text earnestly claiming that such-and-such depends on this other list of factors, it seems ironic that the list is intended to "clarify" the meaning of the law, when the list items are often just as open to ambiguous interpretation as the original item they were intended to clarify. The acid test of whether a rule has been "clarified" is how much experts agree on how to interpret the rule in a given situation; if experts can't agree to interpret it, then it's no more "clear" than it was before.

That seemed to be the case in this instance, where I got a lot of conflicting answers from the attorneys who responded. Joshua King said: "The newspaper may well have a fair use defense even though they published the whole thing." Mike Plumleigh agreed with the likelihood of the "fair use" defense and gave a longer explanation (referring to his numbered list above):

"Not to go into detail of how a court might rule on the analysis, but here's my quick take:

  • Under (1), the use could be found to be for criticism, comment and (by the paper) news reporting (and the cases also consider 1st amendment factors under this one)
  • Under (2) and (4) the original work was not intended for commercial purposes, had little apparent market value, and is more a short statement of fact/opinion rather than having significant creative or other "authorship" elements.
  • Under (3), all of the "work" seems to have been reproduced, but this factor would likely be outweighed by the others.

I haven't seen the published letter or the original journal post, so my analysis above might be somewhat different if what was copied was a longer essay about life in Coalinga or similar. Nonetheless, the market value/effect would still be an issue, and the criticism/commentary purposes could still tip in favor of fair use."

Venkat Balasubramani, a Seattle copyright attorney, cast a vote-with-caveats for the fair use defense as well:

Fair use is always tough to predict and fact-intensive. On the one hand, there's little commercial value in the letter. Also, the fact that she published the letter in MySpace may itself be newsworthy and the newspaper is entitled to publish at least portions of the letter. Overall, her copyright claims are weak, damages minimal, and the newspaper's fair use arguments fairly strong. (Caveat again the fair-use is fact-intensive.)

In the other corner, Phil Marcus, a negotiation and intellectual property lawyer in Baltimore, commented, "I do not think 'fair use' includes using a person's words to get them run out of town." Professor MacArthur said, "There is no way what the paper's use of the student's writings qualifies as fair use." I asked if the other factors wouldn't weigh in favor of the newspaper, since there was no apparently commercial market for the essay, but Professor MacArthur disagreed:

"The nature of the copyrighted work as a temporarily published work that the girl choose to pull off of her MySpace page. She has the right to remove her writings from her MySpace page and no one has the right to continue to distribute those writings in their entirety without her consent. So, number 2 is her favor (really, issue number two looks more at non-published vs. published, with non-published being afforded more protection).

In terms of number 4, the claim could be made the that there is an impact on the market. These are her personal writings. Perhaps, in the future, she wants to put them on her own web site and make a profit via Google's AdSense or via a pay for content web site. The newspaper, by publishing her writings, may have lessened her ability to charge for this piece/monetize it. I'm not saying she is going to do this, but this issue is something for a judge/jury to decide."

Stephen Roe, an attorney with Lathrop Clark in Virginia, was even-handed but leaning against fair use:

"Were she to sue for copyright infringement, I think the court would be faced with a difficult decision. Were I defending the newspaper and principal, I would certainly assert fair use, in that the purpose was for news reporting and comment and criticism. However, they would appear to have a problem, in that the girl's letter was not submitted BY HER as a letter to the editor, and thus was falsely attributed to her as a letter to the editor... A court may be willing to find that the principal and the paper were NOT within the fair use safe harbor, especially if she could establish ill intent. Were I hearing the case, I would be very sympathetic to her situation, especially given the relationship between the principal and the editor and the apparent mis-attribution."

So, three votes on either side. I myself would probably argue on the side of the fair use defense against a pure copyright violation, because the girl was not selling her work, and the principal was trying to convey the fact of the girl's dislike for Coalinga (which is inappropriate conduct for a high school principal, but not against the law).

I think the lesson here is that even though many Internet copyright controversies depend on what is protected under "fair use," that is much less clearly defined than one might hope. If someone blatantly lifts content from your home page and posts it on their own website for commercial gain, that's a copyright violation, but what if they only post excerpts for the purpose of "commenting" on it? What if you posted something snarky on your blog, and later took it down, but someone else archived a copy on their blog in order to show the world what a dick they thought you were? You may not know offhand whether these actions are protected under "fair use," but it would be nice to think that the answer exists, and that a lawyer could steer you towards it. No such luck in some situations.

Or, perhaps the more general lesson is that when seeking advice from lawyers, it's worth getting multiple opinions. Sometimes if a lawyer tells you, "I'm sure that I'm right about this, because I'm a lawyer," they really are right, as in several of the points above where they set me straight. But not always. And the way to find out is to ask four or five different lawyers and see what they say. I'm a member of a cheap legal insurance plan ($20/month) that entitles to me to call "in-network" lawyers for a few minutes of advice each on a given legal question. The provider probably thinks of this as a cheapo option for people who can't afford real legal consultations, but I think that 10 minutes of advice from 6 different lawyers, is enormously more valuable than one hour of advice from one lawyer, because then you can categorize their advice into things they agree on (which are likely to reflect "the law") and things they don't agree on (which are likely to be just their opinions).

If more legal debaters recognized this distinction, perhaps many bitter legal disputes outside the courtroom could be resolved by agreeing to disagree. Prior to a court ruling, "the law" is just defined as the consensus among legal experts on how to interpret a statute. So if experts are divided on a given question, then by definition there is no consensus and hence no "law," so what are they arguing about?

