Copyright Troll Righthaven Appeal Prompts Important Fair Use Question

Righthaven earned its troll status by having a business plan that entails acquiring enough rights in copyright-protected material to allow it to sue unwary copyright infringers.  A California court recently ruled that one such defendant’s use of a Las Vegas Review-Journal article was fair use.  Righthaven appealed to the 9th Circuit.  Among the questions the court will consider is one important to daily life in Web 3.0, namely, “whether newspapers that invite readers to share articles effectively grant readers licenses to reproduce material in ways that would otherwise infringe on copyright” (via MediaPost).

Would bloggers and Tumblr devotees be surprised to learn that when they use media-provided sharing tools to post to their blogs that such “sharing” may still be deemed copyright infringement?  This predicament is grounded in the ideology gap between the culture of people my colleague @grayvi calls “digital natives,” who always used digital materials in the workplace and the culture of “digital immigrants” who adapted to the digital workplace. Both cultures have advantages and disadvantages, but each has a different approach to intellectual property.  Sharing versus protecting is an over-simplification of the chasm, but because much high value media is held by the protection culture, the current economic structure of media relies on a culture of protection. The same ideology gap colors the clash between technology companies and big media in the SOPA/Protect IP discussions.  Funny that a troll under the copyright bridge might provide an answer that would vastly simplify fair use online. Stay tuned.

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