Thursday, April 21, 2011

Blog shakedown

One of the gay news blogs I read daily is Pam's House Blend. As is done by many progressive blogs, Pam and the other major writers will quote a bit of a story published elsewhere, add a photo or two, provide a link to the original, and perhaps add some commentary. I do a bit of that myself, though I don't use many pictures and my readership is in the 10s while Pam's is somewhere north of 100,000. As far as gay blogs go, Pam is rather influential. But blogging, even with ads on the site, doesn't pay well. Pam and other contributors keep day jobs and must interrupt those jobs when covering an event or take part in a conference. Travel expenses are barely covered by ad revenue.

There is a conservative organization out there (which I'm reluctant to name to avoid popping up on their Google Alert) that targets progressive blogs and recently hit the Blend. They file a suit of copyright infringement, asking for a penalty greater than what most blogs can afford, but small enough it's too expensive to hire a lawyer to protest the suit. They don't warn the blog owners to stop infringing on copyrighted material, they go straight for the suit. In addition they ask the court, not just compensation for the infringement, but to seize the site's domain name. That makes the risk of a trial even higher. The real goal is, of course, to shut the blog down. It is essentially a shakedown.

If it went to trial, Pam might have won based a couple facts. First, she (and other contributors) stay within "fair use" of copyrighted material, meaning short quotes are permitted, reproductions of whole articles are not. Second, as is now being revealed, the leeches do not actually own the copyrighted material they mention in their suit. That means they are not the ones being harmed and thus have no legal standing to bring the suit. More info here.

Pam is quite annoyed that both previously targeted blogs and mainstream medial has been mighty quiet on this extortion. Perhaps that is beginning to change.

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