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IANAL (-1, Redundant)

goffster (1104287) | more than 5 years ago | (#28514747)

But how can someone sue for a copyright violation when there was no copyright?

Re:IANAL (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28514775)

All works are automatically granted copyright protection regardless of if you put a copyright label.

You do end up sharing some of those rights, though (1)

Animaether (411575) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515161)

e.g. YouTube. Ever see the news take YouTube videos, or even those 'funny video' programs with YouTube videos throughout the things?

Ever wondered "hold on.. are they paying these youtube uploaders for the right to use them in their money-generating program?" ?

Well, read the TOS, and quit wondering. You grant YouTube (google) a non-exclusive right to redistribute as they see fit, and that includes deals with big organisations that deal with broadcast (TV) material.

There's probably no real copyright breach here... I agree with posters up above that the newspaper might have been in the wrong (I don't know the -whole- story; if the teacher sent it in, but quoted the post, it's still a letter to the editor.. although the original author did not write the letter an sich, etc.), but there's probably no recourse on account of 'copyright'.

Even if there were, though, aren't we supposed to yell something about information wanting to be free (as in speech AND beer) here?

Re:You do end up sharing some of those rights, tho (4, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515413)

Well, read the TOS, and quit wondering. You grant YouTube (google) a non-exclusive right to redistribute as they see fit, and that includes deals with big organisations that deal with broadcast (TV) material.

Yeah, but that's for YouTube, so it's irrelevant. The question is, what do you agree to in MySpace's TOS?

Besides, even if we did assume it was like YouTube's in that you grant YouTube (or analogously, MySpace) a right to redistribute, the redistribution in this case was done by a third party who never had that right anyway!

RTFA (1)

leuk_he (194174) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515505)

The article points out however that to get "jamie thomas" kind of damages you will need registration. or else you can only go for actual damages (that are very hard too prove).

Re:IANAL (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28514853)

Copyright is automatically granted upon creation of any work , in this case writing. Declaring copyright isn't even necessary anymore.

the heart of most of the copyright problems (2, Insightful)

drDugan (219551) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515265)

given the nature of computers and the Internet, almost every action one takes makes a copy of digital content - making the "automatic copyright" at the heart of the current problems. copying is using, which makes all content created near useless without specific permission (fair use aside).

it seems to me, things would work a lot better if copyright had to be claimed, and it could be claimed by an easy and free method, digitally (eg submit a hash to a central registry, get a number, and post the number with the work) - and all other content was granted an automatic CC-BY or similar rights to the creator if they do nothing.

remain in place the system and penalties for infringement of claimed copyrights - but allow the rest of the world to create an open exchange of content and creative expression that encourages sharing and copying.

Re:IANAL (2, Insightful)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 5 years ago | (#28514883)

IANAL either, but yesterday [slashdot.org] it was asserted that there is implicit copyright to any published material.

Re:IANAL (3, Insightful)

CowboyBob500 (580695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28514931)

In the UK I have automatic copyright over everything and anything I write. I don't have to register anything, it doesn't matter if its public or private. There is no fair use law here so they couldn't use that excuse either. If anyone did this in the UK, they would have their asses sued off and they would lose. It's much more black and white here I think. And a good thing that is too from the looks of things.

Re:IANAL (1)

TheCycoONE (913189) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515143)

Does this mean you have to contact the author of every work you quote in an essay?

Re:IANAL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28515251)

Does this mean you have to contact the author of every work you quote in an essay?

De minimis non curat lex.

Re:IANAL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28515351)

No. There's exemptions [opsi.gov.uk] for private study, incidental inclusion and for purpose of criticism or review (in the latter case, so long as the original work is cited).

Re:IANAL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28515015)

She does have a copyright to her own words. From the editorial:
----
There was some inconsistency in the answers here, but the consensus seems to be: You own the copyright on something as soon as you create it, but you can't file a copyright lawsuit until after you've registered your work.
----

So the issue would not be that she doesn't have a copyright, but that she didn't register her copyright and that may limit the damages she can claim.

(Of course the whole point of this article is that everything is "may", "might" and "could be".)

Re:IANAL (2)

JamesBarger (1585975) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515025)

It appears the consensus is that the girl's original work was protected by copyright. As explained above, one can still win a claim of copyright violation without registering the work prior to the violation. The act of registration is not required in order to establish or create the copyright. Rather, the copyright inheres in the work when it is created. (Of course, it's worth remembering that while this reporter is writing mainly about copyright violations, there may be other causes of action that would make for a stronger case, if the girl chooses to pursue them.)

Re:IANAL (1)

NovaHorizon (1300173) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515381)

wow, I know reading the article is a sin.. but you didn't even read the summary..
 

Second, to bring a copyright claim at all, you first have to register your work with the Copyright Office by mailing it to them with a $35 fee. (There was some inconsistency in the answers here, but the consensus seems to be: You own the copyright on something as soon as you create it, but you can't file a copyright lawsuit until after you've registered your work. However, once you've registered, you can then go back and sue for copyright violations that took place before the registration date. If you register more than 90 days after the date of first publication, you can only sue for actual damages â" your monetary losses, or the infringer's ill-gotten gains â" for violations that took place before you registered the work. But if you register within 90 days of first publication, you can sue for statutory damages and attorney's fees, even for violations that took place before you registered.)

Everything is protected... (3, Interesting)

WebCowboy (196209) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515483)

...but copyright is the wrong battle here I think.

But how can someone sue for a copyright violation when there was no copyright?

There is always a copyright. All works are protected by copyright law, including this very post and yours (yeah I quoted you...if you wanted you could sue me but your case for damages would be weak, but you still have that right).

