HOME
          
LATEST STORY
U.S. journalists, the clock is ticking: January 31 is the deadline to apply for a Nieman Fellowship
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.
U.S. journalists, the clock is ticking: January 31 is the deadline to apply for a Nieman Fellowship
It’s a chance to spend a year at Harvard and change the shape of your career.
Newsonomics: How deep is the newspaper industry’s money hole?
Forget keeping up with the economy — what would it take for the newspaper business just to keep up with inflation? Even the “growth” areas are slowing down.
Don’t try too hard to please Twitter — and other lessons from The New York Times’ social media desk
The team that runs the Times’ Twitter accounts looked back on what they learned — what worked, what didn’t — from running @NYTimes in 2014.
What to read next
1510
tweets
Don’t try too hard to please Twitter — and other lessons from The New York Times’ social media desk
The team that runs the Times’ Twitter accounts looked back on what they learned — what worked, what didn’t — from running @NYTimes in 2014.
692Q&A: Amy O’Leary on eight years of navigating digital culture change at The New York Times
“In 2007, as digital people, we were expected to be 100 percent deferent to all traditional processes. We weren’t to bother reporters or encourage them to operate differently at all, because what they were doing was the very core of our journalism.”
544How do you get millennials to care about local news? The Charlotte Observer is testing out one idea
Its new website and newsletter Charlotte Five is an attempt to use lessons from viral publishers to find a spot in young people’s daily habits.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
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 ➚
Politico
PBS NewsHour
AOL
Detroit Free Press and Detroit News
The Orange County Register
International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
ABC News
Placeblogger
Plaza Pública
NPR
Semana
The Philadelphia Inquirer & Daily News