HOME
          
LATEST STORY
How The Forward, 118 years old, is remaking itself as the American Jewish community changes
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Aug. 1, 2009, 1:02 p.m.

Gawker and The Washington Post: A case study in fair use

Washington Post reporter Ian Shapira wrote a whimsical profile of a dubious “business coach” who specializes in understanding Generation Y. (I think that includes me, but who knows.) Gawker, as is its wont, blogged about the piece, quoting extensively from the Post. Now, Shapira has penned a thoughtful and balanced essay on whether Gawker’s appropriation of his work should be considered copyright infringement. It’s exactly the situation at stake in recent threats by The Associated Press regarding the “protection” of their content.

Whatever your personal opinion about U.S. copyright law and how it should apply on the Internet, judges who consider the question are obliged to weigh four standards of fair use, including the extent of republication, whether the reuse is itself unique, and how it all affects the commercial market for the original content. In that spirit, here’s some data to consider from Shapira’s essay and my own research:

Words in Post article: 1,527
Words from Post article quoted in Gawker post: 226 (15%)
Original words in Gawker post: 204
Labor devoted to Post article: about 2 days
Labor devoted to Gawker post: 30-60 minutes
Cost of Post article: roughly $750
Cost of Gawker post: roughly $20
Revenue generated from Post article: unknown
Revenue generated from Gawker post: roughly $200
Blog links to Post article: 7
Blog links to Gawker post: 4
Rank of Gawker post among referrers to Post article: 2nd
Rank of Post article in Google search for profile subject: 3rd
Rank of Gawker post in Google search for profile subject: 6th

My estimates for cost and revenue are very rough, back-of-the-envelope calculations based on salaries and advertising prices. I should also note that the vast majority of Gawker’s quotes from the piece are themselves quotes from the business coach, which may affect your view of the appropriation. (Who owns a quote?) Meanwhile, it’s been suggested that the long-held standards of fair use don’t work well on the Internet, and in a wonderful post, C. W. Anderson recently posited four new standards for digital fair use.

But putting aside the broader debates for a moment, in this one particular case, given the available information, does Gawker’s use of the Post article constitute copyright infringement — and should it?

POSTED     Aug. 1, 2009, 1:02 p.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
How The Forward, 118 years old, is remaking itself as the American Jewish community changes
The newspaper, first published in Yiddish, is facing all the familiar pressures of print, combined with a shifting base of potential readers.
Newsonomics: Are local newspapers the taxi cabs of the Uber age?
Local newspapers still act as if they’re monopolies — despite all the new players eating away at their audiences’ attention. Is there room to adapt?
The Dallas Morning News is building data (and sources) through its new Rolodex tool
The open-source tool lets reporters contribute contacts to a centralized newsroom collection of sources — but it can also be used to build larger reader-facing data products.
What to read next
2382
tweets
The Economist’s Tom Standage on digital strategy and the limits of a model based on advertising
“The Economist has taken the view that advertising is nice, and we’ll certainly take money where we can get it, but we’re pretty much expecting it to go away.”
889A wave of distributed content is coming — will publishers sink or swim?
Instead of just publishing to their own websites, news organizations are being asked to publish directly to platforms they don’t control. Is the hunt for readers enough to justify losing some independence?
448This is my next step: How The Verge wants to grow beyond tech blogging
“We want to use technology as a way to define pop culture, in the way Rolling Stone used music and Wired used the early Internet.”
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Fuego is our heat-seeking Twitter bot, tracking the links the future-of-journalism crowd is talking about most on Twitter.
Here are a few of the top links Fuego’s currently watching.   Get the full Fuego ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Investigative News Network
The Daily Beast
San Francisco Chronicle
American Public Media
Dallas Morning News
Plaza Pública
The Guardian
Salon
Backfence
Fwix
The Wall Street Journal
Craigslist