You would've figured that out if you RTFA--and you didn't even need to follow a link to do it! But, this is /. and RTFA is just not done here unless you are weird I guess--especially if you are trying to be first post.

Anyways, there is a problem with using copyright as the legal weapon in this battle. Since you are too busy to RTFA, this is why:

1 the work is NON-registered. Without registering copyright in a timely manner you are limited to actual, direct monetary damages.
2 the "work" is a catty rant on myspace--little to no tangible worth to that being supply exceeds demand by a huge margin and nobody has to pay to see it.
3 do the math: 1 plus 2 equals you get nothing in court. Daddy lost his business? Sorry. not actual, direct damages to the creator. Denied.

A civil case based on "false light publication" is a better alternative I'd think, as briefly mentioned in the article. The principal acted in appalling fashion and should lose his job and be sued into oblivion. Sad how such an immature person of such weak moral character could be in a position of professional responsibility like that. Perhaps a symptom of low pay and inadequate respect for the job. The newspaper also did very shoddy work in publishing the letter without verifying the source. I mean...that seems like a very basic common sense thing to do. Intent was clearly malicious and meant to deceive. Strictly speaking if the principal should have prefaced the letter with something like "this is what one of my students thinks about this town" and as a professional kept the contributor anonymous...and disclosed that he/she was the contributor of the letter not the original author. Teachers always tell students to properly cite works not created by them...it is disgraceful that the principal would not set a proper example.

Additionally, criminal prosecution should be pursued against those making treats. Either this girl said something especially offensive or she is right about her town. People who would utter threats or work to destroy the livelihood of innocent family members not associated with the author's statements hardly deserve to be called human beings. But, I suppose the author herself might have been a nasty person herself...I can't make those judgements conclusively without knowing the whole story.

Whatever the legal question (5, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#28514757)

This was unquestionably an EXTREME violation of journalistic ethics by the newspaper in question. At the very least, they should be publicly denounced by every other newspaper in the area and the staff involved should be booted out of any professional organizations they're affiliated with. I'm not sure if there is any journalistic equivalent of a "Razzie [wikipedia.org] ," but if they're is, this should earn them one.

Re:Whatever the legal question (1)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 5 years ago | (#28514859)

Whatever the question, I hate Coalinga, too. I lived for 20 years on the Monterey peninsula, and was once stranded in King City for 7 hours. Believe me. The 7 hours seemed longer!

Coalinga makes King City look like Chicago.

I'm of the convinced opinion that after you move inland 5 miles from the coast, you can cede all of California to Nevada and Arizona.

Re:Whatever the legal question (1)

dcollins117 (1267462) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515437)

I had never heard of the place until now. From the context

"The older I get, the more I realize how much I despise Coalinga."

I figured it was a new slang term the kids use when referring to oral sex.

I stand corrected.

Re:Whatever the legal question (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28514871)

"Journalistic Ethics" Does that exist anymore? The Fourth Estate in this country has been on a collision course with irrelevance for 15 years now. They care not a wit about ethics and right or wrong in their search for a controversy to sell papers/magazines/ad revenue. It's a Hard Copy world even in hometown newspapers. It's no wonder why they are all going out of business...

Re:Whatever the legal question (3, Insightful)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515059)

Not to mention a lapse on the part of the former principal. Although this would not seem to be a case of plagiarism per se, since he does not appear to be taking credit for someone else's work, his grasp of honesty and intellectual property rights should be advanced enough to prevent him from doing this. Legally bound or not, I think he was ethically bound not to republish without consent, and it shows enormously poor judgment for someone in his position. If the piece was inflammatory enough to result in death threats and the closure of a family business, he must have had some idea of how it would be received before he sent it in.

I'm not clear on whether the newspaper was complicit in publishing something they knew to be copyrighted. Did the principal send it in with a note that said 'Hey, I found this on the internet, thought you might like to publish it.', or did he simply send it in as if it came from her directly?

Re:Whatever the legal question (4, Insightful)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515361)

I don't believe it was a lapse on the part of the former principal, I believe it was a flagrant action with malicious intent. If she had decent representation before her first lawsuit, it might have gone differently for her:

As several lawyers said to me while I was asking them questions for this story, the girl would probably have a better claim for "intentional infliction of emotional distress" and for "false light publicity"

Re:Whatever the legal question (2, Insightful)

JamesBarger (1585975) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515117)

Agreed. This is something every respectable journalism school teaches students not to do in practice. A journalist is betraying his profession when he intentionally sets out to "get" someone or hurt their reputation without a true news angle or some compelling reason to convey the information -- especially when the victim is not a public figure. Printing a quote or small excerpt from the original piece within a larger commentary or news story might be acceptable, but publishing the work, in its entirety, as if it had been submitted to the editor by the author, when it was not, is absolutely against good professional practice. That kind of unethical action -- if that's what happened -- is also a good hint that a basis for a lawsuit may linger within the facts (e.g. a common law tort action, such as intentional infliction of emotional distress), although determining that would require more information and analysis by a qualified lawyer.

Re:Whatever the legal question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28515189)

If you can violate copyrights of an artist or a software company, what do you care about some kid's myspace account?

Re:Whatever the legal question (1)

DarrenBaker (322210) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515241)

That's the best damned idea I've heard in a very, very long time. A local station's evening 'news' broadcast in my area (A-Channel News Barrie [www.atv.ca] ) is one of the worst offenders - just abhorrent. I don't catch it very often, but when I do, I find something more to loathe about it, usually it involves a reporter hired more for their aesthetic appeal than their journalistic aptitude.

