Sunday, September 21, 2003

Blogs, copyright and Hitler

Simon Waldman has a quiet little British blog he calls Words of Waldman. Recently, as he was going through some old magazines from the 1930's, he ran across an article in Homes and Gardens about Hitler and what a nice chap he was. It occurred to Simon that this would be a good blog subject. That is, how public perceptions are created by media perceptions. So, he scanned the article and made it part of his post.

In response, Homes and Gardens demanded that he take the post down. "This piece, text and photographs is still in copyright and any unauthorized reproduction is an infringement of copyright. In the circumstances I must request you to remove this article from your website. Sorry that I had to take this stance, but am sure you will appreciate the legal situation."

Simon did take it down, but sent Homes and Gardens an email: "These are interesting and important historical documents. As you are clearly aware. They should be widely available for as many people as possible to learn from them. That they can be, instantly, is one of the great beauties of the internet. I'm afraid as well, that simply getting them taken off my site is unlikely to be the end of it. These are digital files. They have been seen by thousands of people. It is incredibly easy for people to copy them and put them up on their site anywhere in the world. As of now, I have no idea how many versions there might be on the web."

Well, Simon knew how the Internet works. The corporate world apparently does not. In trying to apply a very weak and nonsensical copyright claim, Homes and Gardens insured that their embarrassing article would be seen a thousand-fold more times than if they had kept quiet. Mmmm..... let me pick just one of the many places you can see the article. Ok, how about here?

As for Simon, he is a bit bewildered by all the attention this has brought his blog. "I don't know...for a couple of years I blog away in a quiet little backwater of the blogsphere, barely registering among the Technorati, writing my all matter of things to a daily audience barely big enough to fill a minibus. Then all I do is scan in a few old magazine pages and put them up...and before you know media exposure."

You gotta love blogging. It can turn any of us into a journalist with something important to say. By the way, here is one of Home and Gardens "copyrighted" photos from the article. Notice how enforcing their copyright magically made everything disappear?