Last week, there was a police shooting of a man who was allegedly threatening the officers. The reporter said (I'm paraphrasing, but it was close), "Police have not yet released the name of the deceased. Neighbours say his name is... " and then revealed the man's name. I hope no uninformed relatives were watching.

What other papers? (2, Interesting)

Bryan Gividen (739949) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515275)

The Wikipedia page for Coalinga, California (where I assume this is taking place) estimates the 2007 population at just over 18,000 people. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coalinga,_California). It seems that the paper involved, the Hanford Sentinel, services all of King County (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kings_County,_California) which has a little over 150,000 people total. Granted, I am sure the LA Times or some other large circulation paper could condemn them, I doubt they cater to the same audience as those subscribing to a small-town oriented paper like the Sentinel.

Still, I agree with your point - people need to shun this circulation for its lack of journalistic integrity. Sadly, there aren't a lot of competitors (to my knowledge - someone have better knowledge?) to wag their finger at them.

The wrong issue (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28514829)

I would have thought the real issue wouldn't be copyright violation, but more of misrepresentation? The letter was represented as a letter to the editor from the girl, when it was not....

Re:The wrong issue (5, Insightful)

Stumbles (602007) | more than 5 years ago | (#28514887)

My thoughts exactly, and it is the Principle that should get hammered. Not only did this Principle make false representations, he also stole her identity by representing himself as her. At the very least this Principle should be sued on those grounds, and regardless of that outcome he should be fired.

Re:The wrong issue (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28514959)

True. And what kind of redneck a-holes live in this town. Death threats... Running the family out of town... Over, their barely out of her teens daughters essay on why she hates the town. Like she is the first adolescent to feel this way. Didn't they just prove her right? What happened to being an adult and laughing off the antics of children rather than responding in a more childish manner oneself.

Re:The wrong issue (5, Insightful)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515141)

Dear Coalinga,

Thanks for proving my rant accurate beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Sincerely,
- The 20something girl

PS: You still suck.

Re:The wrong issue (1)

iamhigh (1252742) | more than 5 years ago | (#28514965)

Why should he be fired? She graduated long ago, he is no longer responsible for her. What he did may be wrong, maybe even against the law, but why would you fire him? His job seems to have little to do with the case; would you ask for his job if he was a manager at McDonalds and she was a former employee?

Re:The wrong issue (2, Informative)

Stumbles (602007) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515037)

Apparently you missed or do not understand the phrases "making false representations", and "stealing a persons identity". People have gotten fired for a lot less. I think his actions qualify for more than a lot less.

Re:The wrong issue (4, Interesting)

AceCaseOR (594637) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515177)

Also, this is, to a certain extent, a betrayal of the trust of current students at the high school, it sends a message that, even if you leave town, we know where your family lives, and if you do anything that, by the moral standards of that community is untoward (even if the rest of the world doesn't find it unethical - like saying you don't like your home town and you're glad you left), your family can and will be punished for it, outside the law, by the community.

Thus is the tyranny of small towns. I really wish the girl and her family had appealed, because I suspect if the case had reacheda court that wasn't as "tainted" by the region, she might have gotten an actual fair hearing.

Re:The wrong issue (0)

iamhigh (1252742) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515235)

Apparently you can read a lot better than I. I didn't see either of those accusations in the actual summary; perhaps you think they happened, or have a better source, but it was never implied that he was the one that faked her identity (it could have been the paper). He may have simply sent the link or text.

And you still didn't really answer. What does his job/trade/profession have to do with this case? Why should anybody's job be affected by a copy/paste that may have had no ill will attached at all? We really need more details to make these calls.

Re:The wrong issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28515407)

What does his job/trade/profession have to do with this case?

His utter lack of respect for boundaries when dealing with a minor.

Re:The wrong issue (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515329)

Did he do those things? If the message he sent the editor said, in preface to the copy of the rant 'look what so and so said on her blag', then he didn't make a false representation or impersonate anybody.

(I only looked at the linked decision briefly and it didn't really seem to relate the details of how the rant passed from principal to editor)

Re:The wrong issue (2, Interesting)

evilkasper (1292798) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515067)

It's a matter of ethics, something you expect someone in his position to have a modicum of.

Re:The wrong issue (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28515119)

Really? You think the proper behavior for the High School principal is browsing former students MySpace pages and if he decides he doesn't like the content conspiring to "Out Them". Really? Is this the kind of person you want in charge of your child's education? The entire series of events is unclear but if he forwarded the post as her to the newspaper at minimum he fraudulently misrepresented himself and probably forged her identification. Since this was mailed that would constitute Federal Wire Fruad...

Re:The wrong issue (1)

Andy Somnifac (971725) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515155)

Are you implying that you would suggest a different outcome if the student was still attending the school he is the principal of? If so, why does it matter? Is not this ethical breach the same in either case?

Re:The wrong issue (1)

iamhigh (1252742) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515409)

It certainly would change it. After she graduated these two no longer had the relationship of Teacher/Admin to Student. They were just like any other two citizens in the community.
As an aside, I knew of a teacher that sent a students work to a publishing house without her knowledge. It was published and the student was greatful. I guess it is the outcome that really matters.

Re:The wrong issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28515187)

Stole her identity? Come on - check the drama at the door.

Re:The wrong issue (5, Funny)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515249)

and it is the Principle that should get hammered

The principAL should get hammered principALly as a matter of principLE.

The real issue... (3, Insightful)

azrider (918631) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515403)

Her former high school principal found the rant while browsing her MySpace page (what?), and forwarded it to the town newspaper, which published the "rant" without the girl's permission, signed with her full name, as a letter to the editor (what?).

  • It is not clear from the article whether or not her page was public.
  • Even if it were public, without seeing the actual letter to the editor whether or not the principal wrote "I found this..." or whether the "letter to the editor" was portrayed as being submitted by the student.
  • If the letter was submitted as the principal's opinion, then
    • He or she was wrong in identifying the student.
    • The paper was wrong in accepting the submission without obtaining consent from the student prior to publishing the content

In any case, there could be a good argument for damages (assuming a sympathetic jury), not from the abuse of copyright but from the assault on the family's privacy and business interests. However, this would be better if the suit came from the father (who lost his business) and/or the family as a whole (who suffered the consesquences), on the basis of slander (the MySpace entry portrayed the opinion of one as the sentiments of the entire group).

Re:The wrong issue (2, Insightful)

RingDev (879105) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515431)

Agreed. I would look at this like less of a Copy Right issue and more of a digital trespass issue. Although, I think the digital side would be much easier to prove if you could get a conviction for copy right violation. While the newspaper has pretty solid grounds for their publishing, I'd be hard pressed to believe that the Principal could make the same arguments successfully.

-Rick

Tell her to file a suit (3, Insightful)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 5 years ago | (#28514847)

in this judge's court [slashdot.org] . while you're at it, ask him again if the newspapers are the ones who need protection.

Law is bullshit (4, Insightful)

Absolut187 (816431) | more than 5 years ago | (#28514889)

I'm a computer-engineer-turned-patent-attorney.

My undergraduate degree was filled with (relatively) clearly-defined and immutable rules of logic and physics.

Law school was the polar opposite.

Re:Law is bullshit (1)

e9th (652576) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515125)

It would help if people could agree on the postulates. The Constitution? What does the 2nd amendment really say? It depends on you point of view. The commerce clause? And so on.

Re:Law is bullshit (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515135)

I'm a computer-engineer-turned-patent-attorney.

I wonder how often this happens. I have a friend in CA who went the same route (is that you Dan?) though I hear he likes Grey Goose, not Absolut :-)

Re:Law is bullshit (1)

goffster (1104287) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515167)

Law is a simply a different discipline that takes skills other than brute
force intellect. It takes creativity, reading comprehension, and lots
of legwork.

TL;DR (2, Insightful)

vivaoporto (1064484) | more than 5 years ago | (#28514893)

Can anyone summarize the summary?

Re:TL;DR (5, Funny)

Absolut187 (816431) | more than 5 years ago | (#28514921)

Girl regrets MySpace post.

Lawyers argue.

Re:TL;DR (2, Insightful)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515023)

Creepy high school principal roots around former female student's MySpace page.
Hick town turns vengeful against family of student.

Re:TL;DR (2, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515395)

I love jokes that are as insightful as they are funny. I'm surprised no one has pointed it out yet, but I was always told the rule was "don't post anything to a website you wouldn't mind showing up in the local paper". Seems appropriate in this case.

This is a tricky situation to me; while the newspaper obviously has some pretty extreme ethics problems, it's hard for me to argue that they don't have the right to report on what she said. But then, they passed off what she had said as a letter to the editor, which it most surely is not. I would understand their behavior better if they had published it as an editorial, even if they reproduced it in it's entirety. Basically, I feel that claiming it as a letter to the editor makes it seem like the girl went out of her way to insult the people of the town, posting it somewhere else would have gone a long way towards making it clear that it was just a random Internet rant.

I would think that suing for harassment would be a better way to go if she were really interested in pursuing it. Also, question for the armchair lawyers out there, can you sue someone for libel for taking your own words out of context? Not sure if it would apply here, but to me taking an informal My Space rant and passing it off as a formal letter to the editor should qualify.

Re:TL;DR (3, Informative)

Absolut187 (816431) | more than 5 years ago | (#28514973)

Ok, slightly longer version:

1. A girl's MySpace rant was copied by a newspaper and her dad's business apparently went under as a result (?)

2. The girl sued the newspaper.

3. This reporter surveyed a bunch of lawyers about the merits of her copyright claim against the newspaper, in light of the newspaper's possible "fair use" defense.

4. He got a bunch of different answers on some topics, while there was agreement on others.

5. Reporter seems surprised that there is a diversity in the accuracy/quality of legal opinions. The reporter then waxes philosophical about the nature of law based on the lack of consensus from lawyers.

Re:TL;DR (2, Funny)

Joe Snipe (224958) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515293)

Great, now we're back to TL;DR!

Re:TL;DR (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515019)

Websites stealing from newspapers, not news. Newspaper stealing from little girl's Myspace page, hot news.

Re:TL;DR (1)

shabble (90296) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515035)

Student posts flame about hometown on MySpace, subsequently removes it.

Ex-princicple saw it while it was up, posted it to local rag with her name and address attached.

She gets threats, her father has to close his business.

Laywers, when asked identical questions, disagree on certain aspects of copyright and agree on others when using copyright as a possible way of getting money out of the local rag.

Re:TL;DR (2, Interesting)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515113)

In a nutshell he's saying Copyright law needs further clarification.

Some years ago someone I was reading mentioned that you should always put an explicit copyright notice on your resume if you put it on the internet. Apparently unethical recruiting agencies will troll the internet for resumes and submit them to all their clients. This is a problem if you're trying to apply to a company your resume has been sent to, as company rules usually forbid directly hiring anyone who has already been submitted through an agency. I have found this to be excellent advice and have noticed that since I started doing this, agencies are very careful to get my permission prior to sending my resume to a client. Perhaps a copyright notice on the post in question would have prevented this from happening.

What about MySpace TOS? (2, Insightful)

heritage727 (693099) | more than 5 years ago | (#28514919)

The first question that occurred to me is whether she even has rights to the piece. If MySpace has one of those all-your-rights-are-belong-to-us TOS, she might not be in a position to bring a copyright claim at all.

Re:What about MySpace TOS? (5, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#28514981)

6. Proprietary Rights in Content on MySpace.com.

1. MySpace.com does not claim any ownership rights in the text, files, images, photos, video, sounds, musical works, works of authorship, or any other materials (collectively, "Content") that you post to the MySpace Services. After posting your Content to the MySpace Services, you continue to retain all ownership rights in such Content, and you continue to have the right to use your Content in any way you choose. By displaying or publishing ("posting") any Content on or through the MySpace Services, you hereby grant to MySpace.com a limited license to use, modify, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce, and distribute such Content solely on and through the MySpace Services.

from:

http://www1.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=misc.terms [myspace.com]

So it sounds like she probably retains the copyright.

Re:What about MySpace TOS? (1)

Z_A_Commando (991404) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515215)

I agree. However, the article says that this happened in 2005. Does anyone have any idea what the MySpace TOS said back then? Doubtful they were much different, but they could be. Just look at Facebook.

Re:What about MySpace TOS? (1)

ericrost (1049312) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515171)

I had the same thought, but surprisingly no. I think its mainly because MySpace is for shitty local bands to publicize music. That would be wholly incompatible with a non-Web2.0 friendly ToS.

http://www1.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=misc.terms [myspace.com]

No problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28514927)

Baseball bat, newspaper editor, knee.........problem solved.

Re:No problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28515013)

Baseball bat, principal, head.........problem solved.

FTFY

Legal Insurance (1)

kabloom (755503) | more than 5 years ago | (#28514933)

Could you share more information about this cheapo legal insurance plan, or others like it?

Is simple (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | more than 5 years ago | (#28514953)

if (you == RIAA) {
throw COPY_VIOLATION;
} else {
throw NOBODY_CARES;
}

Re:Is simple (2, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515441)

if (you == RIAA) {
throw COPY_VIOLATION;
} else {
throw NOBODY_CARES;


Not really. If you are in the business of being a recording studio, the copyrighted material that you and the artists with which you work produce has a very real, commercial value to it. If you RTFA/S you'll see that some of the legal vagueness on this one surrounds the fact that her MySpace rant wasn't published in any sort of commercial context. It's just her, ranting. That doesn't have anything to do with whether or not she owns the copyright, but it has a lot to do with what's at stake when someone infringes on those copyrights. So, people who don't feel like meeting the price an artist is asking for the work they're selling, and simply rip it off, instead, are - correctly - the targets of a different sort of attention, legally. They're ripping someone off to avoid having to pay what the seller is asking. The MySpace rant wasn't for sale, and she doesn't earn her income through publishing her writings. That's an important consideration in arriving at a sense of what's at stake in the infringement.

The real issue is whether or not the newspaper knew they were misrepresenting the provenance of the "letter." The school principal sounds like a first rate asshat. Being buddies with the newspaper editor, it sounds unlikely that the "letter" made it into the Dear Editors area without it being well understood that it was a hatchet job. So, principal and editor are sleazy jerks. Fair enough, and this does strike me as a case of infringment, and other things besides. But the damages from the infringment aren't in the form of chipping away at what the rant author does for a living. And that's what's different, in this case, compared to a million kids buying themselves another Grande Iced Skim Half-Caffe Lattecino with the few bucks they saved by systematically ripping off the music of their favorite artists instead of paying a couple of bucks for it.

Slashdot Trolling New Lows +1, True (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28514961)

With Myspace news. What's next, a discussion about the
the future of Michael Jackson's estate?

The comments on ALL of your stories is hitting new lows.

Good luck in Chapter 7.

Yours In Communism,
Kilgore Trout

Re:Slashdot Trolling New Lows +1, True (1)

Antidamage (1506489) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515063)

The original Kilgore Trout can actually string a sentence together without failing like you did.

Is that so? (1)

Stumbles (602007) | more than 5 years ago | (#28514963)

Now if I understand what this guy was told by the lawyers is correct, and let me summarize my understanding based on what we have been told in the article. You create something and you automatically own the copyright, BUT you don't really own them until you plop down 35 bucks? Hmm. Well then. That sounds like to me that every newspaper, magazine, booklet, etc, etc for every article they publish they have to cough up 35 bucks for each and every one? That doesn't hardly sound right to me.

How often do lawyers really say... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28514989)

"I'm sure that I'm right about this, because I'm a lawyer?"

Any decent lawyer knows that unsettled areas of the law are, by definition, unsettled. Cases can end up in court because the facts are in dispute, but they can also end up in court because the law is not clear with regards to the situation.

The most common answer you get from a lawyer are the words: "it depends." An undisclosed fact, a pertinent case not considered, or the whims of a judge and jury can all affect how a case would play out if tried.

A lawyer saying "I'm right, because I'm a lawyer" would be like a programmer saying "this program is bug free, because I'm a programmer." It just doesn't (or at least shouldn't) happen that often.

What's wrong with this town? (4, Insightful)

residieu (577863) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515005)

Some kid writes a letter with the standard "this town sucks" theme, and people boycott her parent's business? What's wrong with these people? I bet half the teenagers and college-aged kids in that town agree that Coalinga sucks. Just like all the kids in every other small town think their home town sucks. Give them a few years after they move out of town and they'll realize the city sucks too.

Re:What's wrong with this town? (5, Insightful)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515207)

Actually, I think that the people of Coalinga have, by their actions, proved incontrovertibly that Coalinga sucks.

Re:What's wrong with this town? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28515319)

Give them a few years after they move out of town and they'll realize the city sucks too.

Then they move to another city, and decide the new city sucks too. Repeat ad nauseum until one day they realize in a face-palm moment that the only common thing among all those cities that sucked was -- them! Sad...

Re:What's wrong with this town? (2, Insightful)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515429)

The whole problem is the forum in which the rant was "posted." Letters to the editor reach a particular segment of society, far different from the segment that typically kvetches on MySpace, seeing those opinions in black and white on their breakfast table apparently moved some codgers to action, yeah they're misguided idiots, but this isn't the first or last time a crusade has been/will be launched over ridiculous inflation of casual statements.

Re:What's wrong with this town? (1)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515459)

What's wrong with these people? I bet half the teenagers and college-aged kids in that town agree that Coalinga sucks.

Not only that, but now half of everybody on the internet thinks Coalinga is a backwards shit-hole. Nice work Coalinga!

Re:What's wrong with this town? (4, Insightful)

RomulusNR (29439) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515465)

It's every small town and suburb in America, that's what's wrong with it. Insular, conservative, hyper-proud, self-important, sluggish, anti-growth, closed-minded, conceited, and delusional.

Identity theft? (5, Insightful)

MiniMike (234881) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515011)

Maybe she would have some luck trying to tack on a charge of identity theft, for the principal submitting the 'editorial' using her name? It seems increasingly easy to throw that type of charge at someone these days. Or maybe some type of fraud? If the statute of limitations hasn't run out. Of course, IANAL. I hope at the least the school board reviewed the actions of the principal.

Easy Answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28515043)

There's an easy answer to this question:

If she's trying to retain you as an Attorney, then certainly she should be able to sue them.

If the newspaper's trying to retain you as an Attorney, then obviously she's way out of line and not covered by copyright on her material.

The newspaper did sell copies, yes? (2, Informative)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515047)

She is therefore, in my mind, entitled to the revenues generated -- some or all -- from the unlawful distribution of her work. It can't be lawful distribution, because it was a reprint of something already copied without permission by the person who submitted it to the paper, who was not reporting news or making commentary.

IANAL, but it seems fairly clear to me that damages include not compensating her for printing her work in whole (in order to sell papers) without her permission. I'd say she's owed something on those grounds.

Hmm. (2, Informative)

apodyopsis (1048476) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515093)

more info

http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1202429677896 [law.com]

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/04/court-your-myspace-page-isnt-private.ars [arstechnica.com]

And the court summary..

http://fsnews.findlaw.com/cases/ca/caapp4th/slip/2009/f054138.html [findlaw.com]

Interesting, I did not know of this. In the UK I think she would of had more success with the courts.

In any case it is common sense to watch what you post online. Once you click that mouse its gone, and you can never be sure that you can retract or recover.

Court Rules MySpace Posts Aren't Private (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28515095)

Following a visit to her hometown of Coalinga California in 2005, Cynthia Moreno wrote "An ode to Coalinga," and posted it in her MySpace page [law.com] . The Ode opened with "the older I get, the more I realize how much I despise Coalinga" and made a number of negative comments about Coalinga and its inhabitants. The entry was posted for six days before Moreno removed it but that was long enough for the principal of Coalinga High School to find the ode and forward it to Pamela Pond, editor of the Coalinga Record, who published it in the newspaper's letters section. Local reaction was swift. Moreno's parents say they received death threats, a gun shot was fired at their home and her father's 20-year-old business lost so much money that it was closed and the family moved out of town. Moreno and her family responded by suing for invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Now a Fresno based appellate court says Moreno had no grounds for her claim of invasion of privacy even if she meant her thoughts for a limited audience [findlaw.com] . "Cynthia's affirmative act made her article available to any person with a computer and, thus, opened it to the public eye," wrote Justice Levy. However, the claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress was not dismissed and a jury will get to decide if the defendants' conduct was extreme and outrageous. In the meantime the editor who republished the essay has been fired and lawyer Eric Goldman, Associate Professor of Law at Santa Clara University School of Law, wonders "if the violent and ostracizing community response to Moreno's post didn't in fact validate some of her critiques [ericgoldman.org] ."

You get what you deserve (-1, Flamebait)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515097)

The resulting fallout included death threats against the family and the closure of the 20-year-old business owned by the girl's father.

Bullshit.

Her fathers business might have closed for any number of reasons, but a MySpace posting or newspaper article copied from that posting wasn't the reason that it happened.

Sorry daddy's business failed, but it did not fail because of a news paper editorial article.

It probably failed because it wasn't run properly and this is a nice excuse to blame it on someone else and try to sue.

There is of course the possibility that what the girl said infuriated SO MANY PEOPLE that the business no longer had any customers. If thats the case, again it wasn't the newspaper article that did it, it was the girls upbringing. She obviously was too stupid to realize that posting on the Internet is not private.

The worst thing that happened here is that the newspaper reprinted something and lied about the intention of the article, but thats as far as it goes. They didn't post anything that wasn't already public knowledge.

The newspaper didn't ruin daddy's business, mommy and daddy did when they raised a douche bag daughter. Of course, this is to be expected as apparently none of them are willing to take responsibility and accept that their own actions directly resulted in the consequences they want to blame the newspaper for.

The newspaper should have properly attributed the work, or for their online version, link to it directly. I understand the problem with printing a link to a website in a printed newspaper, so I can understand copying it for reference, it was after all a public document that anyone could see anyway. IANAL but I believe this actually falls under fair use when done with proper attribution.

The judge in this case should throw any one involved in the court case in jail for wasting tax payer money and court time while this family tries to punish everyone else and not take responsibility for their own actions. Forced labor, since otherwise we're just wasting more money holding them when they should be contributing back to the world. Hrm, the more I think about it the more I think daddy's business was probably doomed from day one. With no sense of responsibility its going to be pretty hard to have a successful business.

Re:You get what you deserve (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28515203)

Bullshit yourself. You don't have any idea why her dad's business failed... "it probably failed...et al" and this conjecture would come from where other than straight out your ass?

Shouldn't you be in some remedial summer school class about now?

Re:You get what you deserve (1)

LuvlyOvipositor (1578009) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515317)

Assume much?

Yeah. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28515123)

"One of Coalingaâ(TM)s longest traditions is the Annual Horned Toad Derby"

I'm with the girl. I hate Coalinga too, despite never having been there.

I too ANAL (1)

arizwebfoot (1228544) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515137)

Seems to be she would be barred from another law suit since she already litigated the issue. At the time of the initial litigation, you are supposed to bring all the issues at the same time, not piece meal.

However, this is a case for Super NYCL to weigh in.

Fundamentally censorship (1)

Pinckney (1098477) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515139)

The intent is basically censorship. The author wishes the material had never come to light, and wishes to punish the individuals who brought it to light. The proposed lawsuit for damages is basically an abuse of copyright law. Copyright is a limited monopoly granted to allow the author to benefit from the distribution of their work. It is not intended to allow them to suppress material.

Re:Fundamentally censorship (2, Insightful)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515231)

Who is benefiting from the work? Isn't the newspaper selling copies of its papers? Don't you think this work of the girl's sold more copies? If the newspaper benefits from making copies of her work and has no rights to do so, then her copyright has been violated, hasn't it?

don't sue, bill (1)

doug (926) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515197)

She shouldn't bother suing because her myspace page is public. But the newspaper was able to fill its pages because of her work, and that means that they profited due to her actions. That says to me that she should bill them. I don't know how much reporters get paid per column inch, but that is what she should charge them. It won't be much, because reporters have to fill a lot of column inches to live well, but it is the best chance she has for getting something out of this.

Major power blocks in the US want people to pay for usage (think RIAA, MPAA, etc), and if that is the road we're going down, then every consumer who redistributes should pay. That newspaper redistributed her content, therefore she is entitled to payment. Anyone at the RIAA will swear to that on a stack of bibles.

- doug

Unfortunate (1)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515211)

This is people being mean. Most kids hate their small towns. Most people hate their small towns (until they reach a certain age, at which point they consider anyone younger than them "newcomers" and feel the town was better without them). To print a kid's rant in a newspaper is flat out spiteful, unprofessional, and certainly not very adult.

If a judge could rule in favor of the principal and newspaper being complete asses (which I firmly believe should be possible under the law, and if it's not, let's start a ballot proposition), he should do so, and have them publicly apologize in their own newspaper for being such.

What the hell with these people. I'm not even that old, but I'm wise enough to know that 95% of what a teenager says is emotion and not reason. Shrug it off, ESPECIALLY if it offends you, as that was likely the intent. They're teenagers!

Aren't newspapers dead??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28515227)

OK. Why are suddenly the rules different for newspapers. If he posted a link on the town web site, wouldn't the result have been the same?

Nevermind copyright... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28515243)

IANAL, but in addition to any criminal procedings over copyright, etc (libel? - lying about letter to editor) couldn't she also file a civil suit against the principal for the emotional distress and financial damages she and her family have incurred over his actions?

AFAIK the standard of proof for civil procedings is much lower than for criminal ones... She doesn't need to win a potentially complex copyright case for a judge to agree that she's anyways incurred damages through the deliberate actions of the principal.

For Profit Use (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28515349)

But what about the arguement of the newspaper using it for Profit. Newspapers, TV stations, news organizations are for profit endeavors. They used her work for their profit.

I think she had every right to sue them for a share of those profits.

Re:For Profit Use (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28515453)

The paper is guilty of criminal misrepresentation (actual crime) by claiming her work was a letter to the editor. Criminals are not allowed to profit from their crimes. So the paper should not be able to profit from their crime of theft/misrepresentation and she should be allowed to sue on that basis.

Roger Campbell (1)

ProteusQ (665382) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515375)

Would very much like to pay for a serious background check on this guy -- using public records, of course -- and see how he appreciates that info being posted on the net.

Re:Roger Campbell (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515499)

You could a polite email to rcampbell@chusd.k12.ca.us indicating that you've heard things about his conduct as principal of Coalinga High School that you find concerning.

Troll (1)

Rasperin (1034758) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515445)

You know, this would be a fantastic way to troll someone.

Hopefully Not Too Redundant (1)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515449)

In a rush, haven't read the full post or comments yet, but this is screaming in my head:

Normally the "damages" for unauthorized copying of a MySpace post would be so close to zero, that a moral victory in court is all you could get.

I don't think it's about "damages". Doesn't willful infringement for commercial gain carry extra penalties? Jammie got hit with $80k each for willful infringement not for commercial gain.

What am I missing?

Who cares about copyright? (1)

Muros (1167213) | more than 5 years ago | (#28515451)

Should this teacher not be sued for identity theft?
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